Hero Personality Traits


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

  • rough
  • rude
  • ruthless
  • 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)
  • self-indulgent
  • 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
  • Sensible
  • Reasonable
  • Self-sufficient
  • 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
  • Tormented
  • Damaged (physically or mentally)
  • Sexual
  • Hot
  • Honest
  • Trustworthy
  • 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
  • Selfless

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.”

Modern Heroine

  • 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
  • Escapism
  • 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.

Heat Levels

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.

For more information about Gretchen, visit her blog or website. 

Do your heroes/heroines share some of these personality traits? Can you think of other examples for the personality traits listed above?

9 comments on “Hero Personality Traits

  1. This is great information. It makes me realize there is more to think about as far as my hero is concerned.
    I know my hero is beta, but I think this will help me nail down the tougher things I have been trying to get at with him.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. lbdiamond says:

    Interesting info! Nice job.

  3. Susanna says:

    I don’t write romance (yet :)) but I love to read it, and this is a great description of heroes/heroines etc. In fact, reading your description is making me long for a good romance novel :)

  4. This will help as inspiration with the romance I’m currently writing. Thanks for the tips. I’m definately gonna check out the blog on heat levels.
    <3 Gina Blechman

  5. Nicole mc says:

    How did I miss this post? I love me a good alpha hero. I don’t even care that it is cliche and formulaic. We girls like what we like, it’s as old as time. I read this post aloud to my husband. He did a lot of eye rolling. HAHAHA!! I reminded him that the target audience is WOMEN!!!! Duh.

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