Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Replay: The Fictional Male

by Barbara Early

(A re-post from the Inky Archives)

I was half done with a post on writing descriptions, when a commercial came on the Sleuth Channel. For Father's Day, the network is airing a series of movies chosen for their appeal to men. The promo, featuring clips of gritty cowboys, promised there'd be plenty of man stuff, such as "drinking, fighting, gambling, and spitting."

I can't wait. Yeah, right.

Despite that stellar description, I couldn't help think about what it takes to create a real, live fictional male, one that rings true, but still appeals to the often female reader.

There is nothing worse (for me, anyway) than reading a novel, particularly a romance novel, and coming to the conclusion that the hero is girly. Or a stereotypical he-man. So I thought I'd share a few of my favorite fictional men from television and what makes them click for me. (Oddly enough, they are all either detectives or spies.)

Frank Hardy. Yes, I'm kind of dating myself here. But Frank Hardy was my teen crush. While others swooned over Joe (who could sing and had the hair) I kept my eyes on the older and smarter of the two Hardy Boys. Frank had a sensitivity to him, but also a determination to do the right thing. Perhaps he won my sympathy by often having to play second fiddle to his younger brother. Or maybe it was those gorgeous eyes.

Remington Steele. Besides being not bad to look at (an understatement), Remington Steele was an interesting character. He was the redeemable rogue--the charming jewel thief turned PI who turned Laura Holt's world around. While handsome and well-tailored, he held to his own code of ethics and over time proved himself an able partner worthy of trust. Besides, he looked great in a tux and the accent was to die for too. Sigh.

Lee (Scarecrow) Stetson. Lee was a bit of a cowboy, not literally, but in the sense he worked alone and was good at what he did, but not so hot at relationships. But throw this quick-tempered, hot-shot spy into a relationship with a divorced housewife? What a combination! He needed to grow to allow someone else into his life and to learn to value her opinion. And yeah, he had great hair.

Adrian Monk. Did I run out of hunks? Not exactly. While not the most handsome of the leading men on this list, Monk stole my heart like no other. How could you not care for this man who was such a combination of strength and weakness? How could you not cheer him on as he doggedly sought his wife's killer even though his OCD and phobias plagued every step? And he made me laugh.

Chuck. An ordinary man called upon to do extraordinary things. Chuck started out with promise: an intelligent man, whose education and future is interrupted through no fault of his own. Chuck is sensitive and caring, even if he did lose the girl and is underappreciated. But when a supercomputer is installed in his head, he becomes invaluable to the CIA. A fish out of water, he rises to the challenge. Oddly enough, I find Chuck to be a more modern version of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, only with the roles reversed. A little too young for me, but a sweet boy.

Castle. How could I not like the story of a mystery writer turned detective? Castle is sophisticated and successful on the outside, often relying on his many connections to pull strings and get his own way. But his sweet relationship with his daughter rounds out this character as he plays Watson to Kate Beckett's Sherlock. Or is it the other way around?

Question: Who are your favorite male characters? Why? What ruins a male character for you?

Barbara Early grew up buried in the snowy suburbs of Buffalo, NY, where she developed a love for all things sedentary: reading, writing, classic movies, and Scrabble. She holds a degree in Electrical Engineering, but her penchant for the creative caused her to run away screaming from the pocket-protector set. Barbara cooks up cozy mysteries with a healthy dose of comedy and sometimes a splash of romance. Her holiday novella, Gold, Frankincense, and Murder was released in e-book format from White Rose Publishing in December 2011. Barbara also writes as Beverly Allen, who has a cozy mystery series coming in 2014. You can learn more about her writing at


  1. If the blog looks Wonky - don't blame Barb.


    As long as we are using tv's fictional men (who are less fictional than fiction's men)...
    I'll go with Magnum PI.

    The Magnum character was so wonderfully portrayed by Tom Selleck.

    Here you had war hero/ little boy. Smart, good-looking, sexy, competent, loyal, clever, funny...all wrapped up in a package we couldn't resist.

    He enjoyed life, had this boyish charm (and reveled in the freedom of being a big teenager at times) yet hid a broken heart over the loss of his one true love. Oh - and he wasn't a womanizer!

    throw in the scenery and awesome secondary characters and it was a great hour-long vacation for me and my friends each week.

    I like the depth of the Magnum character. To me, someone who can laugh at themselves and doesn't take themselves too seriously is very attractive.

  2. I enjoyed all of these characters, with the exception of Frank Hardy. I'm sure I would have liked him but ::ahem:: that was before my time. I did like him in the books though.

    Oh, and Deb, Magnum is a fantastic addition. I can add Shawn and Gus from Psych to the list. They aren't heart throbs, but they are hysterical. Oh, and both male leads in White Collar. I love the FBI agent who loves his wife and has a strong internal sense of wrong and right. And seriously, what's not to love about Matt Bomer and his character?

    Barb, I'm with you. All my favorites are detectives or spies as well.

  3. We could add men to this list all day. If I had to add a new one, it might be David Tennant's Dr. Who. (Dr. Who has become my most recent obsession. I guess I can like characters other than detectives and spies!) I've been trying to figure out my favorite doctor, and decided it's Tennant.

    He probably has the most expressive face of any actor I've ever seen. Cheerful and funny, but NOT a buffoon, his doctor travels for the adventure, but risks his life for Rose and for doing the right thing. After losing Rose, he carries a grief that defines him without controlling him, if that makes sense. (Still working on that first cup of coffee.)

