Writing Mr. Right: Part Two!

Alright my lovelies, the fun part is over; we’ve had our lovely bit of fantasizing, now it’s time to set the pen to paper (or more likely: the fingers to the keys)! Well, maybe one more minute of fantasizing…oh the gorgeousness! Ahem, just let me collect myself…Now we’re ready to write the men our heroines deserve (and we dream about)!

Image From Google.

Image From Google.

Leading men in books need to have a certain ‘appeal’ to readers looks-wise; here’s where knowing your target audience comes in handy. It’s sad and quite shallow of me to say (even though you know it’s true!), but when it comes to Mr. Right, we (the readers) want him to be SEXY AS HELL. I’m not saying he has to be so completely drop-dead gorgeous that mortal eyes cannot glimpse his glory without going blind from the magnificence of his chest hair or whatever, but he does (usually) need to rather handsome. Striking men grab our attention (or at least mine, hopefully I’m not alone here, otherwise I’m going to feel really superficial). Brown hair, black, blond, or red, with blue eyes, green, hazel, or brown, take your pick. Mix and match to your heart’s content and then throw in whatever physique you’ve imagined up: long and lithe, broad and muscled, or that perfect in-between with just enough brawn…whatever. Remember, this man needs to not only catch the attention of your heroine, but also the reader, who unlike the leading lady, has the option of putting the book down at any time. That being said, a few imperfections tend to lend men an even greater allure. So maybe throw in a slightly crooked nose, a limp, a scar (because sometimes there is nothing sexier than a well-placed scar), or bruises/cuts/nicks, just something to detract from too much perfection.

Looks aside, Mr. Right also needs to have the right type of personality; it’s not all about looks you know. Here’s where things get the most interesting (at least in my opinion). Depending on what type of archetype you’re using (however loosely), your plot, and your genre is the type of man your readers will expect. Like I said in part one, if you’re writing a fantasy and your main guy is a warrior, there are already some expectations waiting for you before you even begin. Strength, stealth, honor and danger are just a few of the preconceived notions that readers bring with them when they read the word ‘warrior’. But they don’t encompass the entirety of your character so don’t worry that you’ll be boxed in and forced to write about someone you don’t want to. Think of the archetypal preconceptions as the base of your character; warriors are expected to be strong, so let strength be a factor in his character but then you must decide what else he is, and that is the best part! Think about it, there is a myriad of different ways you can play the warrior card: is he the strong and silent type, the unbound mercenary, the daredevil, the hot head, the sweet, talkative youth, or cunning and careless renegade? Who he is will define his personality, but remember that overall he needs to be appealing, so if he’s rough, balance him out with something that will smooth his edges out a bit.

But please, if you’re writing a sweetheart/gentleman/whatever DO NOT go overboard on the good-guy niceness thing! There’s nothing more aggravating than a man who can’t think for himself and is always deferring to his lady’s preferences and always says the right things and never ever dreams of doing anything that might possibly annoy his one true love. Grrr…it’s just so unrealistic! Men in life and in literature are bound to screw-up at some point or do something stupid because they think it’s the right course of action or say completely the wrong thing at the wrong time. They’re insensitive, selfish, impossible, and stupid beyond all reason (no offense guys, I’m sure you think the same about us females). Now, considering this is a book and we want the reader to fall in love with the leading man, there’s no need to display all the bad traits like some sort of exposé…but do make sure there are a few there. Give your Mr. Right flaws, they make him realistic and humanize him in a way that will both annoy and comfort your readers.

