Friday, October 14, 2011
Are any of you fans of the inexperienced hero? I’m not necessarily talking about virgins (although I’m happy to include them here), but those guys who’ve either never had a relationship before, or are entering into a new type of relationship for them. I’ve realised I really enjoy reading and writing these types of heroes, as there’s so much scope for conflict and character development as they negotiate their way through the minefield of a brand new relationship.
The virgin hero
I’ve got to admit, I don’t find enough of these as I’d like within m/m romance. Perhaps it’s because it’s hard to imagine someone getting it completely right the first time around, so no matter how beautiful the love story between two heroes in their early twenties, the realistic part of me doesn’t always hold a huge amount of hope for their HEA. I say this having recently written a novella featuring two young university student heroes, one of whom was a virgin at the start. I believe in their HEA, though – I have to!
Of course, you do occasionally find characters who stay virgins for longer (yes, it does happen), but the author needs to work extra hard to make the reasons for this convincing. Perhaps a past traumatic sexual experience if it’s a darker story, or maybe they’re just workaholics or painfully shy.
What’s more likely in m/m romance, is to find a hero who’s had sexual encounters with women, but is still a virgin when it comes to same-sex encounters. It takes skill to make a gay for you or out for you storyline work, but I really appreciate them when they do. Not only does this character have the fun of discovering what goes where in the bedroom, but they have to face the world as a gay man for the first time. They also get to find out all the ways in which sharing a relationship with a man is different to doing so with a woman.
Okay, I know men and women probably more similar than we are different, but I still think hormones have a lot to answer for. Testosterone is great for action and single-minded purpose, but it doesn’t necessarily help with compromise and domestic harmony. I’m just sayin’...
The never-had-a-boyfriend hero
These ones are great fun to write, because they can be as experienced as you like in the bedroom, but they’ve never before found anyone they wanted to settle down with. Watching them discover the trials and joys of having a life-partner can be by turns amusing, angsty and heart-warming. This was one of my favourite things about writing Dan in Barging In – he might have had boundless experience in terms of shagging his way around the world, but he didn’t have the first clue about how to behave as a boyfriend.
Of course, this type of character can be extremely angsty if their reasons for not having settled down are because of previous traumatic experiences, such as being abused or betrayed. I’m not quite so keen on these kinds of darker stories, but I know a lot of readers adore them.
The novice hero
These guys will have had regular relationships before, but are entering into a new kind of relationship for the first time. An awful lot of BDSM novels have one of the characters (usually a submissive) as a novice being initiated into a D/s relationship. I think this works really well for readers who are unfamiliar with these kinds of relationships, as it gives them an outsider’s view of a new world. They can share the novice hero’s new impressions, and are given the explanations they need to make sense of the power dynamics that a more experienced practitioner would take for granted. In many BDSM novels this is all the conflict you need – or all that the author sees fit to include, at any rate.
Alternatively, you can have someone who’s experienced as a Dom or sub, but is entering into a 24/7 Master/slave relationship for the first time. These books can be absolutely fascinating, but only ring true when they’re written by authors who’ve done their research diligently or lived the lifestyle themselves.
Ménage relationships are another great testing ground for the novice hero. Indeed, in many of these set-ups all three characters are entering into a ménage for the first time. Again, there is ample grounds for interpersonal conflict simply from the dynamics of three men trying to work out how to make this work – especially when it’s a form of relationship much of the outside world condemns. Not only do you have all the deliciousness of three guys in bed together, but you have three guys fighting over the duvet and who gets to sleep in the middle.
Those are some of my favourite kinds of inexperienced heroes in m/m, but perhaps you can think of more? Do you have any favourite novels to share that feature any of these types of hero? Alternatively, do you prefer your heroes to have plenty of previous relationship experience, and if so, why?