What is your idea of the perfect man? Is he the strong, silent type, like John Wayne? Is he tuned into his emotions? Is he tall, short, fat, thin? Well-built or well-intentioned? What does he do for a living? What does he do for fun? How organized is he? What does he look like? Is he an arm-chair sports enthusiast or an athlete? What music does he listen to? What are his religious and political views? What’s his relationship with his mother?
If this sounds like a questionnaire on a dating website, it’s not. But it should. Because just as it’s important for someone to know everything about the man they’re interested in, it’s equally important for the writer to know everything about her hero. And as a female writer, that knowledge is essential, because we can’t walk in their shoes.
Most romance writers are women. We can easily relate to our heroines. Sometimes we create them in our own image; other times in the image of a friend or family member. Even if we create them out of the blue, I think women are easy for women to write. Men, less so. We can create them based on our favorite movie star, or our boyfriends, husbands, fathers or sons. But we’re not them. And therefore it’s harder to make them as realistic as our heroines.
In order to make them real, we have to know everything about them. That’s why the questions at the start of this post sound like something we’d ask on a first or second date. The more information we have about our heroes, the more well-rounded they are and the better our readers can relate to them.
Those 3-D heroes also make writing our stories easier. We don’t have to wonder what they’d do next or why they behaved as they did? We don’t have to wonder what they’d think of something (although our heroine might). We know them well enough to have all the answers. So the next time your story flounders and you don’t know what to do next, interview your hero. See where his story takes you.