Wednesday, October 19

Wanted: Well-Written Male Love Interest

There is nothing greater in fiction than a character readers can fall in love with.

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
Five Things That Make Me Want to Literally Kill a Literary Man
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
I like a good male love interest in a story. I just have real problems finding them. I hear so much from other readers who swoon over particular fictional dudes and I just don't get it. Am I defective? Where are all the well-written men at?

What qualities in a male love interest attract and repel you in the stories that you read?


Anonymous said...

GOSH you write the best blog posts. HONESTLY! I agree with EVERYTHING here, especially as I tend to be drawn to male characters more than female ones xP I also believe character is more important than plot, definitely what keeps me reading :)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Awesome post. You've definitely nailed it (and with humor too).

Nicole said...


That is all.

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...


I think Melina Marchetta probably writes the best characters I can think of, whether it be male or female. But I fall for her guy characters precisely because they're not perfect. They have flaws (sometimes a lot of them) and make mistakes, but they still have innate goodness to them. I think that description would apply to Adam from 'Where She Went' as well.

Can't think of any others at the moment, but I'd love to see other people's suggestions/ideas of their favourites.

Becs said...

Yes! So true, these problems you listed seem to be more apparent in YA fiction, but that being said I haven't read much adult. I think Poison Study by Maria V Snyder is a good book, she uses the good traits you listed. I know I'm over reading books tha centre on these phony characters. Great post!

R - R - R A F said...

Next post you could do the same but for female characters: I have trouble creating them, no surprise I guess!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I think some YA lit that shall remain nameless have inspired all your deadly male protag sins! And yeah, I quickly lose interest on those too!

(p.s. hopped over from Stina's blog!)

Misha said...

I feel that way too. Which is why the badass in my story is exactly that. From what you've said, you'd enjoy reading him. :-)

Dawn Ius said...

Great post! As a former Harlequin reader turned thriller/suspense/paranormal romance lover, I appreciate a well-done hero. There are MANY examples of the not-so-great. I think Kelley Armstrong does a great job in Bitten with Clayton, I love Patch from Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush Hush series (and now Akiva from Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone), JD Robb's Roarke is the gold standard, and pretty well every hero in a Sandra Brown book (romance or thriller) is swoon worthy.