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Keeping Your Hero Honest

by Rebecca DeMarino

In writing fiction, you need a strong MC and if you are writing romance you will need two, and one of them better be a hero. Readers of romance want their heroes to not only be strong, but handsome, loveable and yes, heroic. And if it’s Christian fiction our hero better be strong in his faith, if not at the beginning of the novel, then definitely by the end.
A Place in His Heart X
But how do you write a hero that is all of those things and keep him believable? Here are three things I thought about while I wrote my debut novel, A Place in His Heart.

• Give him a flaw, maybe two. My novel is based on my ninth great-grandparents so this was no easy task. Barnabas was a Puritan and a founding father of a small colony on Long Island in the 17th century, and by all accounts a pious, likeable man who filled a room with his presence. I had to really get to know him in my fiction world before I could discover what his flaws might be. We all have them, right? Two things stood out to me. He had married my ninth great-grandmother within months of becoming a widower with two very young sons-not uncommon in 17th century England. And as a Puritan of that era, he most likely was a stern, strict head of household.

• Take those flaws and turn them into a strength. One of the best tidbits of advice I ever received about interviewing for a job is when asked what your biggest weakness is, frame your answer as a strength. “I take a little extra time in completing a task because I pay attention to detail.” With Barnabas, I found it admirable that he loved his first wife in such a way that he found it difficult to replace her. While I don’t believe being a Puritan was a flaw, the stereotype we associate with it could be. But Barnabas’s Puritan belief was an outward expression of his deep, abiding faith.

• Show your hero struggling with his flaws. Inner conflict is a good thing in a story, perhaps because it is something we all deal with. One of the things I like about my hero Barnabas is that although he can’t love Mary like he knows a husband should, it bothers him. He does not want to be unkind, and he regrets it when he is. And, though a strict Puritan father, he loves his children deeply and is not afraid to show and tell them.

These are not quick fixes. And really it boils down to getting to know your character beneath his surface. In writing about my ancestor, I knew I had to incorporate what was known about him, but also dig deeper into what only Barnabas might have known about himself.

Rebecca DemarinoRebecca DeMarino lives in the Pacific Northwest, and inherited her love of baking and gardening from her mother, a love of horses, reading and writing from her dad, and a wanderlust gene from both parents. No one knows where she got her passion for jogging and hiking! A Place in His Heart, is a historical romance inspired by her ninth great-grandparents, Barnabas and Mary Horton, and is book one of The Southold Chronicles.

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