Leonato: "Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband."
Beatrice: "Not till God make man of some other metal than earth."
-Much Ado About Nothing
It seems that romance is as much a virus in the online world as it is in reality. In my everyday life people have been making matches of themselves at an alarming rate. I foresee many weddings in the next year or two... *feels dazed*... And the plague, as I said, has not limited itself to reality. It's crept onto the blogs beginning with Mirriam and quickly followed by Jenny with their respective posts on romance and How To Write It. I was not intending to follow suit. Not at all. But then I was looking through my copy of the screenplay of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and came across Beatrice's vow and then I thought of something I've been meaning to write about and since it slightly aligns with the topic touched upon by Jenny and Mirriam, I'm giving it to you.
I bring up the topic of your Hero.
If there is one error Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell made (perhaps) it is that their heroes are so....heroic. Let me rephrase that. Their heroes don't really have any obvious flaws. (Their female leads do....funny.) We women love Mr. Darcy and Mr. Knightly and Mr. Thornton and Roger Hamley. The only problems with those men are that two are misunderstood, one is a little critical, and one is a little blind. I love these fictional fellows as much as the next girl, but the transition from paper-to-reality is detrimental.
As humans we are all hopelessly flawed without Christ. There is no way a one of us would say that we don't have any faults.
Why, then, do we write characters who can boast near-perfection?
People say that fiction is a way to meet people where they are, take them along a fictional journey, and bring them out at the other end changed in some way. But how can you relate to a character and a journey that has nothing to do with your own life? Sure, a perfect man would be amazing, but I'm not a perfect woman so even if there were perfect men I wouldn't be the best help-meet to one of them.
One thing I've noticed is that Male Leads written by male authors always have plenty of faults...
Capt. Jack Aubrey
Eustace Clarence Scrubb
All of these men are flawed, and yet we identify with them. Why is it that women are the only ones who will write perfect men into fiction? It's strange. If a man portrayed his fictional men as archangels, the feminists would throw back their heads and howl, "UNFAIR!" but we women will create our own Mr. Darcy's and Mr. Knightley's and defy anyone who would point out their unrealistic points. The men aren't the ones crazy about Pride and Prejudice. Obviously they don't find perfect men realistic and honest enough to bother reading about. We don't write perfect women characters, do we? No. Our women all have bad tempers, or resentful hearts, or scabby pasts, or hidden fears--things that make them real. It's because we're easy on ourselves and aren't trying to boast perfection because we know we don't measure up. Then why do we hold men to a different standard?
Though this post is somewhat rambling, it does have a main point: I'd caution all writers to make sure that your male "hero" in your story has his own flaws. You don't want a one-dimensional character. You don't want a perfect man that will drive away other men from reading the book.
Look to the men in your life. The men around you. Look to your brothers and fathers and pastors and neighbors. Your uncles and the guy down the street. Goodness--look to Taylor the Latte Boy if you must, but let's cast aside the Perfect-Man syndrome.
It's not going to help women to idealize Mr. Darcy's perfections, only to find they can't be satisfied with a single real man. It's an age-old problem that even Shakespeare addressed when he wrote Beatrice's refusal of marriage:
"Not till God make man of some other metal than earth."
Till she reaches Heaven, perhaps? Ah--but then it will be too late. Better to conform our ideas of fictional and earth-men to the mold we have here and now. Men made in the image of God, flawed as we all are, reaching upward to Christ a little more each day, denying their flesh and seeking Him.
After all, despite what Jane Austen might say, that's the true definition of heroism.