Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hercules, Superman, and Mr. Romance

By Gina Welborn

“Where have all good men gone, and where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules to fight the rising odds?”

Nothing like a good man to make a woman go wild.

A good man?!? Who spiked my chocolate milk? No woman goes wild for a “good” man. Nope. Only bad boys make us pant, roar, and rip our bodices.

One minor problem: The quintessential Bad Boy smokes, dips, and chews and sleeps with any gal or two. Yuck. Call me a prude, but smoking, dipping, and chewing makes a man’s mouth and lungs look like my mother-in-law’s meatloaf. Blech.

“It’s gonna take a superman to sweep me off my feet.”

At one time or another we wanted to be Lois on the balcony or Mary Jane braless in a skimpy shirt in the rain. Okay, maybe not the braless part because we're good Christian girls. But, ahhh, the thrill of the rescue and the magic carpet ride.

Only one minor problem: You can’t count on Superhero--any more than Bad Boy--to be home with your kids have the flu or the toilet is clogged because he’s always off saving the freakin’ world. Face it. Lex Luther and Doc Ock just aren’t gonna pause in their quest for total world domination while your SuperSweetheart empties the litterbox. So you’re stuck with the poopy deed. How romantic.

(No offense intended toward anyone offended by my use of freakin' or poopy. I would say using the words is a habit I'm trying to break, but my dear friend Dina is our resident Inky nun and I feel led to adorn some habits for her benefit.)

Okay, I know many a romance reader and writer insist Bad Boys will always be the ultimate romantic heroes because they’re always redeemable by the “right woman,” but, for me, having the right heroine isn’t enough to compensate for an unrespectable hero. Let Bad Boy keep his meatloaf lungs and mouth to himself and Debbie and all the guys she did in Dallas. The truth is the Bad Boy who lived his life sampling the world’s buffet of women (and doesn’t have a STD or two) isn’t a hero.

He’s a cliché.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think a guy has to be a virgin to be a romance novel--or real life--hero, either. But a true Bad Boy is more than an Iron Chef of Sex. *sigh* I miss not watching the Food Network, but that's another blog post.

We all have our idea of the perfect guy, the perfect hero, the perfect Mr. Romance. Only a hero is more than an archetype. He is more than a “caricature” of masculinity. A hero is more than a sexy body with a sexy grin and a sexy voice. (Although those are quite nice, Gina whispers.)

“He’s gotta be larger than life.”

A hero--no matter his archetype or appearance--is dangerous to somebody. His very existence threatens, intimidates, and costs somebody something.

He can’t be ignored.

He won’t be ignored.

Maximus, William Wallace, Neo, Aragorn, Jack Dawson, Jake Sully, Robert Parr, Buddy.

Yes, I mean Buddy from Elf. He was dangerous to the men and women who didn’t believe in Santa, who didn’t believe that inside each person was someone special. His joy pushed people outside their status quo and made a positive difference. Only a dangerous man can do that.

A hero--no matter his archetype or appearance--isn’t dangerous to the heroine. Oh, he definitely destroys her peace of mind, yet he isn’t a physical threat. His very existence confuses, frustrates, and adds something to her life. The poor dear can’t ignore him no matter how determined she is to try, and then we the readers are screaming at him for driving her crazy and screaming at her to give him a heavier dose of his own medicine. Make him suffer, lass, make him suffer! You go, Princess Fiona!

So you turn the page hoping for the first kiss and the second one and the third because you know the kisses will come. Why?

A hero--no matter his archetype and appearance--is devoted to the heroine. But since all men are not all alike, how he shows his devotion depends on who he is. A white knight will save his damsel’s life. The hunk-next-door will baby-sit. A hero’s devotion can be as simple as taking her out to dinner after a long day’s work or more complicated like helping her realize she’s a good mother even if her house is never clean and her son has an affinity for peeing in the flower garden.

“Somewhere after midnight,
in my wildest fantasy…
there’s someone reaching back for me”

“We read romance novels not for the handsome heroes, not for the steamy loves scenes, but for the involvement of the man in the relationship.” ~Vicki Lewis Thompson, author of NERD IN SHINING ARMOR

A man actively involved in the relationship will make his woman go wild. In a heroine’s wildest fantasy, her hero is reaching for her. And through the wind, the chill, the rain, the storm, and the flood, he will be there for her. That’s what defines a romance.

So to you authors out there I say, if you want your Hero—your Bad Boy, your Good Man, your Nerd-- to be a real man, make him dangerous. And give him a battle to fight. He’ll love you for it. Your heroine will love you for it.

Most of all, your readers will love you--and him--for it.


  1. This is a fabulous post--especially since it's my anniversary. =) I got several good chuckles out of it.

    I love writing heroes, probably because it lets me explore bits and pieces of my hubby. You know, the guy who loves me enough to educate me in Star Trek. Who might never bring roses home, but who tends the bushes of them in the garden every morning. The guy who loses his temper at the drop of a hat and then thanks me for holding onto mine. The guy who doesn't just chase my dreams with me, but who will run ahead to grab them for me when my legs grow weak.

