1. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Writing an attractive character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by spklvr, Feb 10, 2015.

    Characters like this, that all the other characters are attracted to, are actually a pet-peeve of mine, but it is important to the plot. I’m wondering how to make it work, and what makes the typical archetype annoying to people.

    My character is a gay dancer. He was bullied a lot as a child. Because of this, he is very insecure about his looks and sexuality, despite having grown up to become “ridiculously and unnecessarily attractive” (quoting another character).

    He gets a big part in a huge ballet production, and a lot of the other dancers, that he initially auditioned with for a smaller part, think he only got the part because the choreographer wants to sleep with him (which he does). He becomes surrounded by people either jealous of him, or wanting to sleep with him. He then struggles with mental exhaustion as he is hurt by people he thought cared about him, while trying hard to prove himself as a dancer.

    The story has a pretty vast array of main characters, so he’s not the only one the reader has to deal with. But on that quick description, does he sound like that annoying type of character? I'm on the fence about it, as people aren't exactly lining up to die for him, but they are to get into his pants.
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Off the bat, no. Let's face it: beautiful people tend to get laid more effortlessly. Especially among singles. So I think your rationale here can work. What is more, men tend to have a stronger sex drive, so I'd imagine he'd be in a position to get a lot of action even without being aggressive about it himself. I don't find beautiful people annoying by default, I think that'd be stupid. Patrick Bateman isn't unappealing 'cause he's a stunner, it's 'cause he's a serial killer.

    However, what I do find annoying (sometimes I do that myself, too, which is just ridiculous) is pretending you aren't beautiful even though the outside world constantly confirms this to you. I can only imagine how much attention some truly model caliber people get, but even an average cutie gets quite a bit of attention, so for a person to not know how attractive they are is just annoying. Bella Swan is one example I can think of. It's possible men are less aware of their handsomeness, though (my husband, *grumble, grumble*... No matter how much women compliment his looks, he won't believe it. He's had girls stalk him in public, even my hc feminist, sometimes-verges-on-misandry lesbian friend said he's attractive), and in your character's case in particular, it might shine through. Making him whine about it can get really tiresome, though. "Boo-hoo, I'm too pretty for my own sake." Nope, that'd be awful.

    I think another thing I pay attention to is that beauty's still skin deep. There might be sexual advances and flirting, but love won't come that much easier for them. Saying that beauty gets you everything could also come off annoying, but I doubt you'd write that.
     
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  3. Ivana
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    Ivana Contributing Member

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    Your character seems very interesting. Since you have mentioned that he was bullied as a child, I could easily believe that he could be insecure about his looks. This gives you a lot of space to build a really deep character: no matter how attractive he is, you can easily avoid him seeming shallow and annoying.
    I believe that life can sometimes get really hard for beautiful people. Even though your character gets a dream part because of his looks, I can imagine his inner struggle because he's tired of being treated as a sexual object and because he would want to succeed on a basis of his talent and hard work, not just his good looks.
     
  4. jaebird
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    jaebird Active Member

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    A couple things that I think make attractive characters annoying are: The author throws it in there for no real reason at all except to make them one of those perfect people with maybe one flaw. Or the character knows they are attractive and it tuns them into a jerk. Your character doesn't strike me as annoying, and I like the fact that he doesn't seem to really know what to do with his good looks. All they really have been to him is the only reason people have shown any interest in him. Nobody seems to like him for who he is. I agree with Ivana, it's a very interesting thing to explore, especially with the bullying in his childhood.
     
  5. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Apart from the superficial attraction of looks, it is what a person does that makes them attractive (in the good sense). Of course one could say that having lots of money automatically makes someone attractive to certain people.

    In your description you list what others want from him or do to him. But what has he done for others? Is he kind in his words and actions. Is a faithful to those who put their trust in him. Is he helpful to those less fortunate?
     
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  6. Okon
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    Okon Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're directly tying looks with attraction, which I think is a little silly. Confidence and general personality goes a long way to attraction—look at how models act. I've known guys that are gorgeous. Some those same guys were also really shy, and coincidentally didn't have girlfriends/boyfriends for the duration I knew them (some dry years for them). Looks help a lot initially, yeah, but I don't think they get someone that far. Not to mention he's vain, right? That could instead be a major turn off for potential pants-removers.

