1) Bisexual males. Putting this type of character at the top of my list comes from my own bias of being bisexual, but whatever. It’s impossible to find bisexual male characters, especially in speculative fiction. They’re mostly limited to romance novels. I’m not too big a fan of romance novels though, especially m/m romance. Most of it is written by women, but the problem isn’t that it’s written by women. The problem is that it becomes the female fantasy of what they imagine/want m/m romance to be, which ends up being unrealistic and a constant cycle of Super Hunk Male Love Interest and Shy Reluctant Male Love Interest as the main characters.
I just want some bisexual male characters in speculative fiction. And I really don’t want them to be a villain because bisexual characters, no matter their gender, tend to be cunning trickster villains. Please stop with that. Portraying the majority of bisexual characters as deceitful, cunning, tricky, and untrustworthy villains perpetuates stereotypes and misconceptions.
2) Male characters with insecurities relating to something other than a skill. Every time I come across male characters who are able to admit they’re insecure about something, their concerns are always about not being good enough with a sword or not being able to throw a football far enough.
Let your male characters be worried about their hair, their weight, their voice, their body hair, their scars, their ability to talk to people, their intelligence, their future, how others perceive them, their friends, their pets, or whether their friends still like them.
3) First person POV male protagonists who aren’t 90% angst. I’ve read too many Holden Caulfields and too many self-insert male characters who are used as a way for the male author to complain about his youth and some girl.
4) Intelligent male characters who don’t fall into the only two intelligent male characters that seem to exist in fiction:
- Jerk geniuses.
- Eccentric skinny boys with glasses who get overly excited and who are rarely taken seriously (if they’re a major character they often end up as a villain while minor characters stay the same to give comedic effect). They’re most likely into typical nerd stuff (d&d, comic books, star trek, etc.).
5) Male characters who are more like the male characters from Freaks and Geeks. Honestly, of all the books I’ve read and of all the shows and movies I’ve seen, books, movies, and shows that take place in the seventies or eighties seem to have the most realistic male characters no matter when those stories were actually written. They’re well rounded, they change, they have flaws, they’re different from one another, and they don’t all look like supermodels. They tend to capture teenage relationships better than more recent YA does.
6) Male characters, particularly in pre-industrial fantasy, who want to get married, and for reasons unrelated to politics or to the pretty princess they saw that one time for five minutes. Most of the male characters (in fantasy) I come across who end up in a marriage are indifferent about it, do it because they want to produce an heir, do it because their parents arranged it, or elope with someone they’ve only known for a couple of months or even a couple of weeks.
Bring in some male characters who look forward to marriage and love, even before they get in a relationship and even when they they’re not crushing on anyone.
7) I feel like, especially in sci-fi, that when that typical new team member is introduced (often in a series), they’re always hated at first by both the reader and the other characters because that happens whenever someone new comes in to take a new position or to replace someone else. I also feel like most of these characters are female, which isn’t fair given that female characters are already under more scrutiny just for being female. Introduce some male characters in this role. Make them infiltrate a familiar place to your readers and characters. Let them take some of the roles that are automatically annoying.
8) Non heterosexual men who are comfortable with their sexuality. I’m so sick of stories where one man is super comfortable and the other is shy and unsure of his sexuality or if he wants to have a sexual experience yet. The comfortable character always coerces the uncomfortable character into sex or the author uses sex as a way to make the uncomfortable character’s problems go away. One minute he’s crying and the next he’s kissing the other guy and suddenly everything is okay.
9) Non heterosexual men who vary in appearance. We’re not all just a bunch of twinks or oiled up hairless hunks. You may say, “I know you don’t all look like that!” but I have met a surprising number of people who don’t know that. Not everyone in the world is up to date with the gay community. There are tons of people who have a hard time imagining a gay/bi/pan man as being anything other than a young, thin, attractive white male with a good fashion sense.
10) Related to the one above, I want to see gay men who don’t fit gay stereotypes and who aren’t used for comic relief. Writers love to introduce a character who is overweight, who is old (40+ years), who is masculine, who is hairy, etc., only to have them come out at the perfect moment for some comedy. It comes off as that person is gay? Haha, so funny!
1.) You will write the WRONG story.
Every story starts with a general premise. Whether it’s “young woman survives zombie apocalypse” or “remnants of humanity on…
When Describing a Character
- provide enough detail to give the reader a sense of the character’s physical appearance
- highlight details that serve as clues to who the character is and perhaps what their life is like
- describe clothing to establish character or when relevant to scene
- go overboard with too many details or take up too much of the reader’s time describing one character
- repetitively describe features or fixate on certain characteristics
- describe clothing every time the character shows up unless its somehow relevant to the scene.
- describe minor characters’ clothing in-depth unless it’s relevant
Choose a Focal Point
When describing a character’s appearance, choose a focal point and work up or down from there. For example, you may describe them from head to toe, or from toe to head. Try not to skip around. If you’re describing their face, start with their hair and work your way down to their mouth, or start at the mouth and work your way up to their hair.
