Julia London Contemplates the Perfect Hero
I need a hero. I need one every time I start writing a new book, and I need one to show up when I hit the sagging middle while drafting that book. Heroes are not that easy to build. They have to have all the right ingredients in just the right amounts. You know, a little bit cocky but not too cocky. And he has to look right. No one wants to fantasize about a Bubba. That may seem superficial, but this is romantic fantasy, which means we should get the full monty, the man of our dreams.
Personally, I have a thing for Ioan Gruffudd and I like to start with him as my base model for looks for my historical heroes. (Note: Base models are subject to change depending on this writer’s whim).
A hero also has to be smart. We’d not want our heroine explaining things to the hero, like how to saddle a horse, or what important words like destitute mean. The hero is supposed to know all that stuff and take care of things like being destitute for our heroine. She doesn’t have time for those sorts of details—he needs to handle that in a manner that matches her expectations for living. Big house. Lots of servants. Pretty horses. In addition, a hero needs to be world-wise. He should be intuitively smart, possess a good amount of common sense, and be able to apply that common sense to real life problems. He could be a scientist if he wanted to, but he’s not, although he secretly digs the whole science scene.
I think a hero should also have a touch of the Highlander brawn, even if he’s not a Highlander. But a writer has to proceed cautiously here. Think about it: There was Braveheart, who we all totally wanted to do on the forest floor. And then there were his sidekicks—remember the giant bear of a guy and the little pipsqueak with all the courage? They were Highlanders, too. They did not lack for brawn. But did you want to do them on the forest floor? Probably not. A writer has to tease out the best brawny parts of the Highlander for romantic fantasy and leave the rest to history.
I also like a man who is not afraid to buck the establishment. A bit of a rogue in a man is always appealing. He’s been there, he’s done that, and he has the souvenirs to prove it. Not unlike Jack Sparrow. Now, Jack Sparrow was a great character, and I loved him, but he had some characteristics that would not make him the perfect hero—like his teeth, for example. And his thirst for gin. But he had that roguish swagger down and an ability to charm anyone who stepped in his path.
Another thing that makes a hero perfect is the willingness to ride to hell and back for the woman he loves. Be still my heart! Is there anything sexier than a hero who will put himself in harm’s way for me—I mean, the heroine? But we don’t want him to get too carried away, do we? We want him around to share the boudoir and wine with us later, so we need a hero who will take the big risks when necessary, but not take all the risks, all the time. A dead hero is not a good hero.
Those are the ingredients for my perfect hero, and in the end, I come up with something like this. Scrumptious, isn’t he?
What do you like in a hero? What do you dislike? What makes a perfect hero for you? Who is your base model?
My perfect hero is definitely an alpha, and he can’t be too perfect! He has to have lived an eventful life and to have been marked by it.
Pretty much we want it all. For every bad/wild attitude, we want the opposite. So if he’s physicially strong we also want him to be tender. If he’s demanding we also want him to be giving. I guess I want an alpha and beta all in one man 🙂
I don’t know if I really have a base model. I like heroes to be protective and affectionate but still be alpha male and be strong enough to allow their heroine to do what she needs to do.
My base hero would be Gerard Butler….all the way!!!! Hehe!!!!
I like typical heroes, but I also like vulnerable, damaged heroes, and nerdy heroes. 🙂
I loved reading your blog post! I am a huge historical romance fan, and I guess my favorite type of hero is a big, strong Viking. Sort of the bad boy with a good heart. I envision him looking sort of like Fabio, with long flowing blond hair, he is willing to rescue his damsel in distress, and fight to keep her. He is strong, but not overbearing, he is also not afraid to show his emotional side.
I like a hero who for all his strength can be gentle with the woman he loves, and humor is a great addition.
My favorite hero is one that falls in love fighting it all the way but when they fall, they really fall
Julia, my hero is always a foreigner, French, Russian, Greek, Latino. After traveling intensively around the world, I found out the foreign hero has a lot to offer, is more gallant, more alpha, more protective of his woman.
With all the wonderful characteristics you listed the hero can come off as too good to be true and then I can’t like him so he has to have a sense of humor and make some mistakes along the way.
