A single girlfriend of mine met a man on a dating website recently and said everything about him was lovely apart from he had a sticky out Nanny McPhee type tooth. By the end of the date it was all she could focus on and began to dread the thought that he might try and kiss her at the end of the evening. She made a hasty retreat but afterwards said she wished she’d been brave enough to tell him that he really needed to visit the dentist. It made me wonder what the worst characteristic or personal trait would be, that you could bear to give your hero to make him a rounded person but still make him loveable.
We’ll start with Helen R:
Great wondering this week…certainly got me thinking!
The worst characteristic I could give my hero to make him rounded but loveable would be a scar across his face or neck. Scars can be confronting when we first see them but I believe that like other physical attributes, they soon become a part of that person. A scar on a man, no matter how he got it, can also have a masculine edge to it, it can seem as though he’s a fighter and made of tough stuff.
My husband has a five inch scar on the inside of his forearm and when we first started dating he told me that he’d got it from a shark attack. Being the naïve Brit – or maybe just totally gullible – I believed him. He admitted soon after that it was actually from when he got his arm caught up in a machine.
Helen R 🙂
I tend to like my heroes to be a bit boy-nextdoor-ish i.e. not absolutely strappingly gorgeous hunks of muscle so I already have them feeling more rounded than those in many books I’ve read. Of course, in the heroine’s eyes, they’re gorgeous but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that. I also like them to be a little bit damaged i.e. past relationships that have hurt them and have an affect on their behaviour. I would probably join the line at real laddish behaviour or extreme selfishness but I would find a man who can’t multi-task or who is a bit clueless or self-absorbed at times fairly acceptable as a hero (as long as he has his good moments) because to be anything else would be to present someone who simply doesn’t exist! And I want my readers to believe in my characters.
I like to give my characters a wacky trait or two in order to make them more human, and if it’s one of my own that’s all to the good because I can write it with more conviction. One of my male leads, Gus, is saddled with my claustrophobia and can’t pass a lift door without breaking into a sweat. It is explained as it clearly arises from an incident in his childhood, which in turn forms part of the plot, but depending on your point of view it could make him sound like a wimp so I suppose in that way it’s a risky set-up. In an earlier draft, he was also a bit of a womaniser and was quite capable of treating women in a throw-away fashion. Some of the feedback I had suggested he wasn’t all that likeable so rather than take that risk I toned it down a bit and made sure he redeemed himself by the end of the book.
In my self-published book, ‘Falling to Earth’, the relationship between Juliet and Gray falls apart because he hides from her something quite major that’s happening to him, and eventually this has dangerous consequences. The premise is ‘can love survive without trust?’ For these two it does and there’s a happy ending (well, it is a rom-com!) but if you were to ask me if it’s happy-ever-after, then, no, I don’t think it is.
I’m not sure if I’m answering the question here… however, I would say that making my hero untrustworthy is pushing the boundaries to the limit but as long as there are credible reasons for it, he can emerge as loveable as you want him to be.
Unusual personal characteristics I admit I have trouble with. I’ve read a book recently where the male lead character has a false arm. His love interest came to terms with it. I’m not sure I could, and that’s a failing on my part, but having no experience of that kind of thing puts me at a bit of a disadvantage so I probably wouldn’t go there in my writing.
For me I gave Will one of my main characters the trait of being a bit if a womaniser with a reputation. I wanted him to be almost perfect but not quite and would my female protagonist be able to forget about his reputation and still love him!
They say that love conquers all and for Annie Graham it certainly does, in the end.
Helen P xx
Nobody likes a perfect person and giving your characters flaws actually makes them more likeable, simply because readers can identify with them. So thinking up bad character traits for a hero I’ve come up with this.
He could be conceited, at least as far as the heroine is concerned, but when she gets to know him she’ll discover this arrogance stems from his childhood. The reader will already know something of his past and will be able to qualify his big-headed and boastful nature, which hopefully will enable them to empathise with him – a little at least! By the end of the story, the hero will have gone on a journey of self-discovery, realising he doesn’t have to be so arrogant and conceited to succeed in life and this will win over the heroine.
As a social worker I was always supporting the underdog, and championing the downcast and downtrodden and that spilled over into my private life too, in my early years anyway. So I love giving my character’s really terrible faults then showing how the character can change. Already the hero’s in my books have been given major phobias and overwhelming grief and I’ve only written two books!!
I would really struggle with a character with a gambling addiction, like my ex, unless he won the lottery that is!!
I think it is important for a hero to have the traits that make him human. These perfect alpha males, who you see in some stories, aren’t for me. I like a beta hero and I think Richard Curtis writes them fabulously well. Someone who has those human failings that we all do, like feeling envy or jealousy, making the occasional stupid decision or being a bit self-centred at times, but coming through to put his heroine first in the end. Troubled heroes are also very attractive and all of mine seem to have enough baggage to secure a spot with Oprah… or Jeremy Kyle at least!
Physically, there are some deal breakers. I don’t mind character – like a few lines, a bald head or even a paunch, but romantic heroes don’t tend to have any of those. Socks and sandals are an instant turn off, as are trousers that look like they’ve had a row with the shoes. A big no-no for me would be any kind of smelly issue and regular readers of the blog will know I suffer from food related misophonia – so noisy eaters definitely wouldn’t get a second date or a lead role in my novel. Of course, I am perfect in every way 🙂
I think if I had to give my hero a bad trait, it would be a hot temper in an exasperated, ‘What can I do with you, woman?’ kind of way. He would of course, immediately rue his words and buy her a Land Rover Evoque as compensation! Well, it’s my story, he can buy me- I mean her, anything he wants!