So You Want To Have An Attractive Character?
Whether you're trying to write a lead for a bodice-ripper or roleplay a sexy Cassanova, here are some pointers and advice to make your characters more appealing and more shippable to others.
Table of Contents
- It's not all about the looks.
- Be careful you're not trying too hard to make your character look attractive.
- Don't tell the audience what to do or think.
- Don't act desperate or entitled.
It's not all about the looks.
Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to have their characters’ attractiveness ride on their looks. Many character intros will describe someone who is (at least, in the author’s mind) the very pinnacle of physical beauty or sex appeal, and expect readers or players to find their character desirable. But thing is, physical appearance ain’t all that. Edward Cullen was supposed to be the most gorgeous thing that ever brooded on two legs, but a lot of people simply found him weird and creepy rather than attractive.
There are many other important factors in attractiveness that people overlook - particularly, personality and the way the character behaves. Here are some non-physical factors that can affect someone's attractiveness and sex appeal:
Does this character look like the kind of person you could have a good time with? Some indicators of this might be...
- Displaying social confidence, genuineness, and self-assuredness - EG, smiling, laughing, and making jokes.
- Showing a genuine interest in something the other person finds fun.
- Showing genuine willingness to try things that the other person is into.
- Looking like the kind of person who could take or introduce the other to fun adventures.
- Looking like the kind of person that the other person would feel comfortable being xirself around.
Does this character look like someone who would support the other person in fulfilling xir dreams and goals?
- Someone interested in having children might find someone who seems good with kids more attractive than otherwise.
- Someone who wanted to see the world might be more attracted to someone who showed an adventurous personality. Someone who enjoys learning and values knowledge might be more attracted to someone who does the same.
Does this character look like the kind of person who could see to xir physical and emotional needs? For example...
- Being willing to listen to a person's fears and anxieties without being judgmental or condescending.
- Being willing to give help and assistance without being judgmental or condescending.
- Giving compliments and praise where due.
- Showing willingness and ability to meet material needs - EG, being willing and able to fix things around the house or to get or prepare food.
On the other hand, there are indicators of stormy weather ahead that might put someone off no matter how physically attractive xe was:
- Constant or near-constant melancholy - this can indicate someone who will only be depressing or a drag to be around.
- Unwillingness to try anything other people are into, or constantly puts down their interests and hobbies - it's hard to have fun with someone who constantly reacts to things other people enjoy with apathy and/or derision.
- Ribbing or teasing, particularly where the ribbing or teasing is mean-spirited and/or hits something that the recipient of the teasing is sensitive or sore about, and is not something that the recipient can laugh along with - this can indicate an emotional abuser.
- Someone who is only happy in the presence of a significant other - this indicates an emotional vampire.
- Cold, contemptuous, or spiteful behavior in general.
- Someone who always acts unhappy or disappointed whenever the significant other makes plans that don't involve xir - this indicates someone who has unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of how a relationship works.
- Someone who has to be involved in each and every aspect of the significant other's life, and always has to offer advice or "help" over each and every little thing whether asked for it or not - this indicates a smothering, controlling personality.
- Dishonesty and/or evasiveness when answering questions that shouldn't be a big deal to answer - like, where you are when you're not at the restaurant you were supposed to meet your significant other at thirty minutes ago. This can indicate someone who is doing something legally or morally questionable and/or just doesn't really care about the other person's feelings.
- Being short-tempered, finicky, picky, or hyper-sensitive over minor issues. Feeling like one has to constantly tip-toe around a person to avoid setting xir off is incredibly stressful. Also, if such minor things merit such a major reaction, what's an actual major issue going to do?
- Unwillingness to be useful, helpful, or considerate - almost nobody likes a millstone.
Be careful you're not trying too hard to make your character look attractive.
Trying too hard to make a character look attractive is almost always a put-off. Signs you might be trying too hard include...
- Giving your character flawless or perfect beauty.
- Giving your character "attractive" features that don't naturally exist on what your character is, or coming up with some unusual backstory or making your character some unusual thing largely to justify your character having those features.
- Your character always has perfect makeup and hair, even though your character doesn't have the time and/or inclination to spend roughly an hour on that sort of thing every day.
- Having your character wear "attractive" clothes in inappropriate situations (EG, wearing a sexy cocktail dress in a professional setting, or wearing an elaborate outfit despite being a menial servant), or always being stylishly dressed and well-groomed matter what the situation is.
- Frequently pointing out that your character is attractive in your character's descriptions.
- Constantly using "beautiful" words to describe your character's features - EG, likening your character's eyes to precious gemstones.
- Over-describing your character - EG, by going into depth describing small details that the observer probably wouldn't notice or pay much attention to at this point.
Does this mean your character can't have, say, purple eyes? Well, no - your character potentially can. But ask yourself why you're giving your character purple eyes. Are you doing it primarily because purple eyes say or hint toward something important about your character (IE, something that's going to relate to the plot), or are you doing it primarily to make people see your character as attractive? If it's the second, you're trying too hard. Likewise, if your character is always stylishly dressed, the character should have a personal reason for it. You can't just have a character who "doesn't care about appearances," yet is always dressed to the nines and/or always has perfect hair and makeup.
Don't tell the audience what to do or think.
Looks are subjective - different people find different looks more attractive than others. It’s pretty annoying to have someone describe a character in precise detail and then be told that their character is unequivocally beautiful, cute, handsome, or whatever. How ‘bout just describe the character, and let the other players or the audience decide for themselves whether or not the character has these qualities? Alternatively, give a less-precise description and say that the character is pleasant to look at, or attractive by conventional standards, or whatever seems most appropriate, and let the other party fill in the blanks themselves.
(Also, telling people that their roleplaying characters find yours attractive, cute, or sexy is a form of powerplaying, a roleplaying faux pas.)
Don't act desperate or entitled.
Desperation or a sense of entitlement is a huge attraction-killer, both in real life and from the point of fiction. If you constantly point out that your character is attractive and/or act like everyone and/or their characters should find your character sexy, people are going to catch on and be put off. (And the less likeable a character’s personality is, the more irritating it gets being told how gorgeous and graceful the character is.)
And remember - in RP land, nobody owes you a ship. This is more meta advice than actual character advice, but if you go into a roleplay acting like people owe you a ship, other players may recognize that you’re likely to be the roleplaying equivalent of Overly Attached Girlfriend and avoid you and/or your character accordingly.
And on this track, if it becomes obvious that you are playing a self-insertion and that you are looking for an ego-boost or personal wish-fulfillment fantasy via an RP ship, savvy players will avoid shipping with you, as doing so can lead to an incredibly unhealthy situation for you and them. (Playing like this can mess with your head and the head of those who ship with you in very bad ways as real emotions become attached to and tangled up in fictional scenarios.)
If you liked this, you might also be interested in:
Are Your Characters In Love Or Just Infatuated?
What Romantic Chemistry Looks Like
Basic Tips To Write Healthy Relationships
How To Avoid Creating Shallow Love Interests & Shallow Best Friends
Tips to Write & Roleplay Believable Successful Long-Term Relationships
Tips To Avoid Killing Your RP Character's Conversations
Things To Avoid When Writing Romance Novels
Plot Punter - Romance Edition
Couple Development Questions
Notes & Musings On Writing Cute Characters
Describing Your Character: Tips & Advice
Why "Purity" Is An Overrated Character Trait