Friday, October 2, 2015

Writing Awesome Male Characters: What You're Doing Wrong


A while ago, I wrote a post about strong female characters and how most writers somehow manage to mess them up. I’m pretty sure it was my most popular post, despite the fact that there happen to be about 3 million other articles out there talking about how female characters are so misused in literature.

Now, I’m not about to say that I’m not happy about the popularity of this post, but I did notice something a bit disturbing.

People get all fired up about female characters and how sexualized and one-dimensional they have become. It’s a war on women! It must stop!

But, apparently, nobody ever gives a thought to male characters and how sexualized or stereotyped they have become.

It would seem that some writing council has gotten together and decided that the ideal male character has chiseled arms, a broad chest, and is unafraid of anything. And, to add some diversity, you can have your skinny nerd dudes and the your dark-haired flirts with smoldering eyes.

Now, I recognize that this council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.

Look, I have two brothers and am a bit of a tomboy. I surf (or used to, before Lyme happened), meaning that I’ve spent a lot of time with guys, since there are more dude surfers than dudette surfers. So believe me when I tell you that many fictional male characters are not only stereotypical, but inaccurate. Not to mention annoying. Here are 8 points you may be getting wrong when  it comes to writing male characters:
1. The sarcastic jerk. Apparently, if you're a dude who's had a really tough life, you’re allowed to act like a complete jerk. Every other sentence that comes out of your mouth needs to be sarcastic…and don’t forget to throw in the hurtful comments. But people are still going to love you because you’ve just been through some tough times and need some love. This is a great character if you’re looking to slap together a male protagonist and not have to do any work. However, under any other circumstance, this character is just undeveloped and mean. Yes, guys are sarcastic. No, sarcasm doesn’t have to pair with jerkiness. And no, not all guys deal with tough situations by being a sass-mouth. Oddly enough, all guys are different and deal with their problems in different ways. Yeah. Who knew?

2. The sexualized dude. Often more than one will appear in the same book. Their muscles ripple when they move, they have intense, dark eyes. Their touch burns, they are star athletes, move with an easy grace, and “flash” rare smiles. Either they fixate on a single girl (the heroine), or they flirt with every woman in sight. If you are looking for examples, take Jace from Mortal Instruments, Edward and Jacob from Twilight, Four from Divergent, Gale and Finnick and possibly Peeta. It’s disgusting. A man can be nice-looking, but once you describe his physical appearance in detail more than three times, it gets gross and detracts from his personality (supposing he even has one). We make such a big deal about sexualizing women characters, but male characters are put through the same thing. Stop it.

3. The gruff (often old) man. This one really isn’t a horrible cliché, as it often has a purpose. However, grumpy guys often end up “thawing” by the end of the book, sometimes for no apparent reason. Be careful with this. If your  man is going to soften, it’s going to take a long time, he’s going to need a reason, and it’s going to be a struggle. Treat it as such.
 
4. The jock. I have three things to say: 1) Not all athletes are insensitive jerks. 2) Not all jocks get bad grades. 3) There are other positions on a football team besides quarterback. So before you make your male character a big-shot quarterback who flunks out of all of his classes, think again. There are more to athletic dudes than big muscles, over-confidence, and bad grades. I think J.K. Rowling's Victor Krum is a great example of non-stereotypical athletic dude.

5. The nerd. It would seem that nerdy guys are always either really awkward or really perverted. I know more than my fair share of nerd dudes, and they really aren’t like that at all. Being a “nerd” doesn’t make a person uncool or perverse. It just makes them a unique person who probably got better grades than everyone else in high school. Nerds are capable of carrying on very interesting conversations. Also, just because a guy is mega-intelligent and has niche interests doesn’t mean he’s bad at sports or skinny as a twig. Male nerd characters have endless possibilities, so please don’t make him trip over himself or look at trash on the internet. Once again, this is gross and wrong. Stop.

6. The character who is clearly the author’s crush. This gets really, really uncomfortable. Not only is the male character absolute perfection physically, but he’s sweet and sensitive and always ready to cuddle the female character. He does no wrong. And it becomes painfully obvious that the author has created her idea of the ideal man and is now fangirling over him extremely hard. So, ladies, if you have created a male character than you adore, be careful. Chances are, you’re idolizing him. Some female readers will end up idolizing him, too (which is creepy, by the way), and other female and male readers will end up growing disgusted and moving on. So stop obsessing over your perfect guy and create a real person who isn't annoyingly flawless. Thank you. 

