Romance Genre Heroes

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This is a summary of the Hero archetypes from The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes & Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes (see the footnote on the index page, Heroes and Heroines). You can also find the Heroine archetypes on Romance Genre Heroines.

Also listed are the villainous versions of the Hero archetypes; these come from the website of one of the authors (again, see the footnote on the index page).

Quick Overview

The eight Hero archetypes presented are as follows:

Their villainous versions are as follows:

  • The Tyrant
    • Evil version of The Chief.
  • The Bastard
    • Self-centered version of The Bad Boy who lashes out at others and tries to provoke them.
  • The Traitor
    • The Best Friend on the outside, but inside he's plotting the destruction of his Nakama.
  • The Devil
    • Evil version of The Charmer who reads people to exploit their "moral weaknesses."
  • The Outcast
    • Self-centered version of The Lost Soul who fails to connect with other people.
  • The Evil Genius (Mad Scientist)
    • Evil or insane version of The Professor whose high intellect lacks a working moral compass.
  • The Sadist
  • The Terrorist

Character Examples

  • The Chief: The book gives Henry Higgins and Captain Kirk, which should give you an idea of the range.
  • The Bad Boy: John Bender is an obvious example. Spike Spiegel is a combination of this and The Swashbuckler (Were he not such The Bad Boy he would qualify for The Lost Soul.)
    • An example of how these archetypes can be combined to create Captain Planet complex characters.
    • Note well that this can be a positive character despite the character flaws.
  • The Best Friend: JD from Scrubs, Lennier from Babylon 5.
  • The Charmer: Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H; Shigure from Fruits Basket. Ivan Vorputril is this as well as Best Friend.
  • The Lost Soul: Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • The Swashbuckler: Book gives (of course) Indiana Jones - and Zorro.
    • Mile Vorkosigan is a combination of this and professor.
  • The Professor: Obviously there's The Professor from Gilligan's Island, and Mr. Spock (or probably any Vulcan); the book adds Frasier. And then there's Andrew Steyn from The Gods Must Be Crazy....
  • The Warrior: Book gives Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry and Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
  • The Tyrant: General Woundwort, although he's not trying to expand his empire.
    • Osamu Tezuka's seminal work Phoenix is rife with examples of this type. Many of the characters start out heroic, and are actually close friends of the people they later cut down in cold blood. But they usually have a thread of power-lust running through them even from the start.
  • The Bastard:
  • The Devil: Iago in Othello.
  • The Traitor: Judas?
  • The Outcast:
  • The Evil Genius:' Gunnms Desty Nova fits, although he's more tragic and doesn't have the elitism that characterizes most (yeah, he uses people for inhuman experiments, but he doesn't look down on people of lower intellect).
  • The Sadist:
  • The Terrorist: ...
    • Othar Tryggvassen, Gentleman Adventurer!! - if you're being uncharitable. Also, he has shades of the Mad Scientist.
    • Saïd from Three Kings
    • The Operative from Firefly.

Comparing the Gender Roles

You can find this section on the Romance Genre Heroines page.

Greater Detail


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A romantic hero, particularly a Romance Novel hero, usually has certain characteristics:

  • While heroes come in various shapes and sizes, A romantic hero is always physically fit. Specifically, he is fit as a result of leading an active life, not as a result of attending a gym. He is always at least toned and nicely muscled.
  • A romantic hero never has a boss. That is, although there may be person whom he answers to, he is never supervised on a day-to-day basis. He is always more or less a free agent.
  • A romantic hero has useful female relatives. He always has in-laws, sisters, a mother, etc. whom it is useful for the heroine to know. When the heroine becomes romantic with the hero, she is hooking into an entire social network. Although the hero might seem to be a loner, in fact he never is.
  • A romantic hero's subordinates have women. When the heroine becomes romantic with the hero, she becomes boss of the women whose men the hero is boss of. More generally - to a woman, a man (even a romantic hero) is a cypher. The real focus is on other women and the relationships between the heroine and them.
  • A romantic hero has shiny shoes. Particularly in historical romances. he might be stranded on a desert island or in a remote windswept Scottish castle, but his shoes are always immaculately buffed. God knows by whom. More generally, a romantic hero is a snappy dresser—subject to the whims of fashion. Eddie Vedder was a snappy dresser in his own way.
  • Before romance, the clothes. Before anything romantic ("Romantic" means "sexual") happens—whether a kiss and a hand-hold or a marathon sex session, we are always told exactly what the hero and heroine are wearing. It can be instructive to get a cheap romance novel and highlight all passages that concern themselves with descriptions of clothing. The completeness and economy with which these authors can describe an outfit is amazing.
  • A romantic hero has a woman in his past. Specifically, a woman whose place the heroine can occupy. The heroine almost never has to carve out a place of her own, because a romantic hero always has an emotional vacancy. He may be a widower, he may have been hurt in some way by a woman who is no longer around, he may have cared for a female relative who slowly died of tuberculosis. The heroine always has to battle - sometimes even literally - this woman. The climax of a romantic novel is when the hero somehow - in some manner - says "I love you more than I ever loved her".