Tips for YA Lit: Heroes Part 2
Last blog, I discussed Byronic hero and the friend stereotypes found in a lot of romance and YA lit. Today, I want to focus on subcategories or spin-offs of these two that seem popular...
The appeal of this character is the hope he has an arc. The heroine will change him. I despise this one. It's rare for people to drastically change in the real world, and if you decide to change your nature it should be for you not someone else. A solution to alter the bad boy is by making him more of a street rat (see below).
4. The Hot Dork--this is major untapped hotness that was under the girl's nose only she could never realize it. His brain is sexier than his body, but he's still cute. And he's not ruined yet by other girls, so he tends to worship the heroine. The only problem with this guy type is usually the heroine appears vain for never noticing him before or he drastically changes himself to get her attention. And you know from above how I feel about people changing for others.
5. The Popular Jock--he's oh-so popular, with a smoking body, not to mention the star of high school. Every girl wants to date him, guys envy the attention he gets, and life is simply perfect for him. The only problem with this one is it can go two ways: he could be a meathead or deep down has a heart of gold. Meatheads normally are portrayed as stupid and who really lusts over an imbecile? Also, if he has a heart of gold why would he hang out with a crew who is stereotypically seen as the bad guys and bullies of YA literature? It's just doesn't work well. What could work is him ditching his shallow friends and seeing the error of his ways. I've seen this work well a couple times, I'll admit, where he's able to use his influence to change others for the better as well, but still not a favorite of mine.
6. Adorable Boy Next Door (or childhood friend)-- self-explanatory really. He lives next door or across the street in view all the time but never eye candy until some event sparks the heroine's interest. Something happens to awaken her to the idea he is not a boy but now a hot guy worthy of scoping out. The same goes for the childhood friend if you don't want to make him a neighbor. Perhaps they played together as kids but things fell apart and they're reunited. This one works well. Every girl likes to pick a boy to crush on in her acquaintance when she's little, so it is plausible that as a teen this little fantasy could come true. It lends realism to the girl snagging this hero. I employ this one in my story "Dare" in the Evernight Teen Kissed anthology (Now available).
7. The Arrogant Rich Kid (or know it all)--this guy gets on your nerves because he either has it all or knows it all. Usually the girl dislikes him at first and their interactions are bristling and full of anger. But as they say, there's a thin line between love and hate for both are emotions full of heightened passion. Something has to happen to make him palatable, though, or this becomes a spoiled snot snags the girl kind of story. He either changes for the better because she candidly shows or tells him his shortcomings and he wants the only thing he can't have, her. Or sometimes an author will have it be an act to protect his vulnerability (back to the Byronic hero). Either way, this only works if the spoiled brat vanishes and grows into something sweeter and likable.
8. The Street Rat with a Heart of Gold--This guy is lower than the girl in some way--financially, socially, etc. He is beneath her according to society or high school social hierarchy and feels he is not her equal, that wanting the heroine is wrong and gaining her affection is out of reach. He is rough, ill-mannered, a troublemaker, and perhaps people are a bit scared of him. He is to himself, could care less about what people think, a free spirit. Deep down he's a good person that is misunderstood. He's a teddy bear inside if people take the time to know him and fiercely protective and loyal. He is the opposite of this girl's world which attracts her. He fills a missing void in her life and they make each other better people although everyone around them disapproves.
Of course these are all stereotypes. No guy realistically is only one of these. Most likely he's a combination of them or juggles these roles depending on his mood and events around him. I think it takes a skilled author to pull these off and most of the time they are blended: the hot dork-friend, the know it all rich kid-Byronic hero, etc. I'm sure I missed quite a few but I was trying to keep this from getting too long. Please feel free to comment on ones I have overlooked and I can start a part 3 going.