One of the very first books I wrote – maybe actually the very first – got a review that basically said the female character had a nice character arc but that the male character hadn’t grown at all. Obviously. Because he’d been pretty much perfect to begin with.
Which isn’t remotely realistic.
And even though I write fiction, I like my characters to seem like they could exist in the real world, that they could be my neighbors or your neighbors. For me, that’s a big part of what makes fiction enjoyable – when I can relate to the characters enough to feel invested in their story and the outcome. That’s the difference between a good book a can’t-put-it-down read.
I’m generally able to come up with reasonable flaws for my female characters. (Or, at least, I think so.) All I have to do is look in the mirror – real or metaphorical – to get inspiration for flawed female characters. I struggle more, though, coming up with flaws for my male characters. Part of that is a respect issue. I don’t want to take my husband’s flaws, for example, and put them down on the page. (Although, I did write one of my male leads based on my son and the sort of man I thought he would grow up to be, flaws and all.)
In any event, I would love, love, love to get some input from y’all. What sorts of flaws do you see in the men around you that you don’t normally see in fiction?
What are some realistic flaws that you wish you saw more of in contemporary Christian romance? Are there any flaws that men have that are actually attractive? (For example, some might say that being bossy is a flaw while someone else might swoon over that strong alpha male. 😉)
I can’t wait to hear what you think! (Full disclosure. I’m planning a book. I know what’s going on in my heroine’s life and backstory, but the hero’s still a bit of a mystery to me. So anything you say might just find its way into this yet-to-be-named character…)
I know one of dads flaws was he was never wrong, and when he was he would turn it round and say see that’s what I was saying. It drove mum mad.
Another was laughing or not having sympathy for something that happens. Mum use to get attacked by a rooster and would wear boots etc even in summer due to it being so aggressive. The tables turned when dad had to get the eggs and put the chooks in and he got attacked by the rooster and came in fuming. Mum tells how she had a hard time not laughing. (The rooster was eaten for Sunday lunch the following week). I have seen this in other men (and ladies) but the being made fun off even if they think its just a bit of fun can be quite hurtful.
The thing I get annoyed at is men thinking a female can’t do things like use a drill or other electrical tools, or how to change a tire etc.
Heather Gray says
Ha! I have someone in my life who always says they saw something coming. If a friend is having marital trouble, the response is, “Yep. I called that one” or “I sure saw that coming” or something like that. That’s not quite the same as what you said first, but I think it’s in the same family.
Now my problem is trying to figure out if there’s a way to make any of these flaws attractive… ^_^
Love the rooster story, by the way!
With dad he would be saying something like the sky is green and would argue not in a bad way it was green and then when he realised he was wrong would say with a twinkle in his eye I told you the sky was blue. I think while he didn’t really admit he was wrong he would turn it round with humour. while it frustrated mum at times she could see the funny side too.
Dad died when I was 11 and after a stroke he had changed but mum once said to someone else shes just like her father, when something goes wrong rather than stew on it she will find a solution or will just get on with it. (while not to my face it was one of the few compliments I actually heard from mum). (Mum got very self centred as she got older and had a way of making me feel I wasn’t adequate unless I was married cos I wouldn’t be able to pay bills etc and yes she did say that to me when I was her carer).
Maybe the flaw could be the not admitting they are wrong but at the same time they will fix the issue in actions and maybe if its pointed out in a way they my realise what they do and how its frustrating.
Heather Gray says
I love it when people (fictional or otherwise) use humor to handle a situation. Humor does such a good job of diffusing tense situations and conflicts. (Granted, most of the conflicts I handled were between my kids or students…but still. Humor rocks!)
It’s hard to cope when people try to make us feel inadequate. Whether it’s their normal self or a change due to age – it’s just hard. It’s easier to weather those kinds of remarks and comments when we know who we are in Christ, when we put our worth at the foot of the cross and not in anything that we can do or say.
