My Imperfect Hero

My Imperfect Hero
Reality Check

Hi, everyone! You all know I'm an avid reader as well as a writer, right?  *stirs cream and sugar into coffee* Feeling like a little sugar coating might be in order today, coffee wise anyway. I'm talking about a topic that's near and dear to many a heart, romance. The BIG L. Love. But be patient.  I'll get to my feelings on love a little bit later, for now...Let's talk about reality. The BIG R.
There's ongoing debate in certain circles over reality in romantic fiction.  In my own fashion, I support both sides of the argument.  *sips coffee*  Yeah...it's mighty uncomfortable up here on the fence post.  Then why sit here? Because I think you have to strike the right balance between reality and fiction in your writing. 
Pure reality? I don't want that.  I live it.  It wouldn't make for exciting reading, let me tell you.  I read to escape reality.  At the same time, I need some foundation in reality to relate to.  I usually like this reality to connect me to the characters. Because I am not going to enjoy reading about people I don't like, you know?
We've progressed some in this venue- in m/f fiction I see that heroines no longer have to be princesses...beautiful, thin blondes, with perfect features who are loving, kind, moderately intelligent, but not ambitious. They no longer have to be virginal, innocent and un-kissed. Covers show buxom ladies and ladies with eye glasses...ladies with guns and ladies in marital arts regalia.
But our heroes.  I read comments every now and then, that lead me to believe we have a double standard. Heroes are still unutterably handsome.  They might be handsome geeks, they might be attractively scarred, or they might be short. Still, they are never overweight, squinty eyed, or bald by nature not purpose.
Beyond physical appearance though, the men of our romantic fiction haven't changed much. People expect the men in our books to be noble, brave, intelligent, strong. All the positives one could ask for in a partner or spouse. I read a comment on a book review the other day, where the reader described the character as selfish, self centered, and childish, concluding with "Who could love a man like that?"
Reality check, reader. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've heard happily married women describe their husbands in just those terms. "He's so selfish."  "He's so self-centered."  
What really bothered me about that comment was that it seemed to imply that the hero didn't deserve to be loved, because he hadn't earned it. Is love something we have to earn? Or does it just happen? Should only perfect people, noble people, brave people be loved? I think this is where I have to insist on reality in my fiction. I'm not a perfect person, and if only perfect people deserve love, I am so fucking screwed.
. Fortunately for me, I have my own imperfect hero in the other room, selfishly watching television while I work away here on the computer.   
What do y'all think? Should a hero be flawed? Do we have to earn love by being flawless? Are there exceptions? Flaws you will tolerate, flaws you won't?  In reality, in fiction?
For me, I'd prefer to be loved by a man who sees my flaws and loves me anyway, as I love him. And those are the types of characters I prefer to read about- ones I can identify with.

And in that spirit- meet Valentine Michael's- a selfish man who nevertheless deserves to find love and happiness, and Adrian Gray the loyal, but manipulative man who loves him.

The Librarian

Valentine Michaels has just taken a vow of celibacy.
Adrian Grey intends to take full advantage of that vow to re-create his relationship with Val.
Val is at a crossroads in his life. A college dropout, he's gone as far as he can in his career as a cosmetologist, owning his own style salon. He no longer finds satisfaction in it, though he's put years into proving to his bigoted parents that a college degree and the veneer of straightness aren't the only roads to success. They'd turned their backs on him, and he proved he didn't need them to make it.
His love life is no better than his working life. His relationships always start with a bang and fizzle into boredom, or worse, anger.
Adrian has his own agenda for helping Val: he's been in love with Val since they were freshmen. The intervening years of listening to Val's gossip about his lovers and relationships have taught Adrian just what it was he did wrong all those years ago, and he thinks this time around he now knows exactly how to get—and keep—his man.


