Where Heroes Come From

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When my neighbor’s daughter was twelve, she shared a list with me of the twenty ideal qualities her boyfriend must have. I’ll share some of my favorites:

1. Must be a little bit smart.
2. Must be hot.
3. Must know that black and navy blue shouldn’t be worn together.
4. Must only annoy me 1x per week.
5. Must have his own car. And it’s got to be cool.

To give you a little more insight, she owns a t-shirt that proclaims, It’s All About Me, and she believes it. She’s turning sixteen this week and I’ve got to tell you, she still stands by the list. And even though I howled when I read it, looking back now I realize she was in the throes of ‘create your own romance hero.’

Kind of like make your own sundae without the calories.

It reminded me of one of my favorite parts of the movie, Practical Magic. For the record, I liked the book much better, but the movie grew on me.

Young Sally: I hope I never fall in love, I hope I never fall in love.

Young Gillian: I can’t wait to fall in love.

Young Sally: He will hear my call a mile away. He will whistle my favorite song. He can ride a pony backwards.

Young Gillian: What are you doing?

Young Sally: Summoning up a true love spell. Called Amas Veritas. He can flip pancakes in the air. He’ll be marvelously kind. And his favorite shape will be a star. And he’ll have one green eye and one blue.

Young Gillian: Thought you never wanted to fall in love.

Young Sally: That’s the point. The guy I dreamed of doesn’t exist. And if he doesn’t exist, I’ll never die of a broken heart.

And then this got me thinking about the song, This Kiss, by Faith Hill, which is part of the movie’s soundtrack:

Cinderella said to Snow White
How does love get so off course?
All I wanted was a white knight
With a good heart, soft touch, fast horse
Ride me off into the sunset
Baby, I’m forever yours.

Which, in turn, reminded me of the movie, Six Days, Seven Nights, when Ann Heche’s character says to Harrison Ford (and I’m totally paraphrasing here): Aren’t you one of those guys? You know, the ones you can send into the woods with matches and popsicle sticks and they’ll build you a shopping mall?

So, for me, this is what romance novel heroes are: A little bit of reality mixed with a lot of myth. Creating a hero that the heroine always dreamed of but never thought could truly exist. Creating a hero that the heroine never knew she wanted. Creating that little bit of magic that can’t be explained. Holding out for a hero who’s larger than life (apologies to Bonnie Tyler.)

I’m most worried, with our current obsession of defining romance and its boundaries, with trying to explain what’s working and what’s not, that we’re analyzing ourselves right out of the magic. And then I remember that my neighbor still believes in the magic, even if it is a little unrealistic, and that plenty of readers out there do too. And obviously I do too or I wouldn’t be writing the stuff.

As Sally’s hero says in the book, “Lightning, like love, is never ruled by logic. Accidents happen and they always will.”

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