Introducing Your Hero

- by Jenna Kernan

THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER, February 2013 from Harlequin Historicals

Handsome Heroes

THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER goes on sale in February 2013, but you get a sneak peek here and also a look at what goes into introducing your hero.

We all expect a romance hero to be handsome.  That’s part of his job and an author’s description of a hero is very important.  But a static description of a handsome face and appealing form can read a little stagnant.

I like to introduce the hero while he is doing something active and add the reaction of other characters to the hero.  This helps reveal something more about him than a physical description.  I also try to have some action taking place and, if possible, have that action run in opposition to the heroine’s goal.

In my April Western historical release, THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER, my heroine first meets the hero after she has been captured by outlaws.  Her goal is to escape or, failing that, survive until her father rescues her.  When the hero rides in, Laurie Bender doesn’t know if Boon is just another outlaw or her savior, but she does take notice of him.  She might not be sure if he wears a white hat or a black one, but the reader knows because of the by genre convention of giving special attention to the description of the hero.   The descriptions of secondary characters might also get special attention but they don’t generally get three paragraphs.

The Hero’s First Entrance

Excerpt #1

Laurie’s attention went to the new arrival. He rode a shod bay quarter horse with a white blaze down its nose and entered the camp at a slow walk as if he owned the place. The rider’s lean body was sheathed in a tan canvas duster. A gray hat with a wide flat brim shaded his face. Beneath he wore a navy blue work shirt, fawn-colored kerchief, a scarred leather vest and dark striped trousers tucked into narrow black boots with pointed toes that fit neatly into the stirrups. He swung gracefully from the saddle, holding the reins as he lifted his gaze and scanned the group of men. Each stood at alert, hands poised to reach for their guns. Was this unarmed man so dangerous?

Laurie glanced to the rider’s narrow hips, noticing he wore no holster but had maintained possession of a knife, judging from the antler handle protruding from the top of his right boot.

Boon stepped closer, approaching Hammer. He had a square jaw covered with dark whiskers that didn’t obscure the cleft. He lifted his chin and now she could see his face. Her breath caught as she realized he was young and handsome. His size, confident manner and liquid grace had fooled her into assuming he was older, but he seemed to be her own age, perhaps only eighteen or nineteen. The firelight cast his bronze skin orange, but she could see his eyes were pale, like seawater.

“Thought you was dead, Boon.” George Hammer stepped forward, grabbed Boon’s collar and tugged, exposing his neck. “Don’t see any rope burns.” He pushed him away.

Boon caught himself easily and his spurs jangled. Laurie noticed one hand ball to a fist before he relaxed, stretching out his long fingers.

“Why ain’t you dead?”

Boon met the outlaws’ gaze with a steady one of his own.

“Don’t know. My horse fell on me. Don’t recall what came next. When I woke up you fellers were gone and the Rangers, too.”

Hammer narrowed his eyes, his long nose nearly touching Boon’s. “They caught Wilson. How’d you get away?”

Boon gave an easy shrug. “Caught my horse and rode the other way.”

So he was an outlaw, just like the rest of them. Laurie’s hopes flagged. Why had she let his beautiful face make her think he could not be a criminal? She had enough experience to know that looks were no indication of whether a man or woman was good or bad.

THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER

by Jenna Kernan © 2013

 

Action Reveals Inner Character

So is Boon good or is he bad?  Well, his cool welcome into the outlaws’ camp seems to indicate that he is one of them but they don’t completely trust him.  In this next section, Boon’s actions speak louder than words.  When the heroine makes a break for it, she gets a new perspective on the hero.

Excerpt #2:

Laurie saw her opportunity, bolted to her feet and ran toward the horse Boon had vacated. She leaped and Boon caught her in midair, spinning her around as he captured her in his strong arms. He brought her back to the ground, keeping hold of her, pressing her back against his chest so she faced the others.

He held her as she struggled, his body hard and his grip unbreakable.

George Hammer stalked back to Laurie, opened his hand and slapped her across the face. The sting of the slap made her eyes water, but the damage could have been much worse had her captor not pulled her away from the direction of the blow the instant the outlaw struck.

Laurie blinked in shock, waiting for the second blow, but George Hammer seemed oblivious to what had just happened.

He narrowed his eyes on Boon and raised his voice. “Least one of my men ain’t too drunk or too stupid to make himself useful.” He whirled and kicked at the closest man, but he dodged, scrambling backward over the log.

“She gets away and I kill someone.” He stalked toward the house.

Laurie turned her head to look back at her captor. His face was cold and grim, his jaw muscles bulged.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Shut up,” he growled then grabbed her elbow and dragged her back to the logs, pressing her into place none to gently. “Don’t move.”

THE TEXAS RANGER’S DAUGHTER

by Jenna Kernan © 2013

 

So now I hope that both my heroine and the reader are intrigued by this character and both want to know more about him.  Who is he really?  Why did he come back?  Will he help her or just leave her for the others?   These questions, raised in the reader’s mind, cause her to turn pages.

Revealing your hero is a challenge.  He’s usually attractive, but you can do so much better than a pretty face.  Use action, the reactions of other characters and dialog to intrigue and lure the reader to read on.

If you would like to read more about this story visit my website at www.jennakernan.com.  I’m also on Twitter and Facebook and blog weekly at www.jennakernan.com/blog.

5 comments

  1. Nice!!

    I like the way you build suspense about him as he is instantly intriguing. And yes, you want to keep reading.

  2. Wonderful post, Jenna!

    And such an intriguing character! Can’t wait to read this book.

    susan meier

  3. Hi Laura and Susan. I appreciate the response and insights from fellow writers!

    It is a goal of mine to present value added descriptions. In other words, descriptions that do more than describe. Intriguing a reader or raising questions is a good way to accomplish that. Another is to raise questions and get readers turning those pages for answers.

    Thanks for commenting!

  4. I loved the excerpts, and your idea of introducing the hero’s physical description in an action scene and through the eyes of other characters is a great technique.

    I always look forward to your books, and I can’t wait to pick up this one!

  5. Thank you for your kind word, Lisa Marie, and for reading my post. There is so much to do in a hero’s introduction and so many ways to go about presenting him. I love reading other authors seemingly effortless descriptions and wonder how much time, efforts and revisions it took to get that essential piece just right.