Welcome back, Indies! Today in Part 2 of Writing Male Characters, I’m going to cover the most common character types, talk about the difference between writing human and non-human heroes, and touch on some of the good and bad aspects of writing non-human heroes.
COMMON MALE CHARACTER/HERO TYPES IN ROMANCE
I think I pretty much covered the Playboy already in my last post, but that is probably the #1 most common character type for heroes in romance. Especially, erotic romance. They’re usually billionaires to boot, which I think might be the 2nd most common type. So, let’s have a look at what kind of lists I can conjure up off the top of my head for the genres I’m most familiar with.
Romance & Erotic Romance
- Biker/MC Prez or VP
- Club Owner (usually a sex club of some sort)
- Foreign Prince/Duke/Noble/Dignitary
- Military/Special Forces/Personal Security
- Single Dad
- Werewolf (not to be confused with wolf shifters)
- Demigod/Pagan Deity
- Angel/Fallen Angel
- Devil’s Son
- Human-Alien Hybrid
- Ship Captain/Crew-member
- Galactic Mercenary
- Space Pirate
- Time Traveler
- Bounty Hunter (everyone loves the Western/SciFi mash-ups, come on)
- Special Operative for an Alien Control Agency
Okay, I’m not as familiar with SciFi as the others, so I’m sure I missed a lot. You can call me out on it, I don’t mind.
It’s no surprise that writing male characters/heroes that aren’t human can be a somewhat different process from writing heroes that are. Most supernatural/paranormal heroes aren’t restricted to the same laws that humans are, let alone the same laws of physics. Of course, the more flawed and ‘human-like’ they are, the more readers will root for them.
The reality is that unless your non-human hero is displaying only non-human traits throughout the entire story, it is very difficult for readers to remember that minute detail. That’s why in my book Hexed, I tried to slip in a reminder here and there simply by having Hex repeat to Zoe that she couldn’t “humanize” him. Because, he does come across with a lot of typical human male traits, but is also very much demon and proud of it. I also tried to give him more demon-like reactions and responses, to add weight to those reminders.
Despite being creative with massive imaginations, we writers still tend to rely on the things we know as points of reference and inspiration – and I, personally, don’t know any real life demons, angels, werewolves or aliens (that I’m aware of).
Well, then what really is the difference between writing human heroes versus non-human heroes? I think, most obviously, is making sure they possess personality traits associated with whatever kind of supernatural/paranormal being they are–and then keep it there. Don’t have your hero starting off as the epitome of a vampire and then start behaving more human than vamp as the story progresses. Besides, I think it’s equally entertaining when a character’s supernatural traits are revealed gradually, rather than all at once.
When it came to writing the characters for my wolf shifter series, I first did a lot of research on real wolves because I wanted to depict the pack dynamic, not just the relationship between the hero and heroine. And I really wanted to incorporate wolf traits into my characters’ personalities, because that just seemed more realistic to me than their wolf traits only coming into play while they’re in wolf form. On top of that, how they think and believe as wolves plays a major part in the way they approach the world around them. Ways humans might not. For example: real wolves mate for life. They’re completely monogamous, so I’m not going to use the ‘cheating’ trope to create conflict between my hero and heroine. It would be unrealistic to do so for their supernatural type.
Now, I know many of you might be thinking: “But, it’s a supernatural book, you don’t have to follow real-life protocol.” That’s true. Writing PNR and Fantasy certainly opens up our ability to be as creative and extraordinary as we want. But, it goes back to creating ‘believable’ characters. We know wolf-shifters aren’t real, but for however long it takes a reader to read my book, I want them to believe that they are 100% possible. So, I’m going to make them as realistic as I can.
THE GOOD & BAD ABOUT WRITING SUPERNATURAL/PARANORMAL HEROES
Without a doubt, the best part about writing non-human heroes is the freedom to give them personality quirks/traits that would normally be frowned upon coming from a human man. Drinking blood isn’t something we could readily forgive our lover, just because. But if he was a vampire and it was the only thing keeping him alive (undead?) then it’s excusable. I mean, the man’s gotta live, right? Or not die all the way?
