Men With Broad Shoulders

Note: This summer, we’ll occasionally be bringing back some of our favorite posts.

Enjoy! :-)

~ By Maria Geraci

We’re so used to talking about the chick lit heroine, we’ve almost forgotten about the chick lit hero. Because chick lit is all about the female protagonist it’s easy to overlook the central male character in our novels. But he’s there somewhere. Maybe he doesn’t make it to the end of the story in our heroine’s happily ever after, but he’s an integral part of her journey. Whether he’s the reward for the realization our protagonist has to achieve or the hurdle she has to jump over in order to achieve it, our central male characters are very different than their contemporary romance counterparts.

For one thing, our chick lit heroes are real men. They aren’t superheroes (unless maybe you’re writing something like chick lit paranormal). He might be a fire fighter or a cop, but he’s just as likely to be an accountant or a chef or an artist or maybe he’s even out of work. He doesn’t jump tall buildings in a single bound and women don’t fall at his feet when he walks in the room. He might be cute or maybe even handsome, but he could just as well be geeky or only attractive in the heroine’s eyes. He’s more often than not the confidante or best friend or the boy next door. He can be insecure and he makes mistakes.

The one thing our chick lit hero is, is worthy of the strong, funny and smart women we write about.  He may or may not have literal broad shoulders, but he definitely has figurative broad shoulders. He’s the guy we know our heroine can count on to change a diaper in the middle of the night or move cross country to be with our heroine when she lands her dream job.

One of my favorite chick lit heroes is Ethan from Emily Giffin’s Something Blue. He’s intelligent and witty, but he’s been burned in love before and he’s not about to give his heart to someone as mercurial as Darcy. Not until she’s deserving of it, that is.

Another of my favorite heroes is Josh Meyers from the chick lit film Kissing Jessica Stein. If you haven’t seen this film, then run to rent it. It’s funny, highly original, and has some terrific acting. It stars Jennifer Westfeldt as the title character and her real life boyfriend, a younger Jon Hamm of pre Mad Men fame. Plus, it features the yummy Scott Cohen as the broody Josh and Tovah Feldshuh as Jessica’s mother. It’s full of Jewish angst and set in New York City. I cry and laugh every time I see it. It’s also a perfect example of a modern heroine’s journey. It’s not until Jessica grows and changes as a person and lets go of her inner fears that she has a shot with Josh. The beautiful part of this film, is that Josh has the same exact same growth to undergo as Jessica. We just see his growth in a much subtler way. I absolutely love the ending to this movie because it’s not only realistic, it’s funny and full of hope all at the same time.

The next time you read a good chick lit book, look at the central male character and figure out what it is you like about him. What qualities does he possess that make him perfect for the heroine? Then think about the book you’re currently writing. What kind of hero does your heroine need? What qualities can you give him (both good and bad) that will push your heroine toward her necessary growth?

Maria Geraci writes fun, romantic women’s fiction aka chick lit with a happy ending. She has three books published with Berkley, and is currently working on her fourth novel, The Ugly Girlfriend, to be published sometime in 2012. You can visit her website at

3 thoughts on “Men With Broad Shoulders”

  1. Plus all of the guys I’ve written (so far) have broad shoulders. But none have the dynamic pecs or chiseled abs that seem to be so popular in alpha males. LOL
    One of my guys has a sore hip that bothers him.

  2. Maria,
    Some great points here about having the other ‘half’ of the couple in your novel’s relationship suitably strong / compelling / sympathetic / whatever to carry his weight in the plot.
    As a male writer, I find my male protagonists (in two women’s fiction, two romantic comedies, one comedic romance, and one unclassifiable novel) tend to be considerably less than spectacular physical specimens. But they have talent, wit, charm, and they are devoted to the female protagonist (except in the first half of my comedic romance). Only one of these six men is ‘hero’ material (as such), but the other five learn they measure up when the chips are down and their beloved truly needs them.

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