First order of business, the hilarious geniuses behind Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, Candy (on the right) and Sarah (top left), are generous enough to be giving away a copy of their latest release, BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS. Details on how to enter are at the bottom of the post.
But, it gets even better! Sarah and Candy have highly confidential intel for you on the International Consortium of Heroes. But since I don't want to get myself into any messy legal messes, I'll just leave it to the girls to explain....
Thanks to an Anonymous Source, we here at Smart Bitch Central have in our hot little hands the International Consortium of Heroes' Manly Handbook to Heroic Behavior, the official ICH Guidebook for all things manly and heroic. Previously kept secret and circulated only among member heroes, this guide details what it takes to be a romance hero; some of the recommendations are nothing less than shocking. In a series of articles, Smart Bitches are publishing several different portions of the ICH Handbook; our purpose is to shine a light on the monopolistic practices of the ICH and to bring transparency to the hero-making process. None of the text has been edited; omissions are indicated by [. . .].
Being a hero is a difficult task in the best of times, and with the increased fragmentation of the romance genre, especially the recent popularity of ménage scenarios, heroism can be more confusing than ever.
The International Consortium of Heroes' Manly Handbook to Heroic Behavior (ICH Handbook) will help provide structure and general behavior guidelines for all levels of heroes, from those embarking on their first romance to the seasoned veterans who could deflower a virgin widow or turn a reluctant heroine into a vampire/werewolf/vampire-werewolf with one arm tied behind their back.
Please note, however, that the ICH Handbook is meant to be a very general guide to behavior for primarily heterosexual hero tropes across all genres; homosexual heroes should still find much of this information applicable, but we strongly recommend consulting the ICH Manly Handbook to Man-on-Man Heroic Behavior. Archetype-specific guidance for both primarily heterosexual and homosexual heroes is available in the individual guides published by the different sections of the ICH.
The ICH also wishes to emphasize that desirable outcomes may be achieved using many different methods, and while our recommendations serve as best management practices, variations are certainly possible—even desirable, given the more idiosyncratic heroines or exotic plotlines.
[. . .]
Non-Sexual Conduct and Experiences
Parents and guardians
Because parental or guardian abuse is one of the main sources of sympathetic hero misbehavior, the majority of heroes suffer from dysfunctional family relations. Subsequent hero isolation perfects and hones this misbehavior, later to be softened, corrected and influenced by the heroine. Popular parent types include the shrewish, man-hating (or excessively man-loving) mother, psychotically abusive guardians of all stripes (ranging from parents to other relatives to legal guardians unrelated to the hero), and rigid, emotionally unavailable fathers who impose impossible standards.
If this is your first time as a hero and you are having difficulty coping with your difficult family relations, please remember that this process is necessary, akin to tempering a sword. Think of it as tempering your temper: sharp, hardened heroes are still by far more popular than the less incendiary type. Unpredictable explosions and moodiness are key to character conflicts in many romances, and while other sources are possible (see the Difficult Exes section below), this is one of the richest veins available.
Should you be interested in difficult parent interactions to enrich your backstory but are at a loss for where to find one, please consult Appendix D, which provides a list of ICH-certified agencies that safely and reliably source horrible parents and guardians. Seeking out freelancers is another option, but the quality of the interactions can be somewhat unreliable; in particular, many of the so-called freelance abusive mothers turn out to be nothing more than somewhat distant at best, instead of demonstrating the cutting, cold mistreatment necessary to instill an instinctive mistrust of other women—a staple of emotional conflict in certain hero archetypes. Caveat emptor, particularly when using sources like Craigslist. Some review websites exist, but the quality and reliability of the rankings can vary wildly. ICH-certified agencies are by far the most reliable sources.
While organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Archetypal Heroes (PETAH) are campaigning heavily to end these sorts of hero mistreatment, the fact remains that bad parenting in general and parental abuse in particular provide too rich a source of internal conflict and character backstory for us to rule out entirely; they are not mandatory by any means. Whether this species of mistreatment suits you is a choice you need to make prior to embarking on your personal journey of sexual, emotional and psychic discovery with the only woman who can make your numbed soul sing.
Please note that certain hero archetypes do not require family dysfunction. In this case, feel free to conduct normal, loving relationships with the parents. There are other vehicles to deliver the desired angst. Such instances include being orphaned under traumatic circumstances, catastrophic losses of other loved ones (including siblings, ex-wives and best friends, preferably under circumstances that implicate your involvement), harrowing previous experiences with love, possessing powers and characteristics that serve to alienate you from normal human society (this applies to the vast majority of heroes in paranormal romances) and taking on morally ambiguous—even morally repugnant—work to serve a greater good. These will all be covered in their own individual sections. Note also that these forces are not mutually exclusive; many heroes can and do undergo multiple species of trauma for greatest angsty effect.
[. . .]
