What makes a good hero – Kathryn Freeman

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By Kathryn Freeman

Thank you so much for inviting me on to We Heart Writing. I’m delighted to share with you my thoughts on what makes a good fictional hero. ♥

I believe the answer to that deceptively simple question very much depends who you’re asking. If you ask my teenage son, he will give you a very different answer to my eighty-year-old mother, or to me. In fact according to my son, ‘you should ask Marvel that question. They make a good hero.’

The more I thought about his answer, the more I found myself agreeing with him. Marvel are experts at creating heroes. I certainly wouldn’t turn down Iron Man or Thor, though I have a feeling it’s the actors who portray them I’m attracted to, rather than the superpowers they possess. Still, perhaps there is a formula for a good fictional hero that works as well for comic heroes as it does romantic ones?

Let’s take outward appearance. Though short, slender men can be attractive, in the world of make believe height and strength seem key characteristics for a hero. I don’t need my man to wear an iron suit or have superhuman strength, but I like him to make the heroine feel safe and protected. He can be dark or fair, brown-eyed or blue, but one physical attribute I always demand of him is a killer smile. I can forgive a man almost anything if he smiles into my eyes (umm, hope my husband doesn’t read this).

do-opposites-attract-400x400-imadqfgsxr7ugrgqForgiveness comes when mistakes are made and that leads me to another important ingredient of a good hero. Flaws. No woman wants a man who’s perfect, though we tend to keep that fact to ourselves to encourage them to try harder. Even the Marvel heroes aren’t perfect. Thor might have incredible strength, speed, stamina and an ability to control the weather, but he’s not much without his hammer (again, in the words of my son, ‘if he needs to screw something, he’s stuffed’). Iron Man has super-power strength and genius level intelligence, but he’s also an alcoholic with a crippled heart. But it’s these flaws in their characters that make them interesting, something I’ve tried to carry through to my own fictional heroes.

Scott Armstrong, my sexy lawyer from Too Charming, might come across as smooth and confident but it’s all an act to hide his insecurities. Something it takes my no-nonsense police detective heroine a while to realise. Mitch McBride, the gruff, stubborn doctor in Do Opposites Attract, carries a chip on his shoulder, a hang-up from his rough, loveless childhood. That’s why at times he comes across as dour and unlikeable, especially when I decided to play dirty and make my heroine, Brianna Worthington, a society heiress. I knew it would bring out the worst in Mitch and hope this leads to some sparky interactions.

So we’ve got a tall, strong hero with a killer smile and enough imperfections to make our heart warm to him. He’s nearly there, but not quite. To draw us in even more, I think a tough hero needs to have a soft, gooey centre. Of course this doesn’t have to be obvious, and our hero will deny its existence until he’s blue in the face, but to be loveable, he needs to be kind. It doesn’t mean he has to save the planet, we’ll leave the superheroes to that. While Thor is rescuing humanity, our hero can help the old lady across the road and lift the kitten from the tree. Mind you, he’ll probably do it secretly and with an embarrassed scowl on his face.

Now I think we’ve got a pretty good hero, but he needs one final ingredient to turn him into an irresistible hero. A dry sense of humour. To me a handsome man is attractive, but a man who makes me laugh – he’s downright sexy. I don’t want him to deliver an endless stream of comic lines – we’ll leave the stand-up comedians to do that – but if our hero can make the heroine smile with a few clever, sharp remarks how can he fail to capture her heart? It worked for Iron Man with Pepper.

So there it is, my recipe for the essential hero. But much like the classic Victoria sponge cake mixture, you can alter the proportions and add other ingredients to suit your taste. For me, that’s one of the best parts of writing, spending the day dreaming up new men…!

Kathryn Freeman was born in Wallingford but has spent most of her life living in a village outside Windsor. A former pharmacist, she’s now a medical writer who also loves to write romance. Some days a racing heart is a medical condition, others it’s the reaction to a hunky hero…



  1. Kathryn Freeman

    November 19, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog – and for letting me get closer than I’ve ever been to Thor and Iron Man 🙂

  2. lizharriswriter

    November 20, 2014 at 12:18 am

    I enjoyed reading this, Kathryn.

    Top of my list for what makes a hero, who’s sexy (I added that!!), is a sense of humour. I could never find attractive a man who lacked a sense of humour. As you say, though – I’m not interested in quips and one-liners.

  3. Clare Chase

    November 20, 2014 at 12:31 am

    Great post, which provided me with some lovely escapism over lunch! I think the ingredients you mention are spot on. 🙂

  4. Kathryn Freeman

    November 20, 2014 at 12:52 am

    Thank you Clare and Liz – glad we can agree on a few essential hero ingredients 🙂

  5. Chick Lit Chick (@SarahWaights)

    November 20, 2014 at 1:02 am

    Hi Kathryn

    Couldn’t agree more with all of the above and would just add that, for me, a hero has to be deeply and properly moral in word and deed – doing the right thing at any cost, at the same time as not giving a damn what people think of him. Other than that, obviously, he does also have to have a nice a**e.

  6. angelabritnell

    November 20, 2014 at 1:13 am

    What a perfect description! My own sweet husband has kept me laughing for 31 years and I couldn’t imagine a humourless marriage.

  7. bernimoonhouse1620

    November 20, 2014 at 1:40 am

    I loved both of your heroes, Kathy! And I’m just a little jealous at how close you are to Thor and Ironman. Some girls have all the luck 🙂 x

  8. Liv

    November 20, 2014 at 8:50 am

    I’m a bit of a Marvel geek. Love the Avengers movies. I’d like to claim Steve Rogers for my own. Lost in a strange time. Don’t you just love a vulnerable hero.

  9. sherylbrowne

    November 21, 2014 at 12:58 am

    Heroic gestures come in many guises. Great post, Kathy. My heart melted a little when you mentioned Iron Man’s crippled heart. Sniffle. Love it. 🙂 xx

  10. kirstyferry

    November 21, 2014 at 4:27 am

    ok we are all sharing this hero. hope he’s got time for us all. Great post|

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