Thursday, August 5, 2010

Making The Perfect Man

What makes the perfect man? We start out as little girls swooning over Prince Charming, then we grow up a bit and want someone who isn't a cartoon and has a little more personality. We even want him to have a name. We want him to be more than an idea. We want depth. We even makes lists. Yes men out there, we make lists of what we want in a guy. But how often in life do we really get the chance to create the perfect man? Never. Unless you're a writer.

So as a writer, how do you know when you strike upon that elusive mix of characteristics that make the perfect man? I don't know. I'm working on a re-write and my leading man just won't cooperate. He doesn't know he's the leading man and keeps slipping into the background. It makes me want to reach into the pages and smack him.

This got me thinking about some of my favorite characters. What makes them memorable, and why do I fall for them when all I have are words to connect me to their world? I even asked my hubby who his favorite male love interest in a book was. I got this kind of the panicked blank stare and a, "Um ... do I have one of those?"

It was a priceless moment, and of course I laughed. A lot. But then my question led to a discussion on several books we've read. What makes the characters in these books so yummy? Why do we go back to read about them again and again?

Here is an excerpt (Spoiler Alert)from Catching Fire by the amazing Suzanne Collins. If you haven't read it yet, it's beyond delicious.

Peeta pulls the chain with the gold disk from around his neck. He holds it in the moonlight so I can clearly see the mockinjay. Then his thumb slides along a catch I didn't notice before and the disk pops open. It's not solid, as I had thought, but a locket. And within the locket are photos. On the right side, my mother and Prim, laughing. And on the left, Gale. Actually smiling.

There is nothing in the world that could break me faster at this moment than these three faces. After what I heard this afternoon . . . it is the perfect weapon.

"Your family needs you, Katniss," Peeta says.

My family. My mother. My sister. And my pretend cousin Gale. But Peeta's intention is clear. That Gale really is my family, or will be one day, if I live. That I'll marry him. So Peeta's giving me his life and Gale at the same time. To let me know I shouldn't ever have doubts about it. Everything. That's what Peeta wants me to take from him.

I wait for him to mention the baby, to play to the cameras, but he doesn't. And that's how I know that none of this is part of the Games. That he is telling me the truth about what he feels.

"No one really needs me," he says, and there's no self pity in his voice. It's true his family doesn't need him. They will mourn him, as will a handful of friends. But they will get on. Even Haymitch, with the help of a lot of white liquor, will get on. I realize only one person will be damaged beyond repair if Peeta dies. Me.

"I do," I say. "I need you." He looks upset, takes a deep breath as if to begin a long argument, and that's no good, no good at all, because he'll start going on about Prim and my mother and everything and I'll just get confused. So before he can talk, I stop his lips with a kiss.

Doesn't this just make you love Peeta? What are your requirements for the perfect guy? Or the perfect girl if you happen to be a guy, like my hubby, and are a little uncomfortable with that question? If you could design anyone, what would they be like? Would they have Jacob's abs and Peeta's dedication? Would they be the strong, silent type, or would they whine and complain their way into your hearts like one of my own personal favorites, Eugenides in the King of Attolia by Megan Whallen Turner? (If you haven't read this series, you should close your computer, after you finish my blog, and run to the nearest bookstore. It's that good.)

Here's a short expert.

Once again, spoiler alert.


"Because the king will not quit, Teleus," said Ornon as he joined them. "You must have noticed," he said. "He whines, he complains, he ducks out of the most obvious responsibility. He is vain, petty, and maddening, but he doesn't ever quit." Ornon shrugged. "Ever."

"He may not quit, but he will lose."

"Oh, I wouldn't place my money on it. I've seen him suffer setbacks." Ornon looked at the queen and away. "I have never seen him, in the end, lose. He just persists until he comes out ahead. No match is finished for him until he has won." Ornon shrugged expressively. "He won't quit, and he won't thank you for interfering."


Eugenides didn't respond. He limped slowly over to the his own wooden sword and stooped awkwardly to pick it up. Trailing it on the ground behind him, he limped toward the queen, and the courtyard quieted as he approached and was silent again as he dropped to his knees before her and laid the sword across her lap.

"My Queen," he said.

"My King," she said back.

Only those closet saw him nod his rueful acceptance.

He lifted his hand to brush her cheek softly. As the entire court listened breathlessly, he said, "I want my breakfast."

The queen's lips thinned, and she shook her head as she said, "You are incorrigible."

"Yes," the king agreed, "and I have a headache and I want a bath."

Isn't he loveable? And he is, flaws and all. Now, I just have to go on and create my own perfect man.

