On Writing Convincing Male Characters

How do you write realistic male characters? That’s a question I often hear from women writers. Today, we’ll look at that and point you in the right direction, but let’s be clear that this is not something you’re going to learn overnight.

Anna posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:

How do you write convincing male characters? I thought I had it down pretty well, but I was told the other day that several of my guys were feminine. What are the things that female writers are most likely to get wrong? What are the things that are most important to get right?

Randy sez: This is similar to a question I answered a few days ago in my blog entry, “On Crossing Gender Lines In Fiction.” That blog entry dealt with the question of whether it’s possible to cross those pesky gender lines. Today, we’ll try to explain how it’s done.

If you read that previous blog entry, you’ll know that you don’t have to do a perfect job. You just need to do a good job. Perfection is probably impossible, anyway.

Probably the most talked-about lecture I’ve ever given was one titled “Writing From the Male Point of View,” which I gave in the fall of 2004 to an absolutely packed-out room at the annual conference for American Christian Romance Writers. Before I gave the talk, I had no idea how popular this would be, so the response I got was an enormous surprise.

Almost everybody at the conference showed up for my workshop. For the rest of the conference, I couldn’t walk ten feet without one of the women asking me to explain the mysterious behavior of her husband or father or brother or son or uncle or cousin or boyfriend or dog.

Until that conference, I had always assumed that women understood men. We are, after all, pretty simple. Generally, we say what we mean. Guys don’t generally try to lay down a trail of hints that have to be figured out.

Apparently, a lot of women don’t know that. Apparently, when a guy says, “Your hair looks nice today,” a lot of women assume there is some hidden meaning, such as:

  • Your hair usually looks terrible. It’s about time you did something right with it.
  • Your makeup is a mess, but at least your hair is OK.
  • You’re fat. The hair compensates a little, but you’re still fat.
  • Let’s hop in bed, you nymph, you.

The reality is that when a guy says, “Your hair looks nice today,” the secret encoded message which he hopes you pick up is, “Your hair looks nice today.” In the vast majority of cases, that’s all he means. No more. No less. There is no implication that your hair looked bad yesterday or that your makeup suffers by comparison or that you have a weight problem or that it’s time for a roll in the hay.

Furthermore, the guy is not fishing for some return compliment. It’s quite plausible that the guy in question doesn’t even view his comment as an actual compliment. Likely as not, this guy is merely making an observation akin to “Nice weather we’re having today,” or “The Dow is up ten points today,” or “The Padres are making a nice run at the division championship this year.”

So ladies, when a guy says, “Your hair looks nice today,” the correct response is, “Thank you! That’s so sweet of you to say so.”

Some examples of wrong responses are:

  • What was wrong with it yesterday?”
  • Don’t you like my mascara?”
  • I’m trying to lose ten pounds, so cut me some slack, all right?”
  • Sorry, but I’m not that easy, you dirty-minded lecher.

I could write an entire book on how to write male characters, so I can’t hope to cover it all here in one blog entry. There are plenty of books out there on how men and women are different. Some of them are pop psychology, such as John Gray’s book Men are Mars, Women Are From Venus which I have not read, but it’s a classic bestseller that everybody has heard about.

I rather like Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men. I read this shortly after I gave my talk, and wished I’d known about it before. Shaunti identifies nine ways in which men think differently from women. In general, I think she nailed it pretty well. I found the book interesting mainly because it said many things that were “obvious” to me, but which are apparently not obvious to women. That told me a lot about how women think.

In my own talks on the subject, since I’m limited to an hour, I usually focus on three essential ways in which men differ from women. These are in decreasing order of importance:

  • Ego. The male ego is on average different from the female ego. The male ego can drive a guy to do things that are slightly crazy or a lot crazy. There is no simple explanation for this, and asking for one is never going to get an honest answer. The male ego can get a bridge built but it can also result in a torn ACL. Go figure.
  • Lust. Guys are visual. The way women dress creates visual images in a guy’s brain that can linger for days, months, or even decades. I hope I don’t have to draw a picture here, but honestly, women seem to be completely unaware that guys don’t think their dress is “cute.” Guys aren’t looking at your dress at all, ladies, they’re looking at what’s under the dress or what’s not even covered by the dress. If they like what they see, it’ll stick in their brains for a long time. You can decide for yourself whether or not you want those images in a guy’s brain.
  • Feelings. Guys are a lot less likely to share their feelings than women are. For most guys, feelings are private things which are none of your business. If you ask and he won’t tell, then asking again is not going to get you anywhere you want to go, but it could get you blacklisted for any future conversations. Be warned.

