When Your Love Interest Becomes A Pussy
Okay writer friends, let's get real here: raise your hand if you or a writer you love has turned a male love interest into a pussy. Come on, be honest.
Oh no! you think. She's SO un-PC. So what. I'm a feminist, but listen, this is the best word to describe what I'm talking about. My husband said I should make my post sound really academic by calling it "The Pussification of the Literary Love Interest" so as not to offend, but that's not as much fun.
Let me be clear (cue Obama voice): I'm not talking about fabulously sensitive boys (re: every one of John Green's males). It's important that YA literature shows boys who wear their hearts on their sleeves and twist and bend our gender constructs ("unique subject positioning," if I want to get real MFA about it). I'm talking about your hunky male lead who was, or could have been, rough around the edges in all the right ways only to succumb to a doe-eyed pushover who is about three seconds away from quoting Shakespearean sonnets when you had INTENDED him to recite the Communist Manifesto at the top of his lungs while, I don't know, spazzing out to Rage Against The Machine. Because that, my friends, is what has just happened to the male love interest in my WIP.
He was supposed to be this:
And somehow, over the course of the novel, he turned into this:
Now, I love'Say Anything, but can we all please just agree that if you're trying to write a character that's leading a revolution, a total badass who probably never bathes and wants to f*%$# shit up, then he shouldn't be hanging outside his girl's house holding a stereo aloft. He should be holding a grenade. Am I right or am I right'
I had fallen, like so many authors before me, into the trap of the too-perfect male who is a composite of all teenage daydreams - the boy who's sweet and sensitive and does cute things like put intricately folded notes in your locker and pine after you and tells you he loves you all the time. That boy is awesome - but he's not always real. I find that a lot of the badass boys of fantasy lit (my WIP) tend to start out as these caustic doesn't-take-any-shit kind of guys who then somehow morph into a total doormat as his relationship with the female protagonist progresses. Of course, I'd rather it happened that way than the REALLY cliche way it usually does, where the supercool girl turns into a pile of sobbing female that needs to be rescued by a (male) knight in shining armor, a KISA, if you will. (Ha! He's a kiss-ah, get it' Just use a Boston accent and you'll be fine).
I'd give examples, but I don't want to be a hater. Just pay attention next time you read and you'll see what I'm talking about. This is the danger of writing in this genre and the only way to avoid it is to recognize the pitfalls in your reading and writing, then go back to your character and figure out who he is. Hone in on WHY he was so edgy and get back to that place. How can you make his emotional growth go hand-in-hand with his unique personality' And consider what's going on with your gal proto. Have you softened your male because you're not going deep enough with her' Maybe you've inadvertently made her too needy or you're secretly afraid of raising stakes and tension by keeping things a little too lovey-dovey.
Basically, go back to the place where you started, find the spark, and keep that fire going all the way through to the end. You'll wind up with a far more complex character that you're readers won't easily forget.
A couple books off the top of my head that manage this well:
Sean Kendrick in The Scorpio Races
Gale in The Hunger Games
Day in Legend'
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