When my good friend/creative sounding board buddy/ texted me last night this question to blog about, I was so excited! Excited because I had a lot of things to say about this- I love to write about men and male characters. But….after much soul searching and re-reading my work late last night, I think I have to admit…I’m actually not sure I write them in a very realistic manner. But maybe that’s okay—depending on what you are into reading.
I completely agree with Donna, if you can’t write a good character, your story is going to sink like a stone and you are going to go down with it! But there are a lot of great stories out there without very realistic portrayals of men and women. Let’s just take one example, Jane Eyre. Sure, she’s plain and not pretty, but it never really gets her down.(Really, Jane, really?) And how about Mr. Rochester? He falls in love with Jane mostly because of her character!! We could go on and on using the novels of Jane Austen alone. So there are lots of really wonderful stories out there which do not portray men and women as they really are, but only amplifications of some of their best or worst qualities…frivolous, scheming, noble, brave, etc.
Of course, these examples are admittedly dated. Modern fiction strives to make characters well rounded and realistic. Not too modern, but a good example of this would be Scarlet O’Hara. Here was a girl who had so many aspects to her character she exemplified both male and female qualities, as the situation warranted.
But lets talk about me(Yes, I was waiting for this part, too!) When I write a male character I begin by forming an idea in my head of who he would be like and then I take that image and reshape it to fit what I need. Hence, the pictures above. At the moment, I am working on a couple of stories in which the general idea of two of the men above have been used to form the basis of a male character. I won’t tell you which ones, just in case you ever read my stuff it would be fun if you could guess! But is that realistic? Not really, because I don’t know any of them personally so all I would ever see are the characters they play. Which I guess means that my characters of men are really characters based on characters.
At this point I get to say proudly that I have had some readers comment that my female characters are very realistic and relatable. The only thing I have to say on that is -one of the best qualities women have is their ability to communicate with each other. As a general rule, we like to talk to each other. When we share our triumphs and our heartaches we expose little bits of our souls into the light. For that I am very grateful. This allows me as a writer to begin to learn how to share the innumerable facets of our own personal characters, be they bad, good or in-between.
As a general rule, I like my heroes flawed, but brave and my heroines brave and smart, but also kind and caring. Realistic, maybe…maybe not, but then reality can be a little overwhelming at times!!!