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Does the Dude Act Like a Lady?

21 Jul

When I read a male author who has written from the female point of view (POV), I enjoy evaluating just how good of a job he’s done at getting inside the female head. So, as a woman writing in male POVs, I’m constantly aware of the gender gap. I don’t want my hero, my main dude, to come across as one of the girls.

We can’t possibly go over all the actions and thought processes that differentiate male from female, and every man is different. But here are some of the things I’ve observed over the years. They will not apply to every man.

Tip # 1 – Your alpha heros (and most betas) will not eagerly ask for help. It will be a last resort…if ever.
We all snigger about the human male’s apparent biological inability to stop the car and ask for directions. I don’t believe it’s about the car. I think it’s a resistance to ask for help in general. A particular Alpha Male I know and his wife were driving down a ditch bank, not far from home, when they got stuck in the mud. The wife suggested calling for help, but Alpha Male said no, he could fix it himself, and so they walked home to get vehicle #2 to pull vehicle #1 out of the mud. Twenty minutes later, both vehicles were stuck. Alpha Male still did not need help. But the more they worked, the worse the situation became with one of the vehicles winding up precariously close to going into the ditch. Still, Alpha Male did not need help. His wife walked back to the house, and despite demands to the contrary, she executed a phone call that dispatched two more alpha males, in their respective four-wheel-drive trucks that had been designed for just such an occasion, out to the canal bank. She hid out at home.

Both vehicles were successfully retrieved, but should a similar incident occur in the future, I am quite certain that Alpha Male will still not need any help.

Tip # 2 – Unless your male character is an artist, house painter, or is particularly fashion savvy, keep descriptions of colors and fabric textures basic when in his POV.
Your heroine may admire the shade of lilac, but your hero probably sees purple. Women tend to know the exact shades and colors they look good in, so they’re naturally more conscious of subtle changes in hue. We also tend to nest more than men and want to make sure the rose colored towels look right with the mauve throw rug. Your man looks at the same room and sees pink with more pink, and what do you mean do they look good together…they’re both PINK, and that much pink never looks good.

Tip # 3 – Your male characters won’t take disagreements as personally as your female characters.
I worked with a group of over two hundred women at one point. When one woman would get mad at another, she would tell everyone…except the person she was mad at. She’d also hold a grudge for an indefinite period of time. Her friends might hold a grudge too. Imagine how surprised I was when I went from this estrogen dominate environment to a primarily testosterone charged culture. When conflict ensued between these men, they’d get in each other’s faces–literally. I was horrified the first time a heated argument broke out between two male co-workers. Things got tense. They squared off. Voices were raised. Chests were puffed. Any moment, someone was going to throw a punch. Then one of the men looked at his watch and said, “It’s lunch. Want to go to that new burger joint?” And off they went, still friends. The argument had been dropped in lieu of gastronomic pursuits.

Tip # 4 – Your hero will probably speak with confidence, even when he’s not.
Men speak confidently. They generally won’t condition statements with “I think…” or “I’m not sure…” I worked with a guy who was very knowledgeable about many things, but it took me awhile to figure out that he didn’t know everything. When he didn’t know, he still answered as if he did.

Tip # 5 – Your hero won’t call his buddies just to chat.
If I didn’t talk to my best friend for six months, she wouldn’t speak to me at all. My husband’s best friend lives on the other side of the country. They talk once a year, during the football season, when one calls the other to discuss life-altering events, such as the football league. We got married in April. My husband will mention this to his friend this fall…if he remembers.

As I mentioned earlier, every man is different and these observations are just generalities. But as a female author, you much be aware of these generalities, so that you don’t have your hero reacting to a situation in a manner that you, as a woman, would react (same applies to men writing in a female POV). There are plenty of books that can help explain the thought processes, actions, and reactions of the opposite sex. You may already have some on your shelf (remember those Mars & Venus books–pull them out). Not only can they help you write better characters, they might even help you understand that hero you snuggle up to each night.

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24 Comments

Posted by on July 21, 2011 in character development, POV

 

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24 responses to “Does the Dude Act Like a Lady?

