Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Romance Heroes




I've read numerous posts and discussions on various romance/ regency/ historical blogs and forums about the importance of the romance hero. Hence, Johnny Depp is at the top. Because what blog would be complete without him, I ask you?

A lot of authors say that the hero in a romance (they're called heroes, not protagonists for some reason) pops into their heads first. So far, my female characters have come first. Whether that's to do with being a girl or because they have more backstory, who knows?

A romance guy has to fulfill a few functions: 1) He has to appeal in that great mythic fantasy lover kind of way. Or at least fit the story and the heroine perfectly. 2) In a historical, he can be over the top. 3) He has to fall utterly in love. Believably.

My younger cousin Elizabeth is 14 and all about the Twilight books. She slips phrases such as: "Oh, that's like in Chapter 3 of Eclipse!" or "1919. You know, when Edward became a vampire" into ordinary conversation. I read the series, I enjoyed it, but I don't remember it in any great detail. The only thing I do remember was that Bella got annoying after a while, I liked Jasper Cullen's backstory the best, Jacob is sweet, and Edward...yeah...He's overbearing. He's overprotective. He's too moody and self-loathing and angsty. Of course, he's also fictional, but let's remember that the fictional is real here.

Edward is supposed to be the lead romantic hero and by leaning toward him rather than other male characters, Elizabeth is only doing what Stephenie Meyer intended. She's also 14. I laugh when I think about what constituted romantic love to me at that age. And a lot of literary male characters share the overbearing, self-loathing, moody characteristics--Heathcliff, anyone?--...and yet I just like them better.

I was thinking of a few of them and why I liked them better. For one thing, the falling in love parts of romance novels (and other literary works, including my favorite book of all time, Atonement) just felt more right to me. It could be a matter of perspective, since romance novels tend to at least switch in POV between the hero and heroine while Twilight only switches perspective in Breaking Dawn. Could be better writing. Could be a matter of personal taste. But the guys that tend to be my favorites in the literary sense have a strong sense of humor. They're extremely loyal, as Noah is in the The Notebook or Robbie is in Atonement. They've gone through circumstances that are out of their control and they might gripe about it for a while, but they move on. They're quick, intelligent. They're protective without being overbearing. They have responsibilities, either to family or an estate.

As in, it's not Romeo and Juliet on vampire steroids. I used to think that story was romantic until I had to read it in 9th grade and realized what a pair of idiots they were. Now that I think of it, I was 14 or so when I studied it.

So who or what appeals to you in your reading? Your TV, movies, plays. musicals? Do you like 'em moody on paper? Do you like Mr. Darcy or Mr. Bingley? Was there a play or novel you once thought was romantic, then you read it and thought it wasn't? Why?

Henry Cavill from The Tudors:

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