No matter how light--or dark--a romantic novel, if the hero isn't a little Byronic, it's not going to be very interesting. Who'll attract more attention: Sunny, cheerful Joe the Gardener, who goes to church every Sunday, greets everyone with a smile, and likes small animals and children--or reclusive Josef the Landscape Architect, who turns pale when confronted by a cross, smiles tightly and sadly when children are mentioned, and has a fear of anything canine? (A little exaggerated but...you see what I mean.)
First off, I suppose I should define the term "Byronic." I hope everyone's familiar with George Gordon, Lord Byron--poet, social rebel, member of the summer party at Lake Geneva where Frankenstein, the Modern Prometheus was written. Byron was the living epitome of his own hero--he lived to shock society--and the first to categorize this particular literary character: generally a young man--sometimes melancholy, oftentimes rebellious--who carries some terrible secret from his past which affects his present life and prevents him from accepting the love of the heroine. Once he confesses his secret, though it may not go away, at least now he has someone to share it, and his life--and love--becomes more acceptable. The first "Byronic" hero was Childe Harold ("childe" being a title for the eldest son of a nobleman who hasn't yet been knighted), featured in Byron's poem "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage." (Byron was also one of the first to feature a vampire in a poem and is credited with inventing the vampire protagonist who was later to gain literary immortality in Bram Stoker's Dracula, but that's a story for another day.) Probably the most well-known Byronic heroes are Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre, both published in 1847. According to Wikipedia, the most famous of contemporary Byronic figures are Lestat de Lioncourt (Interview with the Vampire) and Batman (The Dark Knight).
I'm focusing today on my own Byronic heroes: Sinbad sh'en Singh (Sinbad's Last Voyage), Riven kan Ingan (Bloodseek), and Sarkin Trant (Three Moon Station), written by Icy Snow Blackstone. Each of these men has a secret which happened in his youth or childhood, and formed him into the person he is when the story opens.
Sinbad is a child of war. His human father was a gunner in the Federation fleet, shot down over the enemy planet Felida--where a feline-evolved race, foolish enough to challenge Terra, lived. As a prisoner of war, Allan MacAllister fell in love with his captor's daughter and married her. When Felida surrendered, Allan was arrested as a collaborator, his three-year-old son the chief witness against him. Allan is sentenced to the Toxic Zone, his son sent with him and when he dies there, the boy is raised by the other convicts until a nurse at the prison helps him escape. He becomes a smuggler, and that is his chosen profession until Andrea Talltrees walks into his life, asking for his help. Hating Terrans for what they did to his parents, Sin can't understand why he agrees--surely he can't be attracted to one of the enemy?--and he struggles with his growing desire for Andi and his confusion over his feelings until a violent night on the planet Serapis when he pours out his hatred and grief and can free himself to admit that he's fallen in love with one of the enemy species. Andi's love enables Sin to overcome his hatred and seek what he's always wanted--a mate, cubs, and a den of his own.
When he was five-years-old, Riven kan Ingan was taken to Francovia by his father who was the favorite sellsword of the Margrave of that country. When Trygare kan Ingan is killed in battle, the Margrave Leontilf raises Riven as his own child but because he is still treated as a foreigner, the young hothead schemes to become accepted by marrying Leontilf's daughter, Aleza. Spoiled and self-centered, he makes the mistake of denouncing the existence of the gods who promptly pay him back by allowing his betrothed to be abducted and himself so badly wounded he is told he'll never be able to sire a child. Since the Princess needs a husband who can provide heirs, Riven's wedding plans are now down the tubes--a not-too-bad prospect in view of his womanizing ways, but devastating in a time when procreation is equated with virility--but he still resolves to rescue her to salvage his wrecked reputation as a warrior. Having not-so-nobly given up the princess (mainly to keep a blackmailing doctor from broadcasting his shame to the entire Court) Riven falls in love with the girl who helps him rescue her--Barbara, a barbarian slave, and a woman more worthy than the Princess. Now he faces another dilemma--for once in his life, will he act unselfishly and give up Barbara, also, or will he think only of his own pleasure and force her to share his sterile existence? Can he confess to her of the disaster which has unmanned him and risk her scorn? Riven's choice causes the gods to make a decision of their own concerning his future--and the future of an entire galaxy.
Sarkin Trant is the owner of Three Moon Station on the planet Tritomis-2. He goes to the annual "auction of wives" to make certain his friend Abel--who has failed for three years running--finally can get himself a wife. He doesn't really want a woman of his own but seeing Katy about to be "bought" by Marsden, a rancher suspected of killing three previously purchased womenm makes him bid for her. Even after learning why Katy came to Tritomis, and that she had no idea the paper she signed is a marriage license, Sar's certain he can make her love him and stay with him. His secret isn't really a hidden one but it has ostracized him from his neighbors and is waiting for them at his station...his son, Chance. At the age of fourteen, Sar--an orhpan raised by his father's best friend--finds himself an unmarried father of a halfbreed infant, left on his foster parents' doorstep by its gypsy mother. Rebuffed by the woman he wishes to marry because of his son's half-blood, Sar isolates himself at Three Moon for the next twenty years, devoting himself to raising his son and tending his station--until the day he sees Katy and wants her in his life. Uncomfortably aware of the differences in their ages, and the fact that Katy is only two years older than his son, he struggles to make her love him. When Katy accepts not only Chance but the life at Three Moon, Sar is able to recapture the youth he never had, and when the hit men searching for his bride find her, he's willing to sacrifice himself to protect the woman who's given him a second reason to live.
Secrets, Sex, Lies, and Love...these are my interpretations--they may not be the best examples--but they worked for me! When writing a description of your own hero, just remember--a man without a past can be interesting, but if he has even the slightest dark blot of a secret, he's definitely going to be someone your heroine will want to know, whether she realizes it or not!
(Sinbad's last Voyage and Bloodseek are published by Double Dragon Publications; Three Moon Station will be released in December as an ebook from The Wild Rose Press and in print in March, 2009. Photo above is of vampire Christopher Landless from my trailer for Murder in Old Blood, courtesy of www.fotolia.com.)
Posted by Toni V.S. | 12:37 PM | Byronic hero, Icy Snow Blackstone, Last Voyage of Sinbad, melancholy hero, Sinbad's Last Voyage; Bloodseek, Three Moon Station, Toni V. Sweeney | 3 comments »