Sweet Romances include all romance that exclude titillating descriptions and sexual content. Inspirational or Christian romance falls into that category so these tips work for both secular and faith-based sweet romances.
Many novelists begin the plot with the focus on the heroine, but occasionally the hero gets that opportunity. No matter, the heroine and hero are equal in the importance to develop a clear characterization. The points below can serve as a guide on keeping the romance sweet and yet providing good descriptions and attributes that arouse the interest and enjoyment for the reader.
So what attributes and characteristics make a romantic hero? Does he have broad shoulders tapering to a trim waist? Is he tall and dark? Is he blond and witty? Each author and each reader has her own answer to these questions. Yet in creating a hero, authors are wise to know the more defined guidelines of most Christian publishing houses.
A Hero’s Past
The past creates who he is today. The past formulates his present needs, goals, and weaknesses. Even if he is a Christian, he has flaws, sorrows, and shames. Christian’s sin and so does the hero. He’s behaved in ways that makes him feel unworthy or makes him feel unforgiven. A perfect hero is a cartoon, not a believable, compelling character. Give your hero an event in his life that he wants to forget, deeds he fears others will learn, secrets that smother his growth. Then love moves into his heart through the heroine and the workings of his faith, and the character will grow.
In Loving Ways, Love Inspired, the hero’s present life is paralyzed by his past.
Ken winced. Annie’s attitude jarred his memory. He’d been a drinker, created fear in others, embarrassed his family, and caused them shame. For better or worse. Annie’s words crept like tendrils through his conscience. His life had been worse not better. Since running into Gordon, the old days kept niggling at him and brought back fear of discovery. He wished the guy hadn’t remembered him.
Though physical attributes are highlighted in most romances, Christian romances tend to focus mainly from the chest upward. The hero might have broad shoulders, a square jaw, raven black hair, mesmerizing blue eyes and an expansive chest, but references to the lower extremities is avoided.
Any physical description is most effective when it appears for a greater purpose: drawing out emotion, deepening characterization, or providing details important to the story. Kate Davis sees her friend the arms of a stranger in Secrets of the Heart is jolted by his appearance which brings back unwanted memories and serving an important purpose to the stories conflict.
Not his near six foot stature, but his broad, square frame like a football player. Thick neck, powerful chest, strong muscular legs, and bulging arms she saw wrapped around Phyllis.
In the novella “Better To See You,” the heroine recalls her earlier relationship with the hero.
The arm holding her dropped to his side, and he raised the other, running his fingers through his thick, wavy blond hair. His near-center part tugged at her memory—-the way she’d kissed his forehead just below his hairline.
No matter how tall, dark, and handsome the hero is in Christian fiction, the physical attributes are not the most important characteristic to the heroine.
The qualities that are appreciated by most people are: compassion, kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity. The qualities are faith based and ones a heroine looks for in a hero. In the romantic suspense, Adam’s Promise, Adam is depicted as a handsome, arrogant surgeon, but Kate’s description deepens the characterization.
Kate’s heels clicked along the hallway as her thoughts swung from her frustration with Adam to her admiration. The man could be self-centered one minute and filled with compassion the next. . .when it involved the patients. Beneath her irritation, she admired the man. He’d come from a prestigious family in Colorado Springs. His father was the mayor, and yet, here he was in Venezuela providing health care to the poor in the rustic community so many miles from the comforts of home.
Notice what is important to Kate—his compassion, his willingness to leave family wealth behind—attributes most women would cherish in a husband.
In “Christmas Moon ,” a two-in-one release in That Christmas Feeling, the hero sees the heroine with new eyes.
The truth settled over him. For the first time since Della died, he was looking forward to Christmas. Rose had been the catalyst. They’d become friends. Their lives had become entwined. Blest be the ties that entwine. The words twisted in his head.
As they’d spent more time together, Paul sensed a kind of like-minded spirit they shared. The painting came to mind. They’d both been drawn to it immediately. But it was more than that. He felt comfort in her presence. She exuded compassion and evoked from him a new tenderness.
For Writers of Christian Fiction
Must the hero be a believer? Sometimes novels present a weak Christian, one who believed but allowed his faith to waver. Part of his journey is returning to his faith through his own growth and change. Being repentant and seeking forgiveness is often part of a hero’s struggle. A flawed Christian hero makes a Christian novel realistic as in this selection from Adam’s Promise.
“Is it me, Kate? Can’t you forgive me for my egotism. I can only promise you that I’ve changed. For the first time in my life, I realize that God is the power in my life. He’s my only hope and strength in this world. No one can do it all alone, and no one can take credit for success because the Lord gave us the abilities. The gifts. It’s as simple as that. . .and somehow I missed learning that in my spiritual journey.”
If a hero is not a Christian, he must be by the end of an inspirational romance, but a full conversion must be through the hero’s own struggle, and not the result of the heroine’s “missionary” dating. In “Better To See You,” the hero learns through th heroine’s example of living her faith.
Was this God’s work? He wondered. He’d been such a difficult person back then, not only disbelieving, but scorning those who believed…except Lucy. She had made her faith so desirable, so sincere that he had a difficult time taunting her.
Still, her happy heart and open arms had instilled a small seed of question, of wonder about her beliefs. And he’d done the rest, fertilized by memories of her joy in living, he’d stumbled along until one day, alone in a motel room, he’d picked up a Bible. That day was only the beginning. Lucy would never believe how much he’d changed.
Make the hero realistic. Give him flaws and give him a past that shows his weaknesses, flaws and mistakes. Show how the past molds the hero’s goals and motivations, then how overcoming them changes him for the better. No matter what qualities and characteristics you give your hero, limit the physical description to above the waist and give the hero spiritual gifts that arouses the heroine’s love and respect for him.
© Gail Gaymer Martin 2016