When it comes to fictional love, I’m a lot less picky. I find social interaction in the real world to be a painful and exhausting experience—making the mild interest and flirtation of most people my age seem more like a burden than a form of entertainment—and so I’m very careful about who I engage. The imaginary men in my life, however, are held to much lesser standards than those in the real world, mostly because they’re easy to ditch once you get sick of them.
It’s also because, as I’ve said, love-stories are practically porn, and it’s rarely important who the situation is happening to so long as their pretty and the moment is sexy enough. But I’ve come to find that while I will accept a high-stakes love story between two unintentionally vapid people, it’s not ideal. I have wants, I have needs, and many times the difference between a great romance and a temporary method to get off is the love interest’s qualities. Like having some.
1) A gift of gab.
Some women find the stoic, brooding guy sexy as hell, and therefore I’m not asking for a restriction on that sort of person. But personally, I find nothing more attractive than a guy who has a way with words. Girls don’t want the nice guys, you say? Well, if you consider sarcasm mean then I’d agree.
I like a talker, a guy who can turn-a-phrase without a second thought. His self-expression may not be completely honest, but still a humorous insight into who he really is. For me, a definite requirement of a sexy man is someone who can talk your ear off.
2) An opinion.
We talk about the Mary Sues of the world not having an ounce of perspective, but what about their Prince Charmings? The protagonist often is a neutral lens to better demonstrate the quirks and flaws of the side characters. I can stand my main characters being sort of banal—it’s typical--but when a love interest can’t seem to formulate an opinion on anything, or even talk about something other than how much he’s in love, I find him boring as hell.
I like watching a guy’s facial expressions and seeing a flash of amused judgment as he listens to someone else’s stupidity. I love it when he goes on a rant about the ridiculousness of Insert-Personal-Preference-Here. The perfect guy with a apathetic and neutral outlook on the world will always crumble to the man who is determined, stubborn, and often wrong.
If you want to make a likable character, you make a loyal one.
Even characters who seem to be selfish and criminal, the ones we love because they’re such God awful people, will always have someone who they are loyal to. Calvin to Hobbes, House to Wilson, Bender to Fry, and even Cartman to Clyde Frog.
They don’t have to be loyal to everyone, and those they are loyal to may even be the butt of some of their more childish behaviors. Sometimes that loyalty isn’t even successful, screwing up matters more than if he’d just left it alone.
But the intent is there. The ability to trust him. There’s a lot of romance novels featuring “players” who then find their true love who they want to settle down with—a concept I understand; it says he can get any woman he wants, he just chooses to stay without you that’s how much he loves you. However, it can cross a line to him just being slutty and insecure.
Loyalty, from both parties, is extremely important for me to root for them. Without it, you’ve lost me.
4) A dynamic.
The weirdest moment for me in the Twilight series was when they go off on their honeymoon and go snorkeling. (Oh. Right. Spoiler alert.)
I did like the series. I was the appropriate age group, and all I need is a little bit of romance and supernatural elements and I’m in my best zone-out zone. But I found it to be sorely lacking in the dynamic department.
What do they talk about when all is said and done?
Most love stories lack a real dynamic. Sure, writers try, but often times the need for a “healthy relationship” and a strong and independent woman force the characters to be perfect, the writing trying too hard and not allowing their flaws to bounce off each other. Or the plot line is so tense and so fast, we never get to see them in a casual, every day moment filled with genuine banter, amusing conflict, and real compassion.
The best love interests have a real bond the audience can feel and understand.
5) Drive and passion. (And not just for sex.)
Passionate lovers are great, but I often find myself saying to the men of these books, “Get a life!”
If the only thing he’s passionate about is the girl then I have to say pass. Most male characters in romance stories contain the desirable traits I’m looking for—the willingness to go after what he wants, refusing to give up, the intense way he feels about things—but I would like it to be placed elsewhere too.
Let’s see him actually give a shit about his company, his plans for the future, focus on his music, go off on his fantasy for his future writing career. I want to see him care about something and go for something that’s not the girl. Otherwise, I think we’ve found the reason why he doesn’t talk a lot and they don’t really have a bond. It’s because he’s a vapid, lustful shell.
Which, I mean, if you’re in it just for the sex, then that’s fine. But when you’re looking for your book boyfriend, we have to hold our standards a little higher.