Drop a comment on what makes for the perfect man, for you, in a book or movie.


The Stanley's said...

"May the Force be with you" --Yoda
(I'm deep)

applianceemt said...

I don't know about the perfect man (PM), but the Perfect woman (PW) is Emily.

Mary Campbell said...

I think you were reading my blog while I was reading yours - I just saw the comment you left. Thank you for the laundry analogy - that really is profound actually and it works for me. Just enough writing and laundry to keep things going - that's all I need.
Hmmm - the perfect man is hard and everyone has their own tastes. To me a perfect man needs to be manly. I'm not talking neanderthal manly but he needs to be strong. Strong in body and mind and spirit. He is kind. He's definitely not perfect - perfection is boring in a novel and movie. He needs to already be a good person, but a good woman can help him become better. Like Mr. Darcy. He's passionate. He's passionate about his likes and dislikes and his relationships. He has to be his own man and he doesn't let a woman control him, but he does allow himself to be influenced. In stories I like men who are troubled in some way, but they are still strong and good. I'm not into the bad boy unless the bad boy image is a defense for a good heart, but troubled in some way.
Now I've made this really long but probably contradicted myself - but women are contradictory creatures.

Examples of fictional men I like - all of Jane Austen's leading men. The love interest in Kristen Cashore's Fire - Peeta, Gilbert Blythe, All the love interests in Louisa May Alcott's books. There's so many - but maybe you get the idea. Sorry I've been thinking about this a lot since I'm trying to write my own "Perfect Man"

Jonene Ficklin said...

Hm. A perfect man. If he still adores his sweetheart long after he's gotten to know her and her flaws,and dedicates himself to helping her be her best . . . well that is perfect to me.

LeishaMaw said...

Anita, thanks. I could use some force right now.

Blake, Ahhh. Now that is perfect.

Mary, why is creating the PM so difficult? I think mine needs to be more passionate. Thanks for the suggestions. :)

Jonene, yes, that rocks. Now I just have to get past the other stuff, all the learning about the imperfections.

Jenilyn Tolley said...

If it's a romance, I want someone who works with and complements the heroine so that I'm rooting for them to be together. With Eugenides, I adore him, but the idea of being married to him? No, thank you. He's not for me, but I love him together with Irene.

Some of my favorites are Howl in Howl's Moving Castle, the love interest in Summers at Castle Auburn, and Gabriel in Archangel by Sharon Shinn (he was my "Edward" in high school).

Jolene said...

I think it has as much to do with the woman as the man in the story.
I'm in agreement with Jenilyn.

Chersti Nieveen said...

I have to agree that the perfect man in literature is more like Eugenides for me. They feel well-rounded and individualistic -- and they grow as a character!

LeishaMaw said...

Jenilyn, Gen would be a bit much to live with, wouldn't he? But he's so delicious on paper.

Jolene, welcome and yes, they guy and girl to have to mesh. At least she's behaving in my WIP. Sigh.

Chersti, we are in agreement. I just don't think I can write a Gen. I'm not that good. Double sigh.

M. Gray said...

Ah, I love this post! Writing the perfect man IS hard. With my current WIP my protagonist starts out in love with the bad guy who's sexy and I'm quasi in love with myself, and it took me some time to see why she would like his brother. He seemed so dull compared to his brother. But then I found a sense of humor and that helped things a bit.

But great excerpt from CF. Love that book.

Lydia Kang said...

THere are so many PM in stories that I love. I love all the guys in the Austen books. They're so wonderful, slightly flawed, but still perfect for the girl in the book. So I try to do something like that. A personality that shows strength, weaknesses, likes and dislikes (with, of course, a huge like for the female MC).

LeishaMaw said...

M. Gray, isn't it the truth about the good guys seeming boring in comparison? I'm liking the rougish palace guard (not the love interest) more every day, and even though he wouldn't be good for the MC, part of me wants him fall for her. He's just so fun to write.

Lydia, Austen's men always make me swoon. Sigh.

Cherie said...

The perfect man is devoted. The End.
It doesn't matter what else you say about him, if you can convey his devotion to the woman he loves, every woman who reads about him will love him.

LeishaMaw said...

Cherie, ah yes, devotion. You are right. He must be devoted above all else.

You guys rock.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

Ah, I love Peeta. Seriously love him.

It's funny how we write men in our novels who are not perfect. But it's the combination of their flaws and strengths that endear them to us. Who wants the perfect man, really? That would be too much to live up to.

LeishaMaw said...

Tamara, I agree, the perfect man is deliciously flawed. :)


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