During Gretchen Craig’s workshop “Writing Romance Today” at the OWFI 2011 Conference, we learned about hero/heroine personality traits and what readers expect in romance novels. Though, I think this information can apply across genres.
Gretchen said readers typically read for the hero in books. I have to admit, I love Carlos Riviera, the hero in L.A. Banks’ Vampire Huntress series and Clayton Danvers in Kelly Armstrong’s Otherworld Novels. They both possess some of the qualities Gretchen listed under Hero Personality Traits.
Hero Personality Traits
- but sympathetic
- likely to be emotionally closed off or remote
- might not recognize his own feelings
- his touch is always honest, kind, tender
- trustworthy (he will hide this)
- readers should feel like hero is risky but worth it
Heroes can be further divided into two additional categories. Alpha and Beta. Since it’s more likely we’ve seen the same movies, rather than read the same books, I’ll use movies to show characters with Beta Hero traits. Think of Andy Stitzer in the “40-Year-Old Virgin”, or perhaps Henry Roth from “50 First Dates.”
The Beta Hero
- Mr. Nice Guy
- Mr. Patience
- Not theüber males
- Not needy
- Heals the heroine
- Heroines job is to catch him, or let him catch her
Alpha Heroes are the complete opposite. Vin Diesel, need I say more?
The Alpha Hero
- Mr. Dangerous
- Mr. Wounded
- Can’t admit they love a woman
- Must be conquered, but will resist it so they can function as antagonist
- Damaged (physically or mentally)
- Heroine’s job is to teach the most dangerous creature on earth
Gretchen also spoke about two types of heroines. I think Louise Sawyer from “Thelma and Louise” falls into this category, at least in the beginning of the story.
Traditional Heroines (for historical novels)
- Lacked power
- Financially dependent
- Expected to be subservient
- Expected to marry whomever she’s told
The modern heroine is all about power. Characters in this category include Ripley from the Alien Quadrilogy or Stella Payne from “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
- Already independent
- Nobody’s doormat
- Demands compassionate marriage
- Not passive
- Passionate about something
When reading romance, the reader has expectations of both emotional and sexual tension/experiences.
- They expect a sensual sexual yearning
- Vicarious sexual tension
- Need a chance for emotional engagement
Physical attraction is where it usually begins for most characters, even if one of them is plain, there’s still something captivating about them. This could be a silly laugh or some other quirky behavior. The woman is exquisitely responsive to man’s touch. He has to earn her trust and faith and have her best interest in mind.
This refers to how intense romantic scenes are in a story and how intense the sexual tension is between the characters.
Sweet – stories do not have consummated love scenes.
Sensual – consummated love scenes without explicit graphic content.
Ultra Sensual – consummated love scenes with explicit graphic language and adult themes.
Erotic – explicit love scenes.
For a more detailed description of heat levels, I found Starla Kaye’s blog very insightful.
Do your heroes/heroines share some of these personality traits? Can you think of other examples for the personality traits listed above?