Friday, July 29, 2016

Secret of the Swoon

I consider myself to something of a romance connoisseur. A lifelong lover of fairytales, schmaltzy love songs, and love stories in all forms, it’s no surprise that I eventually progressed from romance reader to romance writer.

And what’s not to love about writing about a hero? It’s like dressing up your Ken doll as an adult! You can make him dance, script some banter, orchestrate a kiss. Puppermaster the perfect date. Play house. Ooo la la! Grown up playtime!

It wasn’t until I started my third book a number of years ago—writing the quirky, comic-relief side-kick as a leading man—that I started thinking deliberately about what makes a hero appeal to everyone. I mean, we all have our own preference, don’t we? Some girls like bad boys. Others tend toward the lovable best friend type. There are a million combinations of attributes that can define a person, real or imaginary. And not all readers are drawn to the same type of guy. So it’s safe to say that at least SOME of your readers might not take to every leading man.

I gotta tell you, nothing kills a story for me like an unremarkable hero. (Or a whiny, self-sabotaging heroine – that’s a post for a different time.)

But how is it possible to start falling for a character that is nothing like your ideal? Or how do you expect your reader to swoon over a man with such daunting faults? Even a man who represents something you despise?

What is the secret of the swoon?

Let me tell you this… It’s not just a handsome face. Or chiseled abs. Or a cool car. Or a sense of humor. Or witty repartee. Or some mythical creature who says all the right things and has grand romantic gestures down to an art. Dare to dream, Cher.

Quite frankly, your hero could be a recovering addict. A pompous windbag. A cocky firefighter. An insecure nerd. A stoic cop. A hothead. A goof ball. A clutz. A know-it-all. A thug. A con-artist. A liar.  

And yet, despite the combination of characteristics, some desirable, some less than, how do we still find a way to reel in the reader and make them root for the guy to get the girl?

Is it an indefinable “it” factor?

Not exactly. Though a bit of that indefinable something plays a key role in attraction. Especially the reluctant kind.

The secret to the swoon lies in the transformation. In that moment of vulnerability when we start uncovering the hero within. When you get a glimpse of the man he wants to be. 

Love is a grand statement. It’s big and bold and life-altering. Love at its very basest is a transformation of the heart. But if you lay it bare under a microscope, you can see it in its greatest transparency in the details. The struggles. The cracks and imperfections. The little things that soften your heart or pierce it. It makes us strong yet it also exposes our frailty. The tenderest flesh protecting something of unmatched strength.

THAT is why we can fall in love with characters who might seem unlovable. Why we can reach beyond our preferred type and swoon again and again over a book-boyfriend you’d never date in real life.

It’s because we can unwrap his layers and peek into the steely heart of the hero to find the treasure within. And it’s because we crave being the one to see vulnerability hidden beneath the brawn.

Princes don’t come in ready-made packages like Ken dolls. Plastic heroes need not apply. We are looking for warriors who fight battle after battle to find the man they need to be for the woman meant to cherish him. Just like your heroine fights to find the strength and courage to open her heart to love. It’s not for the weak-willed. The battle against our selves is not easily won. But it’s always worth it. And it might even remind you what made you fall irrevocably in love with that champion who already won your heart.

Let’s dish!!! What’s your type? In real life or in fiction, what type of hero, or what characteristics, do you find the easiest to swoon over? And is he like your real life love or is that swoon purely fictional? (Men, you can dish on your lady. What type of chick revs your engine?) ;)

Happy Friday!

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Amy Leigh Simpson writes romantic mysteries with honesty and humor, sweetness and spice, and gritty reality covered by grace. When she’s not stealing moments at naptime to squeeze out a few more adventures in storyland, she’s chasing around two tow-headed miscreants (Ahem)—boys, playing dress up with one sweet princess baby, and being the very blessed wife to the coolest, most swoon-worthy man alive. Amy is a Midwestern-girl, a singer, blogger, runner, coffee-addict, and foodie. Her Sports Medicine degree is wasted patching up daily boo boo’s, but whatever is left usually finds its way onto the page with fluttering hearts, blood and guts, and scars that lead to happily ever after.

Check out her NEW romantic mystery novel FROM WINTER'S ASHES! Available NOW!


Robin E. Mason said...

i guess i set my standard against my one true love, the once upon a time love who got away... le sigh...
tall, he was 6'2" (or taller) dark hair, a little bit curly, long but not too long (collar length is just right) blue / gray eyes (gotta admit, i just got lost in those eyes!!!) broad shoulders and a gentle touch, and a smile that makes me smile—and melt inside! i like "bad" boys, that don't really fit protocol, someone who likes to have fun, a little bit of adventure

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Oh yes, definite swoon!

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

You said that just right. I love the hero who seems kind of a bad guy at first until you see his true depths.

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

Well, I just finished reading your fellow Alleycat, Pepper Basham's, book, A Twist of Faith.... and can I say, Reese Mitchell--swoon! Rough around the edges, falls over his words and himself a bit, loves his kids and extended family, strong, hardworking, willing to risk his heart for the woman he loves...yep, that's my type.

Barbara said...

I love the solid guys, the farmer boy who's smart. Nothing makes me happier than a witty character who can dish and take it (yes, I might be thinking of Reese Mitchell, from A Twist of Faith)!

No real life love here [yet]

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Susan, there's a bit of magic in that discovery :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Amy and Barb- oh yes, Reese Mitchell is most definitely swoon-worthy! Unassuming and effortlessly charming. The doting dad thing clinches it!!! <3

Pepper Basham said...

Okay, Ames. I'm grinning like a love-struck fool right now.
Fantastic post.
Who doesn't want a solid swoon now and then. (or daily)
And shout outs for Reese? YES! Thank you thank you, Amy and Barb. Reese would give you a crooked grin and shake his head as if you were a bit 'touched', but deep down he'd appreciate the compliment.

Swoony? That tenderness beneath really grips my heart, but I have to say when you couple that tenderness with a smoulder or two? sigh....

Unknown said...

Hi Amy. In reading your post I'm reminded of the words, 'It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing). I've only swooned over, or for, one guy; the guy I married and have chosen to be with for 'all eternity'. For me swooning can only occur if there is tremendous 'depth, substance, meaning, respect and admiration' for someone. My someone and I found each other.

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Wowsers, Ames.
This post was hot and right on.
What I especially liked was your list of what our hero could be...even a liar...and yet, like all of us, he has redeeming qualities that make him the hero.