7. The guy who is about as emotional as a rock. He doesn’t feel, he doesn’t smile or laugh. He just blows things up…and shoots things…and stabs other things. This may come as a surprise, but guys are not incapable of feelings and emotions and complex thoughts. Sure, some dudes are more hard-nosed than others so it’s okay to have a character that’s a bit rough and tumble. But creating a blow ‘em up character doesn’t mean you have to throw personality out the window. If you want examples of good ‘tough guys,’ think about Jason Bourne, Rooster Cogburn, Minho from the Maze Runner, or pretty much any guy from The Adarnan Chronicles by Jason K. Lewis. Oh, and let’s not forget about Christian Bale’s Batman. He’s awesome. Why? Because he’s Batman!

8. The one with unrealistic thought-processes. Awhile ago I was reading a book where a male character spent half a page describing how cute his girlfriend's pinkie toe was. Um. What? The majority of guys don't think about that kind of stuff, nor do the majority of girls. Not only did he sound feminine, but like a fringe class of feminine. I've also read a guy character who was being chased by zombies and wondering if his beautiful girlfriend with the soft brown hair was missing him. Once again, no. If a guy is running from zombies, he's running from zombies, not waxing poetic about his girlfriend's hair. Be careful with this. If you are a girl telling a story from a guy's POV, make sure you aren't leaking your girliness into his character. If you are a guy telling a story from a guy's POV, make sure you aren't making him notice or think about unrealistic things for descriptive purposes, such as knowing the name of a type of high heel or wondering about his girlfriend while he's fleeing for his life. Of course, if you are trying to make your character quirky, then go for it. Just don't do it on accident.

And there you have it. The top 8 points that writers often get wrong when writing male characters. What do you think? Agree or disagree? Don’t forget to comment below with your pet peeves when it comes to male characters!

Also, on a awkwardly inserted side note, the awesome Alyssa Hollingsworth gave me the opportunity to write a guest post for The Great Noveling Adventure, a website she contributes to. If you're looking to procrastinate some more, hop on over and read about the 5 different ways to take notes for your writing projects

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87 comments:

  1. Finally had to sign up for your emails because I didn't want to miss any new posts! ;)

    Once again, you've done a good job explaining things, and making me think some more! (Beautiful timing, since I'm working on a couple new male MC's, really the first that I've done as MC's.)

    I grew up with a bunch of boys and some of them are the KINGS of sarcasm, but they aren't dark or gloomy or jerks. They're sarcastic, and it gets annoying to sensitive me, but if I'm really distressed they'll shut up and hug me. Sarcasm isn't necessarily a bad thing, or a problem. Some people just ARE. It can also be used as a shield, or self-defense. I've seen both, and the second one makes me want to cry. Then, there are some people who use sarcasm as a way to be subtly mean. I really want to write a sarcastic villain. I feel like that would be a lot of fun. >:D

    Also, my best friend has the potential to be a number two - which is why I try so hard to avoid writing that one in particular, I'm really sensitive to it. I used to hang out with some girls who were trying to use my status as his best friend/little sister/pet kitten to get at him. It didn't work, because he wasn't interested. He still isn't interested, and he's only gotten more handsome as he's grown up. He could be quite the devastating heart-breaker if he thought about it. Thankfully, he hasn't.

    One of my older brothers is the skinny, nerdy dude - literally. He's really tall, really skinny, wears glasses, reads obsessively, fixes computers with a bit of genius-like skill... He's had several girls try to flirt with him, but he thinks girls are slightly disturbing (including me...) and would much rather not have anything to do with them (except me...)

    The last one - come on, seriously? I didn't know people would write things like that! IF you MUST have your character thinking about his lady while he's running away from impending doom, at least have him think something a bit deeper than her hair. Eyes tell a lot, if you must have anything about her appearance. I personally would write about the last thing she said to him, IF he had to be thinking about her while running away from aforementioned doom.

    One rule I try to follow when writing a character, any character, is "Why?" Why are they doing this? Why do they act this way? Why did he say that? Why? And then I try to explain it in the story. Sometimes I do a miserable job of it, but that's what editing is for.

    ^..^ <--- Adorable, curious, talkative kitten, also known as me. :P

    ~Annie

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    1. Yay! You must be my 80th subscriber. =) High five!
      A sarcastic villain would be amazing. If you ever do one, let me know.
      I loved hearing about your nerdy, glasses-wearing brother! He sounds awesome. I have never actually met a nerd that fits the physical stereotype. That must be so funny. =)
      I love your rule of asking "why?" every time you write a character. I do this, too, often for writing description as well. It's been so helpful.

      (*<*)
      ( V )
      " " <---- sarcastic, over-analytical, "I just want to sleep" owl, also known as me. =)

      Thanks for the awesome comment, Annie! I always look forward to yours.

