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.