Who Will Be Our Romantic Hero?

I started writing last week. I don’t know how much of it I will keep, or trash, or change, but I decided I needed to sit down and get some words on a page. So I took my laptop to the nearby Barnes and Noble, I ordered a chai, and I started typing.

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Playing the Hero, JD Hanckock, Flickr Creative Commons

For the time being, I decided  to set our story on a fictional New England island. (I had to do some research about lobster boats and other kinds of fishermen.) Setting the scene with a (not totally fleshed out heroine) was relatively easy, but when it came to bringing our hero into the scene…well, I stumbled. It’s easy to dream up a number of different characters, but what isn’t so easy is setting up conflict that will keep the story moving.

What could keep our beautiful heroine from immediately jumping into the arms of a handsome island dweller? He could be married, but romance readers aren’t interested in cheaters. He could just be a jerk, but who would root for that couple?  Maybe our heroine is the one who is stand-offish?  After all, she’s  the one who is new to town–otherwise known as “on the run.”

Delving a bit deeper into my research about what the hero of a romance novel should be (Thanks NPR!) I stumbled across the idea of the beta hero: “They are the antithesis of the testosterone-filled chest beaters found in the earlier bodice-ripper romances. These are the guys we all want to find in real life.”

Phew! I was worried I would have to make my New England fisherman (or whatever he turns out to be) have long flowing hair and a waxed chest…you know, instead of a stubbly beard and hair that smells like low tide. I don’t know about  you, but I never found Fabio attractive. And frankly, I don’t find cheesy attractive. The “male stripper” is generally a pretty laughable thing (unless we’re talking Magic Mike). Women are more complex than that–though, being objectively pretty hot is never a bad thing. Here’s what I do know about our hero right now: No matter what he does for a living, he will have a home filled with books–because nerds are hot.

And here’s a question I’ve been wrestling with: Can a heroine ever have two love interests? I mean, we all know how these books are going to end right? Girls gets boy. But can we ever have two possible love interests that she needs to choose between? It seems to me that a little bit of suspense is helpful when you’re telling a story.

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