It’s no secret that women are often not written very realistically. And it’s easy to tell when the girl main character was created as nothing more than a fantasy trophy.
BUT YOU KNOW WHAT? Women characters are not exclusive to this. More prevalent and obvious, YES. But exclusive, no. Haven’t you ever noticed how every dude in a romance story has AN OUTRAGEOUS combination of “desirable” traits? It’s like the same formula over and over again.
Don’t believe me? Watch yourself a romance or pick up a sappy book and use this rubric as you go. Each trait earns ten points, the more points you get the more ridiculously written that character is.
+10 He is good looking. Obviously, this is a good place to start. Granted there is going to be some kind of attraction between characters when there’s a romance. But I’m specifically talking about a character who would be considered classically and universally good looking. Great hair. Nice smile. Chiseled chin. Tall. Modelesque rippling abs and pectorals. I mean, if the body type is even being mentioned, he might as well have “heaving bosoms”.
+10 He is smart. This character always offers witty dialogue and banter. He’s funny. He does well in school or inexplicably gets accepted to ivy league colleges. Maybe this character has a job that would need to require some serious intelligence. When he talks to the love interest he probably “surprises her” by mentioning authors/books that he likes or other smart and high cultured things.
+10 He is rich OR is in a high position of power somehow. Okay, this character either has a lot of money himself or comes from a rich family. This character could also be a boss or some kind of leader. Royalty is always popular for some reason.
+10 He is charming. This character is well liked. Popular. Has a lot of friends. Or fans. Usually, there are multiple girl characters who are obsessed with him. He is most likely confident in himself. Anyone who happens to not like him is probably jealous of him.
+10 He is athletic. Lol. For some reason mentioning the muscles isn’t enough. This character shows ‘em off somehow. His adventuring and swordplay are effortless. He plays on the school sports team. He is probably mentioned to be “the best” at some type of physical skill.
+10 He is musically or artistically talented somehow. This is a character that sits down and plays the guitar or sings for the leading lady. Maybe he draws or paints her a picture. Maybe he immaculately decorates this outdoor area for her without any help. He might have a career as an artist or maybe his incredible talent is mentioned in passing and then never contributes anything else to the plot.
+10 He is passionate. This is an easy ten points. This is a character who is borderline berserk-o bats he is so in love. This character easily professes his love. He’s more than a little stalkerish, he follows her around everywhere even if she says no. His moods are all over the freaking place. He is sometimes yelling and punching antagonists. He oozes with jealousy, over-protection, kissing her roughly, having like zero control over his feelings. This character is SO unbridled that if she weren’t into him, she would take out a restraining order pretty quick.
+10 He is self-sacrificing. Similar to the passion trait but definitely deserves ten points on its own. This is a character who is willing to throw away anything and everything in his life for the love interest. He might give up his job, his family, his opportunities, his dreams. Maybe he gives up who he is- like he’s dangerous in some way, but gives it up for her. Sometimes he just straight up dies for her. The sacrificing thing is one huge wet dream for a woman.
+10 He’s a hero. I don’t care what context it is. If this guy rescues her from getting physically hurt in any way, shape or form. That is an automatic ten points for me.
+10 Despite having all of these characteristics he goes for an awkward underdog MC for no real reason. Yes, I’m a cynic. But COME ON. Real talk here. Why is this have-it-all-dude going to go for this rinky-dink no-one-has-ever-wanted-me-like-this chick? Right off the bat, he is in deep with her, but we never really get why. I guess because she’s attractive or something? You tell me.
And yes, before you call me out, I tried this rubric out with the romantic interest in my own novel and YES, I am in no way clean of this either. He scored fifty points… which is more than murkily cliché but still better than Noah from The Kissing Booth who scores an eye-rolling NINETY POINTS.
So what is the takeaway? The take away is this: As a writer, don’t be afraid to make your main characters less than perfect. We will still like them. IN FACT, we will like them MORE if we relate to their weaknesses. Is it sexy to envision a man sprawled across a worn couch, binging Netflix with Dorito dust all over his shirt? Not really. Do I want him to find love? HECK YES SO MUCH SO INVESTED. But why though? BECAUSE THAT’S MEEEEEEE! We’re the sticky gross humans looking for happiness in all the wrong places! YOUR AUDIENCE. Reach out! Connect! Don’t just give us one real person to cheer on. Give us two! Make me believe that both of them are better off together, not that one person is already swimming in the sweet life and his/her life can’t be upgraded by anyone.
