It’s seems the Mills & Boon line of romance novels has been around forever and that’s probably why I started reading them as a pre-teen. The stories were somewhat similar or maybe it seemed that way to me as the ones I laid my hands on were about timid English women versus a dominant male, or a tale about a cowboy or a sheik.
My taste is varied, so for a while I cut back on my diet of Harlequin, Mills & Boon and Silhouette. Imagine my surprise some years ago when I discovered that there were romance novels targeted at ethnic groups. The stories have evolved much since then, but one thing that did not change much was that they were written from the female’s point-of-view. I find men fascinating, which I suppose is why I write my novels from both female and male points-of-view.
These days, I see some best selling authors doing the head-hopping thing like mad. One paragraph I’m feeling my male character and when I blink, I’m grappling with his lady’s thoughts or reaction. I can’t say it’s something I enjoy, but most of the time I understand what is going on and that’s the important thing. The writer will keep me reading if the characters live up to my expectation. That said, there are certain things I keep in mind when writing my male leads.
A Convincing Voice – language, reaction, motivation,
· Language is a common connector, but again men communicate differently. They tend to say exactly what they mean, while women are more tactful. Direct language for a male character is always better.
· We women will sometimes hide how we feel, particularly if something displeasing happens in a public setting. We will let the matter fester until later when it can be dealt with in private. I think that’s because women tend to internalize things more than their male counterparts. Men are more open and let you know they are displeased. Of course, personalities vary and again when I write, I like my men to be complex characters that don’t do the expected.
· A man’s motivation is oftentimes clearer than a woman’s. Take a guy who sees a woman he likes. You can see the open admiration. If you watch carefully, you can see him making up his mind to approach that woman. Then he’ll go into action. A woman will make several subtle passes with her eyes, unless of course, she wants him to know without a doubt that she’s interested. Her body language will tell him exactly what she wants him to know. I play around a bit in my writing. I prefer that my male characters be a bit more controlled in their approach. Yes, he likes the leading lady, but he’s also not letting his tail wag him.
· Men see the world differently than we do. While we will stop and absorb the beauty in nature, I’ve never seen a man running a fingertip over a flower in the way a woman does. In my mind, if he does this, it would perhaps be his way of telling the leading lady that he’d like to touch her like that.
· A man viewing a garden setting probably wouldn’t think about the dew pearling on the blooms, but it might remind him to get some flowers to smooth over the quarrel he had with his lady. Not to say that men don’t appreciate beauty, they just don’t get as enthralled over nature. In writing, a man’s appreciation of his natural surroundings should be conveyed in words that don’t make him sound sappy, unless it’s intentional.
· We are shaped by our history and our players should be the same. A man who experienced poverty and hardship in his early years would see the world differently from another who has had the best of everything, based on his family’s wealth. The first individual would have a different focus from the second. It is important to me that the reader can identify how my character’s life experiences have made him the person he is and why he is the way he is and what causes him to do what he does.
Getting Close to the Horse’s Mouth
· Research can mean good and bad things to me. It’s a frustrating exercise if I’m trying to ferret out elusive
information or it can mean hours wasted while I’m having fun learning new things. If I doubt that what I’ve written rings true, I find a man to read it. But before I get to that stage, I’ll talk to men to see what they think about a particular subject and how they deal with certain aspects of their relationships. Some of my best critiques have come from men, who will tell me that my male lead sounds sissyish when he’s thinking this or that, or they’ll say no man worth his salt would do or say such a thing. That’s usually my cue to go back to the keyboard.
Each time I write a male character, it’s a learning experience. The voice has to be authentic, seeing through ‘his’ eyes are a must, so is delving into ‘his’ past life and finding out what makes him tick. How do you write your male characters? Are there any other factors you keep in mind when creating your heroes?