I like a hero that is stong and virile, but is not afraid to show his softer side…
Let me just say that one of the things that bothers me about the romance genre is the lack of variety of the heroes. The leading lady can be short or tall, plump or skinny, flirtatious or bookish, practical or a dreamer but the hero seems too often to be cast from the same ruggedly handsome mold. My definition of a truly well written romance novel is when I can actually see why a particular couple will fall in love with each other as opposed to someone else and it’s hard to see that when every hero from a series starts to blur together. I admit that I like picturing an attractive couple while reading but I think even keeping within the fantasy realm we could have a lot more variation in personality, appearance, and interests.
My boytoy’s got to be strong, smart, sexy, a take-charge guy with a body from heaven and a face like Adonis!
Julia, Ioan Gruffudd is definitely a beautiful man. I don’t really have a base type, although for pure visual appeal I lean toward dark haired men. But I like blonds too. For me, sexiness in a man is about a lot more than the way he looks. It’s about how he carries himself, his attitude and intelligence, and that mysterious chemistry thing that just grabs the heroine and makes her want him.
I like alpha males, even if it’s not pc. I think that you can have an alpha male who respects women, though. There’s no reason why a strong, take-charge man has to be a contemptuous jerk. And I really enjoy watching an arrogant hero take a fall. Is that a character flaw in me? I’ll be looking for Scandal! 😀
Thank you all for talking about what makes a perfect hero — its been enlightening! I hope you have a great holiday — Julia
Ashley, I agree about the kid thing. That must be a primal need of ours — the guy has to be good with kids, capable of protecting them and nurturing them in his own way.
Peg, I agree, the hero must be protective. He needs all those primal instincts to be firing at full throttle.
Mary Anne, you have obviously given this a lot of thought, which makes me think your characters will leap off the page.
Diana Smith, thanks so much. Finn was a hard character to write so I am glad he struck a chord.
I like a man who can be a badass when he needs to be, will protect his woman’s honor, but who can also be sweet and loving. Someone you can trust be around kids-that’s always been a big thing for me even though I dont have any children….
As a model….well I have to say Alexander Skarsgard who plays Eric on HBO’s TrueBlood…I only wish he wouldn’t have cut his hair!! I love long hair on a man!! (ok so he’s more my physical model…add in the personality of Vin Diesel in the Pacifier, and we’re good to go :P)
I like a man who can be strong and soft at the appropriate times. He will stand up for his woman both mentally and physically when needed and can be a very soft sharing lover when the time is right. I loved Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. I also loved Finn in Summer of Two Wishes. Great book.
Thank you for your post, Julia.
My ideal hero is hard to find in romance fiction. But that doesn’t stop me from searching for him in the novels I read—and, of course, creating him in those I write.
Frankly, I don’t care for alpha males, billionaires, dukes, vampires, or cynics. I go for lovable men, nice guys.
My ideal hero is charming, sensitive, idealistic, highly principled. Preferably he is a man of modest means, with no fortune, fame, or power. His true value is on the inside. The type of heroine I can identify with can perceive it.
In short, my ideal romantic hero must be worthy of love. If the heroine can’t relate to him readily, neither can I.
Their relationship and the obstacles in the way of fulfilling it should bring out the best in them—rather than the worst, which is too often the case.
Instead of the hero and heroine fighting each other for dominance in a relationship, they can fight the obstacles to their love, both internal and external. That frees up the author to be truly creative rather than relying on the old battle-of-the-sexes formula.
I don’t believe love in fiction (or real life) consists of taming the untameable maverick, of gaining power over the powerful. I know, that’s the most popular romance-fiction fantasy; but it’s not mine. There should be room in this huge genre for not only power-fantasy romance, but also stories of love between equals, for romance that revolves around the idea of “I’ll do anything for you” rather than “I’ll love you if you let me control you.”
This sort of realtionship makes for not only a more interesting story, but also a more inspiring one. In my humble opinion, of course. Well, okay, so my opinion isn’t humble. But you asked for our ideal heroes, so here’s mine.
