20 Tips for Writing Lovable Romance Novel Heroes

Romance is the one of the best-selling genres, and romance readers devour books so there is an ever-growing market. Romance writer Danielle Steel is one of the highest paid authors in the world, topping $35 million in 2011, with Nicholas Sparks not far behind. I’m not a romance writer or reader but I am keen for the genre to be represented on this site. Today historical romance writer Adrienne de Wolfe has some tips on writing romance heroes. 

romantic heroesReaders of Romance novels want their heroes to be role models or larger than life.

Romance novels are fantasies, and the reader wants to escape into a world where she can experience the thrill of falling in love with a man who, in real life, might be the tiniest bit too scary to date because he’s so bold, handsome, sophisticated, powerful, witty, rich . . . You get the idea!

Perfect people make boring characters.

The essence of all fiction is conflict; that’s why Romance novel editors often advise aspiring authors, “Sparks have to fly between your hero and heroine!”

When your Romance characters first meet, they are going to be antagonists. (Surprise!) Your job is to develop the relationship slowly so that the reader can believe that these two antagonists are falling in love.

But a hero needs more than brawn to satisfy your reading audience. In fact, in polls conducted by Romance Writers of America, readers often rank intelligence and humor as the top two traits that they prefer in their Romance heroes. On a scale of 1 to 10, “physical attractiveness” often ranks dead last!

So how do you strike that elusive balance between brain and brawn, sass and class, emotional caring and physical chemistry, that will make a reader fall in love with your novel’s hero?

1. You let him embrace new challenges or activities. Example: For the heroine’s sake, he attends the season’s opening night performance of the local symphony, even though the reader knows the hero would rather be country western dancing at the state Rodeo.

2. You prove that he’ll be a good caretaker. Example: He romps through the park with a puppy.

3. You reveal his protective nature in a positive light. Example: He chides his 17-year-old niece for sneaking out of the house to attend a neighborhood party where there are no adult chaperones.

4. You give him an optimistic outlook. Example: When everyone else is grumbling about the weather, he whistles to himself, pleased to think that he’ll soon have new flowers growing in his garden.

5. You continually reveal his deepening admiration, respect, and love for the heroine. Example: The first time the hero meets the heroine, he thinks her physical appearance is plain. As he grows to care about her, he can’t imagine why he didn’t see her beauty before.

6. You make him act with kindness and compassion toward his staff or the working classes. Example: He gives his secretary time off, with plane fare, to visit her ailing mother.

7. You challenge his integrity, and he comes out smelling like a rose. Example: He has the option to fib about his age in a dating chat-room. Instead, he reluctantly tells the truth and wins a date with the heroine.

8. You produce evidence that he is well-liked and well-respected by his colleagues, subordinates, family, friends, etc. Example: his nieces claim that he gives the best “horsie” rides.

9. You give him a social cause that women can respect. Example: he plants trees to help “green” the neighborhood.

10. You make his rival grudgingly acknowledge one of his positive traits or talents. Example: Mr. Rival admits that the hero is too honest for his own good.

11. You reveal his resourcefulness, especially in stressful situations. Example: The heroine drops her keys down the grate and is frantic about getting to the airport on time. Mr. Corporate Lawyer hot-wires her car.

12. You give him a drop-dead gorgeous smile that makes up for thinning hair or an over-sized nose.

13. You show that he respects women. Examples: He is especially careful to teach his daughters to love and respect their bodies; he encourages his lady friends to stretch their wings when they’re afraid of taking business risks.

14. You paint him as generous. Example: He surrenders the last piece of cherry pie to his sister’s bratty kid.

15. You show that he can keep a secret. Example: At a party, the heroine professes that she baked the lasagna herself; he furtively peels the Deli price tag from the bottom of the dish.

16. You create a small but endearing idiosyncrasy for him. Example: his junk drawer contains a mysterious, three-inch stack of chewing gum wrappers bound by a rubber band.

17. You show that he’s conscientious. Example: Even though he has driven half way to work, he turns the car around because he remembers that he forgot to feed the dog.

18. You make him classy and sophisticated, capable of mingling with aplomb in almost any crowd. Example: Despite his New York accent and his Wall Street hair cut, he has no trouble making friends at the Cajun Crawfish Boil.

19. You reveal his tolerance for other characters’ faults or idiosyncrasies. Example: He chivalrously walks his eccentric neighbor home in the dark, because she claims that she’s afraid of low-flying bats.

20. You make him grow as a character, and therefore, as a man. Example: At the beginning of the novel, he was intolerant of the heroine’s overprotective mother. By the end of the novel, they are chatting cozily over coffee – much to the heroine’s bemusement.

What do you think? Do you have any tips for writing romance heroes? 

Adrienne deWolfe’s five historical Romance novels have earned 9 writing awards, including “The Best Historical Romance of the Year.”   From May through August, Adrienne is offering various raffles to celebrate the release of her ebook series, The Secrets to Getting Your Romance Novel Published, which includes How to Write Romance Heroes with Sex Appeal.

Look for the books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.  (Or purchase the pdfs from Adrienne’s website, WritingNovelsThatSell.com.)  You can also follow Adrienne on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.



 Image: Flickr CC / hanna bâ„¢

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  1. Rosemary Kaye says

    Oh these are such excellent tips. I am bookmarking this page. I think my hero has some of these traits, but there are so many good ideas here. Just reading them brings to mind a loveable hero, and makes me realise why I enjoy the books I do – and presumably why other people do too.


    • says

      I appreciate your enthusiasm, Rosemary! I took these tips from the list of 50 that I compiled in “How to Write Romance Novels with Sex Appeal,” which argues that a hero needs to have more than a great body and superlative seduction skills in order to win the hearts of Romance readers. New Romance writers tend to concentrate on physical chemistry and forget the importance of emotional relationship-building when they are learning their craft. But the most successful Romance authors understand that their readers want to experience the vicarious thrill of falling in love. Therefore, writing Romance is about MUCH MORE than physical chemistry!

