This could probably be part of a series: how to write male heroes in erotica that’s directed at men. I certainly have plenty of opinions on it, but I’m not feeling quite as ambitious this Sunday evening, so I’ll focus on one particular tip to get us started: if you’re writing for a male audience, don’t make your male hero an asshole. I’ve noticed this mistake in more than a few places, so if you think this tip is obvious, I’d say it bears repeating.
This blog post actually started as a commentary on the alpha male and how I don’t think he works in male-oriented erotic stories, but my reasoning was flawed and my definition of an alpha too narrow (basically, I was equating “alpha male” with “jerk,” and while this is often the case, it’s not always). So the new thesis statement is that the male consumer of erotica probably isn’t going to like your story if they don’t like your protagonist. Let’s analyze why.The male audience of erotica is largely reading for fantasy-fulfillment. He wants to read about a situation he can immerse himself in. He wants to identify with the main character, walk in his shoes for a few hours, and feel and experience what that guy feels. This is the strength of erotica over visual pornography — we get context with the written word. We get set-up. We get anticipation. And ultimately, we get pay off.
We cannot identify with the main character if we hate him.
I’m not saying the main character has to be a sensitive and caring guy. He doesn’t really even need to be someone who could be our best friend. But he probably shouldn’t be an asshole. We need to respect him to connect with him. That’s hard to do if he walks around with an unrealistic feeling of entitlement and has no respect for the characters he interacts with. It’s hard to get past a character who’s boorish and disdainful to his female counterpart (i.e. most male husbands you find on television and in commercials), and in turn, it’s hard to engage with the narrative being crafted (no matter how crammed it is with sexy situations). Like I’ve stressed many times before, we’re looking for more than just a description of hot sex. Context. It’s important!
Sure, there are exceptions. If you really, really want to go the asshole route, you’re going to need to have a damn compelling reason to keep the reader engaged. If the character is interesting enough, then he can do whatever he wants. Just keep in mind that an out-of-the-box alpha with a self-centered personality isn’t all that interesting. Also keep in mind that the “alpha is tamed by the right girl” trope isn’t very interesting to your typical male audience.
So, in short, if you want to write a story that appeals to a more male audience than a typical erotic romance, then give us reason to like the lead. Think of a sitcom, think of the overweight dad who drinks beer, hates his wife, and has no interest in his kids’ lives — and then don’t make that guy your main character.