Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Stereotyped Male Characters

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We writers work so hard on creating different female characters. Makes me wonder what happened to our guy characters?


Now, I write about guys. Try as I have, writing about girls just doesn't work for me. God of Her Fathers was a royal challenge! Not only did they not have as many adventures in the historical eras, but I tend to run out of ideas very quickly. Maybe it's because I am a woman myself and know how life really works. You know - dishes, laundry, and such? It just doesn't make for a thriller. I said all that to say this....

Even as I struggle with writing stereotyped female characters, I figure some of you struggle with writing unique male characters. And that might be the reason so many female authors write about women.

So in case you are struggling with creating a real-to-life male character, here are a few things I've noticed. And a few things that just irk me. ;)

What's with the men who never cry?

Yes, men don't cry as easily as women. I wouldn't enjoy a book where one did. But what's with never allowing him to tear up? Men do cry. And it's not only in sorrow. Physical pain is another factor. It is not wimpy to allow a guy to get misty eyed because he is in racking pain (you know, sometimes people tear up involuntarily). I recently read a book where a guy cried in extreme pain - and you know what? If felt right. It is not feminine for a guy to weep over a loss, a betrayal, or even an overwhelmingly joyous moment. If you don't believe me, read the book of Psalms and look into the life of King David. 

Take Willy (pictured above). Let's face it: he was an emotional wreck in Love's Enduring Promise. But I bet a lot of you have never really thought about it before. He cried several times and was in constant emotional turmoil. And I haven't heard a gal (or a guy) complain yet. 

Why? Because it felt real. That is the whole point. Don't disperse with masculine emotion. Just make it feel and be real. 

What's with the villains you hate with your whole heart?


Ok, there is such a thing as a villain you feel sorry for. There really is. Some of my books have this feature; others don't. It really has to vary. Villains are complicated creatures!

Take Willoughbye. I think he's a creep. An immoral, selfish wimp. But why do I always end up feeling sorry for him on Marianne's wedding day?

Because he's made some bad mistakes, lived a wicked lifestyle, and is now paying for it. Yeah, he deserves it. But there is just something about him you feel sorry for. Maybe it is because he did love Marianne (in his own selfish way). 

I think good authors will add that one tiny detail, giving their readers a reason to sympathize with their villain.

What's with the perfect male protagonist?


Male protagonists are tough. You want everybody to love them. You want everyone to relate to them. You want them to have that honorable character that will inspire your readers, that charismatic charm that will reel them in.

But over-the-top goodness is positively sickening. Yep. I mean Deputy Strode. ;) (Ok, I wasn't actually sick. I really did like him. But, still.) Moving on....

Give your guys a few character flaws. Of course, these will vary, depending on the era. Certain faults are more typical of certain time periods.

For example (I'm not saying I know best, by all means!), in The Comrades of Honor Series, I have Sir Robert struggle with impulsiveness. Sir Nathaniel struggles with occasionally losing his temper. In both of their lives, I showed how those faults were typical of the era and resulted in some harshness. Does that mean they weren't good role models and godly men? No. They just had faults.

Give your guy a fault or two. It won't hurt him. In fact, your readers will probably like him better.


Ideas?

Ok, do you want my opinion of a very well-developed, real sort of male character? (Guys, I forbid you to roll your eyes.)

Mr. George Knightley.

Why? Because he's wise, mature, gentle, severe when need be, masculine, average height and handsomeness, discerning, kind to inferiors, doesn't put on airs, and still has his faults. He's not exactly dashing, but he has good character. He's not tall or dark, but he's good-natured. He doesn't say what people want to hear, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad. He's positively frustrating in his overbearing treatment of Emma, but then, it's his one major fault.

And we like him for it.

So study Knightley a bit, ok writers? ;)

That's all for today, folks! Any thoughts on stereotyped men?
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Alicia A. Willis is a home-school graduate, published author, and avid historian. She is a firm believer in the principle that one can accomplish anything by substantial amounts of prayer and coffee. Visit her at her blog to view her historical-fiction novels and all the goings-on between writing!

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for that awesome post!

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  2. Yes! So true. In screenwriting we're told your protagonist must have faults. It's how the audience relates. You need a flawed but sympathetic protagonist who is trying to achieve a compelling desire. Interesting stuff! I think antagonist' have changed a lot since Disney's animation when I was a kid. The bad guy was BAD and you were so happy at their final defeat. I appreciated clearly knowing who was evil, however it's not so true to real life.

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    1. I totally agree. I do think your villain needs to be very clearly evil - not riding the fence. Unfortunately, the world likes to skew what is evil and what is good by making a ying-yang combination. But we should be real too!

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  3. I agree with Kelsey! You need to see the protagonists as real and credible and if they are so perfect NO ONE can relate because it just isn't real!!! Great opost!! I couldn't agree with you more. Let's get real folks! Real people with real problems then who solve it, at least some, in a biblical way!! Good job!

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    1. Thank you! I do think we need to be appropriate in our portrayal of evil, too. Perhaps I should have mentioned that. For instance, one can know the main protagonist lived an immoral lifestyle before salvation without actually depicting it. Thanks for commenting!

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  4. Great post! I love Willy and Mr. Knightley - wonderful choices. ;) And I believe these things are so true and important for stories: it's OK for male characters to show emotion (because men do), villains are human too, and heroes aren't perfect.

    I've tried to incorporate those things in my books so far... My hero weeps in Forget Me Not over something he has done, and another male character tears up at one point. My villain in Bleeding Heart is really very self-centered and not likeable, but I do try to show some of the reasons why he ended up as he is. And my heroes...well, they're definitely not perfect! But it's through the heroes' faults that their journeys are that much more inspirational, right? Because we see them struggle, we empathize with them, and we can thus celebrate the victories - both big and small - even more. Really, it all boils down to portraying authentic characters who are multi-faceted and true to life, because even though it's fiction, the most important truths will still resonate through the characters. :)

    ~Amber

    P.S. So glad I found my way here via Pinterest! You all have a great blog. :)

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    Replies
    1. Hi Amber! I've heard of your titles before. It is a pleasure to have you visiting today! Thanks for commenting.

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