Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Loving the Tortured Hero

Okay, I admit it, I’m a sucker for the tortured hero. The more tortured the better. I want to see them vulnerable. I want to see them grow. I want to see them learn that depending on women will not bring about the end of the world (were this a political blog, I’d insert some choice words for our Republican presidential candidates, but it isn’t, so I won’t).

That’s not to say I want a beta male. I want alpha all the way. Well, maybe not a complete “hard ass jerk” alpha, but I am not looking for wimpy men (or women, for that matter). Tortured heroes are rarely wimpy. They’re strong, complex characters with multiple layers, feelings and conflicts. Figuring out who they are is like peeling an onion. Okay, that’s kind of cliché and tear-inspiring. Maybe it’s more like opening up a present that’s been very well wrapped. You know, like those wrapped by kids with tons of tape and overlapping paper. Before you begin, you have to admire their wrapping job. You finally tear through the paper, only to come across the box that’s been decorated and taped shut, which you also have to admire. You get rid of the rest of the tape, which by now is in a wad next to you and sticks to everything, open the box and there’s tissue paper. Lots and lots of colored tissue paper. Ultimately, you get to the present inside. For those of you without kids, picture receiving a package from Amazon—huge box, lots of bubble wrap, small item.

The point I’m trying to make is that tortured heroes take a while to get to know. You have to dig deep to find out what makes them tick. While you’re digging, you discover what makes them valuable, attractive, worth the effort. They’re not the typical shallow pretty boy. They also don’t typically attract the shallow, plastic heroines. The heroines that spend time with the tortured hero look beyond surface appearances. They’re strong and independent. They’re usually women I can admire. I want my romance novels, whether they’re the ones I’m reading or writing, to be an escape from reality, but I also want them to be worth my time. I want them to be memorable. And the more work I have to do to discover the hero, the better I like them.


  1. I like your argument, Jen. A tortured hero is mysterious at first. He has layers, as we all do. Getting through to his core, and finding a priceless pearl, is a satisfying journey.

    I also think a hero can be tortured by love itself. In my WIP, the hero knows he loves the heroine. She's the one who isn't convinced. His agony--and story mission--is to convince her. Waiting for love--that can be agony.

  2. I agree, Ana. But there's "tortured" and "torturing"! :)

  3. I prefer the word 'complex' to tortured, and love your analogy to unwrapping a package!
    I like my heroes to be strong and independent too, but also want them to have a caring, compassionate side - which doesn't make them wimps, of course! It's the alpha-minus, beta-plus hero who wins every time for me!

  4. Well, luckily, there are so many different types of heroes out there that there are plenty of them for us all! :)