Making Your Reader Fall in Love with Your Hero
If you spend any time reading about characterization, you’ll soon read about making sure your characters are memorable, believable, and three-dimensional. All those things are important, but if you’re writing a romance, you’d also better make sure your hero is...
I’m not talking the cuddly, teddy bear type. I’m talking about making your hero someone with whom your reader can fall in love right along with the heroine. Everyone loves reading that first kiss in a story. We love writing it, too, but you can deepen the romantic relationship so much further than just a kiss. We can actually write things in our story which will make it easy for your reader to fall in love with your hero.
According to Gary Chapman’s book, The 5 Love Languages, there are five ways we communicate and receive love. You may have read the book. If so, good for you!
The five love languages are: quality time, receiving gifts, words of affirmation, physical touch, and acts of service. Everyone uses these five basic love languages to give and receive love, but usually two are dominant. These are our primary love languages, and we tend to love others like we liked to be loved.
Do you know what your primary love language is? The best way I know to quickly determine this is to ask yourself what you’d like your spouse or significant other to do for you when you’re sick. Hold your hand? Physical touch. Bring you flowers? Receiving gifts. Bring you a glass of pop? Acts of service. Tell you you’re still beautiful? Words of affirmation. Leave you alone? Quality time. (It’s a gift of time.)
If our significant other wants us to feel loved, then they must speak our primary languages. However, when it comes to our stories, our readers may have any one of the five as their dominant love language. In order to make every one of our readers fall in love with the hero, we must have him speak all five languages more than once before the heroine realizes she’s fallen in love. Then, we have to add more of these experiences to deepen the love between the two characters.
So how do we work the five love languages into our stories. Let’s look at each of them.
Quality Time. This might include making eye contact, meaningful conversation, undivided attention, shared activities or sacrificed time.
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In The Ride of Her Life, Nick, the hero, washes the dishes with Lilly, takes her and her son to the zoo, and they have long talks. He has to take out of his schedule to do these things, which makes it even more meaningful.
Receiving Gifts. This might include a surprise or a meaningful gift. The idea is it says I love you enough to get you this.
In The Ride of Her Life, Nick is a roller coaster designer and Lilly’s son is fascinated with the one he’s building. Lilly doesn’t want her six-year-old son to ride it, so Nick painstakingly makes a toy wooden roller coaster for the boy. Here’s an excerpt.
Levi squealed when he saw the replica of Lake Manawa’s Velvet Roller Coaster. “It’s my own roller coaster?”
“It sure is, and you can give your bugs a ride anytime you want.” Nick slipped his arm around Lilly’s waist.
“It’s amazing, Nick.” Lilly leaned in closer to get a better view. The tiny trestles, all mounted on one larger board, matched that of the large coaster perfectly, and even the cars had been painted with the same red paint with yellow curlicue designs. “You must have been working on this for weeks.”
He grinned. “Some of the boys helped. Especially Sean.”
“Can I take it back to the diner?” Levi let the first car go at the top of the lift hill and watched it follow the track, up and down, to the end.
“You better. I can’t keep it here or Sean might sneak in and start playing with it—again.”
Levi grabbed Nick’s legs, squeezing so hard Nick held on to Lilly’s shoulder to keep from toppling. “Easy there, Levi.”
“This is the bestest present ever.”
Lilly caught Nick’s gaze and smiled, hoping he could see the smile in her heart as well. Being people who believed toys were unnecessary, the Harts had refused to indulge their grandson’s fancies except for a few items like the wooden blocks. How many times had she watched her son eye the toys in the department store and wished she could purchase him one?
She laid her hand on Nick’s arm. “Thank you hardly seems adequate.”
He winked at her. “Then you can thank me personally—later.”
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Words of Affection. This includes any sincere words which build the other person up. It might include compliments, notes and cards, encouragement, hearing “I love you” and the reasons behind it.
In Making Waves. Trip, the hero, tells Marguerite, “I love you, Marguerite Westing. I love how you make me laugh. I love your determination, and I love your spirit. I love how you make waves wherever you go.” How can you not love a man who says something like that?
Physical Touch. I think you’re probably aware of this one already, but it might include a neck or backrub, a hug on a hard day, a spontaneous kiss, or the hero draping his arm around the heroine in the movie theater. We use this one a lot while showing the blossoming love, so look for some unique ways to show it whenever possible.
Physical touch is especially fun to add in an unexpected way like in this is an excerpt from A Great Catch. In it, Carter, the hero, is teaching Emily how to shoot at a shooting gallery.
When she didn’t move, he turned her. “Emily, you need to spread your, uh, stance and stand more like a man.”
She shifted her feet wider apart. “This isn’t very ladylike, Carter.”
“But it will help you hit the little squirrels.”
“Let me guess. You like squirrels.”
He chuckled. “Now, put the butt of the gun against your right shoulder.”
“Sort of.” He stepped behind her and raised the gun to the correct position, his large hands covering her own.
Her back pressed against his chest, and she felt every breath he took. Emily’s stomach warmed and lurched all at once. Never before had she been this close to a man.
“Relax,” he whispered in her ear.
She jerked and fired a shot in the air. The bullet pinged off the ceiling, and the rebound threw her against Carter.
He caught her and turned her around to face him. “Emily, what are you doing?”
Mr. Hawkins roared with laughter. “I think a better question is what were you doing?”
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Acts of Service. An act of service is anything that eases another’s burden or responsibilities. A hero might make the heroine dinner, change the oil in her car, or fix her leaky roof.
In Making Waves, the hero, Trip, bails the heroine’s father out of jail. In A Great Catch, Carter quiets a heckler while Emily is speaking at a suffrage rally, and in The Ride of Her Life, there’s a kitchen fire where Lilly works. Nick comes over early in the morning and cleans up the charred pans so she doesn’t have to do it and paints the smoke-stained ceiling. All of these are examples of how I used acts of service to give both the heroine and the reader a reason to love the hero.
I want every reader to find my hero not only dashing and kissable, but lovable by making sure ALL of the five love languages appear often. My personal goal is to use each love language five times in each book. Some, like physical touch, happen much more than that. I also try double check and make sure there more than one example of each love language BEFORE the heroine realizes she’s in love. If it’s not there, I know there will be readers who find the romance unrealistic or forced.
|Lorna's launch party for Making Waves with |
Mary Connealy and Judy Miller there to celebrate with her.
So, what do you think your primary love language is? When you think about the most memorable heroes you’ve encountered in books, did they do something that matches your primary love language? Please share your insights with us. Leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win a copy of The Ride of Her Life.