Another favorite aspect about creating supernatural heroes is getting as close to an original idea as possible. These character types have been around for soooooo long, it’s pretty much impossible to come up a completely new, never before seen kind of vampire, werewolf or wizard. Some authors succeed in at least contributing one thing that stands out from the rest. Stephenie Meyer gave us sparkling vampires and whether or not you appreciated that as a fan of vampires, she at least had an original idea. Her “imprinting” idea for the wolves was also a bit unique. At least it was for me, but then I haven’t read every wolf shifter book on the market, either.
The point is, I respect any writer that attempts to break away from the overdone, cliched, stereotypical character type to offer something as different as possible. I also appreciated the realism of her vampires being that freaking cold to the touch. Often, that realistic side-affect of being ‘undead’ isn’t even mentioned in vampire novels.
Then again, we can only guess what a ‘real’ vampire would feel and act like. As my heroine, Kallie, states in Dark Duplicity: “Aside from making freakishly realistic vampire movies—which, by the way, should be considered an oxymoron…”
The only bad aspect to writing non-human heroes that I have personally come up against stems from my Hell on Earth series. In the series, all of my main male leads/heroes are the actual demons/devils assigned to the seven deadly sins. The problem with writing about demons and devils is that 90% of the books with “Devil” in the title or description for the Romance genre are about human men. Likewise, a good 95% of any series claiming to be about the seven deadly sins is also only about humans.
That’s irksome on its own from a reader’s standpoint when I’m trying to find books to read about actual demons and devils. But, knowing that, going in – I first made the executive decision to use the Latin names of the sins for my book titles and left the word “Devil” out of it, altogether. Then, I backed it up with a Trigger Warning in the description that clearly explains it’s about demonology, occult, devils, fallen angels, etc. Yet, I still get readers who complain that it’s about demons. And it’s not just obvious they missed the trigger warning – it’s because the amount of books about human heroes depicted as-and-referred to as “devils” is far too prominent. So, that’s what readers are expecting. Their eyes just kind glaze over the word Devil anymore.
Another downside is that I’ve gotten reviews where the reader complained about how the hero doesn’t possess the usual ‘good’ qualities and ‘decent’ attributes they typically like to see in their romance men. 😐 My first thought to this is always: “Well, he’s not a man, he’s a devil from hell, so I don’t know what to tell ya.” But, I understand that this reader reaction goes back to what I mentioned before about the way we present our non-human characters.
Despite being 100% fallen angel/demon, my hero lives and works on earth, so he acts human to fit in. This “act” makes up most of the personality traits my readers are presented with, so I can’t really get too upset when they expect those traits to carry all the way through. Even though his “act” is anti-social disorder at best and he displays random abilities no human man could ever possibly pull off, it’s the equivalent of having an unlikable vampire. To most readers, it really doesn’t matter “what” your hero is, as long as he’s a lovable hero.
Personally, I think Aliens should get the largest pass for not acting human, but once again, I’m not as fluent in SciFi romance as the others. I thoroughly enjoy Anna Adler’s Silenia series, but her heroes are Alien-Human Hybrids, so of course, they’re going to both look and behave just as human as alien. I’m also a fan of Gena Showalter, and I love her Alien Huntress series, but all of her aliens are extremely human-like in personality, even if their physical appearances are anything but. If you know of any great SciFi romance books with Alien heroes that lack most human traits, please let me know, I’d love to check them out for comparison!
This is also where picking the right genre for your book is vitally important. Most romance novels that are labeled “Dark”, “Thriller”, “Suspense”, “Psychological” or even “Taboo” get an automatic pass from readers when it comes to how their male heroes are depicted. I tried my best to advertise the Avarice trilogy as “Dark Erotic Romance”, but unfortunately that’s not an actual category option on Amazon from the main set up screen. I haven’t learned the art of hidden categories yet, but if you’re facing the same problem, it might be worth looking into.
Alright, Indies, that covers the topic of writing male characters/heroes. Please feel free to let me know if I missed an area you’d like to see discussed. In my next post, I’m going to talk about common tropes used in the romance genre.
If there’s a topic you’d like to see a post about, let me know in the comments below! 🙂