It’s about more than looks: what makes a good lead male character?

I have a confession to make.

I’m happily married, have been for many years now, but I have a crush on another man. Two in fact.

Before you accuse me of being disloyal, hear me out. The truth is: they’re fictional men.

Sad? Actually, no. Not according to public opinion anyway. Pick a random woman and pose the following question: Edward or Jacob? Mr Grey? Chances are she’ll know exactly who you’re referring to!

The best romantic suspense offers not only a strong, appealing lead female character, it also gives the reader the sort of lead male that will remain in your mind long after you finish the book.

It’s about so much more than dashing good looks…

Nora Roberts gets it right, consistently. Simon from her 2010 romantic suspense novel, The Search, is one of my favourites: dark, handsome, good with his hands (he’s a carpenter people, get your mind out of the gutter!), he can be grumpy at times and not always the best communicator. He’s appealing because you believe he could actually be a living, breathing male, except possibly in the body of say, oh, Colin Farrell…

It’s the art of blending enough of the real world to make the character believable and attainable, with just a hint of the fantasy world to make them impossible to resist.

But back to my love life.

It’s going to sound extremely egotistical of me, but I have to admit to a crush on my lead male character in Radiant, Leo. Being the first time I’d written a novel, it came as something of a surprise to me, but now I’m wondering if this is normal for other authors?

You see, in spending hours daydreaming about the love affair between him and Lily, he got under my skin. Tall, tanned, piercing blue eyes, a little scruffy, well built and incredibly distracting on the back of a motorbike. But that’s just his looks. It was his idiosyncrasies that got me in the end.

The way he lets others talk, so he can listen. His relaxed humour and his easy going nature, which when you scratch the surface, cleverly covers a pretty serious guy who can be all business when he needs to be. His quiet sense of calm that extends to even his most dangerous moments. His ability to be in control. The enjoyment of seeing him let a little of this control slip when it comes to Lily…

Why limit yourself to just one leading man? It is fiction after all…

My other crush came as a complete surprise. Tristan. He’s the bad boy of Radiant and I honestly never set out to make him quite so likeable, he kind of charmed his way into taking over way more of the storyline than I had originally intended. Bastard.

The enjoyable thing about fiction is that unlike in the real world, there is no repercussions for enjoying a love affair with a bad boy. Just as well, when it comes to Tristan…

In my mind, Tristan reminds me of Robbie Williams. He’s cheeky, charming, confident to the point of being cocky and isn’t afraid to go after what he wants. And he knows what to do with himself when he gets what he wants. Ahem.

Keeping it real

See? They’ve gotten under my skin. Not just for their outward appearance, but for their individual personalities. And just like in real life where you find yourself charmed by the little things, it’s the same in fiction.

Sure, your characters need to be strong and up to the challenge your plot is setting out for them, but don’t forget it’s often the human qualities we fall in love with. There is nothing more boring than a perfect character.

The pleasure of the fall

It wasn’t until later in the process of writing my romantic suspense novel that I came to realise that instead of being concerned about having a crush on my lead male characters, I should actually be worried if I wasn’t head over heels with them.

After all, if as the writer, I’m not in love with them, how could I even begin to expect my readers to fall for them?

Who are some of the most memorable lead male characters from the books you’ve read? I’d love to know!

2 Replies to “It’s about more than looks: what makes a good lead male character?”

  1. Oh Hunny. I don’t suppose you’ve read Tithe by Holly black?
    She’s the author of many good books and of the Spider Wick Chronicle’s.
    However, ive fallen pretty bad for her dark and mysterious character named Roiben. (Robin) To Kaye’s friends.

    Roiben is a strong faerie knight of the unseele court but while he is sensible and strong ‘mentally’ he loathes his previous queen for sending him away.

    His emotions are very deep but also very complex. I love that.

    And with the added bonus’s of long white hair and silver eye’s how could i resist?

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