Believe it or not, men are not infallible in fiction, so I feel it is necessary to post a sequel to my top 5 worst female character tropes.
With females, the most recurring, idiotic characteristics I came across in novels were: indecisiveness, whining, unnecessary secretiveness, excessive stubbornness, and abusiveness toward men. Any of these unlikable attributes would be equally unlikable in male characters, but I don’t run across them as often in the opposite gender.
There are characteristics, however, that I can attribute primarily to male characters. Here are five common, annoying personality traits/tendencies of men in fiction:
#5: Cry Baby
I actually appreciate when male characters cry. Depending on the circumstances, it can be incredibly powerful for a man, especially the protagonist or antagonist, to shed a tear or two. But it can only be powerful used sparingly. If your male protagonist cries in every chapter, I’m not going to feel anything. I have noticed men growing softer in fiction lately, and while that’s not a problem to a certain extent, it has gotten a little out of control, particularly in romance. Personally, I am gravitating more and more toward the stoic male MC’s because I am tired of the sad, overly-sympathetic men in books. It’s not realistic. Besides, women like me are more attracted to men who can keep it together during rough times, even if it means they don’t always understand us. We like men for being men. We don’t need them to be like us.
The crying man™ is a powerful tool, writers. I would only use it once — maybe twice in a series — to create the most impact for your readers. There are other ways to show sadness, such as being withdrawn, angry, short-tempered, or even physically ill. Your male MC can be sad in many situations, but if you want to make me cry, keep those man tears locked up until the most heart-wrenching moment(s).
#4: Why You Gotta Be So Rude?
Rudeness isn’t attractive in anyone. I don’t care how necessary you believe it is to hide your true feelings, you don’t have to be a jerk! Holy cow. Honestly, this trait is one of the reasons I don’t understand the popularity of the “enemies-to-lovers” trope. They almost always start off as being mean to each other. If I met someone like that in real life, there’s no way I would be attracted to him, no matter how good-looking he was. The reverse would be the same. I wouldn’t be able to get the mean things he said to me out of my head, even after we’d reconciled our differences. Seriously.
Bickering can be entertaining. Deliberate, demeaning remarks always leave a sour taste in my mouth.
#3: You Da Man
Have you ever met a guy who couldn’t get enough of himself? I hate conceited male protagonists/love interests for their inability to see anything past their own reflection. It is possible for this character to be humbled, which makes for an interesting story, but in the meantime I hate him.
He’s the character that feels entitled to whatever woman suits his fancy, to his promotion, social standing, or sports car; the character that finds himself deserving of his success. He will look after himself and his own pretty face before anyone else. He could propose to you believing he loves you, only to despise you immediately after your rejection.
Rejection… tsk, tsk, tsk… He does not take it well.
#2: Did My Back Hurt Your Knife?
The man who puts on a trustworthy mask, grins, shakes your hand, only to make a 180 down the line and betray your entire perception of him makes a crappy male character, but a great villain. If this man is going to be a backstabber, expect readers to hate him or love to hate him, depending on his role in the story.
There are few sins so grievous as betrayal. While female characters, especially the rivals of a female MC, are known to be backstabbers, when men in fiction do it, it’s almost worse, simply because I am less likely to expect it (and it can get more violent). Don’t utilize the power of this trope unless you really want your readers to hate the guy.
#1: Sloppy Seconds
My least favorite trope in male characters is the guy willing to be a woman’s sloppy seconds. And I don’t just mean “willing.” I mean extremely eager, to the point of being creepy. The man who goes for the ex-wife, the forlorn wife, the neglected girlfriend, etc.,etc., is a man I would stay far away from in fiction and in reality.
If you want a more specific example, take Ted from Breaking Bad.
What are your least favorite male character tropes? I suppose an honorable mention would be the “playboy,” but I think he could go in #3. Comment below if you disagree or would like to add to this list!