Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Boys! How Do Those Authors Get Them So Sexy?

It’s no secret to anyone who follows me on Twitter that I love fictional boys (okay, and real ones). But just talking, again, about hot boys isn’t the purpose of this post (shocking, I know). Nope. The point of this is to talk about the why behind their hotness, because it takes more than dashing good looks and a six pack to make me swoon (but the six pack helps).

Because here’s the thing. Just because the writer thinks a boy character is Adonis or the epitome of all things sex and baked goods doesn’t mean the reader will. Just telling me he’s super hot doesn’t make it true for me as a reader. Whether it’s because their words don’t translate the same in my head from the actual description, or just because their physical appearance isn’t really my style, there’s a lot that can go wrong just basing it on physical description alone.

So where do you go from there, if it’s not just telling me he’s hot? Show me.

Does he have a smile that is just slightly higher on one side than the other, or one dimple that goes deeper than the other? Does his forehead wrinkle when he’s in thought or worried, or does he chew on even just the tiniest corner of his lip? What can I learn as a reader that tells and shows me the deeper sides of him? The telltale signs even when his face is otherwise a mask. Does he have long hair that can fall in his face, hiding him just a little? Or is he unable to hide, even when his face goes tomato red?

But beyond habits and quirks, I want to know his personality. I want to know how he comes off to others, and how he acts when it’s just him and someone close to him. I want to see that rough and not caring exterior that a lot of teen boys do have, while still seeing the potential and the good in him. I want to go from hating him to loving him, and eating up his angst that he works so hard to hide from everyone else.

I know everyone’s taste in boys is different, but the biggest thing for this girl is for the guy to be, well, not perfect. I don’t mean give him stereotypical boy habits. I mean give him some flaws, and let me know about them. Let him mess up. Let me see him hurting. Don’t put him on a pedestal and let some guy just sweep right in and suddenly, a girl’s whole world is just fantastic and amazing and nothing is ever wrong again.

But don’t make him all flaws. Don’t rely only on those flaws to pull him through and make him totally swoonworthy. Find that perfect mix of flawed and good, tender and rough. There isn’t some magical mix of 40% flawed and 60% good that guarantees a boy every girl who reads it will just fall right for him. It’s as specific to the character as it is to the world they live in and the other characters they interact with. Is there that one girl who just completely changes him, who makes him want to change, just because she’s around? Or is he damaging himself, trying to protect his family? What are the reasons for his behaviors? Show those to me, and chances are, once I empathize with him, I’ll start to fall for him.

And just in case you need a few examples, here are a few YA boys who have made me drool and stole my heart even after the book was finished:

Wesley Rush (The DUFF by Kody Keplinger): If you want to learn how to turn a total jerk into someone you’ll drool over, read this one. Chances are, your first impression of Wesley isn’t going to be a good one, but keep reading, because you’ll see what I mean about understanding then falling.

Will Rutledge (Firelight by Sophie Jordan): If you want to learn how to infuse such a deep amount of angst that girls will want nothing more than to hug your boy and make everything better, read this one. Because what makes that angst so real? The reasons behind it.

Seth McCoy (Freefall by Mindi Scott): This one’s your example of how to make a guy still completely swoonworthy even when he’s the protagonist and the reader has full access to his head. You want real and flawed, with just the right amount of angst? Read this one. Because even though you’re in Seth’s head, you can see him falling for you, and trust me, you’ll want him to.

Aiden Wilder (The Naughty List by Suzanne Young): Here’s your jock that has everything going for him, but is still a genuinely nice guy. He’s funny and sincere, and though he might be a little on the horny side, it’s out of love for his girlfriend instead of just hormones. Aiden is your example of how to break the stereotypes, while still staying realistic and something that any reader can see and relate to.

Will (Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton): Here’s your example of a guy that doesn’t give a great first impression, but has way more to offer than can be explained in just a page or two of introductions. This is a boy who has a darker side, hinted at around the edges, but pushed away by an internal desire that is so clear with every scene he walks into.

Kari is a querying YA writer and book blogger who currently works a day job with a radiologist group and lives in Dallas. She enjoys badgering her dog Toby, meandering around the internet, and reading lots and lots of books. Currently juggling three manuscripts, she’s dreaming for the day she can stay at home and write full time, preferably with a charming boy to cook and clean. You can find her at http://agoodaddiction.blogspot.com/.


  1. Wow, those pics are ... um ... *clears throat* anyway this is a great post. A lot to think about while writing about boys and I hope I can make mine even better. Great post, Kari! Gotta go ... I have some copy and save to do. :D

  2. Love this post! And GREAT examples. Definitely fun to think about while writing, thanks for the reminder :-)

  3. OMG! I need to bump Firelight up on my reading list if angst is the primary feature. To me, I love the boys if there is angst with or without the tough external shell. They all need a hug from me. *is Hufflepuff*

  4. Awesome list of books, I need to head to the library.

  5. Love it!! And YUM. Great points Kari, I totally agree ;o) Good choices for the boys too!

  6. Excellent post, Kari! (and excellent pictures... *is entranced until she forces rips her eyes away from the first one* where did you find such good ones?!)

  7. Love this post. So dead on.
    I wish there was a way to favorite blog posts...

  8. GREAT post! Seriously, this is short and sweet and completely true. nice job!

  9. Dogs and topless buff guys? Aaaah why did I read this post right before bed? ;D

    And I definitely read it for the article...yeah....

  10. Greetings, earthling. Seeing as this is only our finite existence, I won’t be long. Shall I see you in Heaven, lovely girly? We’ll have a tonOfun for the length and breadth of eternity, where we’ll have a BIG-ol, kick-ass, party-hardy for many eons celebrating our resurrection, nekk’n and luuuv’n, drink’n and dancing, magical, renegade, exceeding-the-rules, and many nonillions of other magnificent, delicious, wonderfull, full-throttle, mind-blowin, bawl-bustin, drill-baby-drill, virtual reality, baby; on earth, grrr, we have whorizontal taxes - the death of U.S. Upstairs, however, we can fly: like a true, major’s child, we were born 2B wild [literally! Pop was USAF!! HawrHawr I’m so funny, I’m all over it like white-on-rice] God bless you. Love you, doll.