by Becky Wade
What’s the matter with the following passage?
‘As Daniel strode from his office building towards his car he glanced upward at the cumulus clouds flowing languorously across the sky. Sunshine poured over him like a benediction. What a lovely afternoon!
When he reached his car, he sat within for a few moments, thankful for spring and thankful that he’d just patched things up with Laura. He understood exactly how he’d hurt her. Now that he’d apologized, he could enjoy the rest of his day with a clear conscience.’
Anyone out there attempting to write a romantic plotline? While a likable heroine is critically important, I believe that the hero (and thus the hero’s point of view) is the true lynchpin of any love story.
Personally, I read and adore romance novels because of him. Because of the guy who steals my heart, fills me with tenderness, and makes my pulse pound. Every time I pick up a book, I hope for a hero who will sweep me off my feet. But I’ve found that this magic can only happen if the hero sounds, acts, and thinks like a real man.
Therein lies the challenge. How can a female author write a ‘real’ man instead of a man who sounds/acts/thinks like a woman?
I’m going to address some of the pitfalls I attempt to avoid whenever I’m inside my hero’s point of view. I’ll use the passage above as an example of what not to do.
Problem #1 with passage: The big words. ‘Benediction’ and ‘languorously’ are words most men would never think while walking from their office to their cars (unless they’re scholars, linguists, or authors).
Problem #2: ‘What a lovely afternoon!’ and ‘thankful for spring’ and ‘enjoy the rest of his day’ are gushy and upbeat in a very feminine way. My heroes drive trucks. They’re masculine and blunt. They wouldn’t think in flowery phrases.
Problem #3: Daniel notices girly details. Men are not as observant as women. (Consider the difficulty the men in your life encounter whenever they’re searching for something!) Unless he’s a meteorologist or pilot, a man who notes ‘cumulus clouds’ won’t ring true.
Problem #4: The hero is overly in touch with Laura’s feelings. ‘He understood exactly how he’d hurt her’ is a sentiment that has perhaps never entered the head of a tough guy since the dawn of time. Men tend to be perplexed, confused, surprised, and just plain stupefied by the emotions of women.
I’m hoping some of ACFW’s male members are reading this. Do you gentlemen have any advice for female authors trying hard to write authentic heroes? I’d love to hear your insight!
Becky Wade makes her home in Dallas, Texas with her husband, three children, and one adoring (and adored) cavalier spaniel. Her first inspirational contemporary romance, My Stubborn Heart, has just been released by Bethany House.
Great point and one I’ve thought a lot about. For this very reason, I have my husband read my WIP to see if it is true to a man’s perspective and point of view – if he tells me a man would never say and/or think that way, I scrap it and start over. Not everyone has a husband who can or will do this for them, but it’s one tool I use with my writing.
I think that a very good way to learn to write from the man’s point of view is to read novels by men e.g. Dick Francis, Alistair MacLean, Hammond Innes and the like. Absorbing the style of authors like these rubs off 🙂
A good post, though not what I was expecting based on the title.
The problem we all face as writers is the tendancy to pigeon hole characters.
This character is a woman, so she will be this way because all women are this way.
This character is a man, so he will be this way because all men are this way.
This character is (plug in the ethinicity), so he or she will be this way because he or she is (plug in the ethnicity).
The smallest minority among us humans is the individual. Even with identical twins, there are differences. They may be more difficult to spot, but they do exist.
Take my husband and me, for example. He’s an engineer with a very analytical thinking process and a very distinct manner of answering questions.
I’m an artist and a writer with a very unanalytical thinking process and an entirely different way of answering questions.
Neal likes to shop. I hate to shop. Not typical.
Neal has no problem stopping to ask directions if we get lost. I hate stopping to ask directions. Not typical.
Neal notices details and so do I. We hardly ever notice the same details, a fact that causes no end of frustration and amusement.
The point is that no people group is monolithic, so the best way to write good characters of all types is to observe people. To study them, starting with those around you.
Having someone of the opposite sex read your work, is also a great idea, whether spouse, relative or crit partner.
I would put the coma after his car in the first sentence. Then you have in the second and third sentence both: sun and clouds. I would choose one to be consistent.
Yes, yes and yes!!! The hero’s POV is the one I enjoy reading the most. And the one I enjoy writing the most. It’s so much fun. For me as a reader and a writer, romance lives and dies on the hero’s shoulders.
Great comments, everyone! I think having a man read portions (or all) of a wip is a great suggestion, as is reading and immersing oneself in the work of male authors.
I agree with Carrie’s point. We shouldn’t pigeon-hole characters because of their gender. Our heroes should all be distinct and different – full of their own traits and yet they should still feel and sound like MEN. The thing that derails me from a romance novel the fastest is a hero who reads like a woman wrote him.
Rachel — woot woot! Amen, sister. I agree 100%.
Becky, you’re making good points. Of course, it’s dangerous to overgeneralize and lump all men from all the world into one pot. Some characters can be exceptions, if you give them reasons to be exceptions.
For instance, a man from Ireland might well use the world “lovely” in a serious way. While in Cork, Ireland, I stepped inside Tom Barry’s pub, and a patron encouraged me to go in and sit down, because “You’ll find it’s lovely.” Other Irishmen repeated the word during my stay. But me? I never use the word.
Ladies, please ask a blunt, objective man to proofread any passages written from the man’s point of view. I’ve critiqued manuscripts for females colleagues and have literally cringed over the thoughts and words written into their male characters’ heads. Men and women do think differently.
I too like writing from the guy’s POV! My YA novel alternates between the guy’s and his girlfriend’s POV. A man from my crit group has been so helpful in keeping the guy’s POV authentic and keeping his voice distinct from the heroine’s. He would often tell me “You’re giving P— too much credit. Guys don’t think about that stuff.” Honest and often blunt, his help was extremely valuable.
I married a MAN. He doesn’t care two hoots about clothes, he hurls in the card aisle, he could rebuild an engine in his sleep but needs written instructions for the washing machine. If I asked him right now what my favourite colur is, he’d pray on his feet and say “Blllluuuue? Right? No, purple?” We’ve been married 23 years. But ask him the colour of his first car, he’ll begin to sigh and describe the entire thing. He’ll tell you what he was thinking the first time he saw me, and it was not about clouds. He still is confused by my emotions and has learned to raise two hands in the air when I tell him I have nothing to wear.
My hero is a MAN, he chops firewood and is tormented by his love for an untouchable woman. He is Navajo, she is white, it’s 1894. He is in turmoil, so I wrote about the issues they have to deal with. And it isn’t which fork to use with the salad. He’s basically my husband with long hair and a horse.