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What every hero needs to have: top 10 attributes

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of romances in the world, some more convincing than others. This means hundreds of thousands of heroes with thousands of variations, from the ever-adored Mr Darcy (above) to Carrot Ironfoundersson, the six feet six red-haired 'dwarf' in the Discworld books. Heroes have huge variation. However, any hero worth his salt needs a few things that never change; behold my top ten.

1. Trustworthiness. Fine if it is hidden. Fine if the heroine does not realize. Fine if it takes its time to appear, especially if the hero has issues (see Mr Rochester). Not fine if it isn't there at all. Who wants a man you can't trust?

2. Strength of character. A hero doesn't have to be physically strong, popular as this is, but he does need to know his own mind and be willing to speak it. Vacillating, weak-willed, woolly behaviour is going to kill the romance stone-dead. Not to mention it makes the heroine look a bit desperate if she puts up with it.

3. A sense of humour. There was a spate of romances in the 70s - picked up by me in charity shops - where the hero had no sense of humour at all. Does not compute. Humour between characters is an instant bond, and humourless people are hard work. The hero has to get the joke if he doesn't make it first.

4. Intelligence. Bit difficult to have a hero without this one. Outbreaks of being daft, dippy, or just plain thick are permitted, but he has to have a brain.

5. Motivation. Very unusual to have a hero without it, because of past expectation that the man should be doing the work to win his love. These days the heroine takes a welcome part in events, but at the least her hero ought to match her.

6. Loyalty. Not quite the same as no1 here, but so valuable. Not unquestioning - a hero will not go along with behaviour he cannot support - but when he gives his support, it's yours.

7. Courage. Physical or moral. Note even Mr Darcy needs guts - tells his aunt to bog off, admits his horrible behaviour to his best friend, then has the nerve-wracking prospect of proposing a second time after Lizzy ripped him to shreds the first! Which brings me to:

8. Generosity of character. Ugh, meanness does not a hero make!

9. Kindness. Often well-hidden - look at Alverstoke in Frederica - but essential. All heroes have a heart somewhere or it simply doesn't work, and unkindness is a horrible trait. This is why I couldn't be bothered with Rupert Campbell-Black in Riders. Nasty, small little man.

And finally...

10. Attraction! From werewolf to spacemen to medieval Crusaders, you can pack your hero with all the virtues you choose, but he still needs life about him. He's not a mannequin, he's a hero. A heroine is going to fall in love with him. Make sure your readers know why.

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