heroes, chickens, eggs

Some interesting questions came up in the comments to yesterday’s post, where I made a short list of male characters I love best, as a first step in trying to figure out what goes into a well-written lead male, or hero.

1) Can the appearance of a given character on my list (or anybody’s list) be simply a matter of sexual attraction? That is, is sexual attraction the chicken, or the egg?

2) Can a fictional hero be perfect, but not sexually attractive?

3) Can a fictional character be sexually attractive, but not any kind of hero?

Christina’s point: “For the record, I don’t think a fictional hero can be perfect AND sexually attractive.” And she’s right, of course; perfect characters, I have said elsewhere, make for lousy fiction. So that was a poor choice of words on my part to start with, unless we’re going to get into sticky semantics where perfection brings with it the idea of its own imperfection. With that in mind, the question is now:
Assuming that sexual attraction is the result of a number of characteristics that add up to a good match between reader and character, what are those characteristics?

The first issue to get out of the way is the physical. Looking at my own list, these men don’t have a lot in common physically except that they are all fairly large in stature and physically strong. We are told so directly about Darcy, Philippe, Niccolo, Nathaniel; it’s possible to extract that conclusion in the cases of Phin and Daniel; John Crichton, of course, we can see. Not all of them are handsome in any traditional sense. Niccolo especially we are told is considered plain, if not ugly, by many. Some are handsome, and that’s made clear: Darcy, Phin, Nathaniel. Others we are left to draw our own conclusions, and then, of course, there’s John Crichton, who (sometimes life is good) we can judge for ourselves.

I’ve been trying to think of a fictional character who I found physically unattractive but would still put on my short list. So far I haven’t come up with one, but I’ll keep thinking. I’m also thinking about the rest of the characteristics that go into making these seven characters work for me personally.