Wednesday, May 16, 2012


One of the things about writing heroes is that you have to, you know, make them heroic.  They can't be jerks. 

Well, that's not totally true, is it?  They *can* be, and often are, jerks.  They say rude things, do things that make you roll your eyes... or worse.

What really matters is why they do it, right?  Or at least that they're sorry afterward.  Really sorry.  Grovel-worthy-sorry sometimes.  But often I can get past the jerk moments.

Almost anything can be believed or forgiven if there's a good reason.  Of course, the reason has to make sense to *me*, the reader. The author has to make me understand him, where he's coming from, how he feels.  And, as previously mentioned, (though it's certainly worth saying again!) makes him really sorry.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips is quite good-- in my opinion-- at setting up the jerk-hero, and then making you love him anyway.  Lori Foster has had a couple of these for me.  So has Carly Phillips.  But the key is that, eventually, you either forgive them... or you love them anyway.

This can be a hard thing to do.  In my current WIP (work in progress), years ago my hero kissed my heroine to push another girl away.  Two problems. One, when my heroine figured out that was the reason, it definitely took some of the wow-factor away for her.  Two, the other girl was her sister.  Yeah, I'm going to have to work to make him sympathetic.  Or really, really sorry!  (don't worry...)

Right now I'm reading Susan Andersen's Playing Dirty.  In this one, the hero made the heroine believe he was in love with her, had sex with her and then told everyone. Oh, this was in high school.  Yeah.  Now, I don't love that, of course, but I'm willing to keep reading to see what was going on in his head, willing to believe that maybe there was a good reason.  Maybe. 

But then... he also called her fat.  Publicly.  In the high school cafeteria.

Uh, huh.

Now, this is Susan Andersen.  I would give Susan my first born if she wanted her.  (Well, maybe my second born.  No, my first born.  No, second.  Oh, heck, she can have them both).  Anyway, I'm going to keep reading because this is Susan. And we haven't been in the hero's head about these past events other than to know that he's sorry and has tried to apologize a few times.  But I better see some damned good reasons here.  Soon.

Especially about the fat thing.  In fact, I'm not completely convinced that I'm going to be able to get over that one no matter what he says or thinks.  That's big stuff (no pun intended).

But wait... this is fiction.  Okay.  Yeah, I can probably get over it.

Of course, real life is different.  For me anyway.  In real life, my own real life or that of my sister, best friend, or daughter, there is no way I would forgive public humiliation.  No way.  But with fictional heroes, I'm a little softer.  Not all readers are, though. 

So, how about you? Anything that you would absolutely not forgive in a hero no matter how hunky, hot or sweet he is now?

By the way... you can get Susan's book here! :) 


Meg Benjamin said...

Well, I had a hero (in Don't Forget Me) who cheated on the heroine when they were, as they say, On a Break, and some readers still haven't forgiven me. But yeah, I think imperfect heroes are more interesting than the perfect kind.

Kelly Jamieson said...

LOL Erin I read that book, and yeah, I forgave him. I'm pretty forgiving but you're right, there has to be a damn good reason, and possibly some damn good grovelling!

PG Forte said...

Groveling is good, but I still think the author needs to put him through serious hell before I'm gonna feel sorry for him. Even then, I kind of agree with you--assuming the public humiliation was intentional. That's hard to get past.

On a Break, however, is a totally legitimate excuse, IMO. That's the whole point of a break, isn't it?

Suleikha said...

I will forgive a hero a lot if he's a dick to other people but saves his tender moments for the heroine. Or his mom. You know, he has to treat someone with kindness. When they're an across-the-board jerk to everyone, and the heroine in particular, I hit a wall. The male lead on an Indian TV show I watch was inspiring one of my own heroes for a while...until the things he did and said to his love interest just became too unconscionable to bear.

The only time I'm cool with a hero being an unrepentant jerk is when the heroine is on completely equal footing and capable of dishing it back tenfold. Usually in antagonistic pairings like Days of our Lives's Sami and EJ or BTVS's Spike and Buffy.

flchen1 said...

I'm not sure I can forgive a character who is unapologetically cruel to someone defenseless and there isn't any reasonable explanation why this would be. Maybe their best friend just died or they're trying to save the world from a zombie invasion or they were using mind-altering drugs, but give me something to go on! And I might be able to give a one-time pass for "having a bad day" but it depends on the severity of the offense...

Kim B said...

Depends on the situation, I can get over most things and love the hero. Calling someone fat to be hurtful, no, don't think I could get past that one.

Limecello said...

Very interesting topic, Erin!

I think I might actually be harder on characters in fiction. People are flawed, of course, so characters will also be. But then characters are written - and also get that idealized ending and all. So they have to - and should - work harder for it. :P Or that's part of it.

Kissing a girl and then calling her fat... well that's kinda contradictory (although yeah he did it for attention... ass.) I was afraid you were going to say the hero cheated on the heroine. That's... a line most people can't cross.

He better damn well crawl through broken glass and a whole host of other things for me to even consider forgiving him. And even then maybe not, because eeewwww would his knees be gross and shredded and who wants to deal with that?!

Also this is a sign I should probably not comment on anything or say or do anything at 12:30 AM. But I'll leave my word vomit for you all. You're ... um... welcome? :X