It does no good for you to say, “But I know a guy who isn’t like that.” Um, yeah, there are always people who differ from the average. I’m talking about what the norm is, not about deviations from the norm. You can’t begin to discuss deviations from the norm until you know what the norm is.

Last year, I gave a repeat performance of my famous ACRW talk, five years after the original. The talk was updated with a lot of new material, but it covered the same essential topics above in the same order, because guys just haven’t changed much in the last five years. I solicited questions in advance from women on what they’d like to hear about guys.

The results astounded me. The VAST majority of questions dealt with how guys FEEL about things. A fair number of questions dealt with the lust/love question. Almost no questions at all dealt with the male ego. So the questions from women were in the exact reverse order of their importance to the actual behavior of normal, everyday, garden-variety guys.

What this tells me is that the gender divide is huge and that we can’t even agree on what the right questions are. Anna has asked a really excellent question, but the best I can say is that it’s a huge question and I suggest that you read some books on the subject. [Note: The links to books above contain my Amazon affiliate code, which means I get a small payment from Amazon if you should buy them. If this offends you, then just go to Amazon and do a search for the relevant titles and I’ll earn nada.]

Drat, I hate it when a subject is so large that all I can do is sketch out the beginnings of an answer. This might be a good topic for me to create a two or three hour lecture series on. What do you say, oh Loyal Blog Readers? Would you be interested in a product like that? If so, I can put it on my list of products to create “someday.” Leave a comment and tell me what your most burning question about men is.

If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.

44 Comments

  1. Anna August 13, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Thanks Randy! That’s really helpful! And the post a few days ago was helpful too.

  2. GabrielG August 13, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    You should now post “On writing convincing female characters” for completeness sake 🙂 (and because it was probably what I intended to ask in the “crossing gender lines” question)

  3. Tim August 13, 2010 at 12:05 pm #

    Randy I think the topic would be perfect for a lecture. Heck if you could do one as well on woman that would be awesome. I would recommend woman who are trying to write convincing males is once you know the norm, as Randy says base take things from a few close men you know really well to help you fill in the gaps and make them not sterotypical. Unfortunately, since we are so simple minded just going with then norm is very static. Using how men you know react when questions about feelings, or you know how they actually show their emotions can make you male characters very convincing once built up on the normal.

  4. Tami Meyers August 13, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    Hi Randy, thanks for the information. Since the two main characters in my WIP are male I’m sure it will be very helpful. I have the CD of your original talk at ACRW, but this condensed version was a great refresher.

    I’m sure nobody would even think of doing this, but just in case… A note to anyone who considers going to Amazon to purchase the books mentioned in Randy’s blog without going through Randy’s links – You should hang your head in shame. With all the free advice and teaching we get from Randy we owe him much more than the pittance he’ll receive from Amazon for our purchases.

  5. Alastair Mayer August 13, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    One difference that took me a while to twig to: when a guy complains about something, he’s looking for a solution; when a woman complains about something, she’s looking for sympathy. (On average, of course.) I think that ties in the the ego/feelings inversion.

    And regarding lust vs feelings, I’ve heard it put (somewhat crudely) as men use love to get sex, while women use sex to get love.

    Finally, I’ve heard some writers speculate that the popularity of the Edward character (in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series) with young teen girls is because he is NOT a convincing male character, but somewhat feminine. Keep your audience in mind.

  6. Katy August 13, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    From what I know of my male friends and others, I think the points Randy made are bang on: Ego, Lust, Feelings. I also think they’re probably proportional. For example, I know a guy who is pretty comfortable sharing his feelings, he’s not a huge perv (well maybe internally) but he is stubborn as a mule, never apologizes or admits he’s wrong, and does crazy things to prove how awesome he is, in other words he has a gigantic ego! On the other hand one of my best friends is a total sex fiend, but he’ll tell you just about anything you want to know about him feelings wise, and he has a medium sized ego at best.

    I think if you want to play around with male characters maybe vary the levels to which they express each of these male traits (they’ll need other traits too of course). Give one a average ego, an average lust level, but make him totally protective of his feelings, another might be pretty quiet about his feelings, pretty sex driven, but have a small ego.