In honor of our third year anniversary coming up, I thought I’d share our “cute meet”.
So… I went on a date with this guy… not my husband. We got locked inside The Training Table and spent 4 hours making a zombie apocalypse plan. You know, just your normal typical American date… wait, right? It was super fun but also super mutually platonic. In fact, this guy (his name is Scott) felt like he was on a date with his friend Dan the entire night because we were so alike. Later, he went up to said Dan and was like…
SCOTT: “You need to go out with this girl… she is exactly like you… but a girl.”
DAN: “No!!! NO MORE SET UPS!”
Dan had been over saturated with being set up by the time that I came along and was completely over it. Fortunately, Scott went about it in a clever way. He invited me to a party that Dan was having at his house. Sneaky, sneaky!
It was a President’s Day party, which was super unique and I didn’t have anything else going on because school was off for the day. So my good friend Alison and I decided to go together. And the weird part was that I had this conversation with Ali on the way up.
ME: “Maybe you’ll meet your future husband at this party!”
ALI: “Yeah right, that’ll probably happen to you.”
ME: “I seriously doubt it.”
I actually wasn’t even going to stay very late at the party because I had a date the next morning. (I went on SO MANY dates back then.)
We get there. We park on this dark little street in Salt Lake and then walk up to this huge fancy house… (Which I still think is Scott’s house because he’s the one who invited me. I’m like, “Wow! I didn’t know Scott was loaded!”) Anyway, we rang the doorbell… and this suuuuuuuper cute brunette guy answers the door.
I’m immediately BLOWN AWAY. He has the most perfect brown eyes, which was like my thing that I was really into. And this amazing smile. Honestly, I could have just dropped dead on the porch because DANG! This doorman is 10/10. I even leaned over to Ali and whispered, “I REALLY hope this is the right party if that guy’s going to be here!”
I’m probing my friends all night like: Who is that guy that answered the door? Does anyone know that guy that answered the door? ‘Kay but, that guy that answered the door is super-hot! Who is he?
I was totally creeping on him but he was trying to host in his big ol’ house, so I didn’t get a chance to talk to him for a while. A little bit later on, I’m hanging out with Ali and company… and then all of the sudden I overhear Door-Answering-Guy saying this to someone else:
DAN: “I tried to take a girl to the Ted Bundy house for a date once… it did not go over well.”
I FREAKED out! And not because he kind of sounded like a serial killer… but because this dude is not only really attractive, he’s also adventurous, funny and loves creepy stuff like me! At this point I’m like… okay… I need to infiltrate this conversation. So I wedge myself in between him and the guy and gave him my ring size… Just kidding, it was probably something more like:
ME: “Hey, I couldn’t help overhearing. But I also love breaking into abandoned houses and such.”
Right in that moment our spooky little hearts clicked. And then we kept discovering more weird stuff that we both liked. “What?! I like watching awful movies too!” “Omg! I love pranking people.” “No, Halloween is MY favorite holiday!” “You do that? I DO THAT! I didn’t know anyone else did that!” We might as well have had horse blinders on because we totally tuned out anyone else around us.
We could not stop talking. One in the morning… Two in the morning… Three in the morning. I sent Ali a text on the sly:
ME: “Thank you so much for being such a good friend and staying with me! I’m really digging this guy right now!”
When my mom called wondering where I had died at this ungodly hour, I sent her a less gracious message:
ME: “Mom just CHILL OUT! I think I found my eternal companion okay? Don’t make me look lame in front of him!”
When I finally was able to be dragged away and into the car outside I remember saying,
ME: “Was that my soul mate? That was so easy! I don’t know why I was so worried about meeting him!”
Scott never even had to introduce us. As soon as we met the dirty deed was done. Things continued to be just as easy from there and he proposed to me two and a half months after the party.
Life is unpredictable. You never know when you could meet the love of your life or see a dream come true. And if you still don’t feel hopeful then listen to this lovely uplifting song by Annie! Let her voice convince you that life is worth living and why.