    That said, I wouldn't immediately be put off by this character. Insecurity about looks is common a thing, and it doesn't hurt to address it. It will help if you keep it realistic; many people value a heckofalot more than the visual when it comes to relationships. At least I hope so for my sake:D.
     
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  7. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It depends what you mean by insecure. Do you mean naive about their looks or desperate for constant validation.

    "Shit, in a wreck. My face is bloated. I cannot go out in public today," is realistic and amusing.

    But if you're character is naive about his looks, and truly doesn't belive he's good looking yeah. Yeah, that's EXTRAORDINALLY annoying! And also extraordinaly unnatractive. Also extraordinarily stupid. If strangers he's never even talked to go up to him to tell him he's good looking, hel know. Please do not do not make him naive.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm finding myself a little annoyed by him, yes. :) Is this his whole story? Is he your whole story? Or is this just a side plot?

    While I hate to use the word "flaws", because it has such a mechanical game-balance feel, I'm bothered because I'm not seeing any flaws in this character. He sounds perfect and innocent and without a single dark or petty thought, and it sounds like he drags around being sad and mistreated, boo hoo, feel sorry for him, feel sorry for him again four pages later...

    See how nasty I'm getting? I'm ashamed of it, but there it is. I tend to feel similarly irritated at some of Dick Francis's main characters because they're so good and noble and brave and so wracked with self-doubt, and the book seems to be focused on making the reader say, "Oh, no, why are they being so meeeeeean to him?"

    Your character needs something. Maybe he already has it, and you just haven't mentioned it, but he needs something to make him more human. A flaw, an enthusiasm that's outside the "meeeean" environment, both, something.
     
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  9. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    123, did you type this post with your toes?

    Anyway, I agree with the latter... and with the former, if it's said humorously, but if it's one of those Super cute teenager instagrams a selfie and whines how ugly she is -situations, then no, that's not amusing to me (realistic yes), it's more like eye-roll inducing.
     
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  10. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Everything a teenager does is annoying.


    Also I apologize for my sloppy writing before. This is a writing forum and I ought to take more care.
     
  11. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    He's an unusual character for me to be honest. He is definitely not perfect. He starts out as the kind of person who runs away from problems rather than deal with them, and because of this becomes a bit of an asshole without really meaning it, even though he knows his behavior is awful. He is naive in the way that he thinks his problems will be fixed on their own if he just ignores them hard enough, and thinks he can handle relationships he's not mature enough for.

    I would say he is still kind and sweet, but a little shallow and selfish without realizing it. As the story goes on, he becomes more mature and self-aware, and finally starts taking care of things. Then he is in a relationship with someone he really cares about and is hurt by him as well, and becomes cynical and shut-in. So he grows to be less flawed towards the middle of the story, then grows to become flawed in a different way towards the end.
     
  12. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not necessarily.

    If the character is as attractive to the reader as he is to other characters, then those characters' attraction to him seems reasonable. The difficult part is to make him attractive to the reader. A book is not a movie -- you cannot simply hire an attractive actor to play the role. A book is a crude abstraction. You really need to focus on what makes someone's personality attractive.
     
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  13. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've thought about this a little more.
    In terms of modern narrative (this excludes omniscient) there are two basic ways the reader will find out your POV is good looking. One is from the external world . In Bukowskis Post Office, the MC never describes himself, yet we know from his account he is successful with women, and this includes women who approach him. The second way to find out is from the POV's internal world. Humbert Humbert in Lolia tells us straight out he is good looking. Not just good looking. Extraordinarily good looking. Are we surprised to hear this from an obnoxious, sociopathic pedophiles ? It totally fits .

    "John stared at himself in the mirror. He had jet black hair and opal colored eyes, a prominent nose and strong jaw. At six feet three, and solid muscle, it wasn't a surprise he caught women's eyes wherever he went." This is NOT an example of discovering the MCs good looks from an internal world. This is an example of the author deliberately trying to tell us the MC is good looking. It's bad writing all around, but, perhaps most importantly, it reeks of artifice. Either the author is trying to please me, himself, or both. Either way , the characters good looks are not relevant to the story. Not as presented. It's not important.

