Wednesday, 15 June 2011

There's something about The Boy

Or man, as the case may be. I realize this post might largely be to the tastes of my female readers, but it's something I thought worth writing about. The male protagonist/hero/love interest is such a key part of most novels. In fact, I don't know about you, but sometimes I'll read - and reread - a book just because I love The Boy (or man) so much.

Maybe we like to step into the shoes of the female narrator/protagonist and imagine he's in love with us. It's all part of the escapism of reading. Or maybe we think he reminds us of someone we fancy/love in real life. Whatever the reason, whatever the genre, I've found that The Boy can have the power to make or break a story.

So how do you create a swoon-worthy love interest type?

Make him devoted. He can be the witty, charming, sweet, sarcastic, rude, ambiguous, openly loving, any of those things. But as long as we know, deep down, that he would pretty much do anything for our heroine, we're hooked. There's something irresistible about someone who sticks by no matter what. 

But don't make him a doormat. Unfortunately, you can take this too far. He can become a whining, snivelling, 'yes darling of course I will' type and then you just want to smack him (and her, for letting him carry on like this). I'm going to mention Edward from the Twilight series here. His devotion to Bella is touching. But there was something immensely annoying about his behaviour in Eclipse: notably the way he was willing to stand by and let her snog the Other Boy right in front of him just because. Devotion can go too far. It can make a character look pathetic.  

Make him amazing in some way. Is he a really powerful warlock/vampire/werewolf/businessman? Does he have super-strength or speed? Is he just really smart? Make him almost unsurpassed in some way. It's attractive. 

But for the love of Heathcliff, make him flawed too. Perfect characters are a pet peeve of mine. I hate them. I think an awful lot of other people hate them too. No one likes a character who can do anything, achieve everything, be totally awesome and never have to deal with a single consequence or ever suffer a moment of true conflict. Flawed characters are incredible. We understand their flaws because we're flawed too. These flaws can be huge things that the character can't get past or they can be small niggles, realistic things that crop up now and then. We can love these characters because they're not alarmingly, intimidatingly, irritatingly perfect. 

Make him a little bit of a bad boy. This one is completely take-it-or-leave-it. But ladies, let's face it. We're drawn to the slightly dangerous, wise-cracking types in fiction, aren't we?  

But he'd better have a heart of gold under all that badass-ness. Because in the end, we want our heroines to end up with the nice guy. The one who deserves her. (Unless we hate her, in which case we just want someone to strangle her, but that's a whole other problem.) It also satisfies us because we're in her shoes. We want to end up with the nice guy too.

Well, there you have it. I've searched my bookshelf, unearthed beloved male characters, analyzed them to death, and boiled it all down to the above. When you create your bestselling love interest and fangirls the world over are tattooing his name to their bosoms, you know who to thank!

What draws you to a fictional man? Who are your favourite love interests? And to the male readers: don't be afraid to chip in with your take on the female side too - I'm intrigued to know what kinds of female characters hook you?


  1. I like female characters who are strong without being overbearing, playful but not flaky. Romance in the story totally optional.

  2. Luke Alderton from Polo wins every time. He's a beta hero in an alpha body and an utterly delicious character in every single possible way. I love him.

    I read lots of romance (and am entirely unapologetic about this fact, but that's a whole other conversation). Suzanne Brockmann's Troubleshooters series has some amazingly well written heroes. They're all complete kick-ass Navy SEALS but they spring out of the books as very real, flawed, true sort of people. I think the Sam/Alyssa romance that runs through most of the series is one of the best written I've come across in any genre.

  3. I like male characters who have to struggle with their strengths/weaknesses to become better (like workaholics, too nice guys, overprotective older brothers, men with tempers, you get the picture...). Great post!

  4. Do you know what's weird? I totally agree with all your rules, and yet I'm looking at them, thinking, "How could I break them and still have a swoon-worthy love interest?" Ah, the life of a writer. :)
    P.S. Your phrase, "For the love of Heathcliff" made me laugh out loud.

  5. Love this post! I'm struggling with writing a "nice" guy and I don't want him to be a hard!

  6. Ooh, I love this! This sounds so much like my Alex from my debut novel! Woooot! I did good! Xoxo

    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?
    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!