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  2. Thank you so so so much for writing this! I'm struggling a bit to write a male character in my story and he is surrounded by a lot of strange females at the moment. But this is very helpful.
    What do you think of the male characters in the Lorien Legacies Series? Like John, Nine (my favorite), Five, Eight, Mark and Adam? Or what about Chubs and Liam from The Darkest Minds Series (even though they are built like the stereotype)? Have you ever read the Irish End Games by Susan Kiernan-Lewis? They are pretty good too, and I think all the males in their are pretty well-developed. Just curious what your opinions are on them...

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    1. Happy to hear this helped you out a bit. Best of luck with your guy character!
      I have actually never read the Lorien Legacies. I've heard mixed reviews, so I never ended up getting around to reading it. I guess I'll have to check it out. I'll let you know what I think. =) And, once again, ashamed to say I haven't read Irish End Games, either. Sorry I can't be of much help on that one. I took a year-long break from YA novels, so there are some odd gaps in my 'books I've read' list. =D

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  3. My husband is my unbiased opinion on this issue. I say, "here's a male character, how did I do?" and he let's me know if the guy is acting cheesy or if he's any way realistic. ;)

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    1. Lol! That is so great. Your husband sounds very cool....Not to mention helpful!

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  4. Laughed particularly hard at number six. One could almost hear the sound of your eyes rolling between the words. Great article. Keep them coming!

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    1. Yep. Eye-rolling and sarcasm is what I do here. =) I'm glad you enjoy it. I will definitely keep them coming. New post every Friday. Thanks for the comment!

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  5. Great post!

    I resonated with a lot of what you said. Nothing bothers me more than woman who write unrealistic male characters. I too have a lot of male friends and have worked with many. There's always a reason for the things that men/boys do and their reasons are generally logical and a hell of a lot less complicated than what females tend to think about. I laughed out loud with your running from a zombie comment because it's so damn true.

    Keep writing and being awesome ;-)

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    1. Lol! YES. Hit the nail on the head, Alina. Sometimes I'll be talking to another girl and just sit there and think, "I do NOT understand how your brain works." Which is why most of my main characters are guys. They just make more sense to me. =)
      Thanks for the comment, Alina! You keep being awesome, too. =)

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    2. I remember thinking something similar when Hermione gives her explanation of Cho to Harry and Ron. Sometimes girls are very strange...

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    3. Well, it is fantasy ��

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  6. All very true! I would really like to see some more male protagonists in YA. Other than Harry Potter or Thomas from The Maze Runner, I can't remember the last time I really read a strong male lead! I guess part of it has to do with the fact that a lot of YA authors are girls. However, I'm reading Red Rising right now by Pierce Brown, which has a male MC, and I'm enjoying it! I'm really trying to find books written from a guy's POV because the MC in my current novel is a guy, and I want to get the thought process right! Has anyone read any good novels with a guy lead?

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    1. Hmmm. Good novels with guy leads. The Classics: The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Adam Douglas, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander (geared toward tweens, but still great characterization). The more modern ones: Wool by Hugh Howey (technically a novella, but still amazing), Embassy by S. Alex Martin. I've been told that Artemis Fowl is good, though I've never read it. =)

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    2. Artemis Fowl is the best, I'm actually re-reading the series currently. I really love Artemis's characterization- he's not at all a stereotypical strong handsome male lead; on the contrary, he's small, young, and way more intellectual than physical. The book are more intended for kids, but I would definitely recommend.

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    3. Percy Jackson (the first 5) are great MG/YA male MC. Toward the end of the series, he's about 17 so he's a good model. The second PJ pentalogy has mixed POV between 4-5 different characters, with the genders split just about evenly. Highly recommend, as Percy is a great, funny character

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  7. An excellent post, Hannah! It's true that excess and cringeworthiness can happen both in female- and male-character territory. Yes, many characters are carbon-copies of one another. Yes, there are recurring "features", both physical and as regards personality that have become ubiquitous in YA lit. Yes, it's disappointing, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so :)

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    1. Thanks, Ramona! It sure is disappointing, but the fact that people recognize it's a problems is definitely a start. =)

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  8. Great post, Hannah! I totally agree and am happy to say that none of my guy characters fall into your no-no categories :)

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    1. Yay! Good for you, Celora. Keep up the awesome writing!

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  9. Hannah, I really like how witty your post is! You had me laughing and thinking all at the same time. I especially like point #5 about the nerd. I've known plenty of guy nerds, and none of them fit the stereotype! My brother, for example, knows nearly every history-fact under the sun, and he likes working out, especially running. For characters, I think it's important to pair traits up instead of sticking to stereotypes (such a horrible word!). Thanks for the post!