  1. johannaharness

    July 21, 2011 at 6:12 AM

    Great points, Carley! The details really do matter. It all comes down to that character’s life experience.

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 21, 2011 at 2:44 PM

      The characters life experiences, genetics – that’s what makes us all unique.

       
  2. Liz Fredericks

    July 21, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    Hey Carley – gender roles and behaviors are fascinating. Thank you for taking a look at this topic. You made me laugh in your description of the trucks stuck in the mud – if I had a nickel . . . . 😉

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 21, 2011 at 2:47 PM

      I find gender roles fascinating too, along with personality types. As for the stuck in the mud story – had the Alpha Male in the story called for help after the first vehicle got stuck, the story probably wouldn’t have made its way into the family folklore and now the world wide web.

       
  3. Steph

    July 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    Carley, very good blog. It’s important to keep your prospective when writing POV. I like that you take inspiration from people you know. I’m going to try that.
    Steph

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 21, 2011 at 2:47 PM

      Thanks Steph.

       
  4. Anne

    July 21, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    I think I read an article once that said women have more rods (or was it cones?) in their eyes than men, which meant that we can physically see more shades of colors than men can. I agree w/ Liz – I find gender behaviors and differences fascinating.

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 21, 2011 at 2:48 PM

      That’s interesting about the different rod/cones. Hadn’t heard that.

       
  5. Sophie Whitley Flavell

    July 21, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Great post! Am currently deciding whether to introduce a male POV to my WIP. Thanks (:

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 21, 2011 at 2:51 PM

      Thanks Sophie (love that name). I hope you do give it a try. I have so much fun writing in the male POV. I just compile certain components of the various men I know and come out with a totally different character.

       
  6. e6n1

    July 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    As a female writer who published a literary erotica story written in a male POV (and some of my readers thought I was a man using a female pseudonym!), would it be more useful to ask how a character would behave? There are other factors (apart from sex and gender) to consider like age, background, culture, employment etc…

     
  7. Carley Ash

    July 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM

    This is true. A lot of things go into every personality. I’m fascinated that you wrote erotica from the male POV. Very impressive. Sounds like a challenge.

     
  8. Mary Vine

    July 21, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    Gotta love our heros! My husband is very alpha but will call his best friend about once a month. Thanks for reminding us to be aware of differences in our writing!

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 21, 2011 at 10:52 PM

      Thanks Mary.

       
  9. Amity Grays

    July 21, 2011 at 10:48 PM

    I love nothing more than seeing glimpses of my husband in print. It makes the story so much more believable. I always wonder how many others have read the same section and then shook their heads and sighed.

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 21, 2011 at 10:52 PM

      Now everyone’s going to think it was you stuck in the mud.

       
  10. Betsy Love Lds Author

    July 21, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    I’ve been working on a novel written from the male protagonist’s point of view. I often find myself slipping. Guys wouldn’t put in this much description. And he certainly wouldn’t write such long sentences. Guys tend to get right to the point. They don’t hem-haw around like women. Thanks for the reminder! I’m really going to pick over my manuscript when I start the revision. For now, I just need to write the darn story.

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 22, 2011 at 12:08 AM

      It’s something I constantly have to remind myself too, but you’re right, finishing the story is the initial focus. I’ve finished mine, but am still tweaking it. Good luck with yours.

       
  11. P. L. Parker

    July 22, 2011 at 6:59 AM

    This was so great! I had to laugh. You have my husband and my sons pegged and I agree about their thinking. Men fight, but forget about the whole thing by the next day.

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 22, 2011 at 7:53 AM

      I didn’t have any brothers, so working with a group of almost all men, was so enlightening for me. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

       
  12. Peggy Staggs

    July 24, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    You know my guys don’t you? You have them both (husband and son–both alpha–can imagine what happens during any kind of a project?) My son says most male communication is a combination of grunts and beer drinking. Still you’ve gota love them…most of the time.

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 25, 2011 at 7:51 PM

      Yep, Gotta love ’em.

       
  13. Janis

    July 24, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Very funny and yet, so true.

     
    • Carley Ash

      July 25, 2011 at 7:51 PM

      Thanks Janis.

       

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