Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why Romances Like Their Cowboys and Firefighters

This last weekend, my family headed out to the Western Washington State Fair to catch the finals of the rodeo. As we were sitting there, my wife and I started talking about romance novels and characters and it got me thinking about why romance novels continually fall back on specific  types of heroes. Of course when authors do this, those naysayers of romance start into their "romance can't think outside of the box arguments" so we'll just ignore them for right now. So what is it about those character types we see time and time again in those romance novels?

THE COWBOYS - I wanted to start with this one since we were just at the rodeo. When the camera panned down on these guys, you saw immediately what it was about the cowboys that made the women fall for them. These guys were clean cut and dressed well (which still shocks me how they can wear light colored shorts and not get them trashed around horses and bulls). Despite the fact this is a dirty sport, they were clearly taking the time to "look good." There was a lot of style and class. But there was more. These guys, despite the hours on the road, were family guys. In interviews, they spoke of getting home to their families and having some quite time doing things with the kids. They had crosses, or in one guys case, had the word Jesus sewn into his shirt as a "sponsor." One guys was on the board for a Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. To add to all of this, working a farm, training animals and so forth takes a lot of work and effort. This is a tough physical job that requires a dedication and commitment (not an obsession). In other words, it isn't about the muscles so much. It's about the guy.

THE FIREMAN - We are seeing much of the same things with these guys. The twist here is the dedication to others. These guys are putting their own lives on the line for the sake of others. Yes, your military guys and cops do this to, but it's really the fire guys who stand out more in the romance novels. Again consider the fact they are giving up so much of themselves to do what they do. Long hours at the station, a focus on staying fit... The big one here is also when they lose someone. You find the fireman really taking it hard. Their job is to save and they hurt when they don't succeed.  Are you seeing a pattern here?

VETERINARIANS AND CHILDREN DOCTORS - I'm putting these two together for a reason. Saving kids and animals always tugs at the heartstrings of even the coldest people out there. Both of these doctors have that same work ethic the firefighters and cowboys have, with that added compassion. Again, consider what they are responsible for doing. There are times they have to sit there and tell a family their patient isn't going to make it. Not exactly easy, is it? I think a good example of this one happened to my daughter this summer. She had just gotten back from the Canadian Nationals for Andalusian Horse riding. When they returned home, one of the families had a horse she had worked with that was going into heart failure and the vet had to put her down. My daughter just sobbed uncontrollably in the car on the way home saying "They gave her so much Bute." (I think the spelling is right for that one). It was tough for her 12 year old brain to comprehend. Now think of the vet...

I think the point here is each of these character types are more about WHO they are and not so much about what they do. It isn't about the looks and their body types. It isn't about washing firetrucks with no shirts on. It is about the nature of these characters.

I have said before that romance requires authors to build a strong connection with the reader through the characters. Their goal is to make the reader feel the same thing the characters are going through. Having those "go-to" characters just makes that challenge a little easier. I will say, however. Just throwing in a characters like this doesn't fix the problem. You still have to bring out that personality type to suck in the reader!

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