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    1. Thank you, Azelyn! That is my goal. Plus, I'm naturally sarcastic, so I can't really turn it off, just channel it. =) You are completely correct. Pairing traits is the key. Real people like your brother (who sounds really cool, by the way) are capable of having several different interests at one time. So should characters. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. Thank you, Hannah!!! I think I"m guilty of the gruff older dude and the nerd with some social cluelessness (Liam in his own fantasy world), but I have to agree with you on all points. Guys are regular people going through a lot of similar things that girls are going through at similar ages. They generally don't smolder much, unless they are trying to be male models, and then, that's part of the act that they are asked to play. (My girls took modeling classes - the options for "performance" were smolder, disdain, boredom, or semi-happy. And, I didn't allow them to go about smoldering, but some of the guys in their class tried that and then laughed about it the whole time they were off stage because they were just as geeky and uncomfortable about it as anyone else would be . . . so, now you know why all the models look disdainful or bored on stage)
    I've had great friendships with guys (especially in high school) and my husband (hey, he's the guy that I know best of all) and none of them were/are stereotypes in any way.

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    1. For the record, I think Liam rocks. He had so many other quirks and interesting parts about him that he didn't come across as a stereotypical nerd. =)
      I cracked up reading about your daughters modeling classes. I've always wondered why models make the faces they do. Now I know. =) Thanks for the comment, Tyrean! I'm glad you enjoyed my post.

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  11. Yes, yes, yes! I absolutely love this as a guideline for correcting male character clichés. As a female author, I had trouble writing men at first. The handsome guys were always brooding jerks and incurable playboys; the goofy and charming guy was like a straight gay-best-friend. Then, I somehow started writing my male characters exactly like the female characters. It was a mess.

    I was fortunate to have my spouse sit me down and talk to me about how much he hated my male characters when he read the rough draft of the Dome Trilogy in 2003. I started considering my personal misconceptions about men, thought about the characters not as "man" and "woman" but as individual characters.

    Fantastic article, Hannah! Thank you for this great writing reference for authors looking to break free of stereotyped male characterizations.

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    1. Wow. How cool that you have somebody who will help you out with your guy characters! And how cool that you were willing to rethink the way you viewed your characters. Go you!

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  12. Nice post. It's important to remember that guys are first and foremost people, and they happen to be male. I work construction, so I'm around men a lot. They're quirky and interesting (okay, at least some of them), just like women.

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    1. Bingo! All characters should be created as people first, then male or female. It helps ward off accidental stereotyping. =)

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  13. This was really, really good! Only recently I've gone to writing a book with five guys as the main characters, so I've been checking to make sure my guys don't come out stereotypical. I was pretty sure they didn't (I have three brothers and several "adopted" (my brothers' best friends who basically are now part of the family) brothers) and I was so glad to see none of my Mornelly brothers fell into any of these categories. Though it was a good warning not to have intense feelings for one of your main guy characters- which has happened with one of my characters but I see him as the ultimate big brother character. ;)

    Thanks for writing! I really enjoyed this! THANKS FOR SAYING STOP WITH THE GROSS MUSCLE YUCKY STUFF! I hate that. I'm fine with a guy who's well built but that ain't everything. Give me a guy with brains any day over a guy who is obsessed with his figure. ;)

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    1. Haha! I'll take a character with brains over vanity too, Emily. =) Thanks for the nice comment. It's good to hear about a writer who is making an effort to keep her male characters realistic and un-sexualized. =)

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  14. There is nothing creepy about idolizing a character that is actually worth idolizing for once, thank you very much ^ ^; Personally, I can't help finding refreshing and enlightening how some characters may be living examples to follow, with always the right atttitude and the rights words at the right moment.

    There is so much more to learn from them compared to average walking disappointments. Cultivating their mediocrity may make the audience more comfortable for obvious reasons, but it is superior characters that actually help readers become better persons, by showing the way in a simple and immersive fashion.

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    1. "Worth idolizing" is the key phrase. What I was talking about above was shallow, sexualized male characters that women go gaga over....That is creepy. Looking up to and being inspired by a solid, decent character is not.

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    2. Oh ! Sorry for misunderstanding ^ ^; Yeah, superficial over-sexualization basically reduces what should be a "person" into an object of desire, which is definitely very creepy (perhaps even more so for male characters due to cultural reasons). Didn't came across many such examples until now, so a bit slow on the uptake.

      Apologies for the unpleasant attitude I had there, and a good day to you !