    When you decide you want to make your character exceedingly handsome, you dehumanize him, because you've created his looks in a vacuum , instead of letting it come out in the story.

    Is he big like The Rock. As a guy, I think the Rock is the hottest guy alive. I know girls who agree and girls who think he's hideous. Is he smooth and effeminate? I hate guys like that , but many girls disagree. How exactly is he good looking and how does play into the story. Who is he attracting and how do they treat him? Is he used to people laughing at his crappy jokes or being nice to him ? What exactly is going to happen to make us realize how unbearably hot the guy is? The girls are going to giggle and smile when he's around? That's a little boring isn't it? So the director wants to sleep with him? That's great, but that doesn't tell me he's super good looking(and it doesn't need to). It just tells me the director is attracted to him. The point is, your writing will improve if you stop thinking of attributes in their platonic form, and start applying them literally.
     
  14. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If we relate to the characters who find the guy attractive, we can more easily find him attractive as readers, even if he wasn't our type.

    Like @123456789 said, force-feeding it to the reader through the mirror is not going to be as effective as showing how others react to him. Even then, there will be people who don't consider him their type, or who find some trait in him annoying (like vanity), or who are only attracted to him on a sexual level ("I just wanna pound that..."), or who look at him like they'd look at a shiny new car ("sure is purdy").

    If he's commercially good-looking and sellable, another way to show this is making him work as a model. Although in that case he'd probably be more aware of his good looks.
     
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  15. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The story sounds interesting to me. I'm wondering though about the girls who would come onto him, and for a gay man, that would probably be very annoying and/or disturbing. Anyone you don't actually find attractive coming onto you, you'd probably find annoying/disturbing. Sounds like it's something else to explore.

    In any case, I feel like the sex aspect can only be one aspect of the story - that can't possibly last the whole thing. If chapter after chapter, character after character, the reader finds out, "Oh they just want to have sex with him", then it starts to get dull. I think you need more types of betrayal, more ways of exploiting this guy. Also, from your description, he sounds very weak, which could definitely come across as annoying.

    Sometimes it's not about your looks but about your presence, your energy that attracts people. My husband has a friend who's seriously butt-ugly, and that friend gets a tonne of girls. Why? He exudes confidence. He's a complete idiot and since his English is limited, so far whenever I've seen him, the only things he's managed to say beyond hello is this: "Chinese people eat cat poo" or something on those lines (I'm Chinese). Reading it like this, it sounds like a racial insult, but seriously when you hear it, you know he's actually trying to make you laugh. Anyone who thinks randomly blurting that out to a Chinese person could make them laugh probably doesn't have a seriously high IQ. But hell, he does get laid. The guy's arrogant.

    My husband's the exact opposite. He exudes a quiet, gentlemanly sorta energy. The homeless come to have conversations with him and strangers ask him for directions. He'd often come home late saying he got stopped at the metro by a homeless man or woman and he just stood there chatting with them for an entire hour. (I've seen him do this even in my presence, thank God not a whole hour when I'm there, but he definitely does this lol. I've seen homeless people greet him and ask how he's doing cus they even know his name) Anyway, he's not arrogant at all. He's sweet and kind and loads of girls find him attractive. So, it's certainly not just arrogance that attracts girls. But he definitely knows he's good-looking - he doesn't think anything of it, it's just he knows girls find him attractive. He speaks slowly and carefully, but definitely not a man who's unsure of himself. He's confident, but in a way that doesn't really flaunt it.

    So there you have it, two quite different types of men who both get quite a lot of attention lol. But then, just because you're attractive doesn't mean you'll find people who want to get into your pants. My husband isn't surrounded with people who wanna get him in bed. My former housemate, a very beautiful woman, also wasn't surrounded by such, and she is also very confident and knew she was pretty too. Whenever she walked into a club, there're always men asking for her number - she just always refused. She's happily married and has been for probably almost 10 years now, and my husband's obviously married to me. Neither of them are getting screwed over just cus they're pretty people.

    The idiot friend with the cat poo that I mentioned however was definitely surrounded by girls who wanna get laid (until he settled), and the same with my other former housemate, a different girl whom guys also found highly attractive. But these two went out to clubs, they went to parties and environments filled with people looking for that kinda thing, and they ended up with that kinda characters. This particular housemate got proper screwed over, precisely cus she kept wanting a serious boyfriend and kept ending up with people who just wanted to use her for sex.

