I'm not talking about one you can fantasise snogging the face off of. I mean a character that we as readers are drawn to. It just so happens that sometimes it's a character that another character finds romantically or sexually appealing.
I love well-written characters. The plot can be interesting enough, but if the characters bore or irritate me, I'm not gonna stick around for long. There is nothing that kills a book faster that a character you can't bear to read about. Now when it comes to male love interests in novels, I've found more and more that they lean towards tedious, and not tantalising.
What makes a fictional love interest desirable to a reader and what makes him repulsive?
Five Things I Want in a Literary Man
- Personality. He has to have quirks and interests and hobbies and opinions. If he's just sexy, brooding and mysterious, I won't be interested for long. There are too many cookie-cutter guys in novels these days. Character first, love interest second - please and thank you.
- Conflict. I don't want him to mesh perfectly with his female/male prospective lover. If he is presented as imperfect, I want him to be imperfect. Promise me something and then deliver on that promise. Conflict makes the fictional world go 'round.
- Motive. He has a reason for being the way he is and doing what he does. He does not need to appear 100% against something on the outside, while on the inside secretly be all for it. There is no good v.s. evil requirement. He can do something that clashes with his love interest without being a pseudo-villain.
- Mystery. He doesn't have to be cliché mysterious, but I do have to be interested enough to want to discover new things about him.
- Somewhat scarce. How am I supposed to be anticipating his next appearance if he's on every page? He doesn't have to be AWOL for chapters at a time, but I need enough distance that I'm awaiting his return, not drowning in his presence.
- Over-protective. I really hope that this guy/girl he is meant to be the love interest of is not completely helpless and pathetic. I do not want to read about a male love interest who needs to save their prospective lover at every turn.
- Pig turned pure. If this dude has shagged everything to cross his path and is now turning over a new leaf for his (probably virgin) prospective lover, I think I'm going to hurl. Hurl the book across the room that is. I do not think that a man who treats someone like a piece of meat, and the prospective lover taking that treatment, is good reading. It's a massive turn-off.
- Cheese-ball with a bad streak. "I love you so much, I would do anything for you, blah blah blah - oh and by the way, there is a little bit of bad boy in me too." Great way to cover all the bases! Just because the guy has feelings doesn't mean he needs to be the most sensitive and understanding man-boy in the world, with the additional capability of kicking villain butt.
- Too perfect. I like characters for their flaws. If he's all, "Oh look at me, I'm sexy and I have flaws but not really, I'm just said to have flaws but in reality, I'm perfect," I will lose it. I have had people encourage me to read a book, warning me that once I read it that no guy in real life will ever measure up to the love interest. I am glad to say that has never happened.
- Center of the universe. Whoever is interested in this guy should not think that he is the center of their universe. They do not need to think about him all the time and they do not need to make every action and thought of theirs relate to him. Also, writers who make the core of their story revolve around this mysterious, bad-boy, pseudo-flawed chap, need to come up with some new plot developments.
What qualities in a male love interest attract and repel you in the stories that you read?