He’s Just This Guy, You Know?

Yeah, having my post follow Mary Ann’s is like going from Kiri Te Kanawa to Rebecca Black, let’s face it. But I like to think there’s also a certain wonky poetry in the fumbling, barely articulate efforts of the neurotic to seek connection through language…which is the story of my life, but also brings me to the hero of my work in progress. This is a post about that hero, why I decided to write him, and why writing him is so damn tricky.

Ed. Oh, Ed. You are truly average looking. Five foot ten, brownish hair, brownish eyes, not especially fit. You’re well aware that if your life were a movie, you’d be played by Seth Rogen, not Robert Pattinson. You have a nice smile but your personality isn’t particularly winning, because you are a curmudgeon and have been all your life. Your two most significant sexual relationships have been with long-term fuckbuddies. One made it clear from the start that you were only to be her booty call, not the other way around. The other was mainly just too lazy to find another roommate after that first, drunken incident. They fucked, but gave no fucks about you, and you never felt like you got all that lucky afterwards. You enjoy your work as an aerospace engineer, but you tend to bring it home with you because you don’t have much else to do at home. You have some friends, but probably wouldn’t take a bullet for any of them…even in a role-playing game. You have no passion, Ed. No flair. You are no Zaphod Beeblebrox.

And that right there is why I decided to write Ed. All of that, the unlovely mundaneness of it. Geeky everyman, that’s who I wanted to start out with. A guy who was genuinely nothing special, who wasn’t hero material. The guys we all know in our lives, to whom we may well be married. Not a diamond in the rough. Just a regular ol’ rock. You can chip and chip and chip away, but all you’ll uncover is more granite. And that’s okay, because really, isn’t that what we all look for? Think of the functions a diamond might serve in your life; now think of all the things granite probably does for you on a daily basis. If you had to choose between them, you’d choose granite, because we might want things like sparkly earrings but we need things like buildings and roads. And maybe sometimes that comes with a bonus, like luxe countertops. Granite is for every day, but it doesn’t get much love because it’s a background material. We don’t notice it. Granite heros don’t get much action in romance novels, however, because we all want diamonds. My heroine is no different.

My heroine will need some time to shift her sights from diamond to granite. Because let’s face it, everyman isn’t that stellar a dude. And where Ed veers from normal, he does so in the direction of extreme geek/nerd, and although that’s the new hot in Romancelandia, in real life that can mean a guy who’s wonked beyond obvious lovability. That’s the problem, of course, with writing a guy like Ed. Ed doesn’t give me much to work with, much to show off. When he tries to act like a diamond, it just doesn’t work for him. In real life, it rarely does. You have to get to know Ed to love him, but books are short and this book in particular is novella length.

I can’t make him into a diamond. The heroine must come to see the intrinsic value of granite. In forty-five thousand words or less.

Ed is the most challenging hero I’ve ever written, precisely because he is not a hero. But he must become one to the heroine somehow by the end of the book, and even I’m not quite sure how he’ll achieve that. My deadline for figuring it out is July 8th, so wish me luck and if you see me hanging out on twitter this week, remind me I should be writing!

(The book, by the way, is The Principle of Desire, which will be the third in my BDSM nerdmance series The Science of Temptation. Oh, and in addition to his other normality, Ed has never had anything but the vanilla-est of sex before. The fact that this is the least of my concerns with him should indicate how many fits he’s giving me to write. Usually the kink factor is one of the trickier bits. This time? Pfft. Walk in the park. Of course he’ll do that, but how the hell do he and the heroine have a normal freakin’ kiss?).

About Delphine Dryden

Areas of wonkery: geek culture, kink/BDSM, science for those who are not mathematically inclined, educational psychology. Read more >
This entry was posted in Shameless Self-Promotion, Writing Wonkomance. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to He’s Just This Guy, You Know?

  1. I think we need more everyman heroes. I like a beta hero, but also understand why beta and hero don’t go together.

    • Yeah, it definitely veers from the formula. Ed’s neither alpha nor beta, really. That part, at least, works with the kink factor (the heroine is a switch).

      • Maybe that’s one of the things that’s bugging me about Romancedom right now. Most of the guys I know and ALL of the husbands of close friends are not alphas. They might not be betas either. They are just “normal” guys. Those are the guys we fall for and live with for, like your sister, 35 years.

        So where are they in the books? Thanks for writing one.