Describing Race and Ethnicity
There is a lot of debate about the right and wrong way to describe a person’s race. If you want, you can state that a person is Black, white, Hispanic, Native American, First Nations, Latino, Middle-Eastern, Asian, Pacific Islander, etc. Just remember that races are made up of different ethnic groups. Someone of Asian descent could be Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. If you’re describing a character whose ethnicity is unknown or not important to the plot, you could just say that they were Asian or Black, for example. But, the rest of the time you need to be clear about whether they are Chinese, Chinese American, Korean, etc. Also, remember that not all Black people are African-American, such as someone born in England or Haiti, for example.
You may instead choose to describe a character’s race through the color of their hair, eyes, and skin. It’s up to you which you feel most comfortable with and is most appropriate for your story. Just remember, if you describe one character’s skin color or otherwise make an issue of their race, you should describe every character’s skin color or race.
Just like with physical appearance, when describing clothing you want to choose a focal point and work up or down. Think about things like the garments they’re wearing (pants, shirt, coat) and accessories (hat, jewelry, shoes). Be sure to choose clothing which are both relevant to your character and to the time and place where your story is set. You can find out about appropriate clothing by Googling the time and place your story is set plus the word clothing:
"Clothing in Victorian England"
"Clothing in 1960s New York"
"9th century Viking clothing"
Be sure to look for web sites that aren’t providing cheap Halloween costumes. Shops providing clothes for historical reenactors are often very accurate.
Looking for Inspiration
There are many resources online for both historical and modern clothing. For historical clothing, you can look for web sites about the period, web sites for or about historical reenactors, or web pages for historical enthusiasts or museums. For modern clothing, you can simply pull up the web site of your favorite department store or clothing designer. Choose an outfit that works for your character, then learn how to describe the relevant parts.
Resources for Describing Clothing:
Writing Tips on Describing Clothes
Describing Clothes and Appearance (If You Should at All)
Resources for Garments and Accessories:
Types of Dress
Coats and Jackets
Sleeves, Necklines, Collars, and Dress Types
Scarves for Men
Scarf Buying Guide
The Ultimate Scarf Tying Guide
Historical Clothing Resources:
OMG That Dress!
Amazon Dry Goods
Historical Costume Inspiration
History of Costume: European Fashion Through the Ages
Women’s Fashion Through the Years
Clothing in the Ancient World
Clothing in Ancient Rome
Clothing in Biblical Times
Vintage Fashion Guild
Modern Clothing Resources:
Clothes on Pinterest
This is a Fashion Blog
What I Wore
Fashion is Endless
Physical Details Resources:
Women’s Body Shapes
Men’s Body Shapes
Realistic Eye Shape Chart
Facial Hair Types
How to Describe Women’s Hair Lengths
The Ultimate Haircut Guide for Women
Men’s Haircuts (Barber Shop Style)
A Primer on Men’s Hairstyles
Obsidian Bookshelf Hair Color
Obsidian Bookshelf Eye Color
Skin Color Chart
Curl and Texture Chart
Introductions for the False Protagonist
The False Protagonist is traditionally introduced at the beginning of the story or near the beginning of the story. However, you do not have to introduce them as the protagonist in certain circumstances.
For example, if you have a group of characters and there is a “chosen one” among them or someone who is supposed to fill a certain role, you don’t have to name the False Protagonist as the protagonist right away.
Introductions for the True Protagonist
As a rule of thumb, main characters should be introduced within the first half of the story, depending on the length of your story. Since the True Protagonist is a major character, they should be introduced within that time. They do not have to be there from the very beginning.
Tricking the Reader or the Characters
Who you want to trick will determine when you introduce the characters as False or True Protagonists.
If you only want to trick the reader, but not the characters, it’s best to introduce the False Protagonist at the beginning and then refute that quickly with the arrival of the True Protagonist. Some characters (within the main cast) can know beforehand who the True Protagonist is. You’re just dropping down in the middle of the story.
If you want to trick both the reader and the characters, you can make this reveal at any time. This reveal can be straightforward (often used with “chosen one” plots) or gradual. An example of the second one is The Godfather in which Vito Corleone is introduced as the patriarch of the family and the protagonist, only to have his son, Michael, take over and become the protagonist.
To use the straightforward reveal, I would suggest using foreshadowing and red herrings. Use both to show that the True Protagonist may or may not be the True Protagonist. You don’t want it to be too easy to guess. Do what JK Rowling did with her False Antagonists (Snape in book 1, Hagrid (somewhat) in book 2, Sirius in book 3, Moody in book 4, etc.). Check the foreshadowing and plot twist tags for tips on this.
To use the gradual reveal, you don’t really need foreshadowing or plot twists because it’s something that, due to circumstances that take away the “protagonist” title from the False Protagonist, causes the True Protagonist to step up. Over time they become the protagonist, though a single scene that requires the True Protagonist to act as a protagonist may give them a jump start or may “officially” name them the protagonist.
Super useful emotion chart for writers courtesy of Adam Furlanic.
Lay vs Lie is one of the most annoying and confusing things for the grammatically disoriented. And the fact that you have to change the tense on them is even more annoying. However, changing the tense doesn’t change the meaning of the words. In any tense Lay is something you do to something else. You LAY the book on the table. Lie is something you do to yourself. You LIE on the table. An easy way to remember is the phrase “lay it on me.” You use LAY because you require another person to lay the information on you.