For a few days this month, until I finish some research for my next new blog post, I'm rewinding the clock to some of my favorite guest posts I wrote in 2013. Enjoy! This short article first appeared on My World in July, 2013: http://stephsgrn.blogspot.com/2013/07/hearts-in-exile-by-mysti-parker.html
Dude, Where’s My Voice?
By Mysti Parker
Have you ever wondered what it takes for an author to convincingly write a character of the opposite sex? Well, I can’t speak for male authors, but I can tell you from my perspective as a female author that it’s not an easy task. Here are two ways to make a male character authentic:
1. Get Back to Basics: We are hardwired to have our own distinct personalities, and those usually fall into some sort of gender-specific qualities. While, of course, these traits can vary greatly from individual to individual, in your “typical” man or woman, you’ll find some generalization to be pretty universal.So in writing a male character, I keep in mind that he’s more likely to concentrate on hard facts, strategy, and the most effective methods of reaching his goals as opposed to the feelings involved. Even though he can, and does feel strong emotions, he’s more likely to suppress those feelings until he’s alone or with someone he can trust.
Here are a few more basic generalizations I’ve learned over the years: Men tend to value respect over love. They are often very insecure, but hide it well. They feel a burden to provide and protect. They want to be desired sexually by their mates, and they respond strongly to visual stimuli. (Think of all the times you’ve punched your mate in the arm and said: Quit looking at her!)
A couple of resources I recommend are Christian publications, but give very good insights into your “typical” male psyche. The first two also offer insight into a woman’s psyche. Ignore the marriage advice unless you need it and concentrate on the traits of each gender:
His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley
The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
2. When in Doubt, Ask: If you’re married or have a significant other, ask him to read your male POV scenes and dialogue and see if he finds them authentic.
When I wrote Serenya’s Song, I relied greatly on my husband’s input to get a conversation right between Jayden and his friend Zephyrus. It was quite an emotional situation (from my perspective), with Jayden apologizing for having a fling with Zephyrus’s current wife many years earlier. When Bryan read it, he was quick to point out: “No, guys would never be that open about it.” He really helped me work down the conversation until both men said everything they needed to say without really dredging up all the dirty details and emotions women (like me) might focus on.If you don’t have a significant other, then ask a male friend or critique partner. You might even go farther than that and ask males of specific occupations for their feedback, depending on what you’re writing. If you’re writing in the GLBT genre, ask a homosexual male for his perspectives.
These tips would also likely serve you well if you’re a male writing from a woman’s perspective. But, whatever you do, don’t just wing it and assume you know how to write the opposite sex. As with most anything you write for publication, do your best to get reliable feedback and research from the proper sources. You may be writing complete imagination barf (otherwise known as fiction), but if it doesn’t wear the cloak of authenticity, your readers will call your bluff. Write smart, and channel your inner dude or dudette when needed!