Is He Man Enough?

Monday, January 24, 2011

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.

Descriptions

·    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.

History

·    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?

28 comments:

  1. Great post! Getting into a man's head is difficult even when you're married to them. LOL.

    This helps.

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  2. Great post with such wonderful insights! It is challenging to write from the male POV, isn't it? Like you, I rely on the men in my life to critique my work and offer as many insights as possible. I also find that reading the works of others who write from the male point of view is very helpful.

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  3. @ Elizabeth - I like to think men are much simpler beings than us, but what do I know?

    @ Cynthia. Thanks. I do have to think about what I'm doing when write the male POV. I have to switch my thoughts off and try to think like a man and yes, male readers and writers help a lot.

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  4. Great post! This is where people watching (and listening), paying attention to how the men in my life talk, and sometimes even studying male dialogue and body language in a good movie helps me.

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  5. Rula, good point. I need to do that more. Often times what I'll do is try to bring to mind what the men around me do or how they react in certain situations. Paying more attention would help!

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  6. Thanks for your nice comment on my blog. Great post - trying to see things from a male POV is a good exercise (and challenge), writer or not!

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  7. I like that you broke down the difference between the male and female character voices. I'm more comfortable writing from a female perspective. I've attempted once to write a story from the male perspective but I didn't think it was very successful!

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  8. Adrienne, I gotta agree with you there.

    Racquel, I'm learning as I go, so with each male character I'm improving.

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  9. I think it's cool you can write from a man's point of view. I've never been able to create a believable male voice, so I'm impressed.

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  10. It takes a bit of practice and wrapping my head around the character, not to mention a ton of editing to get the male voice just right. It's challenging, but it can be done.

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  11. You've really got the psychology of the male mind down! No wonder your Paul is such a well rounded character. I like your flower analogy above, about the different way men and women would look at flowers in the garden. It made me grin, thinking yep, I'd be smelling the roses and my husband would keep in mind which ones might get him out of the doghouse. :)

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  12. Thanks, Tina. I had time to get Paul right. Six months writing him and four years of editing. :D

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  13. For some reason, I find writing male characters to be easier than writing female ones. Go figure. LOL

    Lynnette Labelle
    www.lynnettelabelle.com

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  14. Interesting! You could give me some pointers then. :)

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  15. Interesting post! I like writing from the man's POV, but more often than not, write from the woman's. And I hate head-hopping. Omniscient narration drives me up the wall. I never write it, and although it's not a deal-breaker when I'm reading, I have been know to throw a book across the room in frustration from it.

    Great to meet you! Looking forward to following :))

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  16. Thanks, Nicole,
    I too like writing from a man's perspective perhaps because it's still not done too often in romance novels.

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  17. Interesting post! I find writing from a male perspective comes easily to me, cos I model the men on those I have lived with or seen. But yes, I do get men to read my writing when am going through the drafts:)

    Left you an award on my blog, cos I love the way your blog looks and sounds, check it out :)

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  18. Damyanti,

    Thanks for dropping in and thanks for the award. I'll come check it out.

    Modelling characters on the genuine article is guaranteed to work when we write them convincingly. :)

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  19. Good insights! I've got to keep this in mind.

    I for one am glad to hear that "head-hopping" is coming back in style. At least my writing won't seem quite as old fashioned.

    And speaking of research...now that you remind me, I really should look at one more book after I finish updating my notes.

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  20. Thanks, Mary. Research is a pesky constant in a writer's life, isn't it?

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  21. I love the comparison of males and females. It's sometimes difficult to write with honesty the inner thoughts of the opposite sex. Great post

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  22. Lynda,

    I agree with you there. Another smart writer reminded me to always break things down to what my male character wants most, as well as the main causes of conflict.

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  23. I think my husband and I got things mixed up. He's the one that notices nature and I talk less than him. But, I think your post is very good.

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  24. Thanks, Clarissa, and yeah, there are always exceptions to the rule. :)

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  25. I love this post. Great job. As one of my readers said-- I love the way he sees her. Ah the magic.
    I find that by using a male POV, my scenes naturally have more action, movement.

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  26. Tanya,

    Good point. When a man's involved, there IS more of everything.

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  27. Oh, I love it! I'm writing a male lead right now, this is invaluable. Thank you!

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Don't be shy. I'd love to hear what you think.