A Novel Thing? Hardly

Do you have fictional character crushes? Do you finish a book and feel a little bereft, even if it has a happily-ever-after ending?  Do you get lost in the male protagonist with his six-foot plus of hot model gorgeousness? His chiselled jawline, strong cleft chin, Cupid’s-bow lips, and brown puppy-dog eyes; his toned and taut buns ’n’ guns, buff pecs and ripped abs?

Then spare a thought for us authors.

You get to move on to the next BILF in another book. But we’re stuck with our creation in what can feel like the worst case of unrequited love. It’s why my books have turned into a series. That above-description—it’s Ralph, my lead male character. And I can’t get him out of my head.

The Pull of Celebrity

Oh, I have the odd moment, you know, when I look at my husband. And he’ll look at me the same way. But the moment’s gone, just like that—pfft—when he says, ‘Pull my finger.’

You see, this is why I’m hooked on Ralph, why I hanker for him, why I wouldn’t climb over him in bed to get to hubby.

And it’s just one reason why we girls crush on book characters. Or celebrity-worship. There are many others:

  1. Fictional leading men don’t belch like a chainsaw
  2. They don’t pick out their belly-button lint and drop it in the indoor plants
  3. They don’t stand in front of an open fridge calling out, ‘I can’t see the cheese!’ And they don’t cut it
  4. They don’t drink orange juice straight out of the container
  5. They don’t scratch their nuts
  6. They don’t leave the seat up (because they don’t even go to the toilet)
  7. They don’t pick their noses and flick the contents willy-nilly, or scatter toenail clippings on the carpet
  8. They don’t hoik phlegm (loudly)
  9. They don’t check their text messages while you’re talking to them
  10. They don’t refuse to ask for directions
  11. And they don’t yell at the footy ref on TV, ‘Oh what was that?! Make a call, ya fuckwit!’

Ugly-Arse Home Truth

This inventory of gnarly habits that our non-fictional leading men have, does it sound cliché? Does it look like I googled it? Yes, it does, and no, I didn’t. My research is close to home, so to speak. Thanks heaps, Hubs and Dad.

When I was little, my mother told me my father had been raised by une paire de singes—a pair of monkeys. And where Mills & Boon became her drug of choice, I accepted her explanation for his behaviour. But it stopped making sense after I got married: my husband was raised by a pair of self-respecting humans. So …

It seems men are just hardwired as yobs. And women are hardwired with a certain je ne sais quoi. Finesse, shall we say? We might well have a potty-mouth, but we won’t leave skid marks. (Although, some women’s public lavs can leave one wondering, and hoping it’d been a shit-faced bunch of blokes who’d mistaken it for the men’s room and then let loose in there.)

Keeping It Reel

All things considered, for me it’s a double-edged sword because I admire the real. Writing ‘real’ and with depth is my stock-in-trade. But as a starry-eyed teen, I’d interpreted ‘he’s a real man’ as he’s a guy with ample testosterone—deep voice, decent muscle mass, a nice smattering of body hair (not like a gorilla, though), a good libido. I hadn’t factored the other stuff into what constitutes a real man.

We become more feet-on-the-ground as we get older, but the idea of the dreamy one still hangs about. And even though I think fairy tales are bollocks, when too much reality gets tired, a yearning calls from the depth: Please—please—just give me the goddamn storybook man!

And so, Ralph was conceived. He’s real-ish inasmuch as he has his foibles. I even had him vomiting a couple of times, although that’s where I drew the line. I foisted those rubbish tendencies on my other male characters, but I wanted to humanise Ralph, not make a monkey out of him.

. . . .

My girlfriends and I sometimes compare notes about our real-life men:

‘You’re not gonna believe what mine did! He blah blah blah …’

‘Oh, hon, I can go you one better!’

Sounds like a pissing contest, no? A male preoccupation—not the sort of thing fictional female protagonists do. Well, we’re not fictional. We’re real women. Could it be, then, that we women and our husbands are well-matched? Ugh!

*This was originally written as a guest post (‘Crushing [on] Celebrity’) for Chat About Books, Kerry Parsons’ book blog site: https://chataboutbooks.wordpress.com

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