One of my favorite movie lines comes from the 1989 movie, Say Anything. The character, Corey, tells the male protagonist, “The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don't be a guy.”
For me, that’s an essential component of the male hero in a classical romance novel. Even if the novel has a strong romantic element, if the hero is just a guy and not a man, it doesn’t make for a good romance. After all, why have the heroine fall in love with someone who isn't worthy?
So what are the essential elements to being a man? No, it’s not exclusively that part of the anatomy that gets used so often in today’s spicier novels. “Guys” have that too.
Here are some of the things that I think define what it means to be a man:
- A sense of right and wrong. A hero need not conform at the beginning of the novel, but by the end, he’s reformed.
- A strong sense of responsibility. This is the basis for so many plots. Regardless of how capable the heroine may be at solving her own problems, the hero’s sense of responsibility won’t let her face them alone.
- A respect for women. "Injured" heros are popular these days, and that's okay, but if he’s a rake, he better have a good reason for being one. For me, time period is no excuse.
So what makes a man a man in your book?