What’s the Buzz on Bad Boys?

Finding Your Hero in Category Romance

by Catherine Mann and Joanne Rock

Romance authors strive to create the ultimate hero with every story, a tall order when so many fabulous men have already captured the hearts of readers. Shelves are packed with to-die-for heroes, from Suzanne Brockmann’s SEALS to Nora Roberts’ MacGregors.

One archetype we notice again and again in romance is the quintessential Bad Boy— a hero who might be tall, dark and dangerous, or maybe a rogue in need of reform. Perhaps this man is so popular because he presents such an enticing challenge. The more of an obstacle the hero provides, the more triumphant our heroine feels when she wins his heart. So how do we go about creating that ultimate, spine-tingling hero to capture a reader’s heart?

The Bad Boy hero can take many forms. Corporate shark. Cop. Scientist. Fireman. Surfer turned millionaire businessman. We all have our ideal of the “perfect guy,” and what attracts us differs for everyone. Part of the Harlequin/Silhouette marketing strategy depends on tapping into those individual inclinations by delivering a certain kind of book for each line, based on reader preferences. That includes the type of hero.

Questioning Bachelors #1, 2 & 3… Researching Your Hero

The first step to writing a compelling hero in category romance is to do your research. Read, read, read the line you’re targeting. Does the line look for a bad boy who’s edgy and larger than life? Or a hero who curbs his bad-boy ways to an occasional wicked gleam in his eye? When we first decided to target Harlequin/Silhouette, we began by reading hundreds, yes hundreds, of category romances.

The following chart is a model to help analyze your target line and identify trends. (Remember, exceptions can be found to every example!) While reading your books in the line you are researching, note the following facets of the heroes you meet:

  • Ages
  • Looks
  • Sexual Thoughts
  • Jobs
  • Lifestyle
  • Role of Money
  • Children
  • Family
  • Types of Conflicts
  • Risks
  • Stakes

A Little Mouth-to-Mouth… Breathing Life Into Your Bad Boy

A sexy hero can transform your book from merely a good story to a memorable keeper-shelf read. To write a studly sensation, you’ll also want to keep in mind these principles of good characterization that can be applied to all romance heroes. Here are some basics to use as a springboard for launching the creation of your very own hot hero with a healthy dose of sizzle.

  • Give him flaws: We want to watch our heroes grow on their journey. If you write a hero who is perfect to start with, his character has no room for development. Is he commitment shy, afraid of something, too proud, emotionally reticent? What internal conflict does he need to overcome during the course of the book?
  • Give him quirks: Ever read a hero who was too cardboard? He probably didn’t have any personality quirks to make him stand out in our minds. On the other hand, who can forget a hero with a troll pin on his duster like Mitch in Joanne’s Tall, Dark & Daring (Temptation 10/02), or an Air Force officer sporting a do-rag like Grayson in Catherine’s Grayson’s Surrender (SIM 9/02)? Give your hero an intriguing quirk or two and you’ve given your reader a memorable man.
  • Make him studly: Create a man with presence. This isn’t a matter of physical beauty-he can be fierce and formidable or quietly in charge. Whether he’s a corporate shark turned stand-in pirate as in Joanne’s Wild & Willing (Blaze 9/02), or an aviator airlifting troops in Catherine’s Taking Cover (SIM 11/02), readers are attracted to masculine strength in any number of areas. But your hero needs to dominate whatever landscape you choose to pen for him.
  • Give him an element of danger: A bad boy hero comes complete with an element of danger. Depending on the line you are targeting, that might mean your hero is a detective or a military man, or it might mean he’s a corporate lawyer who’s a little edgy and unpredictable. Despite this element of danger, the hero should never be scary to the heroine. He might present a momentary threat to her peace of mind, but the heroine’s heart is always safe in his hands.
  • Make him worthy of the challenge: Show us hints of his redeeming characteristics early in the book. We want to see shades of honor or nobility from the start, no matter what other character flaws you’ve given him. Offer us a sense that this man will be worth the heroine’s effort-that he will be a prize worthy of her love.

Enjoy the Show… The Bad Boy in Action

With a little careful analysis and characterization layering, you can create a hero that fits your line’s parameters, yet simultaneously stretches the boundaries. A memorable romance has at its heart an unforgettable hero and that man deserves the best start in his fictional life that you can give him. Remember to make him heroic and strong, flawed but filled with potential, universal and at the same time, unique.

A tall order? You betcha. But we are, after all, talking about heroes here, and there’s nothing that a sexy bad boy can’t handle.

Find bad boys to win your heart in Catherine Mann’s “Wingmen Warriors” series. Learn more about Catherine’s work at catherinemann.com.

Joanne Rock writes sexy bad boys for Harlequin Temptation and Blaze. Meet Greg in REVEALED (Temptation 3/03), don’t miss Jesse in WILD & WICKED (Blaze 5/03) and find more hot heroes in her “Single in the South Beach” series.