The perfect guy is boring!
I ranted recently about female characters, now it’s time for a go at heroes. Why are they suddenly always perfect? Especially in YA I see heroes with perfect abs, control of their tempers and hormones, money, understanding of their emotions, smell good, and get good grades! The perfect boy to bring home to mom. Where is the growth?
Yes, the heroine is the focus of the story, but, um, he can grow too. And even if he doesn’t, does he need to be perfect? Can’t he suck at something? Math, cooking, one of his pinkie fingers is smaller then the other?
And, yes, I can feel all the YA writers ready for the defense of “they wrote the story for teenagers,” but I’d bet 50% of all YA books are bought by adults. Maybe I should actually try to find if there is any kind of survey on this. Teenagers deserve well-written books, too, with characters that are complex and grow through the story.
Give your characters a fatal flaw it; makes them interesting and gives the reader something to root for. As an adult its hard to love perfect men. My hubby is near perfect, but the way that man loads the dishwasher almost makes me want to take over doing the dishes. Almost.
you know i can see the appeal for a “perfect” character. sometimes life is just so yucky you want something perfect. BUT as a reader i do want a bit more meat to my characters, something that makes you keep reading… like your book! 🙂
I’m blushing, you’re so sweet Heather- I hope I have written interesting characters. I do try and go through and make sure they have flaws, a couple of my MC’s flaws will need to come out more as the series continues, so far they don;t have much if anything wrong with them, but I’ll fix that.
I want to read novels with NOT perfect people, please. That doesn’t mean I don’t want an HEA or that only bad things happen to them just because they aren’t beautiful with gorgeous flowing hair and 6-pack abs. Bad things, complex things, happen to the good, the bad, AND the ugly. That’s life. Gimme some obstacles for the flawed characters to overcome!
Yes! I agree thanks Patti!
And what is the deal with abs?! They are an obsession with women, like boobs are for men. Let’s just get over the whole ab thing, please.
Totally agree. Not many people like a perfect character…yuck! I think one of the points of literature is to see how a character grows and changes. They might not end up perfect at the end either (in fact, I prefer they not), but at least you see the growth. It doesn’t even have to be positive growth. I think it’s interesting to read about someone good who devolves. I just taught MacBeth and one of the reasons it’s so good is that MacBeth starts out the play as a decent guy, a hero even. Then he turns power hungry and goes mad. It’s a great story!
I like abs- but yes it’s very over done and really it take a huge amount of time to create abs and maintain them do you really want to be with someone who spends that much time in the gym?? And eats that little?? I’m more impressed by what a person can do then how ripped they are- but I do enjoy looking 🙂
Yes, watch a character grow and change is part of the joy of reading. Following the character on that journey. In ‘I Saw the Devil’ a cop starts out as a good kind person but while hunting down the man who killed his wife he becomes a monster.
Besides…it’s really hard to get a six pack. I mean…I have one. It’s just buried under all this insulation 😛
Perfect characters come out because they’re perfectly easy to write. At least that’s my opinion. I have that problem when I write fantasy, but not so much when I write horror. When you’re writing about the ugly side of life, it’s easier to bring out the ugliness in your characters.
Oh and I tend to believe people put parts of themselves into their characters. That’s what I do at any rate – I give them a small part of myself, one trait good bad or ugly, and in my mind their “life” flows from that bit of reality. That’s all well and good for an author to do…unless they aren’t very self aware. It can be unpleasant to confront and acknowledge the ugly parts of yourself – like a bad temper, racist thinking, anxiety, or any number of nasty things. Our Egos would like to make us think that we are perfect and unchanging (or conversely that we’re ugly or nasty – either way has the same end, namely the preservation of the static illusion of the self) and that tendency makes it hard to take a good long look in the mirror. It can also make our characters suck 😛
Good plan to insulate your six-pack. I too have insulation to protect my flat tummy 🙂
Very true, it is much easier to write perfect people, and to create flawed characters you have to delve into the darker parts of yourself. Maybe that’s why authors write simple character because they are not willing or able to bleed and hurt for their books.
Wow that sounds so artsy fartsy
I have ranted to friends about Edward from Twilight — the perfect guy except for the blood habit and fangs. I wondered if this was going to set up unrealistic expectations for young ladies. Shouldn’t he have at least had foot odor or something? I agree with you; I like more complex characters. (In fact, to give Meyer credit, The Host had more growth for the male lead.) I’m pretty sure my characters are nicely flawed, just like me.
Yes, Edward is so boring! There’s no growth no fun no oh no can they make this work? No don;t take off your shoes you didn’t wash your feet!
Most of the male models you see posing with ripped abs got them to show up by dehydrating themselves for a full day before the photo shoot. It also takes a certain genetics.
That being said, I think too many writers are failing to write books. Instead, they are trying to anticipate the next “thing,” that which will turn their “bestseller” into a movie. The success of Twilight exacerbated the problem, showing that the book doesn’t have to be well-written to be marketable.
I liken it to the early days of music videos, just after they took off. For a while, there were tons of songs by artists that looked good, but had neither talent nor substance. Then, all at once, everyone noticed that they sucked. I think that reckoning is coming to fiction very soon. Only those who bothered to learn to write actual stories with interesting characters will survive.
Either that, or I’ll just stop writing.
So true Bill, those guys are dehydrated and starve themselves to be that defined. And I will now be blaming genetic for my tummy- thanks for the reminder 🙂
I know I had a moment of worry when I began writing, would this be ‘in’ or would someone else have written something similar before I got mine out? But thankfully I took a deep breath, and wrote what was in my head and heart.
I believe interesting stories and characters will survive, at least I hope so.