Monday, August 4, 2014

Male Characters

About 3 weeks ago, I talked about Female Characters and how our expectations and views of stereotypes are a tad on the unfair side. And I promised you a post on characters of the male persuasion, so here we are.

While many people comment on enjoying books with "strong female characters" there's a bit of a common archetype that I've noticed for male character's as well. For one, they're supposed to be the sexiest beings on the face of the planet. They're supposed to be strong (physically), have a dark side/dark past, and occasionally they carry with them the Edward Cullen-type broodiness that's supposed to make them mysterious and irresistible. Don't forget that they also have to have a killer smile and a sense of humor that enables them to have a quip to say in any situation.

Read that again and tell me that you don't think of at least ten characters that fit that description.

To give many authors and the market credit, though, there is a subtle change appearing, and I promise you that I'm not saying that every male lead is like this. All I'm saying is that it's pretty darn common.

Here's the thing: your male leads don't have to fit that  archetype in order to be alluring and worthy of becoming a fictional boyfriend that readers swoon over.

In the same way that readers enjoy seeing a "strong" female lead, they enjoy a "strong" male lead. And just like that post three weeks ago, I feel the need to explain the fact that "strong" does not have to equal big muscles and looks so good they would make the Greek gods jealous.

One of my best friends and CPs is Brie Moore, and she's spent the last two years working on her MS. The male lead is an adorable boy named Oliver, and guess what? He's a painter. That's it; he arts a lot. And unlike many male leads that I see, he doesn't even know how to fight. He's a peaceful guy who's rather lounge around watching the clouds go by than assert his control over anything or anybody.

But he's charming, sweet, and when he loves somebody he will protect it. His loyalty knows no bounds, and while his character changes over the course of Brie's novel as he's confronted with situations that grow more intense as a war looms, deep down he's just Ollie. The Painter. The Friend. In fact, it's the female MC, Collins, who teaches him how to fight.

A reverse of gender roles? Maybe.

Brie's come to me many times asking if I think Ollie's too "feminine," or if he's not strong enough. My question? Why does "strong" have to equal physically fit? Why does the guy always have to wear the pants in the relationship? You know what, why don't the male and female leads each take a leg and wear the pants together, and if that mental image doesn't make you grin I don't know what will.

What I'm trying to get at is the fact that strength is in the eyes of the beholder. The capacity to be gentle and grant mercy requires the same kind of clout and courage as standing up in a physical fight against your greatest enemy that's determined to destrpy the world.

Instead of trying to give your man every superhero trait in the book, why not make them ordinary in the way that they have weaknesses, or that they have an artistic talent that doesn't involve killing a man five different ways with a spoon. Give them imperfect looks that, in the eyes of the love interest, are nothing short of perfection.

I'm not bagging on all of those dark, brooding, and mysterious guys that take up a lot of YA shelves (particularly in paranormal). I'd be an absolute hypocrite if I did, because in all honesty I love those guys (I'm a huge fan of the whole "good heart beneath all that steel" kind of thing). I just think that, occasionally, we need a reminder that that's not the only kind of guy out there who can make a difference.

Tweet It:

Why your Male Characters don't have to follow the fictional crowd, either via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

Dark, broody, and dangerous? Your fictional men don't have to fit the mold via @Rae_Slater (Click to Tweet)

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