Okay, so, yeah, sorta paraphrasing a Beatles’ song here, but you know, sometimes I do wonder where all the heroes that I fall madly in love with – would run away in a heartbeat with if they were real and smiled my way – do come from? They sure aren’t based on the guys – many guys – who have drifted through my life. But then, I do know where the bedrock for my heroes lies.
They’re all me. Or, if reincarnation takes you through various lives, sometimes as male, sometimes as female, then they might be guys I was. Or will be in the future. Since I’m female this life around, it’s too bad they only waltzed by on sheets of paper, on a computer screen. Are still kicking their heels in my muse’s waiting room wondering when the heck they’ll get the call to step on stage.
Yep, these are the guys I wish had smiled at me, taken my hand – heck, taken the rest of me, too! They are the reason I write romance. It’s the only time I get to hang out with the guys that…well, that I deserve, goldurnit!
They are all the same, and yet they aren’t. They’re individuals. They might have stepped from a mold, but then they evolved.
Actually, I know where that original mold for my lead male characters was formed, and it wasn’t within me.
It was with a dog.
A bad boy dog. A dog who knew how to be flirtatious. Who knew what he wanted and what he didn’t want in life. And when it came right down to the line, he did what he claimed he’d never do.
He went heroically wide and took the consequences.
Fortunately for him, his sweetheart had a few friends to help her rescue him.
Yep, the mold for all my heroes is Tramp from Lady and the Tramp. A dog in an animated movie.
I’m weird that way.
I realized Tramp was the ideal hero before I was published, oddly enough. It was the Eighties, and I was in my step-mom phase with husband mistake the second when Disney Studios opened the vault and rereleased Lady and the Tramp. Oddly enough, at the time, we had a dog who looked very like Tramp, and he was a lover. Sneaky, too. Clever. Devious. As sweet hus and the boys had fallen for him at the shelter when I wasn’t with them, they let me name him. All it took was one look, and he became Trampus. Of course, that wasn’t enough, for the kids became pupuses thereafter. They were scamps, too. But Trampus was capable of either magic or acrobatics, though I was more inclined to believe his abilities were something Merlin would covet. He could get out of the backyard, which was surrounded by a tall cement block fence, without digging under it and managed to really irritate a neighbor three doors down because every morning he found Trampus in his back yard with his female dog. Yeah, we should have named him Casanova.
I tried to get him to watch Lady and the Tramp with us on the VCR back then, but he didn’t find it as exciting as the cute little bitch down the block.
And that’s the way my heroes are, too, oddly enough.
So was Tramp in the movie.
Picture us scattered about the living room in cozy spots with the tape rolling and all of a sudden; I bolt upright like Zeus zapped me with a lightning bolt. I was so startled I even said the words out loud. “My God,” I said faintly. (It was that sort of revelation.) “It’s Ben Paradise!”
Fortunately, my husband at the time had managed to stay awake while I talked on and on about the book I had written, then rewritten from scratch, then rewritten from scratch again for seven years (and would continue to rework for another five) and he recalled who Ben Paradise was. The hero in my story. (Admittedly we had an Amazonian green parrot at the time, and I’d named him Benjamin, too, so hus’s memory got kicked regularly about my Ben.)
“Huh,” said sweet hus in response to the blinding realization with which I was dealing and got up to raid the refrigerator.
I’ve never had a single hero in over 30 manuscripts get up and raid the refrigerator when within the heroine’s intoxicating aura. Gravitate toward a plate of cookies? Yeah, that could – did – happen in one story. The hero was ensuring evidence of a visit from Santa was in place. Plus, he couldn’t resist cookies. Who can? Not me. But back to our story. For the most part, my art did not reflect my real life. If it had, I’d still be unpublished!
Now, I’ve heard other writers talk about the romances they write, and they frequently say, “the heroine is the most important character because she is the one the reader will associate with, be in sympathy with.”
Not so with me. The heroines…well, I’d like to kick them out of the way. To me, a story only sings if I have fallen so hopelessly in love with the hero that I want to hang in there with him. Occasionally I’ve had to go back through a manuscript and paint different colored stripes down the side of a page to indicate who has the POV, because, if I let them, the heroes would have 75% of it, not the 50% they should be allotted. (Ah, the dreaded demands of revision!) I never understand romantic stories where the hero has less than half the POV face time, though there are plenty of authors who will tell you the leading lady should have more than he gets.
Obviously, they don’t want to run off with their heroes as badly as I want to with mine.
Have I wanted to slip away with all the heroes I’ve written into life on a page? With Ben, Caleb, Rob, Mark, Harry, Adam, Jake, Matt, Fletch, Pat, Kevin, Sam, Nate, Tim, Garrett, Deegan, J.W., Thorton, Zack, Jack, Lang, Mick, Colt, Heath, Tal, Nick, Kit, Bram, and Paul, yes. Most definitely with Paul. With Doug and Max Wheelock, no so much. No idea why, because I can recognize they are from the mold, but they missed whatever ingredient these other guys had. But I’d also run off with the fellas in the muse’s waiting room, Hugh, Max Wyverin, Thane, Hank, and Colum. They’ve already been whispering sweet nothings in my ear.
Oddly enough, all of these guys turn up in a variety of genre niches. The majority were romantic-comedy heroes, but Mark wasn’t, even if he was a droll fellow. And twelve of them have been on the non-comedic historical romance stage or had a side romance in a Steampunk or urban fantasy tale.
The thing is, while the type of story they land the part of hero in may fall in a different niche, the guys themselves don’t deviate much from that junkyard dog, Tramp.
And I’m quite happy about that. If I were a sheltered spaniel, I’d want to run off that wily terrier myself.
Why not hang out with some heroes of your own concoction in the forthcoming workshop CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE AND ROMANTIC-COMEDY: THERE’S A DIFFERENCE? It runs from February 18th through March 17th. I’ll be standing, figuratively, at the head of the virtual classroom and just might bring some of my favorite guys along for some show and tell. Bring your cast along, too!
Landing Fletch Layton
The text was a death threat. There was no doubt about it in Fletch Layton’s mind. Dominique, his slinky, bombshell girlfriend for the past two years had given him one week to decide whether he was marrying her or not.
It was enough to make a man panic. And so, like the master procrastinator he was, Fletch decided to put off making any sort of leap. On
one hand there was gorgeous but flinty eyed Dominique. On the other was freedom.
Brenda Burton wasn’t in the least surprised when Fletch turned up at her parents for the weekly Sunday barbecue uninvited. He’d been theboy next door, her hero as a girl and she had the scars to prove it. That dare to jump her bike across Hobson’s Creek having left one on her brow. She was his pal, the shortstop on the company softball team, one of the guys. His best friend, although her older brother was his best bud. But when in need, Fletch never went to Josh for advice. He came to her.
But how could she possibly tell him that marrying Dominique was in the cards when she dreamed of being in those cards herself? Had ever since she’d fallen in love with him a dozen years ago when she’d been thirteen and he’d been sixteen. It was a hopeless dream.
Until her soon-to-be sister-in-law handed her a self-help book: LAND YOUR MAN. Bren still wasn’t convinced she should interfere – until Dominique ticked her off. REALLY ticked her off and Bren decided she needed to save her best friend from the bimbo by LANDING FLETCH LAYTON herself.