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?