Writing Romance: Why Perfect Men Make Boring Heroes

Perfect Men

 

by Katie McCoach

Recently I was reading a promising romance novel, and then, in the midst of chapter six, I found myself placing the book face down on my kitchen table in frustration.

The hero was absolutely perfect.

And I was bored out of my mind.

A perfect man—that sounds amazing, right? That’s what we want in a romance novel. We want our heroine to find the perfect man to live happily ever after with.

Sure, it sounds nice, but it’s not exactly exciting.

If he’s already perfect, what’s left for the heroine to bring to his life?

Let’s take a look at why the perfect man isn’t perfect for a riveting romance novel.

 

The perfect man is flawless

Flaws make a person human, and flaws on a man are endearing and intriguing.

Maybe, such as in It Happened One Wedding by Julie James, he’s too cocky for his own good and can’t believe it when a woman can’t resist his charm. Or, like in What I Love About You by Rachel Gibson, he is an alcoholic with PTSD so he doesn’t want people to get too close.

So wait, he has fears to overcome? And the heroine can help him?

Except his fears/flaws keep him from letting her help him. Will they? Won’t they? Ahh, now we have a story to follow—now we are invested.

The more tortured, the better. Flaws are relatable, perfection is not.

 

The perfect man lacks conflict

Conflict is the driving force of a story, it’s the fuel, it’s the heart. Whatever you want to call it, conflict is necessary in a novel because without it there is no story. A perfect man has nothing to overcome, nothing to change, and no problems to face when he and the heroine connect.

I don’t know about you, but my eyes are glazing over already.

Take It Happened One Wedding again as an example. In this contemporary romance, our hero hits on our heroine and she shoots him down hard and fast. He can’t believe it! They think that’s the last time they’ll see each other, but what do you know—they are the best man and maid of honor in a wedding and they better learn how to get along. I’m definitely staying awake for that story.

One of my favorite writing quotes is by Linda Howard. She says,

If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.

If there is nothing holding the hero and heroine back from being together, then we’ve reached their happy ending 50,000 words early.

 

The perfect man doesn’t experience personal growth

If a man has no room to grow when he meets the heroine, are they really meant to be together?

When I read a romance, I want to see how the characters compliment each other—how they inspire each other to become their best selves. A man (or any character for that matter) that doesn’t grow by the end of the book makes you wonder why you’re reading in the first place. “If conflict is the lifeblood of a story, the protagonist’s goal is its compass.” And the only way a character can accomplish that goal and defeat the conflict before them is to grow as a person.

For example in Taste – A Love Story by Tracy Ewens, the man who takes care of everyone around him finally learns how to rely on someone else.

In conclusion, we may dream about meeting the perfect man or woman in real life, but meeting them on paper is about as boring and flat as a blank piece of paper itself. To write an enticing hero, he should be flawed, conflicted, and grow as a human being. Basically, our hero’s not perfect until he meets his mate.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Katie McCoach. Katie is a member of Romance Writers of America and the Editorial Freelancers Association. She’s had essays published in TrainWrite and Kalliope and is currently writing a contemporary romance novel. For advice on editing, writing, and publishing, visit her blog and be sure to also follow her on Twitter.


Intent to HoldIntent to Hold

Sonoma County Sheriff’s Deputy Nick Ryan answers a call from his estranged wife in Mexico to help find her kidnapped brother. When he and his partner Meredith Ryan arrive, they find the crime is not as simple as they were told.

Betrayed and caught by the police, they are expelled from Mexico. Returning to Puerto Vallarta by boat at night, Nick and Meredith battle nature, Federales, crime cartels and even Nick’s own family to rescue his brother-in-law.

To complicate their mission, Nick must face the end of his marriage while Meredith hasn t yet put her own nightmares to rest. Thonie Hevron’s 35-year career in law enforcement fueled this action-packed story.


 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “Writing Romance: Why Perfect Men Make Boring Heroes”

  1. I used to read romance novels voraciously, then I just OD’d on them and quit cold turkey. Looking back, the tension between the heroine usually involved her ‘disobeying’ society rules and or not ‘obeying’ the male love interest. They men were all wealthy, drop-dead gorgeous, and had a dictatorial tendency to make me want to slap them. (Of course, they always end up with the vivacious, contrary female who defies convention despite the fact that they all chastise her for her ways through-out the book.) I got really tired of the trope and truly wish more authors worked on the conflict nearly as much as they work on the will-they-won’t-they sex scenes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been there too. I read so many and then stopped one day. But now I’m back to reading and writing romance, and I think the key is that so many romance writers today work very hard at nailing this down. Conflict (believable conflict) is everything. The push and pull that stems from true issues, not just something that could resolved if they sat in a room and talked. Sarah MacLean has taught so many workshops on high concept romance writing—check out her work and blog if you are ever interested!

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    1. That’s a fun flaw she has! Does it contribute largely to the story? Flaws are very important – not just in the meaning of quirks, but in how a person views life and how that view needs to change by the end of the book in order for them to become a changed character. Flaws are all about the character arc. What is their journey through the story? How do they need to change, why, and what will make them want to?

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  2. Romance is my favorite genre to write, and I have to be honest that when I first started writing, I made my “heroes” perfect. But the more I grew as a writer, the more I realized that that was completely unrealistic. Now, I tend to give my men complicated backgrounds and conflicts between characters. I’ve shared some of my writing and ideas on my blog if you’re interested https://katiemdeanblog.wordpress.com/.
    Thanks for your words of wisdom!

    Like

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