What it is about fictional men that causes our hearts to go all a pitter-patter and leaves us twitter-pated, with loopy grins on our faces and a perpetual squeal lodged in our throats for days after we’ve finished a book? Why do they capture our hearts and minds so easily and so thoroughly that we can’t stop thinking about them and fantasizing about how we would handle such a guy? Sigh…I don’t know, but I love them (not in the over-the-top fan-girl way, but they definitely steal a piece of my heart)! When I’m reading a book with a well-written male love interest, I’m completely one hundred percent captivated for the length of time it takes to complete that book. And if I’m being honest, there’s little chance of me getting through a book that doesn’t at least have a romantic sub-plot for crying out loud. There are a few I’ve gotten through and actually enjoyed – and I mean a miniscule amount – but romance is a crucial element in my reading happiness. With that being said, the leading men are therefore vital to holding my attention; I want a swoon-worthy man – that’s why I’m buying the book (be it fantasy, sci-fi, modern, or whatever, I’m not just talking about ‘romance’ novels here)! But how does one write a swoon-worthy man? Hmm…let’s ponder a bit on this most delicious of subjects why don’t we…
*Loopy grin emerging*
Ladies and gentleman don your protective goggles and camouflage face paint: it’s time for a little recon!
To write a good man, you have to be familiar with good men. That means do your research, head to the classics or your own favorite novels for inspiration and begin the analysis. Why do you like the men in these books, what aspects of their personalities appeal to you? How does the author get that personality across? Does this character remind you of the character you’re working with in your head? Study study study. The more familiar you are with the type of man you want to write, the easier it will be to write him. That does NOT mean copy that author’s work/character; that is a no-no of the highest degree. These books and characters are not there for you to copy, they’re there to inspire you. Think of these novels as your textbooks, break them down, analyze them and try putting some of the pieces together yourself (most of us do this unconsciously anyway when we read, or most writers that I know anyway).
You also need to know the genre you will be writing in, and who you’re target audience is. Men are presented different ways in different genres and readers know it and have blatant expectations when they pick up a novel in their favorite section of the bookstore. This goes without saying, but if you’re writing for mature women then you need a mature man, if you’re writing for teens then keep that in mind because a teenage boy and a mature man are completely different (at least in the realm of books, we’re going to forget reality here for the moment). You need to know how to present your guy to the readers, make sure he fits into the parameters of the ‘type’ of writing you’re doing. Most genres already have archetypal men: gentlemen, rogues, leaders, warriors, bad boys, wounded souls etc. and they all come with prerequisite, but slightly malleable, well-known rules. Gentleman tend to be cordial and understanding, rogues are deliciously impossible, bad boys have that sense of dangerous uncertainty, leaders contain a sense of hope and overpowering duty, while the wounded…well they’re wounded aren’t they. There’s no saying that you can’t bend these rules slightly to suit your own character, but you need to at least be aware of them. Readers reading a historical romance are not going to want an emo-esque whiny leading man, and fantasy lovers don’t usually break their hearts over a sharp dressed businessman. Know who you are dealing with because readers are just as picky and vicious as writers are.
But perhaps most important in the recon portion of writing a great Mr. Right, is knowing your character inside and out; this goes with any character in any story. Writers need to know the people they are writing, all the shallow edges and dark chasms, the good the bad and the ugly…everything, because if the writer doesn’t know and understand the character, how can the readers? Take the time to discover the ins and outs of this human being, the whys and how come’s, the things he doesn’t want anyone to know and habits and mannerisms that makes him who he is. What is his back story, what has led him to this moment in his life with this woman and how will his past dictate his present, and how will he handle being placed in this situation and why? Who is he? Go beyond his looks and get to know the man you want people to fall in love with, because if he doesn’t seem real to you in your head then he won’t be real for anyone else either.
So here we are, back to the beginning of our stories, a little tired and grumpy but perhaps a bit inspired. All in all troops, I believe the recon portion of writing Mr. Right has been successful, I hope you all enjoyed the ride and part two of our journey into writing the men of our dreams (the actual writing part) will be posted tomorrow!
Originally published in October 2012