Here are common traits to avoid:
I’ve read plenty of these characters and they all stalk a female character in some way. They often follow female characters because they don’t believe these characters have good judgement or that they can take care of themselves. Then it’s written off as romantic. Not only does this undermine female characters, but it romanticizes creepy and abusive behavior. Don’t let your character stalk girls. Don’t let your character stalk anyone while making it seem romantic.
The Edward Cullen
I call it this because when the Twilight series reached its peak, characters like Edward Cullen were showing up everywhere. These characters are good looking and everyone wants them, but they don’t want anyone else. Until the underdeveloped female protagonist comes along.
Your character can be attractive, other people can have a crush on them, and they can have a crush on the female protagonist, but it’s best to avoid:
- Literally every girl wanting this guy except the protagonist.
- Pushing the “not like other girls” reason for this character liking the female protagonist.
These characters are abusive in subtle ways at first, but after a while it gets too much and the author continues to romanticize this. If your male character is abusive, do not write it off as romantic. Use it as a chance to address this issue. I’ve seen authors write these characters being physically abusive and controlling as romantic and I’ve seen authors write non-consensual sexual encounters as desirable.
These characters do not care for the wishes or boundaries of others:
- Oh, you have a boyfriend and/or you don’t want to get involved with me? Too bad, I’m going to kiss you anyway.
That happens way too often and the author makes it come off as something that is okay. These characters get involved with issues they have nothing to do with. They feel the need to know everything about everyone and no one confronts them about their nosiness. If your character doesn’t respect the privacy of others, don’t write it all as desirable, romantic, or okay.
"I’m a Monster"
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read characters who keep trying to warn others to stay away from them because they’re monsters or troubled or dark undeserving souls. Saying this once or twice is okay, especially if this character is emotionally vulnerable, but after a while it gets annoying and it makes your character sound whiny.
These characters insist they are dangerous and that other characters should stay away from them, yet they continue to pursue these characters and never really give a good reason why.
These characters have an endless supply of everything they need. Do your characters need guns? Perfect! The Pretty Enigmatic Special Boy will now disappear without a word, return silently, and carry a bag full of guns with him. When asked, this character refuses to answer or gives a vague answer.
These characters are physically fit, good looking even when covered in blood, sweat, and dirt, have tons of knowledge on many subjects (especially any conflicts or phenomena your characters are trying to solve or get through), always win their fights (physical and verbal), and have pretty much no flaws. Everything they do is written as something to goggle over. Give your character some flaws that get them into trouble or that affect their narrative.
These characters are extremely vague. They never give straight answers. They make people wonder about their past even when they have no reason to hide anything about their life. This is not the same as being quiet or shy. These characters are vague on purpose. Every question they answer is carefully crafted to create vagueness. And all the other characters accept it, see it as intelligent, or see it as romantic.
Let your character give some straight answers every now and then. They can still be vague, but use it sparingly and only when needed. Think about why your character would want to be vague.
These characters are unbelievably static. From start to finish, nothing about them changes. They don’t learn from anything because they’re always right. They may warm up to other characters, but nothing much beyond that happens. They’ll still make the same decisions, they still have the same opinions, they still see the world in the same way.
Here is information on writing angst.
How to Fix It:
Give your character flaws. Make them change over time. Let other characters respond accurately and don’t romanticize unhealthy behavior. To romanticize something is to make it seem beautiful, desirable, or better than it actually is. You can include the above traits, but it’s really about how you write it that matters.
You can also look at my male characters tag on the tags page for more tips, things to avoid, and male characters that are not as common in fiction.