I remember when my son was little, I would tell him to do something, and he would tell me no – but then he would go and do exactly what I’d told him to do. My husband would get so frustrated with him for saying no, and I was more of the “actions speak louder than words” category. Granted, my son was two or three at the time… ;)
Well, as a flawed male, I certainly feel qualified to comment. :-) Something that I see in myself is a fear of being unable to handle any situation I may find myself in. Yes, that’s a fear of failure, but more importantly, it’s a fear of inadequacy. I don’t know of any men who gladly appear to their peers as clumsy or stupid or boorish. Many I know simply don’t go into a situation where that might occur and consider it the better part of valor. I hesitate to use the word ego because it has so many negative connotations. However, I have seen in myself and other men a more fragile sense of self than that of the women I know. It may be part of the way God designed us, with complementary strengths and thus not a failing per se. However, it can still be a source of character weakness where growth comes by accepting help rather than achieving an inner sense of growth.
Something that might help in a general way is to think about faults as being strengths pushed to an extreme. The decisive man fails when he moves on to become domineering. The kind and gentle man fails when he falls into cowardice. The tall dark and handsome man fails when he becomes engrossed in vanity. The skillful man fails when he becomes overconfident and prideful.
If it is easy to come up with positive male characters, push them beyond their limits. As one writer friend says, “Chase him up a tree and throw rocks at him.” :-D
Heather Gray says
Well said, Lincoln!
And I chuckled at the part about not wanting to go into situations unprepared. It reminded me of someone I know (of the male persuasion) who mentally mapped out all the bathrooms whenever he got somewhere. He didn’t feel prepared until he knew where the bathrooms were. It always cracked me up…until I was somewhere with him and found myself in need of his mental mapping. ^_^
I know that’s not quite what you were talking about, but the memory gave me a laugh. :-)
You’ve given me tons to think about, and I appreciate it! (The analytical man can become too detail-focused and forget compassion. The artistically natured man can become so captivated by the big picture that he forgets the details. The loving man can become too possessive. The list goes on.)
Some flaws I see in men in general is that they can’t admit when they’re wrong. Another flaw I’ve seen (and heard about from my female friends) is that they want to “fix” everything, even though they really haven’t listened to what the problem is to start with. They hear one small part and think they know it all already. Another flaw I’ve seen is saying “I need to do such and such” and yet they keep saying it but then don’t do it!! I once told Mom that before I would say “yes” to a marriage proposal I’d have to go through hurricane preparations so I could tell if I could stand him! If I have to tell him all of the preparations to make, or if he just pitches in and uses common sense, will tell me a lot!! If he asks and listens because he’s never been through one is another matter!
Heather Gray says
Hahaha! I hate to say it, but marriage can be a bit like a hurricane sometimes. You have the wind, the rain, and the calm in the middle.
I heard a pastor once say that, in life, you’re either heading into a storm, smack-dab in the middle of one, or just getting out of one.
In marriage, you’re going through all those storms together, so you both experience the ebbs and flows, the wind and rain, the calm in the middle…and sometimes you both even manage to handle it gracefully. ^_^
I agree about the fixing thing. I’ve seen that fairly often. I know there are times when I tell my husband I just want him to listen, not try to fix anything.
Of course, then there are the things I do want him to fix. Like the door to the shed in the backyard. :-)
I wonder – as we sit here and discuss some semi-universal issues that women run into with men – what kind of things a group of men would say are common flaws in women. I shudder to think!
Thank goodness for the grace of God!
Natalya Lakhno says
Hm…my men can’t say no :) always there to help (even we have other plans as a family)
Heather Gray says
Hahahaha! I haven’t personally run into that one…but I can totally seeing that as an attractive fault. He’s kind, generous, caring of others….and can’t say no. I work with a couple of ladies, and I’ve been talking to them a lot lately about dying to self and the model that Christ (and the apostles to a lesser extent) set for the church. We’re (obviously) to love Christ more than we love ourselves, but we’re also to love others in that same Christlike manner. So a godly trait…that might go a little too far sometimes. ^_^
I think I married an unusual man in the fact that I hear many women complain that men just don’t listen. Well, my husband does truly listen. Or women complain about their men not cleaning up after themselves (dirty clothes on the floor, dishes left on the counter, etc) whereas my husband is neat like me. It’s one thing that definitely attracted me to him is his penchant for neatness. There are other things that make him not be a “typical” man, these are just a couple of examples. Now that’s not to say he doesn’t have his flaws, but so do I and we tend to even each other out. That’s the beauty of a Godly marriage when we recognize one persons weakness is the other persons strength. Maybe that comes with many years of marriage & learning to give each other grace.
