What Colour are Your Hero’s Socks?
I was at dinner one evening with my sister-in-law, brother-in-law and niece when this topic came up.
My BIL was teasing my niece about boys. I tuned in just as she announced that she’d never go out with one who wore white socks.
As the mother of two of her male cousins, I had to confess I was curious with regard to the logic behind this. She’s European, and was fifteen at the time, and both of those things were factors in this seemingly left field decision. In her world, and amongst her peers, boys simply did not wear white socks. Not if they wanted to be one of the cool kids.
I immediately ran through my Canadian kids’ wardrobes in my mind to see what colour socks they wore and whether or not they were cool. Then I remembered my youngest son’s reaction when he got off the plane after his last trip to visit relatives.
“”That country is FULL of metrosexuals,” he said loudly as he walked through the international arrivals gate sporting his uber-trendy new haircut. “Some woman tried to put GEL in my hair!”
Okay, I thought. David Beckham, he’s not. Probably not cool either, but he’s really smart and that’s gotta count for something.
All of this is going somewhere, I swear to you.
Creating a sexy, likeable hero is a big task for any writer, especially if the writer has no idea that white socks on a guy is an issue for some women. Personally, I don’t see the problem, but I’ve been married for a long time and don’t pay attention to my husband’s socks anymore unless he’s crammed them into a pair of Birkenstocks.
As Taylor Keating, I’ve had many discussions with my writing partner about our characters—although she calls them fistfights. (It’s all in the perspective, people.) “Cool” seems to be subjective. I maintain that main characters have to appeal to a wide audience, and don’t get to be quirky or controversial. Therefore, white socks are out. So are neo-Nazis, in case that needs to be said.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule by any means. It’s simply that I have to think about what kind of readers I’m trying to attract, and if I want to corner the European teenage girl market, my hero will have to choose his socks with more care.
But what if my audience is intended to be women over twenty-five with a taste for escapism?
Taylor Keating writes paranormal romance, and in our Guardian series, our hero, Chase Hawkins, is military, and he’s good with technology. But he shows up in a few different personae, because each book takes place in a different setting with an altered reality.
In the first book, Game Over, his consciousness is trapped in a virtual prison while his body remains in stasis. When the heroine, River Weston, enters the prison through a video game, he takes on the role of Sever, her companion and protector.
The second book, Mind Games, takes place on Earth, which is River’s world, but Hawk ends up in another man’s body because his own remains in stasis. It’s not until our newest release, Fair Game, that Hawk gets an opportunity to play himself. This time it’s River who can change her appearance.
When we created Hawk, we knew he had to be fiercely protective. He had to know what it was like to lose everything he’d ever loved, and be someone so confident in himself and his capabilities that he would never question who he really was, no matter what physical appearance he wore. We wanted him tall, dark and brooding more than handsome, and someone who would fight to the death for River—just as she would for him. A lot of thought went into him.
He’s pretty hot in a dress uniform, a loin cloth, and blue jeans. But I can’t say we thought too much about the colour of his socks. I’m not sure he would care. All I can say with absolute certainty is that, given a choice, Chase Hawkins wouldn’t pick argyle.
So what colour are your hero’s socks?
Paula Altenburg lives in rural Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and two sons. Once a manager in the aerospace industry, she now works from home and writes full time. She currently writes dystopian demon westerns for Entangled Publishing.
Paula also co-authors paranormal romance under the pseudonym Taylor Keating, and her third book from Tor, Fair Game, releases August 28th 2012.