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Forgivable Flaws

By On Mar 6 2010, 12:40 pm

Reading some of my old rejected pathetic manuscripts—did I mention pathetic?—has lead to me do some thinking about heroes in romances.

Readers want their romance heroes to be moral and smart. Heroes should be gorgeous—or at the very least sexy. Readers want a strong hero with just enough of a soft inner side only visible to the heroine. And of course, for me, my hero HAS to make me laugh.

Tall order, huh?

Well, along with all those characteristics, mostly every writing book will tell you that flawed characters are good to have, too. They’re more real. Easier to identify with. Less boring.

Of course there is a fine line that you can accidentally cross with your reader.

I’m wondering if I might have crossed that line recently. You see, I have a problem hero. I don’t know why but for some reason in the small cramped crazy portion of my mind, I thought it would be interesting to have my hero smoke. Yes, he’s a smoker and it’s a contemporary romance.

Do I smoke? No way.

Does my hubby smoke? Not a chance.

So why did I do that? Well, my hero is his own man, for sure, but for all the rough and toughness of him, I wanted this to be his secret vice. His weakness that he is trying to give up, but cannot…until he has a reason to give up cigarettes. Namely, the heroine of my story.

(PS. This is in no way a major plot point, but rather, something subtle I wanted to write into my story.)

As I keep mulling over my story, I wonder if having my hero smoke is a huge turnoff to romance readers? Yes, it makes him real. But does this ruin the fantasy of what a hero is by giving him that particular kind of imperfection?

I’m curious to know: in this day and age—is having your hero smoke a huge no no in a romance book? Or is it a forgivable flaw?

Jennifer Shirk
“Always Fun, Always Feel-Good Romantic Fiction”


13 Responses to “Forgivable Flaws”

  1. Eve Langlais says:

    As an ex smoker and an avid reader, personally it wouldn’t bother me so long as he’s got a bit of a bad boy image—in other words as long as he’s not a yuppie. Smoking is a struggle for alot of people and sometimes it just takes the right incentive to kick the addiction. Good luck.

  2. MJ says:

    The hero in Beneath the Surface smoked. He was in the process of quitting, and it gave him a neat quirk to play with (he was reaching for beef jerky instead of a cigarette) and added another layer, I think.

  3. Chelle says:

    As a reader? I don’t have a problem with it at all. As an author? To me it’s part of the character arc…they have to have growth right? LOL.

  4. Gina Ardito says:

    I agree. Some of my closest friends are smokers. Should I kick them to the curb because they can’t quit? It’s a human foible. And I think a smoking character can add a lot of layers without coming off as preachy. Good luck!

  5. Tara says:

    I think it’s great to have a character that is real. But, at least for me, cigarette breath is NOT sexy, and this is a romance novel. That said, this character should have lots of gum and portable toothbrushes/toothpaste handy for those oh-so-inopportune jump in the sack/roll in the hay moments, LOL! I am interested to see how you work this angle.

  6. Rhett Butler smoked a lot in GWTW, and that’s still my favorite romance. Of course, that was in a time when people didn’t know about the health issues, and it didn’t seem to turn his teeth yellow. :)

    Another smoker I liked was George Peppard’s character from “The A Team”.

    So while I don’t smoke or have any friends who do, I’d be fine with a hero/heroine who either smoked or was trying to quit. It would only be a turnoff if they were obviously endangering their health (e.g. coughing as they climbed a flight of stairs) or harming other people (e.g. smoking while pregnant).

  7. This made me laugh because I ALMOST didn’t date a guy I liked very much because I thought HE smoked.

    Smoke smell gives me horrid headaches.

    So back in high school, when this cute guy started pursuing me I was devastated. I adored his brilliance, his self assured attitude and his nonconformist ways, but he smelled of smoke and I refused to date him —until I found out it was his parents who smoked.

    When I explained my resistance, he would shower immediately before seeing me. I was so taken by this and other acts of selflessness that I married him. LOL!

    To get back to your question, it would kinda bother me that the MC smoked, but I guess as long as I’m convinced it doesn’t bother the heroine, I’d be okay.

    People smoke and sometimes it’s people we love.

    • Ryouki says:

      i could have wettirn this exact post. my love of writing began from the time i could read. i've never had anything published, not even in magazines. so, really? you can say you're a published author!! that, to me, is awesome!my goal for 2011 is the same as yours, to write and finish my novel. let's do it?!

  8. Buena says:

    As a reader and forgive me…a smoker I can’t say it bothers me in the least.

    Now that you mentioned it, wow I never really noticed that the majority of my favorite books do not contain a character that actually does smoke.

    Come to think of it, none of them harbor any of the vices I do. I’ve made coffee and cigarettes a food group in my world. LOL!

    I wonder why that is? So far the only theory that works in my mind is the characters we love, we love despite their flaws, quirks and so forth.

    For me a bad boy persona just doesn’t hit it unless there’s an ample amount of hair, denim, leather and a pack of Marlboro’s tucked in a rolled sleeve. Of course that’s just me but we like what we like.

    Keep writing. Your world is your own to create and I’d love to see what you come up with.

  9. Lainey Reese says:

    As for me, I don’t smoke, but it’s always represented the bad boy when a guy smokes. So, there is a draw for me there…As for a hero with flaws? Read Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale. He was a Duke that had a stroke (in the time of king George the medical community just thought it was his life of excess that led to his illness) and he speaks in a disjointed jumble for most of the book. He still manages to be irresistable and hot dispite (maybe because of) his flaws. And to date he is one of the most endearing and beloved of all the heros I’ve ever read… a must read for anyone who likes a story of triumph and love conquers all!

  10. Sharon says:

    First off, I despise smoking but I’ve read other books where the hero smokes and even on some tv shows and movies people I consider heroes have some type of vice (including smoking). However, as anyone who has ever give up any type of addiction will tell you, they have to give it up for themselves not because of someone. If they give it up “for someone” then they are more than likely doing it for the wrong reason and will relapse. But, to answer your question it would not turn me off to have a hero that smokes (as long as I’m not the one kissing him..LOL)!

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