  7. Judith Robl August 14, 2010 at 2:22 am #

    Thanks a bunch, Randy. I have a WIP with four important male characters (and two female). Trying to get them down to a science is driving me nuts. This will help a lot.

  8. DiscoveredJoys August 14, 2010 at 2:35 am #

    I’ll echo the thought from Alastair, but rephrase it slightly. When a guy complains he is looking for solutions and confirmation. When a woman complains she is looking for validation of her feelings and sympathy.

    I learned this the hard way – Mrs DiscoveredJoys would come home from work venting about some colleague. I (wearing my exectutive/man/provider hats) would offer solutions. She would get annoyed that I wasn’t taking her feelings seriously. I would get annoyed that she wasn’t taking my solutions seriously.

    We understand each other better now, through the simplest ‘trick’ I picked up from a course at my employers. Whenever Mrs DiscoveredJoys raises the touchy subject about somebodies actions I ask “How do you feel about that?” which sets the conversation off in a positive way. Mrs DiscoveredJoys (no fool) rapidly recognised this conversational gambit – but it still works!

  9. Melissa August 14, 2010 at 3:20 am #

    Haha, this is so true!

    I grew up with two brothers close in age, and all of their friends hanging around, and no sisters – so I usually relate to men better than other women I know.

    My friends in high school who had crushes on my older brother would ask me questions and want to know all about him like he was some sort of mysterious being. And I was like “No, seriously. What you see is what you get.”

  10. Tessa Quin August 14, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    Hi Randy,

    You should definitely write a book and call it something like “Writing a compelling male character”. There’s no book on Amazon that has a clear title on writing male characters. It would probably become a best-seller. I’d definitely buy one.

  11. Andrew August 14, 2010 at 4:13 am #

    The male stereotype needs some work.

    I hardly understand or fit the male stereotype. The inflated ego isn’t rational. I have as much of an ego as anyone else, but it doesn’t get out of hand. It’s true that I do lust; I am drawn to the female body/appearance. In terms of feelings, though, I would say I’m probably more emotional than most girls I know. And, (because it MUST be said with gender stereotypes being the way they are these days,) I’m completely 100% heterosexual.

    So, I believe I match Randy’s male stereotype by about 50%. When you get right down to the psychology between male and female, we share similar biological processes. We each have the same hormones, but on average in varying levels. I think we’re more alike than we’d care to admit, but we deal with things a little differently due to gender stereotypes that are dead set and not changing anytime soon.

    Of course Randy is right, there are gender norms. I think though, that in the 21st century we should be starting to break down the stereotypes instead of supporting them. I think we should go out of our way to find exceptions to the norms (while recognizing and paying our due to them). I think we should focus on finding bizarre characters who, because of their upbringing and their own personal goals/strengths, choose to boldly step out of their stereotypes and do whatever the hell they want.

    Of course, that’s just me. But hell, throwing bizarre characters in your fiction is bound to upset or excite people; in either case, it will arouse interest. Great blog post.

  12. Morgan L. Busse August 14, 2010 at 5:13 am #

    I think ego will come out differently with different men depending on their personality and upbringing. Randy said ego will drive a man to do something a little or a lot crazy (I’ll take the liberty to define that as doing something other people wouldn’t normally do in those circumstances).

    I have a male character who is driven by honor and duty. In his “ego”, instead of dropping all of his responsibilities to follow the woman he loves, he actually chooses to let her go because he is bound by his sense of honor and duty to stay (is that a bad thing? I still don’t know lol… I just write the scenes 😉 But this man still has an ego that drives him to do something that most of us probably wouldn’t do (let the one we love leave).

  13. Lynda August 14, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    Go for it, Randy!

    I’m also tired of male authors creating women that are really men in female bodies. What comes to mind is a thirty-year-old museum curator who dangles by her finger tips—her fingertips!—from a steel girder. She’s left twisting that way for quite a while until the hero decides what to do. Really. What female curator has the upper body strenghth? Few Olympians would.

    It’s also tiresome to see female blackbelts kicking the daylights out of male blackbelts. She 5’2″ 110 lbs. and he’s 6’3″ and 210 lbs. Ain’t gonna happen.

  14. A J Hawke August 14, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    Very useful post. I would vote for a book on writing compelling male characters that give the readers a powerful emotional experience, the character, not the book. I would especially like to see a book co-authored by you with someone like Margie Lawson that explains both male and female character developments. That is one I would purchase.

