What Makes Damaged Heroes Hot?

On the outside a damaged hero is a tough-as-nails-and-probably-eats-them-too masculine figure. Inside though is a whole different story. I think that’s one of the biggest reasons why damaged heroes appeal to female readers. We want to care for, nurture, and heal him. It makes the heroine (and through her us) feel needed. A damaged hero’s heroine is crucial to his fundamental wellbeing.

There are many types of damaged heroes. He usually gets classified as one of them when readers and reviewers talk about him. These classifications are:

  • Scarred
  • Wounded
  • Tragic
  • Tortured
  • Burdened

Scarred –

A scarred hero is an exteriorly damaged hero. His body has suffered a lot and is usually covered in scars. Most authors either scar his body or his face, rarely both at the same time. The lost of his looks is a real blow for this type of hero.

Wounded –

A wounded hero can also have scars, but he also is facing physical damage. He has disabling headaches or limited mobility and even potential loss of limbs. He could also have lost one or more of his senses.

Tragic –

A tragic hero in romance is an emotionally damaged hero. He’s lost family, friends, careers, purpose, and drive. He is almost always a recluse and a shut-in. He doesn’t want to love again. Getting hurt again just might kill him.

Tortured –

A tortured hero is a damaged hero at the end of his rope. He is already at his lowest point and feels like he can’t get any lower. He may have been emotionally or mentally abused. He could have been neglected or badly treated by someone in his past resulting in wild crazy theories on how worthless he is.

Burdened –

A burdened hero is a damaged hero who acts alone. Over the years he’s learned to rely on himself and not to trust others. This means he doesn’t connect very well to the heroine at first because he’s so set in his thinking. A burdened hero may have been living with a dark secret for a long time. He could be seeking vengeance, revenge, or absolution.

What type of damaged hero is your favorite and why?

[poll id=”32″]

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  1. You make good arguments for all of these, and while I could only vote for one, I like reading about each hero. Except maybe the tortured one as outlined here. Sometimes I feel as if the hero is TOO tortured and it’s difficult to bring someone back from that. To me, the ending is always a little too pat, to neat, too wrapped up in 400 pages.

  2. Um, how about None of the Above? I understand the appeal of a romance that suggests love can heal these conditions, but a little goes a long way in making a hero vulnerable. Too much trauma and I begin to doubt that the guy has his stuff together enough to fall in love.

    So I agree with Isabel, only I think that all five categories have to be handled with a good deal of care and restraint for the romance to work.

  3. Broken heroes are my favorites to read about and to write. My heroines are the only ones that can fix them. Even a strong alpha-male has to have his kryptonite (I know I must have spelled that wrong, sorry.) He’s in control of everything but whatever it is that is controlling him.

    Makes for an interesting, full-dimensional character and quite fun to read and write.

  4. I love reading about tortured heroes. I like to see how the heroine “saves” him from himself.

  5. Magdelen said: “I think that all five categories have to be handled with a good deal of care and restraint for the romance to work.”

    I agree, you can’t go overboard. Too little and it’s a plot device that can be taken out and ignored without changing the story. Too much and you wonder how he’ll overcome his past even with the love of a good woman.

    Britta said: “My heroines are the only ones that can fix them.” Agreed! *G* But again, sometimes the damage is SO severe and deep that 400 pages just doesn’t seem enough to overcome it all.

  6. Rossy

    Why must you make me choose only one?! It was hard, but i went with a tortured hero. Those are my favorite. *sigh* Like Z from the BDB!

    Isabel, i have to agree 100% with your last response!

    • Because I’m a meanie! lol 🙂 I voted too and I understand how hard it is because I like them all!

  7. I gotta go with either Burdened or Tortured because I’m a sucker for the solo warrior and for watching them come back to themselves from so far away.

  8. If we’re talking Viggo Mortensen, it’s not the damage that makes him hot. He’s just hot! 😉

    Seriously, though, I think damaged heroes are great in books because they have a past, which makes them interesting. I also think they play into the fantasy of meeting The One will make everything all better.

  9. Sharon S.

    great post! I love my damaged heroes. That need to be strong when they want to fall apart, swoon. i love them all, but had to go with the tortured. The strange thing is I don’t care for a damaged female character. I want her to be strong and confident and not take any crap from our hero.

    • I really dislike damaged female characters too because usually the damage refers to rape and rarely anything else.

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