    Okay, enough sentimentality from the anniversary girl. (Though 9 years! Woo hoo!) ;-) I really enjoyed the post, Gina.

  2. Well, I'm supposed to be working and here I am all dreamy eyed instead. You nailed it for me Gina.
    The hero must be willing to go that extra step to show the heroine she is the most special, amazing woman in the world, and worthy of being more important than even the most important THINGS...even at the most inopportune moment. And that's why we love them. And then we go back to real life. Where, incidentally, we do have a real hero who would/has died for us. Cool, huh?

    And oh yes, I've been Lois Lane on the balcony. I still play that song: Can You Read My Mind by Maureen McGovern.
    You did scare me with that Debbie and Dallas reference, though...

  3. Roseanna, you brought tears to my eyes when you described your hubby. Congratulations on the wedding anni. My hubby will be in Italy on a mission trip when we celebrate our 17th. First time we won't be together. I'm sad. Happy for him and our oldest who will be ministering to people. Still sad for me.

  4. Deb, sorry about the Debby/Dallas scare. LOL. When I was in high school, several of the guys in my AP English class would reference all the Debby flicks. I always wondered if they really actually watched them.

  5. I loved this line: "Her hero is reaching for her." That's great. Writing romance into my stories is not that easy for me. But I'm learning and this just resonates with me! Great post, Gina.

  6. Last night I watched SHREK with my youngest. It's got to be one of the best romance movies ever made. Continually throughout the movie, Shrek reaches for Fiona. haul her off the bed that symbolizes her bondage to the past drag her away from dragon tha symbolizes things that stand between her and freedom pick her up and toss her over his shoulder when she refuses to go with him to her future (aka, Lord Farquadt) (symbolism obvious) kiss her as they shared a meal by the fire, only to feel uncomfortable with his feelings and consequently he asks for what little he knew she could give him--the remains of her dinner, which symbolizes his own bondage to his hurts, fears, insecurities he races to stop her from marrying Lord F, as the knights try to stop him from reaching her literally

    ...when she lays on the ground after the curse is broken because by this point he's learned his love for her is greater than his fears, greater than his desire to be left alone; and this all symbolizes his culmination as a hero in his acceptance of what he's been called to--to be her hero, protector, champion, lover. And he can only do that because he's let go of the things he'd been reaching for at the beginning of the movie.

  7. in THE HEROES JOURNEY (DVD workshop), Shrek is used quite often as a teaching tool for plotting and characterization. Add in the fact that it's an amazing love story too, and you've got quite the package. What's not to love about a man who can make his own candles...out of ear wax but, well.

    Part of the love story is also seeing in someone a quality they themselves can't see and loving them for it before others recognize it. Like Jack Nicholson said "You make me want to be a better man". That's sort of how we can get past the age and ick factor btw his character and Helen Hunt's character. As annoying as he is, we hear him say one of the most romantic things ever on film.

    Tom Cruise: "You complete me." That's right up there too, eh?

  8. Excellent points, Deb!

    Of course, I think I'm one of the few people who had issue with Jerry Maguire. His problem was that he needed people around him because he couldn't handle being by himself. So when he goes crawling back to her, his action stems from his selfishness and fear of being alone. He can't NOT be alone.

    So the movie ends, and I wonder if Jerry ever really overcame his internal flaw.

  9. Wow, Gina! This post definitely comes under the heading 'Inner Conflict'. Give the guy a battle indeed.

    I've never considered a 'bad boy' to have slept around. Rather, I've thought him as someone who does what he pleases despite what authority decrees. I dunno, maybe I just haven't read enough bad boy books.

    And I don't get the reference to Debbie and Dallas, either but then I've led a very sheltered life. Just fell off the proverbial turnip truck, so to speak. :)


  10. Wow, Gina, you're in rare form today. Not sure how my name got pulled into you exercising all this new found freedom in Christ :)

    I think I married superman. He's off saving the world right now and I have to run the kids all over town. May be sacrificing his job soon in his ongoing quest. Being married to superman is exhausting. No, I don't recommend it.

  11. Great post, Gina. I'm just learning how to write romance and am in the middle of the scene in my Civil War book where the Yankee officer hero declares his love to the heroine Southern belle, despite the objections of her pastor father. A few obstacles there!

    One of my favorite romantic leads was Christopher Reeve's character in "Somewhere in Time." Talk about reaching for her! Ahhh, think I need to watch that again soon.

  12. Wonderful post, Gina! You had me smiling, chuckling, and yet considering the heroes in my novels.

    Woo hoo! Bring on the heroes!

  13. Coming in late, as usual, but I had to comment. This was absolutely yummy. You are so right that the quintessential bad boy is a cliche, as is the boring good guy!
    I think I like bad boy exteriors with good guy interiors. Case in point: Rhett Butler is a bad boy with a heart of gold. Ashley Wilkes is a good guy but a pansy on the inside. And I know everyone will argue with me, but this sums up the attraction for Twilight's Edward Cullen.
    Love it!


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