And finally, make his story compelling. It’s as simple as that. Give him a backstory that will grab readers’ attention or heartstrings from the start so they are interested and really care about what happens to him later in the story. Don’t rely on his appearance to keep their interest; his looks will only capture their initial attention, but his story and personality will keep readers glued to their seat anxiously awaiting the new of his happily ever after (hopefully). Backstories are a way to garner sympathy and women respond to men that they can somewhat worry over; it gives us something and someone to root for. (The trick to writing a good man? Make him need a woman!) This works with the character arc as well, give the readers something to worry over, something to fear; make them love your Mr. Right and then put him in danger, either physically or emotionally. But don’t forget to also give them a taste of hope, so that they can see the possible light at the end of the tunnel. Give him a lesson to learn or something precious to lose and make the readers wonder if he will come out in one piece in the end with his love by his side.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading this Writing Mr. Right two-part special as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Hopefully I didn’t bore you all to tears! But what about you, how do you all feel about writing your leading man? Any tips of the trade I’ve missed or overlooked? And who’s your favorite fictional Mr. Right?!*

*I love me some Heathcliff (Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”), Mr. Thornton (Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South”), and my all-time favorite: Nawat (Tamora Pierce’s Trickster Series)!

Originally published in October 2012

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11 thoughts on “Writing Mr. Right: Part Two!

  1. I love this. It reminds me of the mr. darcy appeal and how that has sometimes lead us astray. Mr. Right should have the personality that matters, not just the looks. As a writer with a literary blog, I am so thankful someone started this conversation!

  2. Great post, especially for guys like me, haha, got to know what to aim for! Jokes aside, valuable insights, it’s nigh on impossible for male authors to _know_ what the female half of their audience truly wants in a character. Every bit of advice helps. Cheers! Perhaps it’s my obsession with norse culture but where would the warrior-poet type character fit in? That’s the one I’ve been using for the most part in my male lead.

    • Thanks! I love norse culture as well and I think a warrior-poet is always fun and exciting to read about. I usually think of them as the historical hero type and you can play that so many different ways! As long as he’s not a whiney teenager or in a suit and tie, there really are tons of fun ways to portray a warrior, and women love a well-written one (or at least I do)!
      And as a female writer, it’s hard to know what guys will think of the men we write about, will they think we’re being accurate or living in a fantasy? Because when it comes down to it, looks aside, he needs to seem real, so I’d love to read a post where a guy says what he’s looking for in characters…

      • Ugh, I cannot stomach whiny, teenage characters, haha. Well, it would depend on the relationship you form with the character I suppose. The more we can identify with him the more we are going to apprichiate his perhaps sometimes unrealisticly high standards(looks, personality, charisma). It is always going to be a balancing act, from a guy’s pov. plenty of male leads are unreachable, a part of us know we won’t ever be like that guy and that can be depressing, haha. While many guys will generalise romance genre characters with disdain, it’s the same as with all characters, the bottom line is the bond: Can I identify with him/her? I don’t know if women do this, but it’s a suspicion of mine that most guys tend to replace the male characters they identify with with a visualised version of themselves. Story immersion.

      • I can’t stand them either lol. And I understand what you mean, it’s so vital that a bond can be made between readers and characters, and I always strive to make sure my male leads have a realistic grounding. I used to write “perfect” men when I was younger until I realized that they annoyed even me, lol. But I like the men to have their own personality and faults, it makes me love them even more. And yes, women swap themselves with the female lead as well, to an degree, and it helps draw us in 😀

  3. I enjoyed reading this. I am usually drawn to story villains like Loki, so that won’t help you. Not a big fan of following rules in my own writing, but I agree that the leading man needs to be a bit hunk-da-fied to capture the reader’s interest. Bumbling but passionate, charm, and a great sense of humor are sexy, too, and can work to nullify a lot of outward imperfections as well.

    • Thank you! I’m not usually drawn to villians, but I do love (and drool over) a good anti-hero! And I wouldn’t say these are specific rules for writing a good man, just my opinions and general pointers and guidelines lol 😀

  4. Reblogged this on Rain's Writing Realm and commented:
    I have read this post for the 3rd time, and each time I become more amazed at not only her spot-on thought process but also how little I actually know about my own writing. This is what I mean by HELPFUL advice.

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