I think one thing that is unattractive to me in men is an air of arrogance, and acting like he’s better than anyone else. Pride is ugly, no matter how you try to sugar coat it or dress it up. Maybe it’s his way of coping with a low self esteem or his way of overcoming a hurtful past or something (story idea?). I also don’t like a man acting like he’s God’s gift to women. I’m sorry, but that just turns me off quicker than melting butter on a hot biscuit! I have read stories where the hero thinks this way or has women practically falling at his feet, but our heroine is immune to that & ignores him. Even to the point of avoiding him at every turn. Guess what? They ended up together at the end…lol! Those type are fun in fiction :-)
Heather Gray says
It sounds like you’ve got the right idea about marriage – a partnership, a fitting together of the two halves of a whole. ^_^ It’s that one-flesh relationship ordained by God.
And you’re so right! Pride is ugly, regardless of gender, age, or any other factor. Humility is a whole lot more attractive any day of the week!
Alicia Haney says
Hi, yes, some men don’t like to admit that they were wrong.
Heather Gray says
As someone who has occasionally in her life struggled with this same flaw, I have both empathy and a complete lack of patience for this problem. I’m conflicted, I know. ^_^
Sometimes when people can’t admit that they’re wrong, it’s a pride/ego thing. Sometimes, though, it’s because they care too much about what people think of them…and that leads them to entrench themselves in positions because they’re trying to “save face” or not get laughed at. I know there have to be other reasons, too, but those are the two I’ve noticed the most.
Thankfully, God grows and sanctifies us. The more we understand who we are in Christ, the less we care about appearances, being right, looking good in front of others, or any of that other stuff. :-)
A flaw I see in a male in my life is the fact that he won’t take advice or listen to someone else’s experience, he has to do it his way and find out what doesn’t work the hard way. I enjoy characters that have similar struggles to what I have, or what people in my life have, especially when they learn to overcome or grow out of those struggles as it gives me hope for my own struggles.
Another flaw you could give a man is stubbornness. Some men just will not let go of an idea once they get ahold of it no matter whether its a good idea or not.
Heather Gray says
My husband will occasionally comment about our son’s penchant for figuring things out the hard way and not listening to wisdom born from experience. The truth is, he does listen to us and take our advice…just not all the time. ;-) And if I’m being honest, when I was in my early 20s, one of my high school teachers encouraged me to learn from other people’s mistakes and absorb the wisdom of my elders…and I told her I’d rather make my own mistakes and figure things out by myself. Somehow I thought that meant my life would be more authentic…? Instead, it was just harder. ^_^
Stubbornness…sigh. Yeah, that’s a hard one. It’s not always tied to pride, but I think it often is. And pride is unattractive (I think I said this earlier) regardless of the gender of the person exhibiting it.
Mary Preston says
Having to have the last word every time is a most annoying flaw.
Heather Gray says
I just want to point out that as I’m typing this, your comment is the “last word” on this post. ^_^
I wonder what motivates someone to feel compelled to get the last word. Is it a fear of not being heard? Is it pride or arrogance? Is it believing that they’re right and the other person is wrong? Is it insecurity? Hmm. That’s something to ponder.
Merrillee Whren says
Thinking that they know how to do everything without reading the directions. Not naming any names. :)
Debra J Pruss says
You may have a male character with a mental health issue, but does not see he has a problem. A character could be disabled physically or mentally. A character may have previously had an addiction. Maybe the character is not working right now. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.
Amy Perrault says
I would say when the men are wrong but blame someone else.
Sylvain P says
There’s a few & it’s a lot to do with the parents lying to there kids.