Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Guest Post: I Need a Hero! by Deborah Garland #WritersLife

I Need a Hero!

By Deborah Garland

Women romance authors must tackle the daunting task of writing from the hero’s point of view (POV)…usually.  It’s daunting because we want to make our heroes do and say all the things we (as women) want them to, but there has to be a modicum of reality. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and bring to the story an emotional backstory that has shaped him.

Okay…shapes and sizes are fairly consistent. They are all tall and beautiful…usually. At a group pitch, another writer in my chapter meeting described her hero as having one eye and a limp. I expected the editor to cringe. No! She threw her head back and said, “I love damaged heroes.” I’d read that in her bio. I just didn’t think she meant literally.

While most heroes are swoon-worthy on the outside, it’s the inside that writers get to play with. Some heroes are alpha, very strong, controlling, bossy and dominant. Some are the nice-guys, meant to be the antithesis of a jerk the heroine has either ran away from or is being persued by. And it seems like they are all ready to slip into the friend-zone until the heroine realizes ‘love was here all along’.

Through dialogue, we as authors get to ‘show’ readers what the heroes are thinking. Usually. But in some cases, all the reader gets is the heroine’s side of the story. In Fifty Shades of Gray, the story is told completely from the POV of Anastasia. The reader only knows Christian through her eyes and thoughts. The same goes for Twilight. Everything readers know and love (if that was the case) about Edward Cullen was all through Bella. And when she had a chance to slip into another POV in Breaking Dawn, it was through Jacob. Yet, both Christian Gray and Edward Cullen were very compelling characters. Wouldn’t it have been amazing to know exactly what was going on inside their heads at times, though?

Most romance novels today offer what is called the ‘dual-POV’. Getting back to the opening sentence… because a hero’s thoughts and feelings, not just their words are so present in romance novels, it’s important to get these things right. Or in some cases, their story straight. You can’t have your hero say one thing and think something completely different (unless he is trying to be duplicitous- and if that’s the case, the author needs to make that clear). Otherwise the reader ends up being confused.

As a new author finding my own voice and style, I rely heavily on feedback from both other authors and beta readers. For my first novel (Must Love Fashion, released August 7th), I’d sent what I thought was the final draft to a critique partner. Among her many comments was that I had made her pretty much hate the hero. Yikes! I’d failed to show the reader what was going on inside his head. I knew… I just didn’t tell anyone. The first commandment of show don’t’ tell, always creeps into my head when writing. But that shouldn’t be taken as gospel. You can’t “show” introspection. Trust me I tried.

When the second Darling Cove book, Must Have Faith was sent for a critique, I kept getting, “What’s he thinking right now?” Again, I was holding back. There are only so many external actions that can show emotion. So in revising Must Have Faith, I let loose. The hero, definitely alpha was wounded years ago by the heroine. He wants her back, but is cautious. And in a pivotal scene where she must confess something terrible to him, I had to get inside his head and get tangled up in what must have been a firestorm of thoughts. And then I just started spitting them out on the page.

What I’d also learned is that an easy way to distinguish the ‘voice’ of your hero from your heroine is that most men think in short bursts. They talk that way too. Men don’t think…they act. They talk, they move, they stomp and they curse inwardly…a lot. Just read a romance novel 😊

But romances by design are meant to be a little illusory and appeal to hidden fantasies. And it’s great that the genre is do diverse that there are all kinds of heroes…bad-asses, bodyguards, bodice-rippers, boy-next-door, boy-with-toys…okay you get the idea.

Now go fall in love with a hero!



Deborah Garland is a former computer and sports journalist, turned romance and women’s fiction author. She likes to write about love and the struggles of complicated relationships. Her heroines are strong, and the heroes fall hard for them. She lives on the North Shore of Long Island with her husband and when she’s not writing, she’s either in the gym, or reading, cuddled up with their two pugs, Zoe and Harley.