Good luck, and I’m looking forward to more of your posts.
A hero is someone kind and giving and strong protective without being a bully
Diana, that is an oldie but a classic!
I love a man who can be both stron and soft when needed. I like the macho side where he will stand by his woman and the soft side where he knows what his lady likes in their lovemaking. I adored Richard Gere in Pretty Woman.
Thanks, Susan Shay! That was Grayson Christopher. I wanted him to have a really long way to fall, from the top of his little holier-than-thou perch flat on his face.
Susan L, I used to think Russel Crow had that look to him. Not classically handsome, but good-looking in a rough sort of way.
I think a hero should be strong but can be mellowed out if the right gal is close by. Brave of course and good looks would add the best kind..no need to be drop dead cute but he can have a rough look in a handsome way..Sam Elliot, Mark Harmon both rings bells at the moment. Course can’t forget Haratio Caine and csi Miami. susan L.
Linda, did you know that Danny boy is the star of the new movie, Nine? Looks pretty good!
I loved the hero in SCANDAL. (sorry, I can’t think of his name right now.) He started out not so nice, but couldn’t help falling in love, even though he was crusing for big trouble with the powers that be.
*sigh* A great hero!
I like a hero that is strong, smart, sexy, brave, romantic, loves animals and children, has a great sense of humor and is not stuck on himself. I think my ideal movie hero is Daniel Day Lewis from The Last Of The Mohicans. Love that movie, and the soundtrack, fabulous music.
I agree with all your points, I’ll put those requirements on my resume of men I want to marry. =) I also like a hero that admits he’s in love with the heroine prior to the end of the book, and of course when he does something romantic that makes me go…awwww and feel all giddy.
Base model: Jeffery Dean Morgan
A hero with wit is a great turn on – in fiction and non! Unassuming intellect is sexy as hell too. Put those in fit package of toned muscles, not-too short hair and easy smile and I’ll follow him anywhere, anytime.
You know, Crystal, sometimes you have to make a hero arrogant so you can bring him down low. That’s fun 🙂
Trudy, yep — there’s that humor thing again.
Yes, the hero definitely must have a sense of humor!
Pam I loooooove George clooney. I can’t wait to see his new movie, Up in the Air.
I used to like bad boy/good heart type heroes…before I grew up. What I like now are gorgeous, tired warriors who now want to enjoy family life, who are not conceited and can laugh at themselves a lot.
For me, the hero should be strong but have a gentle side. His woman/family comes first and he will do anything for her/them. I don’t like a hero who is arrogant and cruel.
My base hero would be George Clooney. He can have that sultry stare and perhaps a tad goofy but in the end he will do whatever he can to make me (oops) I mean his heroine very happy.
Love & Hugs,
LOL on “…put himself in harm’s way for me—I mean, the heroine.”
I don’t know that I have a model for hero–depends on the story. But I agree, that there are certain traits that are requisite. Intelligent, confident and capable, with a sense of humor (he doesn’t need to be funny himself, he just needs to see and appreciate it) and the ability to flex and change for the heroine.
And I really like a man on a mission, no matter how small the stakes. It has to matter more than anything to him. Until he meets the heroine, of course. 🙂
Tasha, the ultimate bad boy with a good heart is soooooo sexy.
Josie, those are all great heroes. And you are so right — the hero gets to a place where he will do anything for the woman he loves. SIGH.
bad boy with good heart
I like a hero who is all the things you described plus has a great sense of humor. I also like a hero who sees things in the heroine that she might not see in herself (like if she doesn’t have the perfect figure – he thinks she does!) The heros from books I like are: Vane (Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Night Play), Cole Latimer (Kathleen Woodiwiss’ Ashes in the Wind) Harry (Katie McAlister’s The Trouble with Harry) and Cal (Jennifer Cruisie’s Bet Me). I dislike controlling men and men who act like the woman doesn’t have a brain in her head.
A perfect hero is one who will do anything for the woman he loves. Most importantly he brings out the best in her and loves her unconditionally.
As for my base model for a hero – Gerard Butler (YUMMY!).