One Guy’s Perspective on “Guys” in Fiction

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In a recent blog post, Dawn Metcalf posed a question about what makes good guys in fiction into “great” guys who do more than serve as a mirror for the heroine of the story, but who are strong in their own right.

I thought I’d give it a shot.

A strong “guy” character in fiction is one who is confident in who he is (which doesn’t mean he’s not vulnerable), he has a distinct personality of his own making him interesting in his own right, and he doesn’t become someone else with the introduction of a love interest.  That’s not to say that falling in love (like having children) doesn’t push people to be better versions of themselves for the sake of those new relationships.  It certainly does!  (Or at least it should.)  What it DOES mean is that a strong character (male or female for that matter) is one who doesn’t stop being the person they are – the person the other character fell in love in the first place.

I’ve always believed a healthy relationship is built around two people looking together in the same direction, not two people (or even just one of them) looking only at the other.  For the story to carry on after the romance ensues, strong characters are those who expand the scope of their own interests, even their lives, to include the other without completely trading in their independence for dependence (or even worse, co-dependence).  It’s a delicate balance.

Nevertheless, each of the characters had a life before they met and each needs to continue to have a life after they meet, albeit an expanded one.  After all, where’s the excitement, or the conflict (fictionally speaking), in a relationship where one partner is merely hanging on the heels of the other doing nothing but waiting to be needed?  Without that underlying, ongoing tension which keeps them independent yet together, the romance is over.  Even if the characters themselves don’t appear to be bored with each other, the reader almost certainly will be.


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7 Responses to One Guy’s Perspective on “Guys” in Fiction

  1. another great blog entry by John:) RT @JReaHedrick One Guy’s Perspective on “Guys” in Fiction:

  2. Dawn says:

    Well said! Thanks for adding to the discussion by starting a new one! 🙂

    P.S. Re: “After all, where’s the excitement, or the conflict (fictionally speaking), in a relationship where one partner is merely hanging on the heels of the other doing nothing but waiting to be needed?” Um, I think “Twilight” (Bella & Edward) are an example of this and that’s been perceived as a very successful pairing. <:-/

    • Twilight’s not really my thing so I can’t say what I think about Bella and Edward’s “relationship”, but it still seems to me, at least in real life, that when one partner stops being authentic and becomes merely an extension of the other, the relationship can’t last. So perhaps that’s not what they’ve got going??? Or maybe you were just being snarky. 😉 Thanks!

  3. Anna says:

    Hmm, this has given me a lot to think about. I’m currently working on a story with two narrators, one male and one female. They eventually develop romantic feelings for one another, but your post made me realize that I need to work more on making them whole people on their own. This can be difficult to establish when the story is about their developing relationship, but you’re right; they have to be interesting people on their own.

  4. Linda Yezak says:

    I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it explained better. A strong man is confident and comfortable with who he is, and isn’t intimidated by a strong woman. Great thoughts!

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