Who Are You (And Where Have You Been All My Life?) [Part V]

Hearts and Flowers 

I’ve touched on this before, in my previous post Mr Perfect Meets Miss Virgin. I have a real thing about writing stereotypes in any genre, but sometimes fall into the trap myself (I think as writers we’re all guilty of that at some point in our work). 
I make no apologies for repeating that post as the introduction to JC McDowell‘s consideration of writing the Romantic Hero, as I think it adds an interesting dimension to the debate. 
Writer P. J. Malone kickstarted the whole thing several months ago, voicing her opinion on contemporary romances: 
‘Most people don’t get swept off their feet by some hot thing, and I’m tired of reading about something that makes me want more than a happy normal relationship where you meet, you fall in love, you fight, you make up, you fight again, make up, start a family, and repeat the fighting/making up thing, get old and fat and both of you look beautiful to the other because of your soul, not your face.’

The following comments on the post varied.

Charlotte Ashley commented,

I definitely err on the side of liking my romances fantastical – but the way I like ’em, they also tend to all end badly in heroic, romantic deaths… so at least they are “realistic” in that I freely admit romance the way I like it could never last…

Have blogged about this repeatedly, because I never find romances I like! (http://charlotteashley.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/reading-the-romance-pt-ii/)

Commenter Yzabel seemed to agree:

I’m not too fond of perfect love stories either; sure, they bring some feeling escapism, but this very feeling tends to challenge my suspension of disbelief too easily. I prefer when things aren’t perfect, when the protagonists both have their flaws, and when things aren’t so black-and-white. I also quite agree with you regarding “Jane Eyre” (which is one of my favourite novels, by the way); and its ending is far IMHO from hinting at a perfect future life (the power she holds over him and how Adele is treated, for instance).

I’ve come to realize that the “romance” I write in my own story is often flawed. First, I rarely find myself with characters who are “meant to be together”; then their relationships often contain a couple of weird elements, sometimes bordering on the twisted kink. I’m not sure what it reveals about me, but I’m not even sure writing vanilla romance is something I’d actually enjoy. There must be flaws for me in it.

Yet others – including P. J. Malone herself – responded by saying they saw the appeal in Mr and Miss Right characters. All Rite/Right/Write? summed up the cause for fantastical romances:

Surely the point to literature is, as with film, you suspend disbelief and escape from what could be your grim reality?

I thought it would be good to resurrect the discussion as my blog seems to be SFF heavy, and was fortunate enough to have writer JC McDowell do a guest post on writing the Romantic Hero.

The Development of the Romantic Hero 

Merriam-Webster defines a hero as a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability; an illustrious warrior; a man admired for his achievements and noble qualities; one who shows great courage.

Merriam-Webster also defines romance as a medieval tale based on legend, chivalric love and adventure, or the supernatural; a prose narrative treating imaginary characters involved in events remote in time or place and usually heroic, adventurous, or mysterious; a love story especially in the form of a novel.

And thus, the Romantic Hero is born.

To understand the modern romantic hero, we must visit where the romantic hero was born. In testing the waters as a romantic novelist, I seize inspiration from arguably the greatest, and in many ways, the pioneer of the romance novel, Jane Austen. Throughout her works, she has written her heroes as men of wealth and stature; qualities every woman in the 1800’s sought in a man, and the epitome of the classic hero is the most honorable Fitzwilliam Darcy. The elusive Mr. Darcy had women of the time hating such a preposterous man, until he showed his gentle heart and his insatiable love for Elizabeth Bennett. Over the next two hundred years, the most honorable Mr. Darcy has now become swoon-worthy. It wasn’t until over a century and a half later did the romance novel finally become modern and “took it into the bedroom.”

The heroines evolved over the years from damsels in distress to strong, capable women, a force to be reckoned with. The heroes, though, always remained one thing… dominating. Whether it was a simple argument, a lover’s quarrel perhaps, and the hero took the heroine’s face into his hands and sealing her words with a kiss; or the latter… pure, hardcore romance, the men were always strong, reserved, and… swoon-worthy.

The Romantic Hero morphs into different characteristic traits: a man in uniform or a man in a suit; a cowboy or a rock star; a pirate or a noble, rich Englishman. These aren’t necessarily the traits women wish for in a man (…or maybe…), but these are traits that women fantasize about. Fantasies are the foundation for every romantic novel, and every romantic novel centers on a fictional woman fulfilling every woman’s fantasy. Women live vicariously through the heroine, melting into a puddle of goo with every romantic word, gesture, and caress by the hero. They often will end a book with a sad smile because they just want to end up as that pirate’s wench.

In my first story, Watching Fireflies, I chose the modern day Mr. Darcy; a southern cowboy: a gentleman, a hard working man, and a man with the swagger of an accent, and lest we forget, the tipping of a hat and the southern drawl of a “yes ma’am.”

A hero doesn’t exactly have to wear a cape to be a hero, he just has to save the girl’s heart, and the hearts of all readers, making women fall in love with fictional characters, until they pick up their next romance novel and fall in love all over again.

J. C. McDowell

McDowell is the author of the popular Love Bug Series on wattpad, and has done a blog post on Finding your Inner Southern Gentleman on fellow Fantasy writer Maya Starling‘s blog. McDowell is currently pitching the first of the series, Watching Fireflies, to agents and publishers – so watch this space!

Watching Fireflies (unedited - PG-13)Hornet's NestButterfly SanctuaryButterfly ResistanceDragonfly Redemption
Beginning to start the next chapter of her life, Jordan Hawthorne’s world comes crashing down. She runs away from the life she knew to the middle of nowhere. She has vowed to never get put into one of those situations by never falling in love again. But what happens when she meets Tom McCloud? The cowboy has always put his business first, but things change when you stumble upon a heartbroken city girl. Will Tom be the man Jordan needs, or will she run back to the ex-fiancé who won’t leave her alone?

Follow JC McDowell on twitter, facebook, wattpad and tumblr.


4 thoughts on “Who Are You (And Where Have You Been All My Life?) [Part V]”

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