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What Makes a Great Male Character?

by Constance Gillam

As a reader, I remember the plots of many books, but only a handful of main male characters stick in my mind.

What makes a memorable hero? Is it his physical attributes? His height, coloring, or his…ah, shoe size? Is he alpha, beta or metro? For the writer, where does the inspiration for this character come from? Television, movies, books, or someone from your past?

How do you create a universal character who will appeal to a majority of readers? How do you, the writer, keep that reader thinking about that character long after the book is finished?

As a writer I like to start by picking a strong and or unusual name. As writers/readers in the 21st century, we look for a man we can admire, one who will be as strong as we are, or stronger.

Karen Marie Moning’s main male character in the Fever series is Jericho Z. Barrons- (alluding to the wall of Jericho). In Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, she chose James (Jamie) Alexander Malcolm Mackenzie Fraser (a steadfast, noble Scot’s name-a warrior).

Once I choose a name, I add the attributes, height, coloring, and a psychological profile. Now this is where things vary. Some readers like their males to have a sense of humor (Billy Crystal) or be brooding (Mr. Darcy, Heathcliff or James Dean), cocky (Rhett Butler) or stoic (Mr. Spock).

What male character do you still think about and why?

 One commenter will win a PDF copy of my new YA, The Fifth Realm,available at


Covert Art for The Fifth Realm


Linsey Lanier - January 28, 2013 - 7:43 am

Great question, Connie. I’m going to be cliche and say my all time favorite hero is Roarke. :) He’s got the unusual name, all right. But he’s also got characteristics I love in a hero: strong, yet gentle. Handsome and rich beyond words, but also underneath all that, a very real person with strong desires as well as fears.

Marilyn Baron - January 28, 2013 - 8:04 am

I like the way Daniel Craig portrays James Bond. I just pick the names of my male charatacters without thought of historical significance so I like that idea of relating the name to someone in the past. I live your cover.

Marilyn Baron - January 28, 2013 - 8:05 am

I mean I love your cover.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 9:26 am

I agree with you, Linsey. Roarke is great character. I’ve reread Naked in Death twice just to see him meet Eve and his reaction to her.

Nora has done a great job in constructing a complex male character.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 9:29 am


Glad you like the cover. Tamara LeBlanc is the cover artist. She did a great job.

Daniel Craig. He definitely added complexity to the James Bond character. He’s got a boxer’s face, but there’s beauty underneath that rough exterior.

Pam Asberry - January 28, 2013 - 9:38 am

I go for the Bruce Willis type–bad boy, great sense of humor. Great post, Connie!

Lynda Bailey - January 28, 2013 - 10:41 am

I agree with Marilyn about Daniel Craig as James Bond.

But the men who really stick with me most are the alphas who are damaged in some way. The rough/tough, rich/influential Macho Man who has a secret which makes them question themselves and their worthiness.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 11:56 am


I loved Bruce Willis in Moonlighting. Funny, tough, but with a touch of vulnerability.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 12:01 pm


I think that type of character appeals to a lot of women. I mentioned Jericho Barrons in the post. Rich, powerful, but definitely hiding a big secret.

Marcia King-Gamble - January 28, 2013 - 12:14 pm

Almost any hero Jane Porter creates I am immediately in love with. Her men are usually very real. She’s got the male psyche down pat.

Lynda Cox - January 28, 2013 - 12:49 pm

Zack, from Judy McNaught’s *Perfect*…just loved him to pieces.

Mary Marvella - January 28, 2013 - 12:54 pm

Good afternoon, Connie! I, also, love the cover. My all time fav is Adrian Paul in the Highlander series. YUM! Remember Remmington Steele? Love Pierce Brosnan

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 1:19 pm


I’ve not read Jane Porter, but I’m familiar with Flirting at Forty.
I have to check her out. She’ll be at the Georgia Romance Writers chapter meeting next month.

