by Teagan Berry
Writing is difficult. The carefully crafted plot, the perfect climactic moment, the creation of three-dimensional characters. All of these and more are required to make a believable and plausible novel. And then there’s the point of view (P.O.V.). I’ve already written here about the different points of views out there for authors, along with their benefits and drawbacks, but then the gender of the character speaking plays a role as well.
In my current novel, I’m writing a split-P.O.V. between a 21-year old girl and a 25-year old boy. Now, you might say, But you’re a girl, how can you write as a guy? My response? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I’m any good at it. I guess we’ll all find out in due time.
All joking aside though, I do believe it is possible to write in the opposite sex’s viewpoint – it just requires a little more dedication. My biggest tip? Research. Research is key.
Start off by having conversations with a guy. Find out the way they talk, the way they think – in particular how they react to certain situations. Perhaps you may know a particular scene your male character is facing, so ask them what they would do if faced with that issue. I know it’s not necessarily the same, since most likely the person you’re talking to isn’t identical to your character, but at least it’s a start.
Another suggestion? Don’t just talk to one guy and call it quits after that. Like any other kind of research, you’re going to need to do some thorough digging before you come up with something concrete. So get out there and talk to lots of guys. Guys of all types, too. The more variety, the more realistic your male character is going to sound. You want to know all the options out there before you pick one which will work for you.
Related: Point Of View: Understanding Which P.O.V. is Best for Your Story and Using it Effectively
I’m sure that by now you’ve realized that there are some major differences between how a guy thinks and a girl thinks. To just throw some out there (and keep in mind these are just generalizations – so in no way do I believe all men are like this):
- Men talk less. WAY less. So if you find your male lead is out-talking his counterpart then you might want to re-visit his characterization.
- Guys don’t tend to notice details in the same way girls do.
- Men try to act like they don’t have “feelings” – even though we all know they really do so keep that in mind while you’re crafting your emotional scenes.
- A male character is going to notice more visually than his female counterpart, which means you’ll probably spend more time describing things than monologuing about thoughts.
- Guys DO NOT always think about sex. Yes, it does cross their thoughts, but most men are not sex-driven. They will, however, always notice a girl, regardless of whether or not they think they’re hot.
- On that note, the first look is one of instinct; it’s the second look, the double-take if you will, which really matters. This is the look which means they’re interested.
So there you have it. A short and quick guide to writing from the male point of view.
Guest post contributed by Teagan Berry, alternately titled “Writing the Male Poing of View.” Teagan writes books, watches sports, and reads. She started her blog initially to beat writer’s block, but it’s turned into so much more.
good post. I am writing a script for a short animation which has a male protagonist, and that is different then writing, cause writing too much of their thoughts can go against you as far as realism goes in a way that doesn’t happen in a book.
So that helps I think. But I think when a writer is writing a character, some characters for certain stories, just work for a certain gender and that is what has to be written. So when people say you can’t write a different gender that is not true, it is harder though.
Cool post. I’m getting ready to write for NaNoWriMo and will have several points of view, both females and males. I’d like to see a companion to this on key points to writing with a woman protagonist. (If you’ve already done this I’m curious to the link)
Great article about the male pov. Also, men tend to speak in shorter sentences—-not just a matter of talking less.
I disagree with most the the male points however, not all men are alike – just like women are not alike. Also, I have written several pieces from a male perspective or point of view. It is enlightening.
This is interesting. My friends say I think like a man. I was raised around boys, and 90% of my friends now are male. Yet, I’ve never tried to write from a male’s perspective. I don’t do well with feminine characters either. I think all my protagonists have been “strong females”. I guess it’s time to put my male brain to use and see what I can come up with. Haha. Thanks for sharing!
Re point 2: Guys notice different things, usually stuff they have an interest in.
I guess the stereotype is that a guy will be able to describe their neighbour’s car in reasonable detail; a girl may only be able to recall the colour, but be far more aware of how often it’s actually used.
I’m writing a male POV. Granted, he’s an elf, but a guy. I’ve actually written more guys than girls. Making them sensitive without seeming “girly” tends to be the question people ask me more than anything. I think of the men as human and work from there. ☺️ I will say there are chatty men as there are chatty girls. I try to stay away from stereotypes from both sexes.
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Thanks for pointing out that men don’t think about sex all the time, but I want to disagree with some of the other things on your list (even though I’m not supposed to have an opinion about how guys talk and think, being a guy myself). Sure, some men don’t talk much, but some of us are chatterboxes, just as many women are laconic. There’s nothing in the Y chromosome, after all, that determines speech patterns. Also, whether or not any person notices details — and what details they notice — is a matter of interest and attention, not gender. A woman who likes classic cars will notice details about a car a LOT more than a man who doesn’t care about cars at all.
