My husband often reads over my writing and scrutinizes the male protagonist. He asks, "Do you wish I did this?" Or, "Should I be more like So and So (input hero's name here). Let me just put one thing straight and let me be very clear! I might even type this in all caps:
WOMEN MAY LIKE TO READ ABOUT FICTIONAL MEN BUT THEY DON'T WANT TO MARRY THEIR FANTASIES!!!
Just to drive my point home, I will chart things women (and by this I mean me and maybe a few other girls out there) want and find attractive in fictional men and then contrast it with real men, in real life.
*Motocycles: For some reason, I think guys who drive motorcycles in books/movies are hot, reckless, mysterious. It symbolizes a fast, free, and spontaneous lifestyle. It's edgy and cool in a fictional guy. BUT, I would have a cow if my hubby came home one day with a Harley. Why? Because the father of my children should have a VERY safe car--not just because is he my bread and butter; he's also my honey. I know what the mortality rates are on those crotch rockets and I do not want him becoming a statistic. But hey, snaps to all out there who risk their lives to either save gas money or the environment.
*Looks: In books the male protag is often gorgeous. Depending on the genre, he could be a Greek god chiseled from stone with equally firm chest and arms and in equal parts cool and aloof--stoic. Or he could be the dimpled darling with sparkling eyes, a crooked grin and tons of sex appeal. Either way the guy gets more description than the setting, his smell, the light off his hair, the drape of his clothes, his eyes, the heat of his touch (unless his a vampy, then he's cold, but I digress.) In real life, it seems like those types of guys are either in line at the DES or for porno flicks. In real life, we're happy to be with a good, attractive man, not the male model pictured on the cover. We want someone who loves us, respects us. Besides, I think I'd be mildly uncomfortable with someone that attractive. I'd hate to have to beat other girls off him all the time.
*Conflict: From Pride and Prejudice to Twilight, every story that has even an ounce of romance in it, there is conflict between the female/male protag. Why? Because we want resolution and we want it so badly that we will read through hundreds of pages to get it. We want the characters to get together because it will make us happy. But in real life conflict in a relationship sucks. It's like having a permanent bad mood hanging over the head. Clear communication in real life, not conflict is what we seek.
*Mysteriousness: If entertainment thrives on conflict then its sister is the unanswered question. It is what drives a story. But I don't want to spend my real life trying to figure out what is going on in my mysterious husband's head. I want to know what's going on. Ok, maybe I want a little mystique.