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Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Spotlight: Jennifer Shirk

Forgivable Flaws

Reading some of my old rejected pathetic manuscripts—did I mention pathetic?—has lead to me do some thinking about heroes in romances.

Readers want their romance heroes to be moral and smart. Heroes should be gorgeous—or at the very least sexy. Readers want a strong hero with just enough of a soft inner side only visible to the heroine. And of course, for me, my hero HAS to make me laugh.

Tall order, huh?

Well, along with all those characteristics, mostly every writing book will tell you that flawed characters are good to have, too. They’re more real. Easier to identify with. Less boring.

Of course there is a fine line that you can accidentally cross with your reader.

I’m wondering if I might have crossed that line recently. You see, I have a problem hero. I don’t know why but for some reason in the small cramped crazy portion of my mind, I thought it would be interesting to have my hero smoke. Yes, he’s a smoker and it’s a contemporary romance.

Do I smoke? No way.

Does my hubby smoke? Not a chance.

So why did I do that? Well, my hero is his own man, for sure, but for all the rough and toughness of him, I wanted this to be his secret vice. His weakness that he is trying to give up, but cannot…until he has a reason to give up cigarettes. Namely, the heroine of my story.

(PS. This is in no way a major plot point, but rather, something subtle I wanted to write into my story.)

As I keep mulling over my story, I wonder if having my hero smoke is a huge “turnoff” to romance readers? Yes, it makes him real. But does this ruin the fantasy of what a hero is by giving him that particular kind of imperfection?

I’m curious to know: in this day and age—is having your hero smoke a huge no no in a romance book? Or is it a forgivable flaw?


Chicki Brown said...

Any abusive behavior, be it physical or verbal. An alpha male is hot, but not when he's a bully.
I've read some stories where I thought, "If a guy said that to me, I'd be gone before he could blink."

Linda Kage said...

I'm curious about this too. One hero I wrote about quit smoking years ago, but when tension spouts up in his life, he takes it back up for a while before quitting by the end again. I kinda liked having his smoking habit mirror the drama in his life. But I have no idea how other people would view this.

Jessica Nelson said...

I agree about abusive behavior, although I'd be more turned off by verbal abuse in a hero than physical roughness. (but physical abuse would be a huge no-no)

As for smoking, it tends to make me think ew, but I wouldn't say it's a no-no. Nora Roberts has her characters smoke sometimes and manages to make the guy sexy still. So you can do it. Just give him clean teeth and a nice scent. *wink*

Susan R. Mills said...

I don't think it's a no-no. It sounds like an interesting character flaw to me, and how happy the reader will be when he quits? I think it could definitely work.

Stephanie said...

Oh my, before I even read this, I thought unforgivable flaw: SMOKING! Can you imagine the heroine, all excited for the first kiss and then she gets knocked in the face with bad breath? EEP!

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

I don't think it's a no-no. A lot depends on the story and how it's done, but I definitely think it's forgiveable. I don't write romance, though, so I'm not an expert. :0)

Diane said...

I guess if it's an after dinner smoke with his dark eyes, chin stuble, on a moonlit night then ok. Chain smokin' turn to chew spittin' then not so much.... :O)

Candice said...

I agree with Chicki, abusive behavior glorified will make me put down a book. I'm on the fence about the smoking thing. I think I might be imagining his bad breath while I was reading. But if it fits his character and he stops it might work. It's just too hard to say without actually reading it. Sometimes there are things I would think would be turns offs, but the writer is so skilled they actually work.

Dena said...

Hi Jennifer, I used to smoke and now wouldn't want a guy/hero that smoked. If he was trying to quit then I could deal with it. Kissing a cigbutt is really gross, so I hope your hero is trying to quit?

Tana said...

Huge turn off, no smoking please. No cursing, no demeaning remarks, no nagging, no outright bad boy behaviors. Women have enough of that in their real life, they don't want it included in their fantasies as well. I'm just sayin'...

Ellie Kings said...

I think there are worst things than smoking, like drug addictions or as others mentioned abusive behavior. I don't think it's a huge flaw at all, especially if he's trying to quit.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I like real characters with real flaws and personalities, so, no a smoking man wouldn't turn me off. My oldest son smokes, and it makes me nuts. He's gorgeous and his smoking hasn't ever gotten in the way of his getting plenty of girlfriends and finally nabbing a beautiful wife.

Patti Lacy said...

Clint Eastwood sure used smoking, drinking, and cussing to develop his character in Gran Torino, show the price his body paid, and then soften him up when redemption took place.

Things HAVE changed, though, thanks to health concerns.

Good question!!!