The goal is to create an enticing and believable hero which can sometimes seems like an impossible combination. If you make them too believable, you push aside the fantasy component. If you make them too enticing, you nix the believable. Balance is the art.

And baggage contributes to this immensely.

Every hero has some sort of baggage, and this baggage contributes to his inner conflict. The *really* good heroes are almost controlled by this baggage. (Classic vampire, classic war vet, classic divorcee) A hero without baggage, and full of niavety can give us warm fuzzies for the simple fact that it'd be real darn nice to find a guy without baggage in real life -- but it isn't realistic. Even hot single guy next door who's never gotten a traffic ticket, never been married, never had kids... had his heart broken once.

Your hero has to acknowledge this baggage more often than not. If the hero does not acknowledge it, it is the author's job to make the reader aware of it. (Which usually comes from seeing his POV, and therefore he's acknowledging it). He knows why he's in an internal conflict. The question becomes: Is he willing to let the baggage win, or overcome it? In romance, he has to overcome it.

If you ignore the baggage, you create a major pitfall in your story.

This does not mean you have to reveal the baggage immediately. In Seduction's Stakes, Riley's baggage doesn't come out until the couple sails smooth waters for a while. An event triggers it, and he must decide which is more important: Maddie, or his flaws.

However, in All I Want for Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes, Josh knows right off the bat (as does the reader) what his baggage is. He knows from the moment he makes the decision to return to Lexington, Missouri he must face his weaknesses.

How you choose to weave the baggage in, is author perogative and usually plot-driven. But don't forget, a good hero has baggage. Without it, he's little more than a boy. With it... as with real life... he becomes a man.

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Seduction's Stakes is scheduled for release in October, 2009

And here's my new book cover. Pay attention to the book cover. After release, contests will relate to the cover.



Further, I received word that my holiday romance, All I Want for Christmas... Is Big Blue Eyes has been accepted. It is tentatively titled, and scheduled for a Christmas, 2010 release.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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We've all had it drilled into our heads alpha male is the best hero for a romance novel.

Not true.

Beta Heroes have their place as well and can often be a very refreshing read.

I tend to think of Beta Heroes as 'real'. In today's day and age, rare is the man who embodies 'alpha' "I'll take what I want, and if she doesn't want to kiss me, or sleep with me... well she doesn't have much choice."

Beta Heroes still have to be strong men. They can't roll over when your heroine has a tantrum about something, or in their arguements. They can't be weeping buckets over everything all the time. Passive isn't really a good idea either.

Beta Heroes are best employed when you have a very dominant female, in my opinion. Think about it -- If your heroine is headstrong, stubborn, and demanding, pairing her with her equal isn't going to lead to much peace. Paired with a man who is able to push the gas pedals while she steers the car, however, keeps the balance of control equal, and offers a nice opportunity for having softer moments together.

Beta heroes know what buttons to push to navigate their lady the way they want them, without being obvious about it. Beta heroes know when to take the lead, and when to allow the heroine to have the limelight.

As I write this, I think of one actor who plays beta heroes frequently -- Kevin Costner.

The Bodyguard -- he knew how and when to get things done. Whitney had the limelight.
Message In A Bottle -- he was a little too good at backing off here.
Dances With Wolves -- he HAD to be beta to relate to his heroine. She had to teach and educate
Robinhood -- Yes, I know he was alpha when it came to accomplishing his duties. In relationship to Marion -- he backed off and let her do her own thing, silently supporting her goals, motives, and aiding her conflict resolution.

Beta heroes can have a bit more human qualities too, which I find enjoyable. You can get away with empathetic qualities -- great for triggering the 'fantasy' aspect of romance. Your handsome-as-sin, knows-what-he-wants, man can, if done tastefully, actually shed tears. And while men hate to admit they do this, they DO. Just privately, and with people they don't think will ridcule them.

The trick to an effective beta hero is knowing when to emphasize his beta qualities, while also giving him a few alpha moments. To not become a pushover wuss, he must stand up for himself in situations that would compromise his ethics, his ideals, and his goals. Just like most red-blooded American men would.

Some ideas:
- Your beta hero can be an alpha lover, directing your sexual encounters while your heroine willingly hands over the lead.
- Your beta hero can show alpha qualities when your heroine's world falls apart and she doesn't know which way to turn. She welcomes his assistance to help her through and guide her to resolving her own issue.
- Your beta hero can be alpha in his career, and other instances outside the actual relationship
- Your beta hero can compliment your heroine's weaknesses by exhibiting alpha qualities in those key areas.

More on beta's tomorrow. I am fascinated with them presently.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Romance Heros Part II

0 Comments Posted by Claire Ashgrove at 9:35 AM

So your hero has a commanding presence. Perhaps he's even a borderline dominant jerk depending on the situation. How do you make sure he's likeable?

