Story Stuff: M Is For Men

Next up in our series, we’re talking about characters that make up a large subgroup of our cast: men (guess what the topic is for W).

M

Women characters get a lot of airplay in the blogosphere, and rightfully so. I’m also discussing men because – and this may come as a shock to some of you – I’m not a dude. So writing men correctly has been an issue in the past.

You wouldn’t think so. I’m the only female in a household of three dudes. I’m well-versed in the worlds of car repair and strange odors and butt humor. But when it comes to writing a real, believable man in fiction, being in a guy’s head is actually helpful.

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I don’t think that’s true.

I don’t think.

Anyway.

The most significant way writing dudes has presented a problem is in writing emotion. Specifically, some think men shouldn’t exhibit much of it. CPs have flagged places where men are too emotional – one male CP even uses the phrase “chick speak.”

That always surprises me, because I am not a girly girl. I grew up a tomboy. From the moment my school decided girls didn’t have to wear dresses every day (yes, I am that old), I only wore a dress when my mom forced me to for family pictures. Many of my best friends were boys.

But still, I’m not a dude. And the fact that I’ve seen men cry in real life doesn’t mean I can make them cry whenever I want in fiction.

So what do we do about writing men, especially if we need them to be emotional?

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My fallback has been to consult men of the male persuasion. Fortunately, I have a good handful of male critique partners who get me back on track when needed, even if I don’t ask them to specifically make sure I’ve got the male characters right. One even noticed when I had a male character shaving too often.

The men in my life have big hearts, and while I want to honor that in my writing, it’s important to maintain their strength while doing it. It’s also super important to avoid stereotypes – no he-men or twisty-mustache villains allowed, thanks.

peeta

Credit: imdb.com

There are all different types of men in real life, and I believe there are just as many in fiction – Peeta is different from Gale who is different from President Snow. Writing people who reflect those we know should be a given, but it doesn’t hurt to check with those belonging to that group. Because not all of our fictional men will reflect Braveheart.

Do you take special considerations when writing men?

16 thoughts on “Story Stuff: M Is For Men

  1. Pingback: Story Stuff: W Is For Women | Allison Maruska

  2. I’d say this: a good writer can write men or women. A bad writer can’t. (Then I add an asterisk.)

    Usually what happens is we are floating along in a story and we get to a point where we don’t know what the character should do. We put in what we think works without considering THAT character at THAT time, in THAT circumstance, male or female.

    Well, I know women. Some would cry when embarrassed and some would be tough as nails. But how did I write THIS character? Because she has to be consistant. Or, if she’s the tpugh as nails type, we ned to show her crying as a real departure and therefore it has to be justified.

    Sam, in Poggibonsi, is a real cut up. She sarcastically makes light of everything and teases her boss Mike mercilessly – because she has his back 100% of the time and they are a team, and Mike treats her as an equal (and usually as saving his ass).

    She walks in to Mike’s boss’ office, the owner of the firm, to quit her job, but it doesn’t go as planned. She states that she intended to just quit and then go cry in the elevator. But there, in that scene, she doesn’t cry.

    At a different place, however, when Mike forgets her birthday and she confronts him (after a few drinks) for cheating on his wife – AND asks why when he fell from grace it didn’t happen with her – we see why she’s been such a loyal ally. And she cries then. Not before, and not after, but there, Sam can cry. Readers see it and they practically cry with her, knowing all along that the harmless flirting had meaning on her end, and now we feel her broken heart. Sam earned that cry.

    At any other time in the story, no, Sam can’t cry. That’s not who Sam is.

    Now, that has a lot less to do with women and men than it does with good writing, if I can pat myself on the back for a second.

    But when I asked if I write women well, I was told yes. That’s because I write real people, as real as I can make them.

    Here’s the asterisk: Then, like any smart writer, I make sure the members of that sex agree with what I’ve done by running it by them and changing it where necessary based on their input. And not just anyone, but trusted CPs. Because it’s the small stuff we mess up that betrays us. The big stuff we mostly get right.

    But those small details are big to the character – and therefore, to the reader. A few good CPs will keep you in the right lane, so use them and listen to what they tell you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When writing characters of either gender, I tend to find myself observing those around me, looking for little habits or idiosyncrasies. For example, there’s a “women are gossips” stereotype, but in our office, I’ve found men to be just as prone to this as women.

    Suzie Quatro said something recently in a TV interview which really resounded with me. “I don’t see genders.” And I think that’s a healthy attitude to have in starting to break down stereotypes and cross boundaries. I try to write people (rather than characters) as much as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Blogging From A to Z Challenge – Theme Reveal! | Allison Maruska

  5. I’ve studied men for the purpose of writing men since I was a child, and I’ve always had male protagonists (I was a tomboy too, caught frogs and caterpillars, did the woods thing, didn’t like dresses). Still, I do get nervous about whether I’ve got it right. It’s great when I can ask my son, brother, or male friends to comment on reactions and dialogue.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Not to sound flip, but I take special consideration when writing all my characters. I often have ensemble casts and that means they need a lot of differentiation.
    But with men, I suppose I decide which male in my life the character will resemble, think how that male would react, then adjust for the individual specifics of the character.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I feel some male writers don’t write men well. Especially in earlier generations, men in real life were not supposed to show emotion, or be considered weak. I think that is reflected in a lot of male characters. Let’s face it. Men who write are a little more in touch with their softer side, and probably have felt the ridicule throughout their life.

    Luckily, today it is deemed acceptable for men to be anything but hard. Today’s man can show emotion, and show something bothered them.

    Which I feel some male writers work to avoid. If they are not kick-ass-and-take-names in real life, they portray male characters who have more of that tendency in their stories.

    So not only do women have a difficult time showing men naturally, I feel some male writers struggle with showing men as they actually are.

    This post had me reflecting on how I portray my male characters.

    I can’t wait to read the W post, as I’ll have a lot to say about writing how-extremely-complicated-and-difficult women are to write. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes we are very complicated. 😉
      It can be tricky. I think as we keep in mind to make our characters real people, we can avoid the “too stoic” or “too soft” problem. Issues happen when we try to write how they are “supposed” to be.

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