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3 Ingredients for Creating Swoon-Worthy Heroes


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?

18 comments:

  1. A hero to me is someone who is self confident yet humble at the same time.

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    1. Great traits, Shelly! I like a humble hero too. One who's not afraid to admit his mistake, but also one that's not wallowing in self-pity.

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  2. Hi Jody! Thanks for sharing your top three swoon-worthy traits of a hero.

    Humility (being humble) is necessary to me, in a hero. They don't always have it at the beginning, but by the end I think it's pretty key. That might fit in with your self-sacrificing one. They go hand-in-hand sometimes.

    Blessings,
    Andrea

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    1. Hi Andrea,

      I think humility can come in different forms. For example, in A Noble Groom, Carl starts off proud and a bit arrogant about the differences between noblemen and peasants. But then by the end of the book, he's grown to appreciate the differences, the hard work, and the lifestyle of the people he once considered subservient. If he'd stayed proud, he wouldn't have been quite as heroic!

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  3. Self-sacrificing. It's number one for BOTH of us and that made me smile. =) And one real sacrifice can cover over a multitude of missed the boat on that skill a few times before that.
    I heartily agree with numbers two and three and the only one I would add, because it's my favorite part of a hero, is wound him. Then depending on the tone and theme of your novel and the elements of his hero quest, decide if the wound enhances or inhibits his noble behavior.
    As I love you heroes, I loved getting a deep look at them from your perspective. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Nancy!

      Thanks again for featuring A Noble Groom on your blog! As I said, it's been fun to read what others think of Carl! :-)

      I like your advice to wound your hero. When our heroes have something in their pasts that have hurt them and contribute to current motivations, then it's easier to gain our reader's empathy for their flaws and mistakes. For Carl, having watched the loveless marriage of his parents and his mother's subsequent drinking and self-damage led to his hesitancy about rushing into marriage. He's wounded indirectly from what he experienced and it makes him more vulnerable and readers will be more accepting of his attitude toward marriage as a result of that past wound.

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  4. Jody, your heroes are the best! I agree with all you've said and would add to them being tender...I love a hero that has a tough exterior but is really just a marshmallow on the inside. Thanks for sharing your top three...I will keep that in mind when I read your next hero cuz I have a feeling he'll be just as awesome!
    HUGS!!!

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    1. Hi Amber,

      The hero in Rebellious Heart is a little different! Hopefully he'll still be heroic, but since I was basing him on the personality of the real John Adams, he's a little abrasive at times, somewhat cynical, and very cerebral! But he definitely still has the above qualities and hopefully readers will still be able to fall in love with him!

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  5. I love your three things for a hero, would add Rugged good looks not a pretty boy...Looks shouldn't count but probably do if you are reading a story.
    I always enjoy reading your books..thanks for the post today.
    Paula O

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    1. Thank you so much, Paula!! I agree about a hero having some good looks. The book that I'm reading right now has the hero with gray hair (for a guy in his 30's). I just can't picture it. It kinda distracted me from the story, and as I read in my mind I picture him without the gray! :-)

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  6. I would say having a servant's heart, but I think that corresponds with your first one. I also like a hero that makes his heroine feel desirable, like his heroine..

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    1. Hi Joyce,

      I agree! A servant's heart is very close to the sacrificing. I love it when a man is willing to serve the women in his life rather expecting a woman to wait on him hand and foot! :-)

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  7. Thanks for sharing the qualities you think a hero should have. I loved Carl, and this book, so I'm sure not going to try to improve on this!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words about Carl, Pam! So glad you liked him! :-)

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  8. I'm writing more of a thriller right now, but at its core it's a love story. My hero has all of the above, I'm relieved to see. I've been crafting him very carefully--romance isn't the only genre that requires swoon-worthy heroes!--and my heroine, too. Thanks for these tips! They've given me more ideas. :-)

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  9. Jody, I agree; humility does come in different forms. Seeing the change in the characters (especially heroes) makes it worth reading books to me. If they don't learn humility (among other things) along the way, then are they really heroes? I must say, I agree with you. They aren't as heroic.

    (I responded down here because the reply button under your comment wasn't working.)

    Have a blessed week, Jody!
    Andrea

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  10. Fun post! For me, the character has to be able to protect his leading lady and make her feel safe. I don't care how independent you are, every woman longs to be taken care of and looked after.

    The most important men in my life make me feel safe-physically and emotionally. I know they'll kill the spiders for me, protect me from the bad guys, and give me a safe place to rest and share my soul.

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  11. For me the most important of creating a hero is that he'd have to be a gentleman, someone who's polite to ladies and kind to children. Good looks are a must too! Thanks for this post; it's exactly the type of thing I look for when I'm writing!

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