Romance Heroes: To be a jerk, or not to be?
Romance heroes exist somewhere on a spectrum. On one end, there is a wonderfully sweet and caring guy. On the other, there's a heartless a-hole who would laugh at seeing you cry. Which one do you want to read about? Which one should I write about? Those are two questions I grapple with before I write the first sentence of every book, and they frame the topic I wanted to get into with this post.
Romance books are tricky for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest is that an author has the job of fulfilling a fantasy for readers. Romance books aren't always about a guy women would actually want to marry or even be willing to risk a night alone with. Instead, they are about the guys most of us have never dared to seriously consider, or the guys we don't think we'd ever have a chance in hell with.
Here's the tricky part. Most women aren't fantasizing about Mr. Nice Guy deep down in those darkest fantasies. We don't pop a fresh set of batteries in the vibrator and let our mind wander over the handsome guy with a friendly smile who'd be a great dad getting us flowers for no other reason than to say he loves us (at least I don't!). That guy is practical, and most women I know would kill to find him and spend the rest of their lives with him, but he's not a thrill. He's safe and comfortable, and he's great. In real life.
In books though? That's where the rules go out the window. You don't actually have to marry this guy. You don't actually have to risk your safety to do something reckless with him. We spend our lives being careful with guys because we have to. Just like a super dangerous, super fun carnival ride, we've learned to politely decline because, you know, we'd rather be alive tomorrow than have a brief but intense thrill.
My point is that at first glance, you'd expect romance books to be full of nice guys, but for the most part, that's not the case.
Yet I personally struggle when it comes to writing jerks into my books. I've dabbled with it before, but I'd be exaggerating to say any of my heroes are actually mean. Most of them are hard and dominant, but when it comes to the heroine, they are just softies who'd do anything to protect her. The closest I've come to writing a jerk is probably Chris from Savage, but he had his own reasons.
I've been thinking about my heroes a lot this past month. Are they too nice? Do they lack that edge of thrill readers really want to find in their fantasy men?
I've had success writing the way I do so far, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't still always be looking for ways to do what I do better. And honestly, I think many of the men I write about turn out the way they do because I'm so far from being a thrill seeker in my personal life that I don't need to take my heroes very far from Mr. Nice Guy to make them seem exciting and scary to me.
But I'm going to push my comfort zone with my next book. I already mapped out Baby for the Brute before I started soul searching on this, so my release on the 18th this month will still be mostly in line with what readers have come to expect from me and my heroes, but my release next month is going to push the envelope a lot more.
I want to get outside my comfort zone again, because some of my favorite books have come from the times when I forced myself to do something that wasn't easy or felt scary. Besides, I think readers really enjoy it when the hero needs more than just a little cleaning up. There's nothing quite like seeing a guy with potential but knowing you have a lot of work ahead of you before you, and even then, you'll never fully be able to break the wild out of him.
Anyway, I apologize for the kind of wandering post, but I've been so inactive on my blog that I wanted to force myself to stop being such a perfectionist and just get something out there. I never intended for this blog to be some super professional space in the first place. I mainly wanted an outlet where I could keep everyone updated on what's currently floating around in my head, for those who are interested.
Keep an eye out for Baby for the Brute, by the way! It'll be live in ten days! May 18th!