See Jane Gets A Dick by Mike Garzillo
As an honorary Jane, of See Jane Publish, I’m a Dick who writes and reads romances. Since research is the theme, I’m going to continue being a Dick: I think most romance heroes are boring. Shrewd research fixes that. As examples, I’ll focus on three ways romance heroes could be more realistic: how they relate to other guys, the sports they like and/or participate in, the reasons why, as well as detailing the nuances of their job.
For example, a guy breaks up with a girl, goes to a bar and gets drunk. It’s a cliché. Instead, a guy breaks up with a girl, goes to a bar, and his favorite team is playing in the playoffs. He drinks while meeting guys who become instant buddies, thanks to a shared fervor. They start buying each other drinks. After a few too many, the hero tells these other guys what happened. They unanimously agree that the hero was wrong. He sees things differently. His favorite team wins; everyone is happy, yet he’s not. Now what? It’s a more detailed scenario, thanks to researching who was playing on TV that day, the result, and the hero’s predisposition to instant, booze-fueled camaraderie.
My least favorite cliché is the hero who is (or was) the captain of the football team. All that tells me is that the heroine is the writer’s self-congratulatory fantasy. If the hero plays sports, in high school, college, or afterward, understand the differences, and pick something other than football so you avoid the stereotype. In addition, learn about the personality traits that go with specific positions and sports. Does the hero play baseball? Is he a shortstop? Why? How does putting on the uniform make him feel? Is it a way to relive his youth? Does it empower him to face the next day’s challenges? Does he play hockey? Goalies are a different personality type than a center or a defenseman. Learn what those differences are.
Professionally, men tend to define themselves by their jobs; add details to jobs that seem like clichés. Is he in sales? Why? What about it interests him? What does he sell? Why did he pick that company to work for? Has he always been in the same industry? Why doesn’t he want to be in sales management instead? How do his interactions with his manager make him feel? When does he feel most defeated?
How can you easily learn all this? Interview multiple guys about their sport, their job, and get examples of how they relate to other guys. If they’re not a fit for your character, ask for a referral to someone who is. Once you find the right guy(s), even if you don’t know them, thoroughly interview them. Men love to give facts or tell stories. Don’t settle for that; learn about their motivations and feelings by asking why. Researching men is easy because most grew up idolizing athletes who were interviewed immediately after their successes. Also, successful men are often quoted in articles. Both of those ingrained in us the belief that being interviewed means you’re a success. Interview us, please; we’ll feel like a hero while you learn how to make yours more believable.
Mike Garzillo’s Gothic Romance, Emerald Eyes, awaits a fall publication. Follow him on Twitter @SFGothicRomance.