  15. Camille August 14, 2010 at 8:13 am #

    This keeps coming up amongst my writing peers, who happen to be women. Who write stories for women. In a crit group, someone may point out a male character is doing something uncharacteristic, or is thinking/speaking/acting more in a way a female would. But the problem with pointing it out and changing it becomes an issue of deciding how accurate the female reader expects or wants these fictional guys to be.

    We have to take into account that a woman is probably reading a novel for escape, an emotional experience, entertainment, etc. The average woman reader (I’m guessing–no, I didn’t do a statistical study) isn’t as concerned about the male being 100% typical male. In fact, if I may make an even bolder guess, she may be interested in taking a break from reality and is pleased to spend 4-8 hrs in a world where a man (the good guy, anyway) talks about his feelings and can read his One-and-Only-Forever-and-Ever’s mind and makes sure that she is quite comfortable up there on her pedestal and has more chocolate than her hormones have any business having. And best of all, he just KNOWS when she needs a hug, one that doesn’t include any stray groping.

    So now I’m in danger of stereotyping women, and I don’t mean to. And I don’t mean to say that we need to make “girlfriend” guys in our books just for the sake of pleasing readers who hope such guys exist. Personally, I find learning to understand how males work quite fascinating. I want to be as plausible in anything I write as possible, not just with male characters but in all genders, ages, occupations, cultures, geographic groups, etc. But here’s the deal: as a writer of romantic women’s fiction, I understand that my audience wants something from the story that may require a slight variation from reality. It’s fiction – go figure. This is not to say that I think men need to be improved via fiction. Because there are certain traits generally present in EITHER gender that may not exactly benefit a good story.

    So my aim with male characters, for what it’s worth, is to do my best to understand how men think and operate, how they’re wired and how ego and other impulses motivate them, what opinions, needs, emotions, etc are generally inherent in the breed, and then find a balance between reality and what the story needs to keep my reader’s hopes & fears & emotions in a constant state of upheaval. I think this goes for all the elements of reality we use in fiction.

    Just my two cents. 🙂

  16. Diana August 14, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    Ok, girls, this is the deal. When I was a very young bride, I would ask my husband during quiet times what he was thinking. He almost always said he was thinking about nothing. My inner romantic, seething with emotions and feelings thought to itself- How could this be? I pestered him to dig deep to his feelings. He never got that deep. We argued and he worked up some different feelings than the ones I was looking for. Now after almost 29 years of marriage to this amazing, loving man, I realize he was telling the truth. He really can think about nothing at all. Incredible!

  17. Andrew August 14, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    I really enjoyed Camille’s comment. I think she clearly understands the line between writing within male stereotypes and stretching beyond those boundaries.

    I think we have to be very careful not to only write in terms of stereotypes. From my experiences, it would APPEAR to be true that certain men don’t have “a lot going on up there,” but that’s certainly not true for all men, and probably isn’t even completely true for the men it appears to be true for.

    Different people work in different ways. There are millions of different kinds of intelligence, and I’m sure you all know what I mean.

  18. Charlie Hills August 14, 2010 at 10:55 pm #

    The whole “Your hair looks nice today” analysis is brilliant. I wish I’d written that.

  19. Kim Miller August 15, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    My work as a prison chaplain puts me squarely into the world of men at many levels, and from there comes this recommendation.

    Celia Lashlie is a New Zealand author. She trained as a social anthroplogist, worked as an officer in a men’s prison, was Governor in a women’s prison, has written on prison issues (The Journey to Prison – Who goes and why.). But she has also done extensive work with teenage boys in high school, trying to work out their views on boys, men, and life.

    Celia has a book called, ‘He’ll Be OK, Growing gorgeous boys into good men’ and a CD called Celia Lashilie Live, which has some of the material from that book given as a hilarious lecture to a group of women.

    For a very entertaining journey in the conflict between men’s and women’s understanding of communication of feelings, along the lines that Randy has suggested above, Celia’s work is something that I am often recommending.

  20. Nana Kwarteng August 15, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    I find it extremely true Randy’s observation that men usually say what they mean. And here’s one reason I think this may be so. Ego! Men’s ego, inherent as it is, unconsciously propels them to be on top of things as much as possible, and masking comments and observations may be seen as weakening.