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    3. Please don't worry about it! My posts are often very sarcastic, so I'm not one to judge other people's attitudes. =D Happy writing! And keep being your awesome self. =)

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    4. Thank you very much ! Same to you ^ ^

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  15. Can we also add to the list the guy who appears to have no reason to exist other than to pant after the female lead? No hobbies, no pets, no favourite food, no inexplicable fear of terrifying murderous arachnids that are all of half an inch across, or strange penchant for collecting bus tickets...

    Or is it just that - as you so rightly remark - someone has decided it's OK to write male characters who are sex objects rather than people? One notices that the female lead obsesses over the guy's looks, or how she gets all hot and bothered as soon as he comes within ten yards of her, but never seems to wonder whether he likes the same books or music as she does.

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    1. Great points! Every character needs a purpose, and no, being a romantic interest doesn't count. Thanks for the comment!

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  16. Oh dear. While I wholeheartedly agree with all of these (especially the over-sexualization) I seem to have created #6. Help!

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  17. I got to the part where you said the quarterback is not the only position on the football team and I smiled and applauded you. Thank you for saying that. I very strongly agree with all of these, and I am so glad somebody has put this out there. :)

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  18. This is an awesome post!
    I'm actually emo, so I am super disgusted by these stereotypes. Most of the guys society calls 'attractive' are complete jerks especially when you see these guys pop up in real life. The one exception being my cousin who went through his mean streak early before leveling out into awesome. He does Parkour instead of a bunch of stupid stereotypical workouts, so it's pretty kewl.
    I actually do know someone who fits the perfect 'nerd' stereotype to the extreme. He wore a suit, tie, and more than casual shoes in ninety degree weather.
    But even though these guys seem to fit into the stereotypes my cousin loves creepypasta, dangerous insects and isn't even close to being a quarterback (cause archery, knives, and hunting are a LOT cooler). And my nerd friend is also in a very healthy relationship with his girlfriend.
    In the end, it's not how we're like other people, but rather how we're different, that make a person and the same holds true for characters.

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    1. So cool! You are my first emo commenter (as far as I know). *high five* I love reading your description of the guys you know. They all sound very cool and diverse. I liked your ending point: It's how we're different that shapes us as people. So true, and a very good think to keep in mind when writing! Thanks for the comment.

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  19. I love all of this so much. Especially all the stuff about hunky, brooding guys who only exist to be the main character's boyfriend. I've complained about this to my mom so many times. I must say, the only place I would disagree with your analysis has to be Finnick, because I think Suzanne Collins was really trying to make him one of those stereotypical playboys so that later, as he began to develop deep and heartbreaking character, you would almost be surprised by it. I know I was. I started out hating Finnick, but now he's my favorite and must be protected at all costs. I also noticed that as soon as he was past his "you need to be as creeped out by this guy as Katniss is" stage, she basically stopped describing him that way. All you heard about Finnick once he became a deeper character was things about his personality, or his relationship with Annie. If he had stayed the same as he was in his first appearance, though, I would totally agree with you.

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    1. I'm so glad you brought that up about Finnick. I was thinking the same thing, but I didn't have room to go into an in-depth analysis and just hoped that somebody would bring it up in the comments. So thank you. =) Your are spot on. If she had left Finnick as he was in the beginning, he would have been a generic, sexualized dude. But she later developed him into far more that that, which was awesome. I agree that Finnick was actually a pretty good male character.

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  20. "We make such a big deal about sexualizing women characters, but male characters are put through the same thing."

    Everything about this post is SO TRUE!! I have four brothers, and a lot of guy cousins, so in a way I'm more used to being around guys than girls. Because of this, I'm quite familiar with the complexities of guys' personalities and emotions – something many girls (and female authors) somehow overlook, perceiving guys as shallow, emotionless, and two-dimensional. This IRKS me.

    Even more, I'm irked by the double standard here. Women demand to be respected, and make a big deal about sexualized female characters... but then then, they turn around and create equally sexualized male characters, without realizing it!

    Anyway, this post expresses my own thoughts so well. I'm keeping the link bookmarked. And by the way, I love your blog in general. I just discovered it while googling "young adult cliches that need to stop." And now I've subscribed. ^_^ So, good job at your SEO! Hehe!

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    1. Brilliant comment, Brianna! It is definitely a double standard and needs to be changed. Guys have just as much personality as girls and deserve just as much respect.
      It's good to hear that my SEO is solid. =) Thank you!

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    2. :) I must borrow some of your SEO powers! Haha! ^_^

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  21. This post is accurate. Accurate post is accurate.
    He-he.
    I'm right in the middle of my NaNoWrimo project and all these stereotypes made me feel better about my male MC.
    Reading this post I kept thinking about every Disney Channel movie I've watched ever...and how all the guys are totally Stereotyped. It's pretty pathetic.
    Often women characters look weak in novels, but it's weird to me that we female readers hardly ever think of the male characters being one-dimensional and inaccurate. Pretty selfish of us.
    Anyway, good post! I really like your blog, it's super helpful, and often pretty funny. XD
    ~Jess

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    1. Oh gosh. Do not speak to me of Disney Channel movies. XD So stereotyped.
      Glad you enjoyed my post, Jess!