Adrian writing in purple ink stunned him more than the idea that Adrian had a crush on him. After all, they'd been down that road once before. Purple ink was so not Adrian. Black. Or Blue. Traditional. Classic. That was Adrian.
"Yeah, did you like it? Here, grab a cup of coffee and a pastry and let's take a walk." The other man turned and walked out the door, apparently assuming that Val would follow.
Val grabbed a coffee and hurried to catch up with Adrian. Jeez. Now what would he do? He had to let Adrian down gently. No sense ruining what had been a perfectly good friendship. No way could he ask Adrian to help with the redecorating project now. Distance, not closeness, was called for.
"Listen, Adrian, we have to talk. I really meant it when I said I'm not interested in men right now and honestly," he touched the other man's arm sympathetically, "you're just not my type, you know? So, much as I appreciate all the little gestures, I just feel friendship for you, okay?"
The other man's blue eyes sparkled at him, in apparent—amusement? "Are you done, Val?"
"Well, yeah, that's what I wanted to say. No hard feelings, right?"
"Right, Val. Let me set you straight on a few things before we talk about feelings, okay? First of all, I noticed you were down Friday, so I sent you the flower, yeah. I love those bird of paradise flowers. The colors are so sunny and cheerful. Then this morning, I wanted to talk to you about something, and sorry, but the coffee and pastries were as much because I knew I'd be hungry as for you. Yeah, you're hot as hell, but I know I'm not your type. And you know I know it, too. That's why you've been ramming tales about your wild and crazy love life down my throat for the past ten years, isn't it? I've heard about every new man as soon as you've met him, and every break up when it inevitably comes along. Why do you do that, Val? It's not for your own benefit, you know? You've been making sure that I knew that you weren't interested in hooking up with me all these years. I fucking get it, okay? You don't seem to see that I'm not the same man today as ten years ago. And that's your loss, not mine. I've done things, experienced things in the last few years that have helped me define who and what I am, in and out of bed, Val. Too bad you can't say the same."
Val swallowed and pulled his hand back. He shook his head as his brain whirled trying to keep up, to comprehend all the data Adrian threw at him in one long speech. "Whoa. Sorry. I just talk while I'm working, you know? I... Shit...sorry."

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  1. Everyone deserves love - no matter how crappy they may be - love this blog post! So true and terrific! :)

  2. Very great blog Lee.I so agree with you. I think everyone deserves to be loved. I also think everyone has flaws. That is why I try to makee my characters as real as possible without being boring. Like you said people read to escape reality. I know I do. I love your books for theses reasons- the characters seem real and relateable and why am i reading the exerpt again when I got the book.Lol. Oh well grat excerpt as usual!

  3. Perfect is boring. Everyone deserves love. I find, when reading, that I am more drawn into the story if the MC's are flawed. That makes them relatable to me.

  4. I love imperfect heroes. That's what makes them so great because they eventually realize their fault's. One of my all time favs is Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. :)

  5. I try to make my MCs less than perfect, whether they're sulky, arrogant, cocky (no pun intended). It's boring if they're perfect.

  6. This sounds awesome, Lee. As for my heros, I want them served up like I enjoy my coffee. Hot, steaming, and as flawed as possible. I want to read about characters who are flawed because a) no one's perfect and b) flawed is so much more interesting. I have a thing for broken people. As in art, where they teach you that asymmetry is so much more interesting than perfect symmetry, so is humanity.

  7. Well, I for one don't want the MC's to be perfect. I am an avid reader in the M/M genre and prefer them to be a little flawed. Makes me love them more.

  8. Hi Lee, great post. i agree with you. Reality holds no perfect people, so, my writing doesn't either. My books attempt to focus on "the least of these", the ones who are genuinely normal, even if we set up their perfect situations. Our story line has to emerge somehow or our books would take as long as one human life span.

  9. I going to go out on a limb and say most readers would like a flawed hero. But the question is, which flaws? What one person tolerates is a deal-breaker for another. A guy who's uncommunicative? Grouchy? Been unfaithful in the past? A little arrogant? Controlling? Just how real do you want your hero is the question. For an author trying to create a flawed hero, it can be a minefield.

  10. A story usually idealizes its characters somewhat. A good one articulates a character's qualities that contribute to the story line. If we want "reality", there is documentary. On the other hand, some flaws make the characters "believable".

  11. Excellent post, Lee, and a very valid point about the double standard!

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  13. I can feel something hidden deep inside just dying to be said. I love it.


Be Yourself

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~e.e. cummings, 1955