  21. Andrew August 15, 2010 at 4:14 pm #

    Nana,

    Yeah, this can be true. But it can also be true for women. I know women who are equally ego-driven and I know men that are much more timid. I’m sure you do too.

  22. Anna September 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    One difference I’ve for sure noticed is that – and someone can correct me if I’m wrong –

    Boys have feelings.

    Girls have feelings.

    Girls share their feelings.

    Boys don’t.

    Which is basically what Randy said.

  23. Ishana September 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    Here’s me, chiming in as late as ever.

    In my psychology course a couple years ago, we talked about gender differences and how much society has to do with it. From what my professor said, infant boys actually are more emotionally responsive than infant girls, but that role switches as they get older. So then of course the question is, is society to blame for making ’emotions’ seem like a feminine thing, or is it just natural for men in their egos to hide their emotions, or simply not experience them to the same degree as women?

    While I have no answer, there may be one out there if you look for it. Regardless, it might be something interesting to explore in a novel or short story. And as Camille said, find the balance between what reality shows and what your plot needs to develop your male character.

    Thanks for the post, Randy. Very helpful indeed.
    ~IshanaTM

  24. Paula July 31, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    I’ve got to say that I don’t agree with this post.

    Men and women are NOT from two different planets, we’re all from earth, and we’re all human.

    The thing is that humans in general have a wide range of various personality types- we differ in our thinking/processing from person to person, not from male to female.

    I’m female and I typically say what I mean while expecting other people to do the same. It always surprises me when someone doesn’t simply say what they mean.

    I do notice, however, that people often become the way they are treated. So, women of a certain generation and/or cultural upbringing may tend to address their male counterparts by asking questions instead of simply making declarative statements, but I don’t think this happens because men and women instinctively think differently, I think this reaction has to do with the way these women have been taught to act/react when around men.

    Ego- I’m female, yet I do dumb things to look good all the time and if I like a guy, my ego moves me to try and impress him. Usually, I look pretty stupid in the process, most of my female/male friends do exactly the same thing. No difference.

    Lust- Trust me, females are VISUAL. Just trust me…

    Feelings- How much a person has the desire to share their feelings depends not on their genitalia, but on their PERSONALITY TYPE and CULTURE. Like most people, I have plenty of female friends who are uncomfortable talking about their feelings and male friends who want to talk about their feelings until they’ve run everyone out of the room and vice versa.

    So, my point is that it seems dialogue and character development have more to do with a character’s CULTURAL BACKGROUND than their gender because (and this is the point) men and women are not as different as society often makes us out to be.

    • kozmica August 5, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Completely agree with your comment, genitalia does not define a person/character. This post is kind of sexist.

      • j July 18, 2016 at 11:01 am #

        Yes it is.

  25. Gwen November 18, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    This was very helpful, thank you. I’ve been writing for male characters for a few years now, but generally they’re all in the same range. Recently I created a character that’s very new to me and he’s very different from what I’m used to. In general he’s a simple guy who had a rough upbringing and he’s often down on his luck. I’m so glad that I decided to look for advice on writing male characters! Your advice here has really helped me to better develop my character, very much! Sincerely, thank you so much for posting this!

  26. Gumi April 21, 2013 at 6:52 pm #

    This article was very enlightening. As a female, I realized that I do have a tendency to psycho-analyze meaningless actions. Somehow, it never occurred to me that men don’t put cryptic messages in all of their conversations like I do XD

    But, like everyone says, it depends on the person, and their upbringing. Kinda like the whole nurture vs. nature thing. I cannot voice my feelings for the life of me. It makes me feel uncomfortable and awkward. I also have an urge to be on top of nearly everything because of my ego. At the same time, I usually complain to my friends so I can be sure I’m not insane for thinking they way I do. I’m pretty sure there are guys and girls with several stereotypical traits of the opposite gender.

    Also, here’s another stereotypical trait. Females have a tendency to be more passive. When they are pissed at someone, they usually tell everyone but that person, and take out their anger in less direct ways. Males will usually go to the source of the anger and set it straight. And while abuse from males is usually physical, abuse from females is usually psychological or emotional.
    Of course, there are exceptions all over the place! No one is locked into any gender role.

  27. jo March 27, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    First of all: thank you for this article. This issue has been a major bump in my latest story.

