How to Create the Ultimate Leading Man.
With Sherri Shackelford.
When creating a well-rounded hero, never underestimate the power of a sense of humor. A leading man with a sense of humor transforms your storytelling from good to great. Shared humor between the hero and heroine creates intimacy and understanding in your leading characters.
In my previous article for Seekerville, I discussed how humor is an emotion, and a good book will tap all of the emotions. If you plunge your reader down an emotional abyss without any comic relief, you’ve failed to give your story dimension. I won’t rehash all the nuts of bolts of that article. Instead, this article specifically targets the hero of your story, and how/why a sense of humor is a vital part of his character.
Remember Batman vs Superman? Of course, you don’t. No one liked the movie. What did the audience complain about? Not enough humor. Audiences expect humor. They want humor. We’re not talking about slapstick or forcing a laugh, or even telling a joke--real humor is organic to the heart of the characters.
Humor = Happiness = Pleasure.
A hero devoted to making a heroine happy is an absolutely swoon-worthy hero. Le sigh. Well-timed humor can be a sign of caring.
In my book, Special Delivery Baby, the heroine is having a bad day. The hero is attempting to cajole her from her sour mood, but the heroine is not quite ready to be cajoled:
“You’re starting to annoy me,” Thomasina said.“Only starting?” Will replied. “I’ll have to try harder.”
The hero has shown that he’s sensitive to the heroine’s moods. He knows she’s having a tough day, and he’s trying to make her feel better. Being smart and sensitive enough to banter with the heroine during a tough time shows that the hero is invested in understanding the heroine. In turn, your reader will be invested in the outcome of their romance.
Humor Can Show That Your Hero is Vulnerable
Humor is an excellent way to add depth to the alpha male. Maybe your hero isn’t ready to show the heroine his vulnerability, but it’s time for the reader to see his soft underbelly. This dichotomy provides an excellent opportunity for the author to use internal thoughts versus external dialogue. The difference between the internal dialogue of the hero and the external dialogue reveals the secret of the hero’s feelings, and readers adore being let in on a secret.
In Mary Connealy’s book, Over the Edge, the hero has some revealing internal dialogue during a tense situation:
A bullet whizzed out the window of the stage and missed him by little more than a foot. Seth drew his six-gun.“Seth Kincaid you get back here and let me shoot you, you low-down skunk.”A woman.A woman who knew his name.A woman who knew his name and wanted to kill him.He’d never had much luck with women.We learn a lot about Seth in that moment. In my book, The Cattleman Meets His Match, the heroine has put herself in danger, and the hero is angry. He has feelings for her, but he doesn’t want to admit the depth of his feelings. Instead of comforting her, he shouts: “If you die, I gotta dig a hole for you!”
Poor John can’t quite bring himself to say, “I care for you, and I’d be brokenhearted if anything happened to you.”
Later in the book, the heroine uses those same words against the hero, but now he’s in on the joke. Now he knows that she cares for him, but she’s not willing to admit her feelings just yet. A shared laugh unites characters in a positive way—and there’s nothing like a shared anecdote to create intimacy.
Humor Creates Emotional Safety
Having your hero use humor to put your heroine at ease in a tense situation creates a sense of safety.
Here’s an example from Keli Gwyn’s book, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California:
She cocked the hammer, took aim, and fired her first shot.“Oh!” The force caused her to stumble backward.He rushed toward her. "Are you—““I’m fine. The gun flew up farther than I expected, that’s all.”“Has a kick like a mule, doesn’t it?”“Quite.” She groaned. “I didn’t hit anything.”He chuckled. “Not a can, but I think you scared that tree back there."
The heroine is trying something new, and she’s uncertain of herself. The hero’s joke makes it safe for the heroine to fail. If the hero creates a safe space for the heroine to try something new, he can create a safe space for the heroine to fall in love in with him.
And what’s a romance, after all, but two people falling in love?
Humor Can Be Incredibly Seductive
If you don’t believe that humor can be seductive, watch any of the great Cary Grant comedies. He was an incredibly sexy leading man--even when he was wearing a feathered bathrobe—especially while wearing a feathered bathrobe. Laughter releases loads of feel-good endorphins, and feel-good endorphins are excellent fodder for feel-good love scenes.