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  22. I have a problem with women writers who write males who are wildly out of character. Once I read a story in which Dean Winchester (Supernatural) is sitting at an open air cafe waiting for his brother Sam. Dean spots a woman he likes. No surprise there. Dean is a ladies man. What was really OOC for me was when the writer had Dean admiring the cut of the women's clothes and wondering where she bought them from. Straight males don't do that. He would have checked out her face, her body, not her clothes. I can't imagine a Jack Reacher or Dean Winchester type doing that. Whenever I see that I know the writer can't handle writing a male character so she throws anything out there hoping it will stick.

    About the only male character I can imagine who would notice fashion is James Bond, particularly if the female is wearing something that Bond clearly knows is counterfeit, and in the appropriate setting, like the French Rivera. He'd know she was up to something and would note it in passing, not go on and on about it page after page. Some of those romance novels are the worst.

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    1. Oopsie, didn't mean to delete that! :)

      Hannah! I loved your perspective on this post. Any post that makes us look deeper into our writing technique when it comes to fleshing out characters is so helpful - and you have a great take on it.

      The many more dimensional we can make our male and female characters will be to the degree that we offer a character that is truly unique to the world - one that will be memorable and leave a lasting impression on readers. I am very challenged in this as I write.

      It's FAR too easy to flop back into writing the "same-ole" mold of male lead characters -I know I still sometimes fall into it and have to stop myself. For whatever reason these stereotypes do still sell or wouldn't still be in so many, many, many books - e.g)strong, moody, sarcastic - however - I believe we limit ourselves ENTIRELY if we sell out in this area from truly offering something to the world that will be as memorable and even "movie-worthy" as those Jack Sparrows, Harry Potters, George Bailey's and Forrest Gump-like UNIQUE characters... this is the kind of quality character types I want to write about :)

      Thank you for your passion in helping others see this as well! I enjoyed the read. Blessings!

      xx Jeanine

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    2. All brilliant points, Jeanine. It's so easy to slip into stereotyping our characters, but making an effort not to do that can make all of the difference. Because you realize this, I'm sure you'll be successful in creating the kind of quality characters you just mentioned. Thanks for the sweet comment! Happy writing!

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  24. I found this article on Pinterest, and I'm glad I did! My current WIP has two main characters, one of whom is a fifteen-year-old male. Needless to say, he's the harder of the two MCs to write. (Ironically, he's made me cry more than my girl MC has.) I wish I'd read this article before I wrote my first novel, Trust and Deception. I think there I was guilty of #6. My MC was a 34-year-old male FBI agent with one of my all-time favorite guy names. Not a great start. Needless to say, I didn't give him enough flaws and very much look forward to redeeming his story (and hopefully deepening his character) in a sometime sequel.

    Thanks so much for a great article! :)

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    1. #6 is a very easy one to slip into, so don't feel too bad. =) Glad this article helped! I'm sure you'll be able to make him super developed and epic in the sequel. =)
      And best of the luck with your 15 year old character! Those guys can be hard to write, but worth it. Funny that he makes you cry more than your girl MC. So does mine. =) Happy writing!

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  25. This very much reminds me of a post I wrote recently on the Jessica Jones series. While the show was awesome and had great female characters, it's portrayal of men was abysmal. I'm glad that I'm not the only one that's realized male characters can fall into the same kind of generilization that female characters are known for. Excellent post.

    Here's the Jessica Jones post I mentioned if anyone is interested:

    https://kylenewbridge.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/the-reverse-sexism-of-jessica-jones/

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    1. I just read your post and left a comment. All great points. We need to stop smashing guy characters to make the females look good. It's getting disturbing. Thank you for the comment! I'm glad to find a fellow writer who notices and talks about the same things that I do. =)

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  26. Love this! There are a few popular authors I read because their stories keep me turning the page, but their characters are forgettable (and all tend to sound the same). Those are the books I don't keep. The ones where the characters shine through the plot are the ones I do, and, on top of that, I remember their names long after I've read the book. The problem I'm having with the book I'm reading now is that the over-sexualized male character gets really hard every time he's even around the female character. Frankly, it's annoying, and not very attractive.

