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Let's say you are writing romance -- or almost anything, really. One thing you need is a perfect hero. Right?
Of course he’s gorgeous: tall and strong and fit and handsome and … wait a minute. Is he always? Must he be?
In her book Home Fires (1995), Luanne Rice taught me that a handsome hero isn’t necessary – at all. Her character, Anne, is rescued by a hideously scarred firefighter so monstrously ugly that the neighborhood children dare each other to look at him. Although Thomas Devlin is frightening to see, his broken heart is incomparably tender. The reasons for his scarring make him even more endearing and it isn’t long before Anne is in love.
Think of “Beauty and the Beast” and all the modern take-offs on this old, traditional tale. I suspect the tale began in ancient times when fathers arranged their daughters’ marriages. (I know; it still happens in many parts of the world, but here I’m speaking of western Europe where this tale originated.) The daughters got whatever they got and had to learn, like Belle, to bring out the prince in the beasts they married.
Vanessa Hudgens recently relearned this lesson in the movie Beastly and Andie McDowell got the chance to watch Bill Murray struggle with the curse of living the same day over and over again until he was worthy of her love. (What? You didn’t realize Groundhog Day was a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast”? Neither did I. The dh had to mention it before I caught on.)
So the hero must be attractive in some very compelling ways, but he doesn’t have to be traditionally handsome – and please, please avoid the cliché “features too rugged to be called handsome.” Even if that’s what he looks like, let's please find a different way to say it. (For the record, I feel the same way about Bella's observation that Edward is "too beautiful to be real." Sigh.
More on PERFECT heroes later. In the meantime, why not share a description of a fictional hero you found appealing?