    What I'm saying is, it's not just your looks that means you're surrounded by people who want to get into your pants. It's where you hang out, who you hang out with.

    So what's your character doing that's getting him surrounded by jerks like that? What's his mindset, his lifestyle, that leads him to places filled with such people? What lapse is there in his judgement that means he can't tell a genuine friendship from a fake one? Most of us are not surrounded by skilled manipulators, which means 98% of the time you can usually see through it within the first meeting or so. Why does your character stick around with these people?

    My advice is, don't think of your character as such a victim. He's doing something, too, that's got him in this life situation. He's drawn to certain people, whether consciously or subconsciously, for whatever reason, that seem to always be bad for him. Give him some initiative.
     
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  16. RachHP
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    RachHP Contributing Member

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    In general, I have no issue with the whole 'he's so attractive everyone keeps trying to shag him' thing, especially if that's the theme you're exploring in the book. However...

    I concur. This is my pet peeve with good looking people, fictional or real :p Modesty is one thing but incessant self deprication is highly irritating.
    Also,

    I wasn't really bothered by your originally description of the character, but this insight made me think again. I hate characters who aren't self aware and who 'accidentally' act like assholes. Being a dick on purpose is the hallmark of the antagonist. If you're protagonist is just too stupid to know better, I'd get bored of him - especially if he was a grown man (but that's just me).
     
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  17. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think this is a somewhat showbiz thing. EVERYBODY spends their working life pretending to be somebody they're not. My daughter was a pretty good amateur actor. Her greatest attribute was her ability to stay in character. So, if you're playing some kind of character - on stage or screen - how can anybody tell who the real you is? You only have to look at the longevity of showbiz marriages to know that most were based on attraction to something that wasn't the real person.
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But in the story in question, it seems like the majority of people who spend time with the MC are just master manipulators. That doesn't make sense. You mention showbiz marriages and that's true - but once again, that's a very specific environment filled with people who make their very living out of pretending to be someone they're not, as well as make a living out of being drop-dead gorgeous and/or irresistably charming. Is the dance industry a similar environment? The OP may benefit from researching what dance houses/studios/backstage was like for dancers.
     
  19. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have to say that I'm extrapolating, but I'd have thought that ballet dancers were also acting out characters, albeit with dance and movement rather than voice and expression.
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But that's very different. How do you want to manipulate someone in a conversation just because you can act in character with your physical body? It's two very different skillset. You could say a dancer could be more likely to be a good actor, but that's about it. As a dancer, I don't think the thrill of it is in being someone else, but in expressing yourself through the body and the elegance of posture and movement etc. But then I'm not a dancer so I don't know for sure.
     
  21. Jenurik Name
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    Same rules as always apply. Show, don't tell. Show people reacting in subtle ways, being extra polite, routine eye contact being just a little too intense for comfort.

    Don't write about his physical appearance except in a two or three line treatment. Get the impression that he's tall, attractive, eye and hair color, and no more.

    I also recommend reading how Oscar Wilde handles it in The Picture of Dorian Gay.
     
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  22. Iain Aschendale
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    Iain Aschendale Contributed Member Contributor

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    If he was bullied a lot as a child, perhaps you could throw in some of the things that people bullied him about to show his continued insecurity despite his transition to attractiveness. Your character might have had terrible acne that cleared up scar free, or been overly tall for his age. A girl I went to elementary school and high school, but not junior high school, with transformed in those two years from a ten year old who looked like a giraffe poorly sculpted with pipe-cleaners and straws to a young lady who looked (to my teenage eyes) like a runway model. Perhaps she (in this case) still feels that her height is a liability, not an asset.
    Just my 2 yen.
     
  23. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, being (NOT acting) in character is all about BEING the person you're trying to be, whether it's Coppelia or Shylock. Just because you portray it through movement doesn't mean that, in your head, you're not talking like him or her.
     
  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I guess I'm questioning whether there's any talking being done at all in dance, even in the dancer's head lol. But I don't dance, so it's not something I can speak into.
     
  25. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't dance either (in fact, I find dance a boring entertainment), but acting includes movement - Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate moved entirely differently to Rainman.
     

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