Let’s Hear It For The Boys: Male Characters in Historical Fiction

currently playing on my iPod: October by Broken Bells

These days, you’d be hard pressed to find a Historical Fiction with a male lead. Upon browsing the bookstore, you won’t find The Gypsy’s Interesting Husband or Her Majesty’s Really Great Brother. Nope. What’s coming out now is totally Women Who Rock. My own novel falls directly into this category (Yes, that’s me roaring in the background), and I’m glad of it. This is no apology. I simply wish to mention men. Because even when I love love love a female protagonist and, rest assured, know that she needs no man in her fantastically challenging life, I want a man in the story. Not all of you will agree with this. Many of you will. Regardless, as a writer, you need to know what characteristics readers value in a male lead. 

But what does this main male need to be the guy in the story?

I asked a small group of women (Separately, mind you. I am no scientist, but I do see the need for untainted opinions.), “What do you love about your favorite fictional males?” While each admired different types of men — quiet and strong, loud and fun, dangerous and naughty– I discovered several commonalities.

1.  Real but totally not real

This basically means that we want some flaws, but these flaws must fall into two distinct categories. The first is Endearing/Forgivable.  An example could be the male’s issue with jealousy. Not the drunken, violent, high school boyfriend kind that is so not attractive, but the disciplined sort. The kind where the guy gets all quiet and the girl is flattered. The kind where the guy nearly attacks someone — and it’s obvious he would have won — but stops himself and doesn’t get crazy. The other type of flaw is Passionately Horrible. This flaw can range anywhere from mental illnesses to a killer instinct used to protect loved ones. Flaws are key because they create tension. The females want something to fix. They want to love the unlovable.

2. Confidence/Quiet Strength

It’s just got to be there. Whether it results from intelligence, a contented nature, education, power, or physical prowess, confidence is what gets the girl. (Note: This trait may weaken from time to time, but it better not stay gone for long.)

3. Appreciation of the Good

Art, music, acts of kindness, nature. He should take a minute and enjoy it. You can learn a lot about a man when you examine what he truly appreciates.

So that’s it. “What?” You say. “Nothing about looks?”

Nope. The women mentioned appearances, but those comments were all tied so tightly to the above traits that I believe unless the male character is hideously ugly or reprehensibly smelly, he’ll be alright.

What traits do you want your male character to have?

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One Response to Let’s Hear It For The Boys: Male Characters in Historical Fiction

  1. Laura j. Walker says:

    I enjoyed your facts. Keep them comming they are lost insights to our past. I am enjoying your rewrights on your book.

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