So I was talking to Michael Scott-Earle on LitRPG Forums and my review of Liam Arato’s Gold Farmer book. One of my complaints is that the MC is worshipped at every turn. Michael Scott-Earle says that he often writes stud-muffin MCs.
As always, the devil is in those details and so let’s look at details. Here’s a sample passage from The Gold Farmer describing the MC:
Without lord Zettou, they would all be dead by now. Even if they somehow managed to survive, they would’ve been sold off as slaves or prostitutes and suffered for the rest of their lives. Even this delicious meal with the taste of heavens was provided to them by lord Zettou. How could they betray him now?
Every line is devoted to how wonderful the MC is and what a great person he is. In contrast, every other person is a cartoon villain. Here’s the bad guy leading up to the sequel that is probably not coming:
“I am the envoy of Marquis Rumaty. The Marquis has graciously decided to take this worthless village and protect it under his rule. The Marquis will be coming in person in three days. Make sure you have a worthy gift prepared for the Marquis to show your appreciation. Well, I doubt your village will be able to produce anything worthy for the Marquis, so just prepare ten of the most beautiful girls in your village for the Marquis.” The man greedily eyed April all over. It was clear that he was trying to undress her in his mind.
It’s just bad.
Similarly, in my complaint about Runner in Arand’s Otherlife series, he is often praised in the same manner. When Arand gets into his fangirl sections, it is just as hackneyed as Arato’s writing.
For example, the main conflict in the early portion of Otherlife is that Runner (the MC) is supposed to be a military officer stuck in a VR game. He’s supposed to be worried about the men and women under his command. Yet, any time he is supposed to be helping the men and women under his command, he does nothing. He’s so lazy that the NPCs in his party contact the other PCs before he does, even though this is the major conflict of the first book.
Because Arand is Marty-Stuing Runner, he won’t criticize Runner whenever he’s doing something that he clearly should be getting shit for. Instead, we get introduced to 9, (yes 9), rapists under Runner’s command, meant to justify Runner being a shit towards them. This kills the main conflict, even if Arand is good enough at other portions of writing to tap-dance his way through the issue.
The Marty-Stuism both stops the MC from developing and gives us a bunch of mustache-twirling villains, and neither a Vanilla Wafer good guy nor a Mustache-twirling puppy-dog kicking villain are particularly interesting. This is what both Arand and Arato end up with.
So as I pointed out in the Arato review, when you overly identify with a character as an author, you won’t point out the foibles and mistakes of your MC. Additionally, you’ll succumb to the temptation of giving them a villain that does not make them question their identity or beliefs, just an easy villain to make the MC look good in comparison to.
Now, going through Michael Scott-Earle’s “Lion Quest”, the MC is indeed a stud muffin. Within the story, it makes sense. He’s a highly accomplished athlete who is internationally known and recognized. He’s not random McFucknut who happens to get all the girls because he’s breathing oxygen.
Unlike some other stud muffin MCs, he’s done something to accomplish this and, more importantly, he’s sacrificed things to get where he is. I haven’t read the whole book yet, but the stud-muffin MC is not some level 120 transplant (Arato) or a system admin given immediate god-mode (Arand), he’s a guy who has worked and sacrificed to get where he is.
So it’s not necessarily that Stud Muffin characters can’t be relatable or interesting, so long as there are other factors being balanced. When the entire focus of the story is how every character worships the MC, then it becomes what I call an autoerotic novel.