    But I think this question of what a male is and what defines him is coming from the wrong direction. If male behavior was based so strongly on the YX, then there wouldn’t be such vast differences in individuals.

    SCENARIO A:
    BOY grows up in a functional family: mom, dad, brother, sister. Safe environment. Good education. He can concentrate on being himself. No responsibilities exceeding his age.

    SCENARIO B:
    BOY grows up with his mother/father. No siblings. Dad/mom left/died/etc. Mom/dad has several jobs, still not making ends meet. He/she vents to BOY constantly about these issues.

    SCENARIO C:
    BOY grows up on the streets. He has to fend for himself, pure survival mode, no parental guidance in sight. Society’s standards are lost on him because they aren’t served to him through TV, radio and peers.

    In each scenario, you can expect BOY to turn out differently. His behavior will be affected by all of these circumstances, as will the way he shows/hides/deals with feelings. Whether he has a huge ego or not will have to do with whether that was boosted when he was little or not. The lust sector might be completely eradicated by a traumatic experience.

    Was he told he would one day be president? Was he told off for celebrating his accomplishments? Was he allowed to plan his own daily schedule instead of being told what to do constantly? If he was punished growing up, what form did that punishment take? Did he have to apologize and take responsibility for things he did wrong or was there someone to make an excuse for him?

    So many things are decided by tiny reactions from others in small situations, the trace of a smile or scowl or frown on someone’s face at that certain moment in time – those will shape the character of anyone. Add to those experiences society’s expectation of how a male handles them and you get a non-retraceable path to the origin of their behavior.

    Feral children come to mind. The only thing that will let you guess their gender is physical appearance. Then again, that topic also opens up the question of what makes a human, and I’m not gonna go there…

    We can stick to these “guidelines” of what makes a male or we can start to think about what actually lies behind the man’s resulting character.

    I guess, what I’m trying to say – and I’m realizing this as I write – is that the difference between male and female is society- and media-made, idealistic at best, not integral.

  28. darkocean April 5, 2015 at 2:34 pm #

    Hum I think what this blog posting is trying to say is that when making characters if it’s male have them do/say/act in some way that males usually do more then women And the same with women. But over all it’s the character that will decide how they act and what they say. I know that sounds weird but when I’m stumped I’ll think “What do you realy want to say?” And boom the muse comes back. The crappy stilted dialog goes away and the character voice shines though. Think of gender roles as props emotional and social props. That are added in so that readers can tell who is who. That’s how I see it any ways. My female pov she says things like “Oh my gods or Gods d-mn it!

    She talks in shorter sustenances as for her emotions make her uncomfortable. She’s think them sometimes but never the “L”word nope far to scary. 😉 It’s my male pov while his emotions don’t show whit what he says are shown in how he acts more then his words. I think it’s the hidden meaning and what the characters don’t say that matters even more then supposed gender roles.

    From what I’ve read it’s more important to make other characters and to make sure tehy all have a different way of speaking, action that is true to them. The female in a book could be a tom boy or in another the girly girl If you ask me gender roles aren’t nearly as important as the personality’s. I’d say do your best revise like crazy get a beta reader tehn an editer and send your baby off. Thats all you can do.

    Any ways happy easter.

  29. darkocean April 5, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    Excuse my typos and lack of periods XD I posted that way too fast.

  30. Dawn Marie April 6, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    I think that your post is a great start. I happened across it while googling and it has definitely made me aware that I was making my male characters “think too much”, as though they needed a motive behind each action. Thank you for the insight.

  31. Miranda June 10, 2016 at 5:44 pm #

    Well cool. I’m on the right track. Thank you. That’s what I mostly write are male characters/protagonists.

