Time to call time on the traditional hero?

Heroes are getting softer.  Fact.  Or, is it not fact but wishful thinking on my part?  Have to admit I’m a bit anti-hero anyway, not the guy but the tag.  I prefer to call mine the male lead, but for my purposes today, let’s stick with hero.

 In the great tradition of romantic fiction, especially in the HMB world, heroes are at their physical peak in terms of height, fitness, hair growth (in all the right places) and general all-round strength.  Super-intelligent and uber-talented, they excel in their manly careers, run five miles before breakfast, slay the dragon before lunch and get the girl into bed by tea time where they put not a foot, nor anything else, wrong and perform their socks off for Britain.  Not that there would be socks.  Those would be discreetly tucked away inside their size 11 hand-made brogues, or Doc Martens if that’s your pleasure, not left strewn on the floor or, horror of horrors, actually worn.

 But is this kind of hero really what modern women want, or indeed, are getting?  I’m talking fiction here, not real life, or not necessarily…  I’m too lazy to look up any real references but I’ve noticed a definite shift towards the gentler type of hero, one who doesn’t indulge in extreme sports, or indeed any kind of sport, doesn’t look down on his heroine from a great, muscle-bound height and who slays his dragons, not with a yard-long sword and a lot of whooping and look-at-me posturing, but with the finesse of a kindly vet putting down a beloved cat.

 So, if we really are moving on from James Bond or Mr Milk Tray Man as our ideal hero – and it’s high time we did – what are the qualities you’d like yours to have, or will be giving him in your next novel?  To get you started, these are some of mine:

 He will have a sensitive, intelligent face and well-cut hair but doesn’t need to be tall or have a six-pack.  He may even be a tiny bit geeky.  He is good at his job, and ambitious, but he doesn’t need to shake the world; he may be a teacher, a writer, an artist or in the caring professions.  He has confidence, because, after all, that’s the sexiest quality there is, but isn’t over-confident and doesn’t hide his insecurities.  He may wear glasses, preferably the rimless type.  He dresses neatly but doesn’t care about clothes, although he will definitely own a white shirt or two because there’s no man on earth who isn’t improved by a white shirt.  He listens, but not necessarily all the time – I can go on a bit – and he notices, but not the bits I share with nobody except my GP (crossing fiction with reality here but it happens).  Oh, and he must be funny, by which I mean a sense of humour, not odd, although if odd does it for you then go for it.

 Time, then, to break the mould.  What do you think and who will your next hero be?

 Deirdre x




12 thoughts on “Time to call time on the traditional hero?

  1. That made me smile Deirdre, I agree. Are the sterotypical modern males becoming a cliche? I think so well they are in my world. I work in quite a male orientated organsiation and I have to agree the ones I get on with best and the ones who I would trust in an emergency are not the muscle bound, perfectly groomed ones who know they look good (yes they are nice to look at occasionally but not the best at the art of conversation. The males I find more attractive are the quieter, not as full of themselves ones.
    In fact my hero in my novel isn’t the one who saves the day although it’s not for a lack of trying and it’s strictly not his fault but my heroine has to fight to save her own life and his. Bring on the girl power I say.

    Helen x

  2. My hero (and lead man in my life!) is my husband. He’s not the “type” I would have thought I would go for in looks but I find I love all the things I never thought I would (he’s bald, and hairier than your stereotypical hero) and in fact his smile and the creases from smiling around his lovely blue eyes are what I find the most attractive in him. We have a laugh together all the time and that is so much more important than a sculpted, tanned torso to me. He loves me for me (unlike my first husband, who was more classically handsome but who once told me he didn’t think I was good looking enough for him and on another occasion said he wasn’t sure he would still love me if I got too fat or became disabled) and is kind, caring and considerate. Hope that helps! Liz 🙂

    • Oh my goodness Liz, I can’t believe your ex said that to you!!! He would, however, make a very “interesting” character for a book (not the hero, of course). Hmm, the cogs are whirring!!! xx

  3. Hi Deirdre,
    What a great post! It really made me smile! I don’t really get the attraction of the typical male hero (either in real life or in fiction) with the exception of Daniel Craig as James Bond!
    Like Helen I’ve worked in very male dominated environments. There’s plenty of hand made loafers kicking around law firms but I’ve never been able to get on with the egos that walk in them!
    Finn, the hero in my novel, is definitely of the non-alpha kind. He works in nature conservation, is a good listener and spends most of the book in fleece jumpers and walking boots. However, as it’s supernatural, he does have the occasional kick ass moment!

  4. Spookily enough Deirdre, I think you’ve described most of the elements of my hero. Although I confess I probably could take or leave the white shirt fetish!

    I’m really conscious of writing to appeal to the “normal” people amongst us which means that my hero hasn’t got a toned physique, does wear glasses and has a job in IT! But I think we can all relate to that type of everyday person as we all know someone like that.

    One of the (many) things that I found a smidge irritating with 50 Shades was the obsession with the hero’s incredible good looks. I liked that this was countered by a very damaged personality but looks and money just made him, in my world, completely unrealistic.

    To give a visual, I will go to the movies and within my genre and say that, as my leading man, I far prefer the bumbling insecurity of the Hugh Grant in, well, most of his films as opposed to, say, Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. It’s the boy nextdoor kind of personality rather than the looks that does it for me.

    Great post! xx

  5. Hi Deirdre

    Your wonderful post really made me laugh, especially the socks reference. Like everyone else I agree that there is so much more to a hero than a toned physique, a fat wallet and a big… ego! I haven’t actually read Fifty Shades (shocking I know), but erotica in general makes me laugh. On the flip side, it’s the ability to laugh a lot and make me laugh that I find sexier than any other quality in a potential ‘hero’. I also like intelligence, someone I can have a depth of conversation with, but not scary intelligence – I don’t want to work that hard!

    Consistency might be the key here, or so I’m told. My NWS feedback in year one suggested that my hero’s tendency to switch from alpha to beta was a bit of any issue. No doubt there are millions of readers and real life partners who desire an alpha male and there are just as many, if not more these days, who seek a beta. Maybe there is a place for the hero with both qualities though? You know, a fire fighter who can rescue people from a burning building and still get home at night in time to read his kids a bed time story!

    Still, if I have to choose, it would be a beta for me and, as I hope you all get a chance to find out soon, Julie has written a totally lovable beta hero – a testimony to your prediction if ever there was one.

    Jo x

  6. Jo I am pretty sure there are plenty of men, especially firefighters who rescue people then go home to read the kids a bedtime story. In fact I know a fair few of our’s and they are exactly like that, I got to ride in a fire engine a couple of weeks ago with some lovely firemen and they were all just normal blokes. It was the best afternoon I’ve had in work for a long time 😉

    Helen x

    • Hi Helen

      Oooh, lovely. Don’t let Julie know though, she will be (to coin a phrase) well jel – when you get to read her novel, you’ll get an insight into her penchant for fire-fighters! Glad you had such a fab time 🙂 I won’t say anymore about fire hoses or anything, as there’s a danger of me turning into a character from a Carry On film!

      Jo x

  7. In the first novel I wrote, I was told that my hero was a ‘Right Wuss!’ “But he’s in love and in anguish,” I replied. “Doesn’t have to act like it though, does he?” was the reply. I must confess that although my typical hero can have a tender side to him, I still like him to be gorgeous and the only glasses he can wear are sunglasses, even though my lovely husband has always worn glasses and looks odd without them.

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