Distrust towards love in general and romantic emotional attachments to women in particular is another rich source of conflict for romance novels; resistance to new emotional connections and overcoming your distrust with the right woman is one of the most powerful and reliable ways of generating conflict.
Furthermore, experiencing nothing but bad relationships in the past is another way of underscoring how truly special the heroine is; for the vast majority of heroes, falling in love with the heroine represents an emotional deflowering akin to a heroine's loss of virginity. We therefore recommend that you protect this tender bud of emotional vulnerability well-guarded with a series of emotionally unfulfilling—even psychically damaging, for the more adventurous of you who wish to peg the needle on the angst-meter—relationships. Just remember: physical whoring is not a problem; it is, in fact, recommended for certain hero archetypes. Emotional whoring, on the other hand, is deeply frowned upon; just as the heroine is a whore if she has enjoyed sexual relations with anybody other than you, you, as a hero, are an emotional whore if you fall in love with anybody else other than the heroine.
This distrust is most convincing if it stems from previous romantic ordeals. Therefore, prior to meeting heroines, it is preferable that you seek and entangle yourself with the following types of women:
1. Beautiful, sophisticated and frosty, with lots of (preferably kinky) sexual experience
This type is probably one of the most popular of the Difficult Exes, because not only is she with you solely for your money and/or title and/or prowess in bed, her cool distance, her penchant for schemes and manipulations, and her practiced bedroom tricks serve as a foil to the fresh, undespoiled, emotionally vulnerable heroine. Furthermore, these women are most likely to be unfaithful, and infidelity is one of the greatest and most convincing excuses for assuming other women (especially the heroine) are cheating whores. Combined with the right sort of family dysfunction, the conflict and resulting emotional fallout can be greatly enhanced when she cheats on you with your brother, your best friend or your father. For the greatest dramatic potential possible, selecting a woman with severe family dysfunctions increases the probability of incestuous infidelity, which not only creates a rich source of on-going angst, it provides a neat explanation for her sexually predatory behavior.
Another bonus: these Difficult Exes, while among the most emotionally destructive, are also the hottest in the sack. This is not, of course, an adequate substitute for the wrenching heights of ecstasy you will experience once you engage in the dance as old as time with your heroine, but while you're waiting for her to show up. . . . We're just sayin'.
2. Beautiful and completely unstable
These Difficult Exes present a different source of conflict than the cold, frosty mistress. While these women may, on occasion, manipulate or cheat on you, her greatest power lies in her ability to exhaust your psychic and emotional resources, as well as destroy all certainty in your ability to please a woman or be a good romantic partner. Most of these women show classic signs of severe bipolar or borderline personality disorder; suicide is much more likely in this particular Difficult Heroine than in any of the others. Should she choose this drastic path, crushing guilt and haunted, obsessive convictions that you could have saved her if only you had been good enough are mandatory reactions from you. If you are instead divorced, or if she is only a former mistress or ex-girlfriend, this Difficult Ex type is also the most likely to plot for your heroine's death, or yours—or even both. These murder attempts are rich opportunities for strengthening your bond with the heroine and throwing your love for the heroine into stark relief; any doubts you may have had about the Difficult Ex's emotional instability being your fault should be completely laid to rest at this point, as well as any hesitation or doubts about the depth of your love for the heroine.
3. Beautiful and physically frail
This last type is the quietest and most low-key of the Difficult Exes, but do not underestimate her impact, because this Ex is almost always a Dead Ex. Utilized most frequently in historical romances because the frailty is best exploited under circumstances with inadequate medical care, this Difficult Ex's delicate frame and timid nature most often results in lukewarm, unfulfilling sex. If she becomes pregnant, death by pregnancy or childbirth is typically mandatory, although the death of the child is optional. The only appropriate hero response for this is complete and utter crushing guilt, intensified by the mild relief you feel at the fact that you are no longer tied to somebody you were never truly in love with, anyway. When initially referring to this Difficult Ex, speak of her only in respectful—or even glowing—terms, because the heroine's false feelings of inadequacy will be one of the driving forces of conflict. As time goes on, however, this particular Ex will underscore how the milquetoast nature of the relationship was an unfulfilling shadow of the soaring emotional peaks you have experienced (and will continue to experience) with the heroine.
This Difficult Ex may occasionally prove to be unfaithful, which is perhaps one of the most emotionally devastating betrayals of all the Difficult Exes, because of her seeming virtue. Should this prove to be true, anger is key, but leavening this with a good dash of guilt for not being able to fulfill her needs provides further emotional trauma to fuel the conflict for the romance.
Big thanks to Candy and Sarah for stopping by today! I can't wait to read more from the ICH manual over on their site! Want to win a free signed copy of BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS? Just leave a comment below and you're entered! Want extra entries? That can be arranged.... Blog about it for another entry. Become of follower of this blog for another entry, too.