Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh boy! (or girl?)

A reader asked if I'd expound on my advice for writing opposite gender point of view scenes from an earlier comment. So here I go!

First of all, I find it hilarious that my critique partners think my hero scenes flow more naturally than my heroine scenes. Oops. My husband would be equally confused since we are never on the same page ;) haha!

I think, though, the reason is because I always seem to know my hero better than my heroine for some reason. Because of that, his personality and voice flow more naturally into the scene. That is a reminder for me to do more research on my heroine and get to know her before starting the story. Does that ring true for anyone else?

If you struggle with making your hero sound like a guy, just follow these basic tips.

1. Match his inner voice to his profession. This makes it a LOT easier to get guy-sounding inner monologue going. For example, if your hero is an architect, have him notice structures of buildings or use metaphors of building blocks, angles, lines, and materials. This is good character depth regardless of gender. If he's a fireman, have him think in terms of heat and fire (you can easily see the metaphor choices there) If he's a cowboy, have him think like a cowboy. His natural comparisons and thoughts are going to border on what he knows. "She stalked away, faster than a bull out of a chute". (now that's a little cliche but you get my gist!)

2. Don't go overboard on description. Guys notice weather and setting and scenery too, but not in the same way a woman does (typically). Girls might see a field of wildflowers and think it romantic, beautiful, poetic, and would use color choices like fuchsia, turquoise, aqua, amber. The colorful field would make them feel things and contemplate. A guy would probably think (unless he's a master gardener) in color terms of blue and purple and pink. Basic. And he might not even really notice or point out the flowers in the first place. Guys would be more likely to focus on the mountain in the background than the flowers between the mountain and himself.

3. Watch your feeling choices. Guys experience the same emotions women do BUT in different ways. And their natural struggles are different than ours. Women's natural struggles are more along the lines of insecurity and wanting to be beautiful and feel safe and secure. Men's natural struggles are more along the lines of being enough, measuring up and receiving validation. Don't have your hero's struggle be that he thinks he's fat ;)

4. Clothing choice. Guys throw on jeans and a T-shirt and never think of themselves as wearing an outfit. Women, however - well, you know :)  This also applies to how the hero views the heroine's appearance. He would see her and note she was wearing a dress. Or jeans and a button down. Or a skirt and red shirt. He wouldn't think of her (most likely) as wearing a tunic sweater, a paisley sundress, or name brand ANYTHING.

5. Think of your own marriage or dating relationship and how you're different from each other. You see an action movie full of explosions and roll your eyes. But your spouse is like "YEAH!" You see a motorcycle and think "danger", your boyfriend thinks "adventure". Etc.

If all else fails, grab a guy friend, husband, uncle, father, or cousin (try to find someone in the same age bracket as the character, if you can) and ask if the thoughts and word choices you used seem more masculine than feminine.

I hope this helps!

Remember, when you're writing a point of view scene of the hero, he has to sound like a guy or it won't ring true to the reader. Even if some female readers don't notice it sounding off, your guy readers will--and so will your editor or agent ;)  Besides, you want your characters to resonate with your reader, so even if the reader isn't thinking "wow, that was a girly thing for him to think", you still want them to connect with the characters. And that means making them realistic.


  1. Nicely put! Thanks for the tips and insights! I wonder if being a girl means we take for granted how a girl thinks and feels, therefore not tuning in to the heroine as consciously, whereas we give more thought to the guy's character since that's different for us?

  2. I loved this! I'm definitely guilty of having my guy characters sound more realistic than my girl characters, too. But then... Having all boy cousins, all boy childhood playmates, and working with a football team probably gives me a slight advantage when it comes to my heroes and their POV. Lol.

  3. Cjoy, I bet that's exactly it! Great insight. Ashley, maybe we need someone to come teach us about the girl POV ;) hahahaa

  4. Love this post! And talking to guys definitely helps! I spoke with two this past week, interviewing them on their natural reactions. But, then, I think writing about guys is easier for me in the long run anyway. Must be - my medieval trilogy is all centered on guys!

  5. Great insight. When I taught 7th grade, we read The Outsiders every year,which was written when S.E. Hinton was a teenager. The kids loved to point on clues that a teenage girl wrote the book. :)

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