Camy here. I was thinking the other day about our fiction heroes.
They can be the worst sort of bad boys, but we want them to end up with the heroine anyway.
Take Julie's debut novel, A Passion Most Pure. Collin is the worst sort of bad boy, because he drinks more than is good for him, has slept with oodles of other women, and while he's flirting with the heroine's sister, he has the gall to kiss the heroine.
I personally hate philanderers. I've seen too many lives torn apart by betrayal and "the other woman" to take it lightly when a hero has a flavor of the week or cheats on his woman.
But I love Collin! It's completely illogical. The man is the sexiest thing I've read in a long time, and I'm still in the middle of the book, but I'm already hoping something dire happens to the heroine's sister so she can have Collin for herself (yes, I'm a bloodthirsty wench).
Because Julie's writing pulls out reader sympathy until it's gushing like a waterfall.
In the first pages, we feel Collin's magnetism because Julie shows it in how he affects both the heroine and her sister. Then we see his boyish, spontaneous side as he plays ball with some kids, including helping a small boy win a point. And then Julie shows his difficult relationship with a cold, hard-hearted mother--his politeness to her despite her insults. We learn about his warm relationship with his father, and how he lost half of himself when his father died.
Doesn't that just make you love him?
The key to great heroes is to make them both bad and irresistible in the first two or three pages. Bad because perfect heroes are boring, and irresistible so that the reader has to find out what happens to him next.
Do you show that in your hero in the first three pages? Contests are great ways to judge if you've done this, because the judge only has 15, 20, 25 pages to be wowed by your characters and plot.
Does your hero only show his softer side on page 35? That's too late--bring it out earlier. Otherwise, your reader might put the book back on the shelf because she didn't like the glimpse she had of him.
Does he not show any weakness or faults in the first few pages? Give him something a little wrong with him--otherwise, the reader will think he's a goody too shoes.
Make your hero heroic. Squeeze out that reader sympathy in those first three pages.