Please welcome Michael Shean to Lizzyland. Michael is the author of Shadow of a Dead Star and was one of the first authors picked by my dear friends at Curiosity Quills Press. Michael has been kind enough to write an awesome blog post about the unsung heroes of romance (and other fiction!)
The Adorkable Guy
The Appeal and Use of the Hapless Male in Fiction
by Michael Shean
Especially onerous are the male ones. You know what I’m talking about. He’s kind, good-looking, and can lift a Cadillac with one arm which ripples like a field of autumn wheat or whatever with masculine power. He’s kind to animals. He saves puppies from floods! He even gets along with his ex-wife, which was totally not his fault because she was totally wrong for him.
That’s all fine and good, but how many men do you know like that which aren’t already dead and canonized for sainthood? For me, the best kind of protagonist is the flawed one, male or female – I normally write about people with dark flaws, so let’s reverse the trend today and talk about someone a bit more upbeat. I’m referring to the Dorky Guy, the Hapless Dude – or, as I call him, the Adorkable Guy – who in fiction is an endless source of entertainment and reflection through the magic of schadenfreude.
The Adorkable Guy most often shows up comedic fiction – that is, fiction that’s primarily meant to be funny. He doesn’t have to be handsome, though he sometimes is (see every role that Hugh Grant has ever played). He’s awkward around his chosen sex, which these days in no way means the opposite one, and generally screws things up in some form or fashion. He’s often either very slovenly or very tidy, though in my experience it’s more the latter, and tends to be a deeply romantic person. So yeah, he’s often a nerd. He’s very often the representative of everything we feel uncomfortable about in our lives, every little moment of awkwardness that we possess lives on in him.
This is why the Adorakable Guy is so appealing – and why we like to see him tortured so. By his trials and travails, we see our own brought out of the darkness, held up to the light, and through the lens of experience made into something that we can not only relate to, but feel sympathy for. The Adorkable Guy is very effective at this, because he also demonstrates the uncomfortable reality of many men; so much of male culture is about ignoring or outright denying those flaws which he reflects. If we don’t see them, they surely can’t exist. The Adorkable Guy can also serve as a sort of mirror for women as well, either romantically or socially, in pointing out these flaws. I suspect that’s often why women like them.
But a cracked mirror doesn’t serve a purpose forever, and this brings us to the most important part of the character. The Adorkable Guy doesn’t remain adorkable, at least not entirely; the whole purpose of his cycle is to transform oneself from the flawed creature he was into a better person. And this is why he’s so appealing – he demonstrates that all the imperfections that make him who he was at the start, and therefore ourselves, can be redeemed. The often comic nature of the character makes this a more accessible transformation, but that’s not enough for me. I’d like to suggest to writers of all kinds of fiction – from the most lighthearted in which he is most often found to the darkest of fiction where he is so very rare – to make great use of this transformative character. The Adorkable Guy can be used in any genre, in any tone, and his power can be used to further carry on the message that so many stories convey. For those who like a darker ending, the imperfect nature of the character magnified so that he becomes monstrous.
Whatever happens in the end, however, I urge for this character and his female counterpart to be used more often; put away your muscular badasses and your unassailable amazons, and give them time to breathe. Sometimes the dorks need to come out and save the world, and maybe – just maybe – the world will thank you for it.
Michael Shean is an author of hard-edged detective Sci-Fi, living in the DC area with his wife and over-sized cats. The first novel of his Wonderland series, Shadow of a Dead Star is published by Curiosity Quills Press with its offshoot, Bone Wires, serialized every week on the Curiosity Quills website.