By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund
I've been really pleased that readers are swooning over the hero from A Noble Groom, my most recent release: Carl Richards also known as Gottfried Charles von Reichart III. Obviously the picture on the cover is swoon-worthy right? *wink* But it's refreshing to hear that readers think the man on the inside is just as heart-stopping.
Carl made an appearance on a Writer's Alley post about CORE hero values–four qualities that make a good heroes: Care, Opportunity, Risk, and Expertise. Pepper Basham said this in the article: "I just finished reading Jody Hedlund’s newest novel, A Noble Groom, and her hero is a FANTASTIC example of core hero qualities, plus those characteristics I found particularly swoon-worthy. Carl is humble, humorous, and adorable, but one of his strongest core hero qualities is sacrifice."
Carl also made a recent appearance on Fiction Heroes Features. Nancy Kimball, facilitator of the blog, said this about Carl: "Carl lived up to his cover, to all the hype around this novel, and then some. He was such a different hero right away, a little arrogant and a lot cerebral. In fairness that's part of the charm. A nobleman physicist inventor with a lab full of every chemical imaginable turned gentleman vagabond fugitive."
It's been fun to have Carl analyzed and to read what other people think goes into making a good hero.
However, today I thought I'd share what I think goes into creating a swoon-worthy hero. Keep in mind I write romance. And the while all heroes in any genre need to be heroic, it's especially critical in a romance. We want our readers to fall in love with our hero at the same time the heroine is falling in love with him.
If I had to name the top three qualities I think a hero should have, here they are:
1. A hero should be self-sacrificial.
There are two kinds of sacrifices a hero should make. First, he has to be willing to give up his rights, his happiness, and even his life for a bigger cause than himself. And second, on a smaller level, he has to make daily sacrifices for the heroine and others.
For example, in A Noble Groom, the overarching sacrifice is that Carl starts out as a proud nobleman on the run for a crime he didn't commit. He takes refuge in America, hoping to start a new life for himself. He ends up in an immigrant farming community, a complete fish-out-of-water. But as he gets to know the peasants and in particular the heroine, he gives up his need to move on to something more suited to his status. Instead he stays to work the heroine's farm because she needs his help. He sacrifices his plans and safety for the betterment of the heroine's life.
On an everyday basis, he's also making smaller sacrifices. He sneaks his hard-earned money into the heroine's savings account in her crock. He gives up his comfort, health, and even pride.
Ultimately the hero's has to exhibit self-sacrifice both on a macro and micro level.
2. A hero should do the right, good, and noble thing.
That doesn't mean our hero won't be flawed. He should be. All characters need at least one issue that they need to work through during the book. As you know, this is the character arc, the critical personal growth that happens as the story develops.
But, even with a flaw, our hero should ultimately operate with integrity and honor, even when it's really hard.
For example, at the end of A Noble Groom, Carl goes back into a raging fire to help save everyone, including the enemy. A hero doesn't leave an enemy to die, even when they deserve it. In fact, he may even be willing to sacrifice his life to save the enemy, because he knows it's the right thing to do.
3. A hero should have moments of tenderness.
No matter how hardcore our hero is on the outside, we have to give him moments of tenderness. These might even private moments that only our readers know about where they get to see the hero acting tenderly–even when the gentleness is in stark contrast to the "bad boy" or "tough guy" image we may have given our hero.
In A Noble Groom, Carl is definitely not a tough guy! He bumbles through learning how to plow and do hard labor. But all the while, I have him showing tenderness in lots of small ways, especially toward the heroine's two daughters. In a German culture that didn't value women as much as men, this tenderness becomes powerful and symbolic. Carl gives the little daughter pony-rides on his back, teaches her English, and willingly carries around the new baby.
Those are my top three hero-traits! What are yours? What quality is most important to you in a hero?