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    1. Exactly. A good book needs a brilliant story-line and genuine characters. Anything less and it will be a forgettable read. A good way to write characters that aren't genuine is to objectify them. =)

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  27. Hi, this was both helpful and funny. I find in a lot of books that they do all of these, especially the intense eyes and rippling muscles. It`s very annoying. With some guys, yes, they will be like this. But, as you mentioned, clearly the author is totally crushing on this guy by the way they write him. And the "Emotionless Guy." I love this one! They never show any expression whatsoever. If you want this as a self-defense thing, then sure, but my gosh, writers, stop. That`s not very realistic. And then, as one of the points here, the guy who thinks about his girlfriend or whatever...when he`s running away from something. What I try to do is say, "Okay, would I be thinking about a guy in this situation?" The obvious answer is no. Obviously I wouldn`t do this when my character is running from zombies...LOL! It`s hilarious sometimes how writers think. Also annoying.
    Some non-writers will say to me, "Why are your stories all about girls? Why can`t you write about guys?" It`s funny, because this is kinda true. I find it easier to write heroines who are mini mes-sarcastic, an animal-lover, reader, artist, musician...and so on. I`m working on writing in a guy`s POV. Anyway, your post was very entertaining as well as helpful. Loved it! It gave me quite the laugh.

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  28. So helpful!! I am currently writing a novel from a guys point of view, and I SO want him to be original! Thank you!! By the way(*in my best Captain America voice*), I understood that [Avengers] reference!

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    1. I'm so glad to hear that! If you like Captain America, you are clearly on the right track. =)

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    2. Yep! I caught that too... ;-)

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  29. Great article! I just started writing for fun and I've been struggling with creating an authentic male character. This post certainly helps. Thanks!

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  30. This is a great post! I do disagree about Peeta being under the Sexualized Dude category, but I would put him in the Character with No Flaws section. Anyway, I've been really trying to create original characters, and I will definitely keep all of your points in mind:D
    -Maddie

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  31. Yikes. Reminds me of Sarah J. Maas's male characters...no wonder I couldn't get through those books...

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  32. Thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! I too have two brothers, and I HATE how guys are overly simplified so often. This is a great list. Here, let me give some examples from each stereotype that show that it doesn't have to be as simple as that.

    1. Ed and Al from Fullmetal Alchemist. Both has a rough past, neither is a mean, sarcastic jerk, in fact, Al is very sweet.

    2. Every good-looking guy character who has a brain? Captain America is actually a good example. He is supposed to be the pinnacle of human perfection, but he's also a person.

    3. Brom from the Inheritance Cycle (Eragon) He is gruff, but for a reason, and you don't really see him soften so much, but you do come to understand him.

    4. Yeah, Krum is a great example.

    5. The Avengers moves' Bruce Banner. While the comic books often portray him very much as the typical nerd, this guy isn't. He's actually pretty broad and sturdy-looking, and isn't really awkward.

    6. *pukes* There are so many people who are great but flawed. Come on, it isn't that hard!

    7. Lie Ren from RWBY. He doesn't show much emotion, but, um, he doesn't /show/ much emotion. And while he's obviously a very calm person, it is also obvious that there is plenty going on beneath the surface. He just has a quiet nature and a rather Zen attitude.

    8. Another one where if you fit it at all, you fit it completely. Just make them real humans, please?

    Guys aren't some other species or subhuman. They're just as complicated as girls, but in different ways. (Sometimes. Sometimes they are complicated in pretty much exactly the same ways.) You can't complain about a lack of characterization and personality in girls if you don't give anything more to guys.

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    1. Great comments, Elisabeth! Ed and Al are great examples of good male characters. Their relationship with each other works to give them unique personality traits.
      I liked your other examples, too. I've never seen RWBY, by Lie Ren seems like a neat character.

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  33. I have had a lot of issues with books because of the males you have perfectly described. I think the only type of male character I like on this list is the gruff old man. I actually quite like that character, on occasion. My favorite gruff old man character is Halt from the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flannegan. He's sarcastic and has a great sense of humor. He didn't "thaw" over the course of the book; he was always like that. He really cares about his friends. He is the calm in the eye of the storm. I'm not sure you really care, but anyways.... thank you for writing this! You are my favorite blogger. Just sayin'.

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    1. Lol! I totally care. I've never read the Ranger's Apprentice, but I've always wondered if it was any good. Now I know. I'll have to make time to read it. Thanks for the epic comment! Proud to be your favorite blogger. =)

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  34. Hi Hannah,

    Just discovered your blog and I love it! Helpful post about Writing Male Characters: What You're Doing Wrong. Unfortunately, there are several YA authors who use these cliche male characters (over and over) and readers eat them up.Ugh. Not me.