Since this is a sweet Christian blog, I’ll keep things nice and clean…Falling in love is basically getting emotionally naked in front of another person. And who wants to get emotionally naked and have someone mock your, um, vulnerability?
From my book, The Cattleman Meets His Match:
“I want to court someone,” Moira said.John quirked an eyebrow. “And do I know the gentleman?”“I believe you’re intimately acquainted with him.”“I see. And what sort of help do you need?”“First off, I don’t know where to begin.”John planted his elbow on the top rail of the fence separating them. “You should tell him how handsome he is.”“He’s quite the handsomest man I’ve ever seen.”“And you should compliment his intelligence. Men like to know a woman appreciates them for more than their good looks.”“He’s quite the smartest man I’ve ever met.”’John hitched his other elbow on the fence and rested his chin on his fisted hand. “And humble, too, no doubt.”“He’s extremely modest.”“I’m starting to like this fellow.”“I’ve fallen in love with him.”
The heroine is flirting with the hero, and he’s flirting right back. By this point in the story, they’ve developed their own shorthand, and that shorthand is a sign of intimacy and love. At this point, your readers should be rooting for their happily-ever-after.
Humor Exposes Character
A hero that teases the heroine, but won’t allow any teasing in return, is not a hero. That character is a jerk and a bully. Plain and simple. You can tell a lot about a person by how they take a bit of good-natured teasing.
In my book, Special Delivery Baby, the hero is a Mr. Darcy-type character. He’s upright and rigid, full of rules and self-discipline. But he’s also comfortable enough to take some ribbing.
With her mischievous grin firmly in place, Thomasina winked at him. Apprehension snaked up Will’s spine. His instincts were correct once again. Texas Tom meant trouble. She flourished one hand, “For my next trick, I need a volunteer from the audience.” She sidled her horse nearer Will’s vigil and extended her arm, indicating him with a hand encased in a fringed leather glove. “How about you, kind sir? Are you man enough to take on Texas Tom?”
Trust me, our hero does not refuse the challenge. Even before an audience of his peers, he refuses to take himself too seriously.
Giving your hero a sense of humor is about more than getting a laugh. The author is creating a character with depth and dimensions. Humor allows the hero to show his vulnerability while creating a safe place for the heroine to reveal her vulnerabilities.
Humor should be more than a sarcastic quip to show how funny/clever/irreverent you hero might be. A sense of humor should be integral to the good character of the hero. Readers these days are smart. They need a reason for your heroine to fall in love with your hero, and it’s up to the author to provide that reason.
Now it’s your turn. What are some of your favorite heroes with a sense of humor?
Leave a comment today for your chance to win a copy of A Family for the Holidays or Cowboy Creek Christmas. Sherri is generously offering two copies of each. Four winners to be announced in the next Weekend Edition!
|A Family for the Holidays|
Her Guardian Groom
Paid to accompany two orphaned siblings to their grandfather in Nebraska, Lily Winter is dismayed to discover the old man has gone missing. And when the children's inheritance makes them a target, buying protection is Lily's only option. Until a handsome gun-for-hire suggests another solution: marriage.
Undercover US Marshal Jake Elder can't reveal his true identity without blowing his mission. Nor can he leave the town's pretty new arrival unguarded. But while uncovering a plot against her charges is difficult and risky, falling for Lily is all too easy. Especially once their marriage in name only gives Jake a glimpse of how wonderful Christmas—and their future as a family—could be.
|Cowboy Creek Christmas|
Pregnant by a man who betrayed her trust, a mail-order marriage is Beatrix Haas's only hope. But when she arrives in Cowboy Creek and learns her intended groom has died, she needs a new daddy for the baby that's coming right away. Blacksmith Colton Werner offers the mother and child the protection of his name, but can their marriage of convenience ever lead to true love?
Sherri Shackelford is an award-winning author of inspirational, Christian romance novels for Harlequin/HarperCollins Publishers.
A wife and mother of three, Sherri’s hobbies include collecting mismatched socks, discovering new ways to avoid cleaning, and standing in the middle of the room while thinking, “Why did I just come in here?” A reformed pessimist and recent hopeful romantic, Sherri has a passion for writing. She doesn't live on the prairie, but she can see the plains from her house. Her books are fun and fast-paced, with plenty of heart and soul.