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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Through His Eyes

Tips and Tricks for Writing a Believable Male POV

Let’s face it—most romance readers and authors are female. Most. Not all. But it’s that bulk of you ladies I’m addressing today, though any guys out there can probably put a reverse spin on what I’m about to say and get some use out of it. Anyway, it can be difficult to write deep point of view when the POV character is the opposite gender. I’ve been told I have a knack for writing believable male POV, which isn’t a huge surprise. As a teen, I spent most of my time as “one of the guys,” a tomboy despite my fondness for jewelry and romance. I have two brothers, no sisters, and a mom who didn’t own a lipstick—or if she did it was older than me. Now I live with a husband and two sons. My father and brother share a house nearby. Not even the dogs are female. In other words,  I’m on my own.

So, as much as any straight woman can, I’ve got a pretty good grip on the male psyche. Oh—and I still can’t grasp the concept of $300 shoes, so maybe I get guys better than I get other women! One more caveat: every man is different and unique. Many have soft spots—even the most macho man can have one or two typically “feminine” traits. So guys, please don’t take offense at this if one of my generalizations is dead wrong for you! My very masculine husband is a clothes snob and a gourmet cook. I can burn water and usually wear jeans and t-shirts.

So maybe that’s rule #1: there are always exceptions. Adding one or two "feminine" characteristics will actually make your guy MORE believable—even if he’s a vampire or space alien. A truly secure male isn’t afraid to show his softer side some of the time. There's no reason your football player can't sew like a dream and there's not much sexier than seeing a big tough guy who can braid pigtails in a little girl's hair.

With that in mind, here are a few more generalizations that might help with believable male POV. Most importantly, write the character YOU want to write. Take the tips that work for your character and ignore the rest.

#2: Male language generally uses shorter, crisper sentences in both speech and inner monologue. Guys tend to be more linear, and prefer less complex language. Read Ernest Hemingway or Elmore Leonard to really get the feel. Also feel free to use cruder terminology, and don’t skimp on the sports or military analogies. A woman may think of a last-ditch attempt in a dire situation as just that. A modern American guy will probably call it a “Hail Mary pass.”

#3: Protectiveness of his family and friends is bred into the bone and reinforced in his upbringing. He can’t help it. Possessiveness of his female is an outgrowth of that, and pretty hard to overcome.

#4: Simplify descriptions, especially colors & clothes. Unless he’s an artist of some sort, or has six sisters, he probably neither know or care about the difference between lilac and mauve. He probably also doesn’t know the difference between a cardigan and a shrug, kitten heels vs. princess heels, and he doesn’t know that strappy is an adjective about shoes. And he doesn’t care. He thinks “tight blue sweater” not “soft azure, angora wraparound.”

#5: Once he makes a decision, that’s it. Skip the internal agonizing. Guys are far less likely to waste time second-guessing themselves. In our society, they’ve been raised with far more self confidence than we women.

#6: Sports are important. They just are. Maybe not all sports, or all the time, but they’re part of the male lifestyle, and discussing them is as important for male bonding as talking about boyfriends or babies is for females. If a particular guy does not get into modern spectator sports, he probably has another hobby he’s just as passionate about, like videogaming or cars, partially because males do have higher levels of hormones that stimulate aggression (biology matters) and these are socially acceptable outlets.

#7: He WILL think about sex pretty much whenever he thinks about the heroine, unless they’re in immediate danger—and maybe even then. Love can make all the difference in his life, but sex is hardwired into his brain.

While I could go on for days, this is a little bit to get you thinking about using a slightly different voice for writing in male POV. And guys, remember—I said there are always exceptions! Vive la difference!


Sandy said...

Thanks, Cindy. I enjoyed reading your post, and you're right on about the guys. I worked with almost all men the last 36 years I worked for a major airline. Great guys for the most part! I liked working with them better than women. Smile!

Melissa Keir said...

Very informative post! I agree with your points. In fact, I like reading books from a male point of view.

PS. I don't get the $300 pair of shoes or the difference between mauve and lilac. Guess that's why I get along better with guys than most girls.

Adele Downs said...

Excellent article, Cindy. Thanks for sharing.

Men don't tend to talk during sex, either, except in monosyllable. Whenever I read a book with long pieces of dialogue during a sex scene, I cringe. The dialogue might happen before the sex, or maybe a bit after, but never during.


jean hart stewart said...

Great column...I always cringe at sex scenes in book where the hero does a lot of talking. Hope, ain't gonna happen.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Oh, good point, Adele! So right.

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