Following on from my recent article How to avoid Female Stereotypes in your novel, we obviously need to discuss some of the male stereotypes.
These stereotypes creep into books and movies all too often and so I feel it’s my duty to point them out (mainly because they annoy me and well, that’s a good enough reason for me to write this article) 🙂
As before, these are my personal opinions on what can ruin an otherwise good book for me. You might not agree with some or even all of these which is totally fine. So enjoy your own opinion and please don’t feel the need to flame me if you don’t agree.
The Emotionally-Devoid Hero
Now, this is not a complete deal breaker for me. It won’t automatically turn me away from a book that has an emotionally devoid hero. I can handle some aloof dude who seems to have left his emotions in his other pants.
However, there seems to be this very “general” concept that women are emotional and men are stoic and logical.
We will skip right over that piece of garbage and stress that men have emotions and no I don’t just mean the supposed 3 – anger, jealousy and horny.
There are more. Now there is some truth that men generally keep their emotions inside whereas women tend to express their emotions externally. This does not mean men don’t HAVE emotions.
Society has done a great job of crapping on men for showing emotions even when a situation expects it. Society has also done a great job of making some emotions seem “feminine” and so portraying them as “negative and weak.”
So, feel free to have your hero a little emotionally detached, but since we are probably in his head either as the narrator or as the character himself (depending on which person you write in) we still need to see those emotions.
You know, since readers see into the characters’ heads. (Unless of course your hero is an unfeeling robot, an android with an emotion chip that’s switched off, a sociopath or some weird alien who is incapable of having feelings).
Don’t shy away from showing emotions in your male characters, it makes them human and truthfully, guys reading books need to see themselves represented in this way.
And DON’T make all, non-aggressive emotions be viewed as a weakness, it’s old and we’re bored of that now.
The Nerdy Genius
Again, I am okay with nerdy genius, however that is a very limited role and if you technically define your character as the smart, nerdy guy and everything about him revolves around those two aspects – well that’s kinda one dimensional and boring.
Firstly, not all nerds are at the same level of genius. If you decide your character is a maths genius, that doesn’t mean he will automatically know all about science, history, computers etc. So let’s not have the need to give our nerdy character every conceivable “Nerd” characteristic.
Also, does your nerdy character HAVE to be tutoring some popular girl that he desperately fancies? That honestly has been done to death.
And while we’re at it, let’s lose the “Nerdy guy has no friends”. That may sometimes be true, but nerds and geeks actually have tight cliques because they share fascinations and hobbies and it’s so much easier to find other nerds and geeks.
Another pitfall to avoid is making out that the cute nerdy guy is “such a nice guy” while simultaneously creating his character to be the exact opposite.
Whiny, needy guys don’t make for great “nice guys” as they are usually written with mannerisms and personalities that scream manipulative and entitled.
The stoner is usually shown as being pretty stupid and often lazy. Usually unemployed with long lanky hair and grunge outfit. Sitting on his couch in a haze of smoke and barely aware of anything.
As with the above, there are varying levels of stoners and many are extremely intelligent and work very hard – they just like to toke up afterward to relax.
What is usually noticeable with a stoner character, is that he has been created with little knowledge of actual stoners.
Most of the stories I’ve read with characters who smoke weed, seem to derive their information from propaganda ads or movies.
As with anything in your novel, do some research and nope, I’m not stating you should get high, you don’t need to participate in order to research.
We seem to be a little obsessed with our male characters being expert martial artists/fighters. Whether the character is a poor farmer or a prince, they all seem to have some knack for round-house kicks.
Thankfully I have seen this reduce over the last few years, but it was always interesting how no matter what I read, some hero would have these impressive skills.
Not a problem if that is explained – is your character ex-Special Ops? Then I’d expect him to have awesome fighting abilities and heightened reflexes.
Now, is your character a medieval knight? Then no, he wouldn’t have martial art abilities. (Though he would have other abilities, like the ability to accurately hit people in the head with a morning star).
Remember, not every guy can fight. Not every guy can fight well. Not every guy has been in a fight and it is not inbuilt into their DNA to be martial artists or even know how to throw a real punch.
On that vein, I’ve known plenty of guys who could throw a punch, but had never taken one and so were completely dazed when receiving their first.
If you REALLY want him to be an expert martial artist/fighter, make sure it works for your story, the character and the time period.
Make sure it’s explained so it doesn’t just come across like he has this kick-ass ability for no other reason than he has a penis.
Also, certain fighting styles just don’t work. All those flashy kicks actually aren’t worth a damn in most fights. Fights aren’t meant to be poetic dance-like forms, they are bloody and mostly everyone wants it to end quickly (with themselves as the victor).
The Commitment Shy
This is usually the guy written into rom-coms. Some bachelor who doesn’t want to be shackled in a relationship. He parties with the lads no matter how old he gets and doesn’t like the idea of being tied down (unless it’s done for sex).
Throw in a needy, marriage-obsessed love interest and…well…you have my least favourite movies/books of all times.
This is another one of these typical “guy-types” that is done to death and extremely one dimensional.
Can we stop seeing relationships are the “end of all things”? Most people worth their salt won’t want to give any attention to some commitment shy arsehole.
The Abusive Boyfriend (Borderline Stalker/Rapist)
Following the 50 Shades of Grey “phenomenon” there has been a rise in the idea that abusive, stalkerish and even rapey male characters should be viewed as viable boyfriends in fiction.
Now if your character is MEANT to be this dysfunctional asshole, then fine. But if he’s meant to be the positive protagonist and meant to have a connection/romantic relationship with another character, then there’s something wrong.
Dominance and abusive behaviours are not sexy. And before anyone tells me they are writing BDSM then people do a better job researching it so we don’t end up with more “50 Shades” nonsense.
Healthy BDSM relationships are not like that. However, I say “Healthy” because there are a ton of very unhealthy ones that are downright abusive and criminal! These are not things you want to put into your book and call it romance.
Things like consent are an important part of a relationship and there should not be coercion.
The same goes for creepy mentally and emotionally abusive behaviour such as extreme jealousy, possessiveness, controlling… these are trigger signs for domestic violence.
So make sure your characters are in healthy (even if they are unhappy) relationships (unless you are specifically writing unhealthy ones, for a reason).
As I’ve mentioned before, you need to create good, multilayered characters that can enrich your story.
Not one dimensional, single-focus, single-aspect characters that can be defined in one word (eg: The Jock, The Nerd, The Player….). Leave that to the bad movies.
So, have I missed any? I’m sure I have. If so, leave them in the comments below.