Thanks for commenting.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 1:24 pm

Lynda C.-

I love Judith McNaught. My daughter was named from one of the characters from her earlier books. I haven’t read “Perfect”.

Judith and I must be working on the same wavelenght. In my latest, yet to be published novel, Zack is the name of the hero- another strong but tortured soul.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 1:26 pm


Adrian Paul was hot as the Highlander. And I loved Pierce Brosnan in Remington Steele. Not choices.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 1:27 pm

Sorry, Mary. Meant to say “Hot choices.” LOL

Maxine Davis - January 28, 2013 - 1:50 pm

Constance, where do I start? So many wonderful ones. Roark gets a big yes. Sean Connery (I don’t care how old he is). Jamie in the Outlander books – Oh, yeah. Not going to go on. It’s getting warm in here.

Sia Huff - January 28, 2013 - 2:47 pm

Great question, Connie.
I agree with Lynda, the men who stick with me are the alpha’s who are need redemption. And I agree with Marcia – I love Jane Porter’s heros. But, I also love Richard Castle.
Welcome to Petit Fours & Hot Tamales! :)

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 3:22 pm


Sean Connery is definitely hot. I think he picks some great characters to portray-often complex and noble.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 3:23 pm


I’m definitely checking out Jane Porter.

Thanks for the welcome.

Hildie McQueen - January 28, 2013 - 3:32 pm

J.R. Ward’s Zhadist, (Lover Awakened) his name tells of his personality, but when you discover the vulnerability beneath the surface, OMG! Of this series, he has the most fans, simply because he is simple unforgettable.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 4:08 pm


Thanks for letting me know. I think I have all of the Brotherhood books, but I’ve only read the first two. I’ll have to jump to Zhadist’s story.

Susan Carlisle - January 28, 2013 - 7:52 pm

I love Rhett Butler. A character that stays with you. Columbo, Quincy, Hawkeye, Trapper John were all great male characters.

Glad to have you here Connie.

Connie Gillam - January 28, 2013 - 10:35 pm


Rhett Butler is definitely a man I’d like to have known.

Sandra Elzie - January 29, 2013 - 11:00 am

Hi Connie,
Great article…making us think. I like a man’s man. Strong…not necessarily the prom King, but ruggedly handsome. He has to be honorable…even if he makes some mistakes…and he must have a soft spot for animals, children & a protective side that ….at least TRIES to take care of the woman he can’t resist.

BJ-friend of Sandra's - January 29, 2013 - 6:42 pm

8-) Hum, Sandy, your definition sounds like I should apply for the posistion, well ya can’t fault me for trying 8-) :-))

Lynn Boyett - January 30, 2013 - 1:35 pm

Male characters have to be attractive to both men and women. They don’t have to be handsome or stunning but sufficient in the looks department that they bring people to them, even if they are on opposite sides philosophically, etc.

He must be functional in his daily life and confident about it whether he’s rich or poor. Also, he must be smart and suave enough to maintain our interest but he doesn’t have to be an Einstein and he cannot be stupid unless it’s comical.

Yet he must be venerable on some issue, aspect or on a physical level, none of which invokes a sense of helplessness. An absence that needs to be filled is a must and the reader has to have it to give to him or needs it themselves.

Scarlet Pumpernickel - January 30, 2013 - 9:59 pm

The name definitely comes first with me. If I don’t get the name right, the character won’t talk to me! I love the cover of your book and definite want to read it. Hope you have great success with it.

Scarlet Pumpernickel - January 30, 2013 - 10:03 pm

Forgot to tell you my favorite character. He is the hero from Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Shanna. Roarke Deverell Beauchamp, amazing that all these years later I still remember his name. He is my all time favorite historical hero. I just love that character.

Carol Burnside - February 5, 2013 - 4:07 pm

JD Robb’s Roarke is definitely a fav of mine. There are others which are mentioned here as well. Nice post, Connie and great cover. Best of luck with sales!

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