People are people, and most of the traits commonly thought of as “masculine” or “feminine” are actually just a matter of how individuals are socialized.
Sorry I used a lot of words to share my opinion… 🙂
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Absolutely. Totally agree.
However, I did specifically mention stereotypes. There are females who are very into cars and Owner’s Clubs have lots of female members. But they are outnumbered by men.
So it’s good to be aware of stereotypes just so that you can go with or play against expectations.
And now to do the opposite of these points, to make my character more unique.
Great thoughts. I am nearly finished with a project for which I am writing from a male POV. It can get tough sometimes and I don’t always know if it’s believable. I hope that’s something my beta readers can help me figure out. I once went to a workshop that was about imagining the different mannerisms associated with men and women, particularly paying attention to how they occupy space and their clothes. We did an exercise in which we had to write from the POV of the opposite sex paying particular attention to those things. I was so bad at it, I put my guy in women’s clothing. Turned it into a decent story, though, that did get published so I guess something good came of it. And I think (I hope) I’ve gotten better.
We never seem to worry about this problem much when men are writing about women. I think perceptive women who like men will take the time to “get” them (at least partially). 🙂
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Funny thing, my current work is told from the perspective of a sixteen year old girl – which I am not. While there are the common notes on the differences between the mental sexes, I don’t think trying to lock a character down to “authentic” gender role casting is nearly as important as getting the role right for the story. For me personally, I actually have a lot of “female” mental traits. I talk – a lot. But I like to solve the problem even as I explore the issue. Which is real pain-in-the-ass combo for people who know me. Do you want to talk about it or do you want to find a solution? Both! I worry a lot – women worry more than men in general. I’m insanely sentimental, not the most manly trait there is. So, I tap into all that with my heroine. And, in some ways, my current heroine is more manly than most men. To use the vernacular, she has “balls.”
Point is, we all have it in ourselves to see things from the other side of the aisle. While research – talking to folks as you suggest here – is a great idea, I think, too, that it is a matter of spending some serious time simply asking, “What would it be like if I were a man in this situation?” And the gender winds up being a layer on a deeper human soul.
One of the most famous characters in literature – Scarlett O’Hara is one of the most manly women you will meet while still being a romantic fool. Wil Munny is a deadly gunfighter who also has the most actual empathy – moreso than any other character – for the woman on whose behalf he kills other men. Katniss and Princess Leia are straight out dudes who happen to be hawt. Walter White has every negative female trait in the book and struggles to just “be a man.” There’s a lot of mix and match out there and it works fine.
While it’s good to know things like men tend to be more practical, are more apt to get pissed off before they think things through and generally don’t care which is the right fork for salad, I would say don’t worry too much about getting it “right”. Just make him a real person. You know men. You’ve lived with them your entire life. I would trust whatever instincts you have about us far more than what you are being told by others. If it feels right to you – the writer – I’d say go with it. And if he comes out a little odd, well then you have an interesting character.
My .02 anyway.
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I wrote “A Glimmer of Love” in the male POV. After reading this, I’m curious to reread it. It’s still being edited. Hopefully, Cindy will catch any POV mistakes I made. ~ Connie
Great tips! Thank you. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles
Nice post. I wrote something similar about male writers and female characters. I think the easiest way to deal with the issue is have readers of the same gender read your characters and give you feedback. Reader feedback is essential in any case.
Regarding your points on gender differences, as a male I can rightfully contest some of these. Men do talk a lot, its just under different circumstances. Generally speaking, women tend to talk a lot about whatever topic. Men will talk ceaselessly about topics that interest of concern them, when they feel they have something important to say. I will blab on and on about Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Magic the Gathering, or why the Force Awakens was not as good as people say (sorry, but its true). Some of my friends can talk endlessly about cars and sports. It depends on the topic and the person.
Regarding men not wanting or being willing to show emotion, that’s a cultural thing. It is much less significant in Europe, and much worse in East Asia. As an elementary school English teacher in Korea, I witnessed both male and female Korean teachers berrating 6 or 7 year-old boys for crying. “Men don’t cry! Don’t be weak!” — instead of trying to understand and help the boy. Men in America are generally more sensitive than they get credit for. That’s due in large part to a changing culture. The current generation’s grandfathers were not allowed to cry at all, their fathers were discouraged from it, but the new generation gets away with it in a world of helicopter, over-indulgent parents. Culture is such a powerful shaping force.
Well, those are just my thoughts. I will offer a last comment that was offered to me. If you are thinking about it, you are doing much better than most.
My post about gendered writing: https://jmwwriting.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/discussion-the-danger-of-male-writers-and-female-characters/