As an author I’m often asked how I create my characters, are they based on real people or do I make them up. The truth is that it is a mixture, I make them up but they often have elements drawn from people I know, or have known. My aim, like all novelists, is to to invent characters that readers can believe in. But as I am launching a romantic novel, The Art of Loving, for Valentine’s Day, I don’t just want people believing in my characters, I want them to fall in love with them too. Especially with my hero.
So what qualities do we look for in a romantic hero? Traditionally, of course, tall dark and handsome is the benchmark, arrogant comes in handy, rich with a nice house or car is always a bonus, intelligent and quick with words pretty obligatory. But not always. Heathcliff after all wasn’t much good with words, Captain Corelli isn’t rich and doesn’t drive at all, and it has to be admitted (reluctantly) that Jack Bauer is short and fair. For me it’s not just the looks, the cars and the arrogance, although they clearly help. It is much more than that. Those are just surface attributes. Deep character is the key, and that comes from making the character believable, and that means human.
For readers to believe in characters, those character have to seem like people we might possibly one day meet, not paragons, however gorgeous, but imperfect with endearing (or not so endearing) quirks and foibles. My hero of The Art of Loving, Max Dreiecke von Hardtwald, has, by any standard, a filthy temper, but he is also very affectionate towards his dying aunt. He drives (his Porsche) far too fast but he also suffers from jetlag. He is infuriated by inefficiency and is furious with himself for falling in love with the (endearingly) scatty heroine. Like me, female readers seem to find him irresistible, despite these foibles – so much so that my husband (clearly green with envy) has started a ‘Boot Max Dreiecke von Hardtwald out of fiction campaign’!
So, British men, it seems as though you can be as moody and temperamental as you want, but as long as you are affectionate towards your old aunt, women will still fall in love with you.