  32. John July 17, 2016 at 7:09 am #

    For the purposes of fiction, the main thing is to be entertaining. Finding the idiosyncratic details that bring out characters as human beings, rather than sociology dissertations, makes a story come alive. That being said, I wish there were more love stories that were genuine, rather than female wish-fulfillment. As a guy who reads fiction, what irks me most about category romance novels is that the men are ridiculously unrealistic.
    Here are some pet peeves:
    1) I cannot remember ever seeing a guy “smirk”. At least since junior high.
    2) Men seek to avoid conflict as much as possible. The so-called alpha male, always clenching his jaw and gritting his teeth and aching to punch someone, is apparently an exaggeration (or wish-fulfillment) in the mind of female writers.
    3) The key to writing a believable male is not about adding clumsy nonstop cussing in overwrought internal monologues.
    4) The “hero” described physically like a guy, only he talks and thinks like a woman.
    5) “Alpha” being nothing much more than a synonym for sociopathic douchebag. In category romance, this is known as “brooding.” And by the way, how do these individuals, fettered by all the inconvenient rules of human society, get to be billionaires anyway?
    6) If he notices a woman’s shoes, he’s gay. 100% In fact, the only heterosexual guys I know who can name a single brand name of clothing they own are doing it as an affectation, in lieu of actual hobbies. In other words, they’re simply not wealthy enough to collect cars.
    7) Sorry gals. Those charming blue collar professions (fireman, military, MMA, etc.) equate to poverty. He can’t afford your heroine’s tastes. (Unless her suede coat was a hand-me-down, that is.)
    8) A “heroine” who querulously drags her feet and scoffs at a guy’s advances is not going to be viewed by any guy as “saucy” and “intriguing”. She will, instead, get exactly what she asked for throughout the entire book: eternal solitude. In romance novels, however, the so-called “hero” will find that after dodging the rap as a sex offender his whole life, what it turned out he always needed was a strong successful (and for no good reason, angry) woman who “challenged” him. I’m talking to you, Nora Roberts.
    9) If he has the kind of abs redundantly alluded to in these books, our “heroine” will never find him. He’s at the gym three hours a day, and is happily dating his own reflection in the wraparound mirror there.
    10) This last one is actually a legitimate tip. No authentic romance I’ve ever experienced, or heard relating to others, has been missing at least one complete screw-up or catastrophic blunder on the part of the man. I don’t mean slapstick miscommunication; I mean an interpersonal death-knell that the woman, with feminine forbearance, chooses magnanimously to forgive. It’s almost like a necessary rung on every love ladder. Of course a “hero” is too perfect for this.

  33. Post Scriptum September 10, 2016 at 3:53 pm #

    As a teenage, bisexual writer who typically tries to butt heads with boys and flirt with girls, after reading this whole thing, I feel smarter. I went through and read alot of the comments too, which made some good sense to me. If it wasn’t for this, I would still be writing male characters all wrong. I’m working on a book which is in the first POV of a male character with super powers. I want to make him bisexual too, just for the sake of having a bi super hero to cheer on the bi community. I am having a little trouble though. Do bisexual teenage boys think differently based off of their sexualities? And how would their friends (one being a close male friend) react to this as an African American male who plays basketball?

    • John Palshook September 26, 2016 at 10:30 am #

      Post Scriptum:
      Write through your own heart as much as possible. Don’t shy away from your own unique perspective. Because whatever you feel, if you convey it honestly, will be recognized by others. Namely, your readers. Teenage boys, regardless of their sexual preferences, think in more overtly sexual ways. They will be randy with sex drive 24 hours a day. If he’s bi, the only difference will be what gender his sex drive will be pointed towards. Teenage boys don’t talk as expansively as teenage girls. They are not influenced at all by their male friends opinions. It always seemed to me (you would know better than I would) that teenage girls placed high stock in the opinions of their friends. Not so with guys. Guys objectify. Think as crudely as possible and you still won’t be thinking crudely enough. They will break girls down into parts. They will rate them on a one to ten scale. They will compare and contrast. Whatever they say they’ll say it bluntly and then move on to talking about sports or homework or food or whatever. One heartfelt thought, of which they are occasionally capable, will shine with special poignancy if you place it right. They do have hearts, just not in the company of other guys. Teenage boys fall in love fast and easy, always on sight. (Don’t worry about what critics call insta-love. Just make it heartfelt.) I would caution you, within the main portion of the story, to concentrate on one main romance, however, and not have a hero who falls for everyone. A romantic dabbler, whether bi or gay or hetro, might come off as wishy-washy. And this might dilute your main romantic thread. A failed encounter with a girl might lead him (your bi-hero) to realize his affection for a certain guy, or vice-versa. In response to your question about male friendships, guys are meanest to one another when they are in groups. They will seek to humiliate. But as mean as this group-thuggery might appear, it’s actually rather superficial. Teenage buys taunt one another perfunctorily. Compassion would be much more believable in a one on one context, such as the close male friend you mentioned. Boys become more human the less other teenage boys are around. Good luck, have fun writing, and God bless.

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