01 May 2011

The Charmer - believable characters and emotional baggage

Apologies for not posting for over 2 weeks but I've been through a bit of a writing&blogging drought recently. Today it's time for another romance archetype/stereotype, but a male one for a change - The Charmer. It's the type of character closest to Victoria L. Schmidt's archetype of The Woman's Man and Dionysus, the god of the grape harvest, wine, madness and ecstasy.
I have come across many charmers in romance novels. It's a prefect hero for your story because in order to stay in a relationship (for the Happily Ever After) he has to grow.

Photo by Federico Stevanin

Key characteristics: The Charmer loves women and women love him. He is a free spirit, cheeky, cocky, simply likable. He can also be kind and loyal and knows his limits. He understands women, can be their best friend, support them and encourage to become stronger and more aware of their beauty, inner strenghts or charm.
In romance novels, and certainly in those medical one I've read, The Charmer is often a lover of life and fun, and teaches the heroine how to (re)-discover simple pleasures of life, spontaneity, fun and sensuality. he is the one who embarks on crazy adventures and is keen to try new things.
If you have a heroine who has dedicated her life to her career (would work well with The Perfect Nurse), who forgotten how to or is unable to celebrate sensual pleasures or fun, a heroine who would benefit from a self-esteem boost, The Charmer is your man. He will help her change.

Relationships: Although The Charmer would do a good, loyal friend, he is unable to commit to one relationship. He loves his freedom far too much and is scared of commitment and responsibility that comes with being in a relationship. Fortunately, this is exactly who you may need for your story, because with carefully set up conflict and character's arch you can help transform The Charmer into Mr Right. Interestingly, he forms strong friendships with women, but not with men and he is often rejected by other men and society for being different, or not manly enough (which is not true).

The Charmer is a dreamer, but he often doesn't have what it takes to achieve his dreams. He doesn't worry about money and often doesn't have them. He can be moody, loves sex and can make it fun and ecstatic. He has had many women and has broken (not on purpose!) many hearts. To him, all women are beautiful. He can see their inner beauty and can help bring it up to the surface (sometimes in Pygmalion's way), but no one will ever be as good as the ideal he is looking for. The ideal has a lot to do with his mother, and The Charmer may even be aware that his ideal Miss Right is a woman who could be both - a mother and a wife to him.

Typical backstory: Typically, The Charmer had a strong and close (too strong and too close) relationship with his mother. It was her who taught him how to understand women, how to be gentle to them and how to make them happy. His father is often an absent or distant figure, with little if any influence over the boy. Often, his mother taught him that men are bad and harm women (like his father harmed his mother) - that's why The Charmer doesn't like other men.
The Charmers I've met in real life often had Femmes Fatale for mothers - there is no woman more beautiful, sexier and more charming than her. Sometimes, the mother is idealised because she died in his early life and the young man has been searching for that perfect wife who would also be a mother to him (It sounds like one of your characters, Fiona, doesn't it?).

Typical jobs: As a free spirit, The Charmer will often hover on the fringe of society. He's a dreamer without the power of commitment so you won't find him among local businessmen, or on a list of high achievers. He rarely cares about his career, so despite talents, intelligence and potential, he will rarely have a powerful job, or he may even have no proper job at all. He's more likely to live like a hippie, or some other counterculture believer. He can work in other realms and dimensions - as a Shaman, a spiritual teacher, or be a pirate, a rock star or James Bond.

Motivations: the unconditional love (or his mother/wife), the total freedom (and other dreams), the thrill of having fun; also the fear of commitment.

Biggest fears: loosing his female friends, his freedom (hence fear of commitment and jobs with lots of rules, regulations and structure) and being exposed as a weak, unambitious dreamer (hence the choice of careers where ambitions don't count); also being prosecuted by the society as not being 'man enough' (I can see a potential source for internal conflict here).

Potential for growth: in order to remain in one relationship, The Charmer needs to learn to commit and be responsible. As he has not had a good male role model, he also needs to learn to be a grown-up man in the society, whether it's related to having a family or a 'proper' career. He may also need to learn how to interact with men (and that not all men wants 'one thing' and want to harm women).

Examples from film and literature: James Bond, Captain Jack Sparrow from The Pirates from the Caribbean, Johnny Castle in Dirty Dancing.

I admit, I like having a Charmer as a hero, because there is a lot of potential for internal and external conflict with my typical, overly committed, serious, all-work-no-joy heroine. Do you like The Charmer? Why?
What is your favourite type of hero?

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