Book boyfriends are an important part of Romancelandia. These fine gentlemen are collected, protected, and prominently displayed in all their glistening-ab glory on our romance novel mantels. But what makes a book hero worthy of such an honor, and how do you as an author write a Dude that keeps your readers swooning instead of reaching for the Nauzene?
Let’s get a little help from the ABCs
No, I promise this isn’t a lesson in spelling or alphabets. This is all about creating swoon-worthy heroes.
A: Abs. Abs are important. I mean, yeah. Abs. Next question!
Nah, ABS really is short for Absolutely Alpha. But when I say “alpha,” I mean in relation to his own world.
We all know the type: Maybe he’s top dog in his CEO-suit-wearing business. Or he’s the best banana bread baker this side of the Mississippi. Or maybe he’s jobless, and broke, but when it comes to his little sister, he is instantly Superman.
Alpha doesn’t mean “Carte Blanche to be a Dick.” Alpha means “Able to save me, should I need saving, and only after I ask for it, permitting I already tried to save myself and maybe it didn’t go quite as planned.”
The point is, Dude needs to be able to Step Up when it matters. To take control, wield the reins, pull himself up by his big boy pants and show the world (and the girl) that he’s totally got this (even if he doesn’t, but hey, he’s trying)!
Readers loooooove heroes who can go the distance for their heroine.
She’s got a flat tire on the way to her big interview? Guess who’s got a jack and knows how to work it? Abs! I mean, Alpha. But abs, too. (Never hurt anyone.)
B: Beta. Like, he should be an Alpha AND a Beta. Lemme explain.
Beta heroes aren’t Beta because they are the opposite of Alpha-heroes. Sorry, softies! Beta dudes gotta step it up when it comes time, too. But they are Beta in relation to the Heroine, whereas Alphas want to go toe-to-toe with her. (Silly Alphas, women always win!)
A good Beta Hero will:
- support his heroine’s ideas (instead of challenging her every thought because he enjoys a good debate),
- be her friend (like a real friend with movies and laundry and “What did Wendy microwave in the lunchroom today??? Was it fish again?” not just her toe-curling multi orgasmic lover), and
- generally revere her as the queen she is.
And that is the key to having a reader fall hard and harder for your doughy, cinnamon-roll character (no matter how tough he is on the outside): it’s all about the way he loves her.
The reverence, the attention to detail over her mood and appearance and likes, and the lack of seeking validation for it because her smile is the validation.
Does he come to surprise her at work and notice her desk is riddled with papers so he draws her a bubble bath at the end of the day because he can tell she really needs it? Does he quietly look at her while she’s driving or talking, and when she asks “What?” he responds with “Nothing” because there’s no way to explain how the streetlight reflecting through the windshield has cast her in a veil of radiance?
CEO hardass bosses whose abs look great in a three-piece suit as they’re firing the pen-stealing peon can totally leave work in their Jag, cruise down to Heroine’s work, and bring her that ultra-comforting cup of broccoli and cheese soup from Schlotsky’s even though it’s gonna stink up his car, because when he texted her if she ever had lunch, she responded with a selfie of her and a vending machine.
Alpha and Beta, all in one abs-a-licious package. Your readers will love you for it.
C: CONSENT, the sexiest of all things in Romance!
Be he Alpha or Beta, Dude must ASK FOR PERMISSION TO TOUCH! More, slowing down the physical development of their relationship—or at least taking it one quick step at a time—is the Number One way to get your readers panting.
You gotta look before you can touch, and looks can do so, so much to get your reader’s hearts pitter-pattering!
Long ones, quick glances where they got busted staring at you from across the room, winks, crooked smiles, a softening of an angry or frustrated expression, a soft one heating up. Eyes are POWERFUL!
Next is hands. Holding them. Tentatively touching a shoulder, or an arm. Earning that physical trust, inch by inch. We like men who know a woman’s body is hers, and not owed to them, no matter what they drive or how much they dropped on dinner.
Third is face, and all stuff close to it: neck, cheeks, hair, ears, forehead, etc. You’re not gonna let someone touch your neck unless you really, really like them. And if someone touches my neck without permission, they are getting acquainted with the wrinkly part of my palm. So if Dude is pulling a hair tuck behind the ear, HALLO this MEANS SOMETHING, and if placed correctly on the Consent Timeline, your readers will sploosh. They’re getting there. Fun Times ahead.
Once you’ve safely got their phalanges on your throat, the rest is pretty much fair game. Rip shirts, shred pants, whip out those belts like you’re straight outta a Devo music video. (Am I aging myself? I think I’m aging myself.) But before you need a new wardrobe, or have to start looking for yours on the floor, remember ASKING IS SEXY, and the best heroes ALWAYS double-check consent.
There are heroes who don’t get consent from their heroines… We don’t talk about them, though. They go to the Bad Place. Not the Book Boyfriend Mantel.
Swoon-Worthy Heroes Your Readers Will Love
So remember, readers love: Abs, long laden looks, surprise broccoli and cheese soup, and don’t touch my neck unless we’re cool to kiss or you’re gonna get a different kind of kiss from my buddy Don Corleone. And the most important thing to remember: It’s not really about him. It’s about the way loving her brings him to life.