Writing gay romance means you get not one but two heroes in every book. That’s a bonus, for those of us who love them. Of course it also means we have to keep an eye out for heroic inspiration everywhere we can find it. Fortunately for us, we’re well-suited to the task of observing and appreciating all the men around us.
The news is often full of delightful possibilities. Any of us who look to the stars once in a while will certainly be familiar with the extraterrestrial escapades of Commander Chris Hadfield. Who can resist a charming farmboy who fell in love with the idea of being an astronaut when he saw the moon landing as a child, who married his high school sweetheart, and made his way to space by way of a notable career as a daring fighter pilot?
Fans of the television show Supernatural will know the devilishly handsome scoundrel who plays Castiel, Misha Collins. While he has a role on the small screen, his real life antics make him a delightful possibility for a romantic lead. Actor, father, knitter, master of ceremonies for an international scavenger hunt, and founder of an organization dedicated to random acts of kindness, Misha is an excellent inspiration for a quirky, eccentric hero of a romantic tale.
The heroes in all our books are drawn from the men we know and the men we wish we knew. It’s fun to look around us and dream. It’s all inspiration right? The more, the better. But what do do with all the inspiration? And how do we cram two heroes into one story?
There’s rarely a single source for a single hero, naturally, because we don’t want to imitate life, we want to create it—bigger and better—in the heads of our readers. And not every hero in our stories can be the one who seems shiniest on the surface. Because we have two heroes (or more) at a time, one is usually something of a dark horse. Not the boring one—simply the one with more depth, less shine.
Some of our heroes, like Holly from One Real Thing and Sender from Escape Velocity are a lot like the men we just mentioned. They could have stepped out of the news or gossip sections of any newspaper or website. Holly simply can’t keep out of the tabloids. The dangerously pretty black sheep of a wealthy family, Holly’s life is pure Hollywood. Sender is king of the flyboys, a poster-perfect fighter pilot with a heart of gold. He’s the stuff of dreams—he looks like he has it all.
We pair up our spotlight stealers with dark horses like Nick from One Real Thing and Elios from Escape Velocity. Nick is a journalist, Elios is a linguist—both of them make their living with words, not action. Quiet men with quiet lives, they both get turned upside down by their relationships with the brighter heroes. But it’s Nick and Elios whose heroism shines through when their stars falter. They’re the strong ones for all that they’re in the shadows.
It’s often our best and brightest heroes who need a helping hand the most. It’s one of the ways we balancing having two of them in the same relationship. It can be a balancing act, to keep both of them strong and masculine, but there’s nothing inherently weak about needing help from time to time.
Each of our heroes has strengths inspired by our observations and carefully crafted weaknesses inspired by his counterpart’s strengths. It’s what makes them worth reading about. A hero would be boring, in any context, if he were perfect in every way.