  4. Oh, man! All these wonderful guys!

    The only one I know nothing about is Chuck (sorry, Chuck!). I love all the rest of them. And, yes, I always liked Frank much better than Joe. Always.

    Oooh, and brilliant additions, too. Magnum? Funny, kind, strong, and not at all hard on the eyes? Yes!

    And the wonderful Psych and White Collar guys. All my favorites. (Haven't really watched TV for a couple of years now, but I am going to catch up. I am!!)

    Sigh, if only Richard Armitage was in a good series now. :D

  5. Now the Psych guys...I like them, in a "they'd be fun to have at a party" kind of way, and the show is fun to watch, but it's hard for me to consider them as romantic heroes. I think they're too young for me.

    I mean, I guess Frank Hardy's way too young for me, but he was old for me at the time...if that makes sense.

    Maybe I need to find my inner teenager, you know, dig out the junk food and the Clearasil.

    Or maybe just the junk food.

  6. all your listed heroes are great. i always DID prefer Frank Hardy over Joe...

    Magnum is a good addition and the dudes from White Collar - yep

    Agent Booth, from Bones comes to mind. His strong sense of family and moral values appeal to me.

    A foppish acting hero will always annoy me. Give me strong love and a golden heart anytime. That, and a willingness or ability to get dirty and fix things.

    As the Red/Green show Host used to say "If your wife can't find you handsome, at least let her find you handy." *heh*

  7. I thought of another one. I loved Macgyver growing up. And Barb, David Tennant made a WONDERFUL Dr Who. He was awesome awesome.

  8. Booth and MacGyver--both great additions. Booth is strong and emotional and traditional, a perfect foil to Brennen's cold logic.

    And MacGyver would be a handy guy to have around.

  9. I really like most of the male doctors on Grey's Anatomy. They have a great combination of sensitivity and toughness. I espeically like Alex Kerev and Jackson Avery.

    Thinking through my other shows...there's a great teenaged deaf James Dean type character on Switched at Birth. Emmet is the character's name. That guy can kiss!

    White Collar guy is cute, but gay in real life. Oh, and the guy on Burn Notice.

    I really do like the television doctors the best though.

  10. Favorite Fictional TV male...Spock of Vulcan.

    He was such a mystery in the early days.

    The was such control on the outside and such vulnerability on the inside.

    You knew you could depend on him without question, but you just knew he needed a hug.

  11. Oh Barb, I remember this post and I'm so happy to read it again. Remington Steele, sigh... Castle, bigger sigh....

    And of course Monk is one of my faves, and though I don't see him as a hero in one of my own books, I do wish he'd find romance. Oh, wait. If one reads the Monk series, he is FINALLY finding romance in a most unexpected place.

    My all time favorite hero though, is Dr. Sam Beckett of Quantum Leap. To me, he's not only a really sweet guy - but he's willing to sacrifice everything he holds dear, his entire life in fact, to do what is going to help someone else. Sam Becket all the way! Whoo-hoo!

    Thanks for reposting this!

  12. Oh yeah, I forgot - how could I forget. Yes, Deb, I love Thomas Magnum, too. :-)

  13. My goodness. I can't seem to get everything out all at once.

    I haven't watched Switched at Birth, Dina. But I've been interested in it. I just can't seem to find it from the beginning. I really like The Lying Game. It's also on the Family Channel. But I'm not sure I see any heroes on there yet. They're still coming into their own, I guess.

    I have a confession. I've read all the books. They're a bit different from the show, and I can see the love interest more as a hero in the book than on the show.

  14. Dina--I've not watched Grey's Anatomy, but I know they've show teasers of their doctors, so I imagine they are favorites of many. The deaf teenager sounds like an interesting character.

    Oh, and Burn Notice. Two guys, really. I know a lot of mature women prefer Sam.

    And Sharon--I had a brief pre-teen crush on Spock. Maybe it was longer than that. I always wanted to see him and Nurse Chapel get together.

    And Suzie--I need to put Quantum Leap on my TBW list. I've heard all kinds of fun things about it.

  15. Suzie--I must confess. I haven't even heard of The Lying Game. But that's not unusual. I tend to be a bit behind in my television anyway.

    Reading about it now...

  16. The Lying Game would be considered YA. It's a show about twins who were separated at birth. Initially, they switched places to try and find out who killed their mother. Now they're embroiled in much bigger suspense. I've never grown up....

  17. Writers are allowed YA. Sometimes it's much more original--and you never know when you want to write it!

  18. This has been fun! I think I was too old for the Hardy Boys when they were on.
    And sadly, we never ended up getting a photo of Bruce Boxleitner.

    I used to think THANK GOD the doctors in real life rarely look like the doctors on TV. If a doctor walked into the exam room and looked like George Clooney did I would have fallen of the table.

    Loved Quantum Leap too!

    Now... I don't watch this show anymore but I'm surprised Mark Harmon's character on NCIS didn't come up. That's a deep well of character issues there.

  19. Deb, don't ever go to the hospital where my brother in law works in the ER. He's pretty good looking.

  20. Gibbs!! Deb, yes, oh, yes. And oddly enough, Bruce is showing up for me. He reappeared when I traded out Brosnan's pic. I didn't realize nobody else could see him. :(

  21. oh, how could i have forgotten MacGyver???

    i used to joke he was my monday night date all through college. definitely my all time favorite TV hero.

  22. You hit all my favorites... except you need McGiver and Hogan from Hogan's Heros... oddly enough I am 28 but all my favs are from my mom's generation... plus Chuck! I agree about Heros being too girly, I want to read about a man that is a man. A confident man that fights for what he believes in!


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