  2. Ruthie says:

    This is so interesting, Del! I want to read, of course, immediately, to find out what you’ve done with Ed.

    I had this moment, once, with a person of great import in my life, where I was blathering to a friend about “OMG what have I DONE, I’m not sure about this GUY, I’m so CONFUSED, & etc.” and the friend said, with a very perfect pause and very perfect delivery, “You sound like he makes you happy.” Oh! Right. That.

    That, being the thing that matters more than all the other things. Someone who gets you, who listens, who makes you happy — that’s a love story.

    • Yeah, that! My sister once broke up with a guy and when I asked her why, she said it was because she didn’t like who she was when she was with him (as she was only 17 or so at the time, I’ve since come to realize she was astonishingly mature in her outlook, which probably explains why she’s been happily married for almost 35 years to the guy she DID end up with…on her 19th birthday).

  3. Mary Ann Rivers says:

    I love what you say, here, about this hero not giving you a lot to show off, because this seems like the most delicious constraint I can imagine when starting a book.

    I get frustrated, I think, with characters as a collection of attributes that as they are trotted out are *the reason* they should be loved. It’s not just that life isn’t like that, or at least it isn’t often, and I’ll never say that a book has to be like real life to be wonderful, it’s that as a writer, it makes what you’re doing, each moment in front of that story such a fucking JOB.

    Like, now I must SHOW how Bob is strong with a scene where he’s surfing at high tide before a storm with a longboard. Now, I must SHOW that he is also sensitive with a scene where he varnishes a birdhouse with his nephew and talks to him about how he had a hard time in math, too.

    Which, yes. This can be a lot of fun, but what you’ve written here, about how it is this couple will understand each other and work out this problem of love, of communication, of mutual sexual satisfaction, without the frame of traditional attribute revelation, well, the IDEA of that writing task, that work, well, it’s a total turn-on, honestly. It suggests, first, showing them together, getting into something ineffable that is processed later, in all kinds of ways. It also suggests scenes infused and soaked with honesty, and probably some kind of slowly building horniness.

    And yeah, that suggests how love happens, but because this is fiction, means it will have that incredible “more than” quality. More than reality, more than honesty, more than sexy–that thing that makes us think about ourselves in interesting ways, meaningful ways.

    This most gives me a kind of rush all over. And it’s something more than the beta thing or the alpha thing or any kind of categorization. It’s that you’re writing about the love thing. You’re writing a love book. You’re showing us, you’re trotting out the attributes of love, itself. Already, my heart rate’s up. It’s what I want. As a writer, as a reader, that argument for love in this space between people, and how the fuck it happens.

    Please, I’m begging you, inbox me with this one.

  4. If anyone can make us fall in love with Ed, you can. I can’t wait to read it!

  5. Shari Slade says:

    I have so many feels about “granite” love, that I’m not even sure where to start commenting…or even if I can.

    I married a rock, not a diamond, because he was exactly what I needed…what I continue to need. A solid weight I can spaz against for a million years with out eroding.

    He doesn’t reflect, or refract, or dazzle…he just IS. *sigh*

    I can’t wait to read this book.

  6. Laurie Evans says:

    Oh, I like the sound of this, already! I love “everyman” & beta heroes.

  7. Amber Lin says:

    Ed sounds lovely… I especially love the part about (not) taking a bullet for his friends. That sort of over the top protectiveness/awesomeness is something we take for granted in our heroes, but I wonder if that diminishes them as a whole. Like if the next hero needs to be even more protective and more awesome just to compete in this sea of heroes. And, you know, at what point do we, as readers and writers, lose ourselves in sparkly testosterone instead of a more genuine connection. I think when… well, *if* Ed gets to a point where he’d take a bullet for her, then it would be a big freaking deal.

    • I’ve always hated the notion of stuff like that as a test of heroics or loyalty, because it’s so easy to say “of course I would,” but in the moment, people usually do not. They don’t have time, and it’s counter to instinct, so to expect that seems unreasonable. If it happens, great…but judging your whole life by what happens if it’s threatened is a bit bleak for me.

      Don’t get me wrong, I love a sparkly hero as much as the next person (not sparklepires, though, I hate that shit). But the best guys I know aren’t like that, and they are still good guys. They are probably more likely to actually take a bullet for somebody than a lot of the people who say they’d do it, just because they are decent human beings. And they deserve some lovin’ too.