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Charlotte Boyett-Compo shows us how to create a hero readers are bound to love, flaws and all.

The Tragic Hero
Charlotte Boyett-Compo

Not since his mother died had he felt this kind of pain. He had put his tears aside then, as he had put his childhood aside, but now hot tears of sorrow slowly ran down his flushed cheeks to scald him. His hand trembled as he reached up to brush away the treacherous signs of his weakness. He gazed down in confusion at the wetness which clung to his fingertips, staring at it for a long time before he let his hand fall to his side, and he gave way to the tears.

His proud shoulders sagged as his entire body shook from the effort to hold back the wrenching sobs. He tried desperately to stop himself from whimpering with the pain, but his tears grasped him with unsheathed claws, tearing at his vital organs, ripping away at him with a vengeance.

With his fists tightly clenched, he sank slowly to his knees to the cold ground and his head fell forward to his chest as unstoppable sobs burst from him and a piteous moan came from his very depths. Wrapping his arms tightly around himself, he began to rock back and forth with the rhythm of his pain, gripping himself so tightly the flesh along his rib cage began to bruise, but the agony of losing Liza cut too deep for him to feel physical discomfort.

"Liza," he whimpered to the silent morning.

Deep in his soul, he knew he'd never see her again. She had taken his heart as she fled. The thought of never being with her was more than he could bear.

Life without Liza would be a living hell.

He threw back his head and howled his agony to the heavens: a terrible sound of animal torment.

--Excerpt from: The Keeper Of the Wind
by Charlotte Boyett-Compo

There are very few romance novels written that do not have a flawed hero. In some fashion or another, he is damaged goods.

And we like him that way.

Heathcliff and Mr. Rochester from Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.

Marilyn Harris' John Murray Eden from the Eden Series.

Kathleen Woodiwiss' Christopher Seton from A Rose in Winter.
Rosemary Rogers' Steve Morgan from Sweet, Savage Love.

Each of these heroes had something tragically engineered by the author to grab and hold the maternal instincts of her reader. Whether it was a spiritual or mental flaw; psychological or physical deformity, the hero suffered and had to be comforted by the heroine. It makes for on-the-edge of your chair reading and brings out emotions that are often hard to forget once the novel's pages have been closed.

I would venture to say there are few readers out there who haven't either read a novel about or seen a movie depicting Dracula. The character, though based upon an historical figure, has been romanticized over the years in countless movies starring Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Jack Palance, Frank Langella and Gary Oldman. (For anyone wishing to see a truly superb and heartfelt portrayal of the undead hero, I wholeheartedly recommend Mr. Palance's version). Bram Stoker did not intentionally set out to create a 'romantic' hero in his character, but Hollywood, then the Hammer Film Studios of London, turned the vampire into the best known tragic hero going. Millions of school girls couldn't tell you diddly poop about Heathcliff or Rochester, but they sure can tell you all about Dracula!

Or the Vampire LeStat . . . another tragic, flawed hero created by Anne Rice.

To capture a romance reader's undivided attention, try giving them something just as gut-grabbing, throat-clogging, and tear-riddled in your story as Dracula pining for his lost love. Give the hero a flaw that will make the reader want to reach out, take him in her arms and hold him until his pain passes. Allow her to want to 'kiss it and make it better'; to feel such a deep empathy for the hero's pain that she will not be able to get him out of her mind after she puts the book aside. Give her a good cry. That's what she paid her hard-earned money to get along with the sighs of contentment during the hot and tender love scenes.

Romances are pure escapism and most end on a happy note (unless you happen to pick up one of mine which end with cliffhangers). The hero and heroine get together and raise little heroes and heroines. Flowers bloom; bluebirds sing; butterflies flit through the balmy summer day. There are smiles in Reader Land!

Bah, humbug!

There is no happy ever after in real life and if your novel is happy ever after all the way through it, you're gonna bore your readers to tears . . . and not the kind you want them to cry, either! If you really must end with a Kodak moment, then so be it, but at least put a little angst in the middle there for those of us who aren't as well-adjusted. For those of us who like a little lemon juice on our paper cuts on occasion or who get an odd little tingle out of a scene where the hero gets lashed spreadeagle to an upright and whipped!

There is much to be said for a little S & M in a good many of today's romance novels. A writer who wants to make the reader 'feel' for her hero is gonna put something in there to make you experience sympathy for the handsome young stud. The more tragedy to befall our splendid specimen, the more empathy we have for him. If he's just an arrogant, spoiled, superior male, he's not going to have the reader care what happens to him. Run him over with a wagon for all I care. Unless he gets temporarily crippled so the heroine has to care for him, he's road kill, baby!

So, place him alone on a windswept moor, his dark hair blowing wildly about his handsome head as tears streak down his cheeks. Turn his stricken eyes to the sea upon which the love of his life is sailing away from his empty arms. Put such fierce agony in his heart and such terrible loneliness in his soul that the reader will feel it all the way to the pit of her stomach.

But be there when he comes home from that solitary place. Put your arms around him, hold him to your breast, and kiss his tears away. Absorb his pain and let him place his trust in you.

After all: you're his lady, aren't you?

. . . . . . .

Charlotte "Charlee" Boyett-Compo is the author of over thirty books, the first nine of which are the WindLegend Saga which began with THE WINDKEEPER. She was the first author to be published by Twilight Times Books, now Dark Star Publications. Recently, Charlee won Inscription Magazine's 2000 Engraver Award for Favorite E-Author and The Writecharm's Simply Charming Award for promoting e-books and their authors worldwide. Her sci-fi/futuristic novel, BloodWind, stayed on Dark Star Publications bestseller list for over 18 months and has now been released in paperback. It was named as one of the Best Books of 1999 at eBook Connections as was her dark historical, In the Wind's Eye. Her psychological thriller, In the Heart of the Wind, was recently nominated for a 2000 R.I.O Award and has been named as one of the Best Books of 2000 at Inscriptions and was awarded a Reviewer's Choice Award at Scribe's World.


For more information about Charlee and where you can purchase her books, visit her website
Read a dowse interview with Charlee

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