You give him a soft spot. Or a way the author can relate to what drives him. This doesn't necessarily have to be obvious. It can be layered in too.

For instance, in Seduction's Stakes, one of the immediate things Riley does, is give his horse a kiss on the neck. This sets him up as having a tender spot of some sort. You see right away that although there are aspects of his character that might be a detractor given you see him FIRST through someone else's eyes.

You know when you meet him, the impression the other person has of him isn't right. This man has a heart. In his first scene of his own, there's a whole lot more to like about him. He's not just a over-confident jerk. No, in fact, he stumbles over his tongue, he reacts impulsively, and he admits to being somewhat foolish over Maddie. He becomes real. The man that likes the girl, knows pursuing her is stupid, and just can't stop himself. How many of you can echo that same scenario?

Another example I'm taking from one of my unpublished works in my fantasy series. In this particular book, our hero is a thief/rogue. The first several appearances he makes, he jumps out of the pages. He's cold, indifferent, and harboring some secret about what he does. But despite the fact the first scene he's in, he's killing a man... you immediately learn why. And the why justifies his actions completely. However, he's very crude and rough. When his book rolls around, from the start of it, you know he's battling something deep that relates to his heart on the very first page. By chapter three you know exactly what, exactly why, and the real man is so vastly different than the impressions others carry. He cannot forgive himself for what he did to the woman of his dreams -- destroy their love. He cannot forget her. When he runs right into her... his heart bleeds. Which justifies all the crude, rude, borderline inappropriate behavior a bit like my Hero of the week, House.


Going back to House -- while it may be argued that House does what he does for success or his own personal gain, as the stories go on, you see that he does it for deeper reasons. He hides all his soft spots under rude words and crude actions. But when it boils down to the root of the matter, House is a softie. That's what makes us like him.

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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I said I was going to try and pick a topic to make this more useful or entertaining. Here goes nothing. This is my topic of the week.

Defining the Hero -- What makes a good Hero?

When creating a hero for a romance novel one of the key things I look at is a larger than life presence. For instance, when the hero walks into the book for the first time, there must be something magnetic about him. Is it his speech? Is it a mannerism? Is it his physique? In Seduction's Stakes Riley's immediate draw is based on physique, as seen from the heronine's point of view. When he has his own first few minutes of fame, it's the little things that make him stand out of the pages. Little mannerisms, a couple glimpses into his psyche.

Well, that's good, Claire, but that doesn't help me. What do you mean? My hero is hot and I start out with the heroine seeing him that way, but folks aren't falling for him immediately.

It goes beyond being physically attractive. We all expect that from romance heros. Give your hero one immediate unique quality. Don't tell us his hair is blond. Tell us what makes that blond hair so special. Don't tell us his eyes are blue. Tell us how those blue eyes should make us feel.

Next, he must have a commanding presence. Usually this is most effective with either speech, or the first glimpse into his POV. He must exhibit control, without being domineering. Think of all the historicals where the heroine is kidnapped. All the lawyer heros you've read about take command of the courtroom. All the doctor heros who perform life-saving surgery.

A great hero here is House. He's not the most physically attractive man in my opinion, but it's what he does. He is after one thing -- the cure. It doesn't matter how he gets there, or what it takes to get it done, or who he steps on in the process. He is commanding. His merits are the good that he does. And as you go along, you learn a little about the heart beneath the shell.

So, when you introduce your hero, make him leap out of the pages. Give him the same power you might give a villian, only in a positive light. Where you put hard work into making folks hate your villians, put the same work into making your hero equally good.

Anyway, more on the topic tomorrow.

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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Well, it has been too darn long since I've put anything up here.

I've been busy, busy, busy.

Seduction's Stakes is now in final production and we should have a release date soon. Please watch for more news!

The last month has been devoted to putting together a holiday romance for The Wild Rose Press. I'm happy to say that it is finished, and currently under review. This coming weekend I will look at updating my website to reflect this book as well. It's a charming story set in Lexington, Missouri. Two high school sweethearts come together again over Christmas, after ten years apart and must navigate through broken promises and shattered dreams. More on that at a later date.

Right now, I have the first real down time I have had in ages and am going to put a little time into critiquing and relaxing a little.

But I've been thinking how best to go forward with this blog. I am going to attempt to steer it into something a little more than just a book discussion blog. I'm looking at finding one writing-related article a day and blogging on it. Tomorrow I'll kick off that new idea.

Anyway. Happy Belated New Year and look for more activity in the months to come.

Claire

~Claire
www.claireashgrove.com
www.toristclaire.com

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"Victorians used the term 'limbs' as a euphenism for legs, which were thought to be so sexually exciting to a man, even a glimpse of a table leg could incite him to sexual frenzy. Table skirts were invented to prevent any unnatural unions between men and furniture."
~
(History Channel International)

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