      Adrienne deWolfe

  2. says

    Some great character tips here for any character, not just heroes. However shouldn’t there be a negative in there somewhere? Not a big one. If I was reading about such a character I would be thinking; yes but… and I would be waiting for the flaw to appear. Maybe it’s the kind of books I read and write :)

    • says

      I agree with you on that one. Having a flaw isn’t always a super bad thing either. It can be always forgetting the house key or having a nack for badly singing in the shower. Just something that makes him not so heroic and a lot more human.

    • says

      Absolutely! (Tip #16 encourages writers to create idiosyncrasies for the hero.) Any character who is completely good or completely evil is drop-dead boring; the best books feature heroes who must grow, overcoming one or more personality flaws before they can achieve their story goal (which in a Romance novel, is to find true love.)

      Since this post was written to help writers create Romantic heroes, my goal was to convey how Romance writers (who are predominantly women) can create the type of hero that Romance readers (who also predominantly women) want to “fall in love with” — a strategy which is part of the recipe for selling commercial Romance novels. When I write my Fantasy fiction, where anti-heroes abound, my protagonists are much grayer than they are white. In a Romance novel, heroes tend to lean heavily toward “goodness” — even if they’re vampires!

      I hope I answered your question! Thank you for your insightful response.

      Adrienne deWolfe

  3. Tracie says

    Great! Just headed over to Amazon and downloaded “How to Write Romance Heroes with Sex Appeal.”

    Can’t wait to crack it open :)

  4. says

    Adrienne…love your great tips:) I’ll need to go back and check my current hero…I’m missing a few of these points, which would make him more loveable! I also think I need to have more sparks flying between the hero and heroine! Big help…thanks again :-)

    • says

      Thanks, Lorna! If you’re writing a commercial Romance novel, “sparks” will definitely be the secret to your success. Good luck with your project!

      Adrienne deWolfe

  5. says

    How clever! This post made me smile, different novels came to mind as I read over it because all of these tips are true and present in all great romance writing. Really pretty brilliant in it’s simplicity. Thank you for sharing!

  6. says

    Hi Adrienne,

    Great points…I’m going to bookmark this post. I’d like to add one point to the list. The hero and heroine need to have complementary lives. If their lives don’t fit together somehow, it seems to be a difficult match.

    Lou Barba

  7. says

    Great tips, but I was also thinking of a “negative” quality because many women tend to love the bad boy with that little something “soft” about him. Like the guy who loves to bar fight, but always makes time to bring flowers to his woman every week.

  8. says

    Just what I need as I make another pass through my novel. I’m taking a close look at the hero and this great piece will be a wonderful checklist!

  9. says

    Great tips, a couple made me smile. I always make sure my heroes can be put firmly in the category of gentleman. So, when a heroine’s feet are aching in her sky high heels at a party, not only does he walk her home, but he lends her his shoes and walks home in his socks…. It’s also handy if you can show how kind they are to animals. That always gets me, every time!

  10. Tracie says

    I’m commenting again— with an update (and a little note to both Adrienne & JoAnna)


    I struggled with my hero before reading “How to Write Romance Heroes with Sex Appeal.” My hero didn’t have honorable intentions, but he had a kind heart. I knew that, but I needed to make sure readers would too. However, I didn’t feel like this was coming through. Once I picked up your book and really studied it, I found ways to let his “goodness” overshadow his less than impressive qualities.

    I hoped this would translate to the readers. My biggest concern is that he’d still come off as “the bad guy.”

    Well, I finally got the answer I needed. I recently published my book on Amazon, and the second review (a 4-star, so I can’t complain!) said “even with his nefarious intentions, Daniel wasn’t a “bad” guy. It wasn’t hard to sympathize with him and to root for him to get the girl.” The reviewer went on to say that she really enjoyed the characters and the story (and that she would recommend it to friends. Score!!).

    So a big thanks to you (and your book)! I don’t know how I could’ve done it without your guidance!

    And to JoAnna, thank you for posting this blog. It came at just the right time for this writer! :) Thank you for everything you do for your followers!

  11. says

    This is a good checklist, although I might think one man with all these traits might be a bit much to swallow. I like a more realistic hero, with some good and some not so good (selfish or impulsive) traits that make him screw up and need redemption. Thanks for sharing this info…and congrats on the book and good reviews!

  12. Beth says

    Loved this list!

    So refreshing to find someone encouraging a male character who is actually a nice guy! There is too much encouraging authors to write the “bad boy” hero (aka psychopathic douchebag).

  13. says

    Some great pointers, thank you for sharing. I know as a romance reader when I come across a hero who insists on doing the dishes after dinner, I get all warm and fuzzy with a school girl crush! Excites me much more than the passionate kiss. Also a strong, manly-man having a sensitive side is nice. My heroes cry; hell, they even “sob” sometimes.

    Love the article. Bookmarking! Thank you for sharing. :) Cassandra Black


  1. […] Romance is one of the most consistently popular and lucrative genres in fiction: as the Beatles said, “Love is All You Need”. I would love (heehee) to give some heartfelt (on a roll!) advice about writing a romance story, but unfortunately, I have never written one. Of all the genres, I have always found romance to be the most difficult one for me to write, not just convincingly, but at all. My ineptitude should not prevent anyone here from getting some valuable advice on a classic genre however, so I set out to find someone who could give that advice. Joanna Penn, keeper of “The Creative Penn” blog (featured on this site a few times already), hosts historical romance author Adrienne de Wolfe’s “20 Tips for Writing Lovable Romance Novel Heroes.” […]

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