Hello everyone! I’m in the midst of writing my very first game (hopefully to be shared here in the near future), but I’ve been having a lot of trouble writing my ROs and thought people here might have some advice for me.
The issue I’ve been struggling with is how to write appealing ROs from perspectives outside of my own. I’m a straight male, so when I’m writing a female RO all I have to do is draw on my own experiences and write it how I’d want it to play out in real life (of course keeping in mind that I’m not just writing the ROs for myself, and incorporating different personalities and options and the like). But I get the sense that if I wrote my male ROs the exact same way I did my female ones with the pronouns flipped, they wouldn’t be so well-received. The other option, having outright gender-flippable ROs, doesn’t sit well with me either, as I feel like I’d have to cut down on characterisation too much to make it work.
Does anyone have some advice for dealing with this? Is it just a matter of research and reading romance stories with male ROs to get a feel for them? Or otherwise are there any secrets to writing attractive male ROs for those without experience?
BTW, this also goes for non-binary ROs if anyone here has experience writing them. I’m not planning on including any in my current project since writing male ROs is already daunting enough, but would be interested for future reference.
I’d say make them interesting people first in foremost. Men and women are more-or-less the same. Besides physicality, our motivations are the same. Give them strengths, weakness, likes and dislikes. Make them relatable, by giving them flaws. Make them an interesting character first, this is what will make them a great RO. That’s my 2 cents anyway.
I second this wholeheartedly (and the entire message, at that.) I think it would be better to write them with the mindset “I’m going to create a good, compelling character” instead of “I’m going to write a RO that people will get attracted to.” If a character interests me, they will work for me as a RO.
I partially agree with “make them compelling characters first”.
Sometimes a compelling character makes for a bad RO, and not in a sexy way, simply because they are just not someone people would seek romance with. They might not be romantic enough, too flawed or not flawed in an interesting way.
I think when creating a romanceable character as a character first one should still keep romance in mind: and think about it as an arc for the character. They have their story, that story will affect the romance, and they have their romantic story with MC: how will that go and is the story of the romance compelling too?
I want to press you a little on this. Wouldn’t that just mean the “compellingness” or personality of that character just isn’t interesting to that specific reader, and they would just end up romancing some one else in the story that is compelling to them? I would argue a reader has to be attracted to a character that is compelling. Because the “compellingness” is what incites the interest in romancing that character in the first place. I don’t think a reader would want to romance a boring character who’s just there to be a romance arc.
I didn’t mean to imply “a character can be too interesting for the readers” just that a character can be compelling in a wholly unromantic way.
For example: Durance from PoE. Very interesting, incredible arc (if you let him die, I feel it fizzles out if he gets his revenge arc). Ugly and obnoxious. Don’t see people lining up to romance him even if he was just hot, because looks aside his personality turns a lot of people off and there’s no place for romance in his life.
PoE in general is a great study in characters that are great but unromanceable or the romance is nothing to write home about.
Yes! I agree with this completely. A lot of times, authors write the stereotypical romance option (especially males) and they end up turning me off as a reader (and a roleplayer). I tend to go for the ones a lot of people find annoying at first (M from Wayhaven, Marcus from Defiled Hearts, R from Fernweh, etc.). I don’t like boring, milquetoast LIs with no spine.
Not anymore it’s not! Now, they’re all emo and whiny.
Give me a masculine man any day of the week, but one that can handle my MCs being kickass themselves. I’ve never understood this idea that, for a character to be with a masculine man, they have to be weak. Nope. Or for a female character to be strong, you have to pair them with a meek and submissive guy.
Honestly, I’m not even sure what “overly” masculine means. Masculine traits to me tend to mean a protective nature (protective, not smothering), more direct (in other words, no emotional whining and hesitation about stating or showing their interest), and someone who can take care of things. For a game, it’s a guy that can fight by your side and you watch each other’s backs and take on the world together.
This is precisely why I find Mason the best RO in Wayhaven–M has complete faith in the MC’s abilities, supports them, and threatens to dismember anyone who tries to harm them. My MC will do the same for him.
This is generalising, and is focused on male/female romance, but this is how I see it:
I feel a stereotypical “alpha male” romance interest is someone who isn’t interested in his partner’s internal life or preferences, thinks he knows better in all situations (and the narrative backs him up - the heroine might protest but then realise he was right all along or at best had her safety at heart), doesn’t want to change but does want to control how his partner changes/develops. Often there’s a sense of that character being horrible to everyone around him but there’s a “reason” for it or he makes an exception for the heroine. Often a character like this will be very physically imposing along with a heroine who’s very small in stature. He’ll belittle her or generally make her feel or look bad, but there will be a frisson about it - perhaps the heroine “can’t stand it but also can’t resist him” or she sees it as fun banter. In the end he might soften or prove that he’s not a jerk in some way that makes the heroine feel safe (typically in these scenarios, the heroine is someone subordinate or less physically capable than this kind of guy because otherwise it’s seen as her threatening his power or undermining her own ““femininity””).
For what it’s worth I don’t really see the above as “masculine” necessarily - characters like this can have a variety of appearances (bar perhaps the “physically imposing” element which does narrow it down). It’s a type of “hero” that still does have traction in mainstream romance, but more often in romance these days the more appealing “idealised” figure is one who sees the heroine more fully as her own person, whatever that means to the characters in question.
Edit: research-wise, it’s certainly worth looking at romance books or romance games, and watching talks about romance in games. Play games - interactive fiction or otherwise - that are known for their romances. I have Mass Effect on the brain at the moment because I’m playing through it - some male romance interests in it are more popular than others, and not just because of their appearances but their personalities. Listen and read about people talking about what they liked about Garrus!
I don’t think gender is always interchangeable, depending on the characters, but it doesn’t have to make a huge difference. If your female characters are fully thought out and appealing, you will also be able to write male characters that are the same. Not everyone will like all of them, but that’s fine.
Wait I’m lost. Where did “alpha male” come from? I only asked, what is a stereotypical male romance and I used masculine as an example. Do you consider an “alpha male” to be a stereotypical male romance?
I would say an “alpha male hero” is a popular archetype in romance, yeah, especially in books - popular enough that when you said “stereotypical male romance” I thought of it, which was why I mentioned it. I don’t think it’s the only stereotype for a romantic lead, nor is it the only “masculine” stereotype.
I admit I find this whole topic confusing, because I thought being able to look at things from a perspective other than your own was essential for a writer. Unless all your characters, including your antagonists, are carbon copies of you, they must have different tastes, different values, different lifestyles, that don’t always line up with your own. And unless everything you write is semi-autographical and set during your lifetime in places you’ve actually been, you must have written about things you’ve never personally experienced. What would you do if you wanted to write an adrenaline junkie? a devout Catholic? a molecular-gastronomy enthusiast? a country-music fan? an extreme introvert? a wheelchair user? a basic-ass white girl who wants to be an influencer? a rocket scientist? an anti-fracking activist? a combat veteran? a stockbroker? a vegan? a psychopath? a pregnant mother of two? a person who hates horror films? a person with a crippling phobia?