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  35. I just realized how little of YA books I actually read/have read. But the points you made aren't limited to YA books, either. I enjoyed them very much. I work with a bunch of guys, I have multiple brothers (blood related and "adopted" by choice)... Yeah, guys are people. All of them are different. Make the character count and be believable, and everything else will fall into line.

    I had to laugh about the "fangirling" comment... and then thought "wait, am I doing this?!" My guys in stories have been fairly distinct from story to story, but I like sarcasm, intelligence, the ability to physically do what they need to do, and kindness. I am now inordinately worried about making my guys TOO UNDERSTANDING of their girl sisters/friends/significant others...

    *wishing I had an epic marvel line to end with. But I don't*

    Good post!

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  36. I got that Avengers reference!

    Great post and very helpful. Thanks!

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    1. Yay for noticing the reference! *fist bump* I'm glad you found the post helpful!

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  37. This is pretty amazing. I'm working on a graphic novel, so I have to focus on personalities vice appearance to make the story interesting. Which I guess is counterintuitive because it’s a comic.

    I'll admit, I do have that one fairly physically flawless character, but he's still a personality. He’s a violinist prodigy who was forced to grow up too quickly. He’s one of the most responsible characters in the novel while being among the youngest of the main characters. He struggles with depression because he has no time to himself and he, even though he's a prodigy, can’t find a decent paying position because he’s too much of a flight risk (his eldest brother always finds a reason to uproot their lives after a few months). He’s seen as wise for his age, but he feels he’s in no position to give out advice, no matter how many people ask. I feel like there’s a lot more to explore, but it’ll come as the story progresses ^^

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    1. This sounds like a very cool story! I like the humaneness of your character: smart, stuck in a hard position, working hard, brilliant but insecure. Very awesome! I've never written a graphic novel, but it seems like it takes a lot of hard work. Go you!

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  38. I am so excited and inspired after reading this post. I have this one male character who is basically the reason I started writing, because I liked him so much I had to do something. I purposefully made someone else the main character so my favorite guy character wouldn't be too "author's-boyfriend," but I'm afraid he might be an exact mix of sarcastic jerk and emotional as a rock and I'm trying to round him out and give him more characteristics that I would not have personally picked so he can organically be his own person, but it's a stubborn process. Thanks for this post, it's got my wheels turning in the right direction.

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    1. I'm excited to hear that this pushed you in the right direction. Keep on writing. I'm sure you can get your male character into shape. Best of luck!

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  39. Haha! I was eternally grateful for your female stereotype post, and now it is complete. It's great to hear you say that nerds are not always awkward and skinny. I myself am chubby and really friendly... but that is another stereotype... oh no! This does, in fact, help male writers. Sometimes we like to stereotype certain kinds of guys we have beef with, or characters based on mentors of ours. These posts that point out stereotypes will always give your followers a good kick in the shorts if they are willing to hear it.

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    1. Lol! Thank you for the comment, Johnny. Put a huge smile on my face. =) I don't think you're a stereotype at all. Maybe a chubby and friendly nerd at first glance, but way more than that once one gets to know you. ;-D

      I like your point about writers often stereotyping characters based off of people they don't like. That happens all the time, and often they aren't even very subtle about it. =D

      I'm so glad you liked both this post and my female characters post! Keep being awesome!

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  40. Someone above already commented on Finnick, but I just wanted to add that he's actually a subversion of the Sexualized Dude, because his playboy persona was a front for the media.

    I actually think Collins does pretty well on all her male characters. None of them really fit into the trope imo. Gale is broody and handsome with plenty of female admirers, but his physical attractiveness is mentioned like, twice, and not in a romanticized fashion. It doesn't ever factor into whether the female MC loves him or not. Likewise with Peeta: Katniss grows to love him for his personality (I don't think she even describes him as attractive). He does spend most of the book fixated on the heroine (though he also mentions noticing other girls), but he also has his own wants and motivations that are separate from her.

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  41. May I add one more? Maybe this happens more in movies than in books, but I hate the clueless husband. You know, busy at the office, wife cheating with the mailman, kids out of control, and he never catches on. The door mat, I guess.

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    1. Ah. Yes, that one bothers me, too. The husband/father who is just too busy and always conveniently absent. Good point!

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  42. I love this post! Please let's chat done more - I'm Lucy V from www.bang2write.com and my followers LOVE articles like this about diversity in characterisation. Would love a guest post from you sometime about male characters which, you're right, are just as stereotypical. According to feedspot B2W is the top UK screenwriting blog and ranked 9th in the world so you would get loads of eyes on it. If you're interested please email ASAP on bang2write@gmail.com. Keep up the excellent work!

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  43. Ha ha! Someone finally said it! Thank you!!!

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