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  1. Paris_Love
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    Paris_Love Member

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    Channeling the opposite sex

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Paris_Love, Mar 21, 2011.

    I'm writing in 1st person for a male character. I'm female and have always had female protagonists in my stories, and wanted to give a male 1st person perspective to my latest project. I'm worried that it will be obvious to everyone that the author is female, or my protagonist would come across gay sounding.

    Any advice to avoid obvious "tells" in opposite sex writing? I saw the signs all over "The Girl Who..." stories and want to be at least somewhat convincing that the author is the protagonist.

    This is not a paying gig, just working on stretching my artistic muscles. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Thanks!
     
  2. spklvr
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    spklvr Contributing Member Contributor

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    Getting to know people of the opposite sex and reading books from a guy's pov would probably help a lot. And remember that everyone is different. Why can't a straight guy like pink? :p
    When it comes down to it, males and females aren't that different, and this is your character so you can make him however you want. I know gay guys that act straight, and supposedly straight guys that act totally gay. Doesn't make them any less male.
     
  3. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Don't have him appreciating other males if you don't want him to sound gay. Easy as that. His character will be unique to him - don't try to write to some stupid archetype of what a man is supposed to be unless you deliberately want him to be a manly man. If he seems to be trying too hard, then it will draw attention to it.

    My main male characters I often give a deliberately effeminate side just so I have some leeway, and the contrast is clearer that it's just a funny thing about them. Many many male characters in silly comedy in TV series are picked on for being girly in odd ways despite their avowed and unshaking heterosexuality, and using a deliberate trait as a sink for girly things definitely makes it easier to write the rest. It could be as simple as they like hugs, or worry about their hair looking okay, or something. I know dozens of guys who're pretty sensitive or slightly vain about their appearance. My most manly, tough character who ticks most of the stereotype boxes (video games, swearing, drinking beer, getting into fights over stupid things etc) is a gay guy. The more heterosexual they get the more confident at being girly they are, when I write them. Seems to work. :D As long as you understand that men are essentially no different to women for writing, then you won't mess it up trying to create that difference. Just as you wouldn't write all women exactly the same way. Imagine writing a tough soccer mom in the post zombie apocalyse with her shot gun, and writing a neurotic librarian who likes crochet in a cat-based drama. You would not use the same voice, styles, or pretty much any common writing things to convey these two characters. Men are like this too.

    If you want to go for a stereotypical manly man, I understand the stereotype is a lack of emotional connection, extending as far as a failure to understand emotional situations in an almost autistic way, the love of sports, explosives, loud and/or fast things, and casual disrespect for women.

    But you wouldn't write such a blatant stereotype, would you? :p
     
  4. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I get help from men - post silly questions on here, read the posts from men on here, ask friends etc. More than anything I find getting to know them well and letting them form their own personality based on the stories helps.
     
  5. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I actually never thought about this o_o
    I just write how I would perceive a teenage male (from a different) world to act. I also have 2 brothers, so I guess that's why I feel natural writing from a male's point of view. And don't worry, he won't sound 'gay'...I say just write it. Don't try to hard to make it 'male' sounding or it will seemed forced. Just write the character as who he is, not his gender.
    I hope that made a bit of sense xD and helped you.
     
  6. Carthonn
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    Carthonn Active Member

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    I think you are afraid he'll sound effeminate. So, complimenting another man's attire, telling another man about a new shampoo he enjoys, demanding another man join him in the bathroom, any conversations detailing feelings, etc...these are things to avoid.
     
  7. abelsaywell
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    abelsaywell Member

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    There is a(very well written) book that might be good for you to read. The gender of the narrator is in question right until the end. I would give you the title now but I don't want to spoil it for anyone that intends reading it.
     
  8. Silver_Dragon
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    Silver_Dragon Senior Member

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    I agree with this. I focus more on making my characters believably human than convincingly male or female, though I do read books by male authors to see how they write their characters.

    I read one book by a female author where she was writing in first-person from the perspective of a male narrator, and it seemed like she was trying way too hard to make him "masculine," to the point where he didn't come across as a believable character at all. That's something to be avoided, too.
     
  9. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe it would help to pick an actor to play your character while you write. Would the thoughts, speech and actions of your character seem awkward if this actor was playing the part? It'll give you something specific to test it against. Just make sure you don't pick an actor you think is hot in any way -- if you're attracted to your own opposite-sex character, then bad, bad, BAD writing may come from it.
     
  10. Ice Queen
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    Ice Queen Senior Member

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    Even though I'm a girl... I find it much easier to write male characters, probably because I've always hung out with guys and preferred their company- I seem to have a good understanding of how the other sex's minds work although girls often confuse me XD; So I;m probably going to have more bother writing from my female MC's pov than my male one.

    In short... People are people and it's all about understanding how the opposite sex thinks... :D
     
  11. Thanshin
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    Thanshin Active Member

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    I disagree. It's easy to spot straight males appreciating other males out of envy.

    The opposite sounds righter "have him appreciate females", but I'd say isn't right either.

    Hmm I personally lack empathy and misunderstand emotional situations, don't really enjoy most sports, don't feel anything special for explosives, loud or fast things and consider women to be the pinnacle of beauty and intellectual evolution. However I can easily think of several male friends that are on each side of each of those characteristics.


    My only suggestion for a woman who wants to write from a man's PoV is:
    Think about hunger. Not the pain in the stomach type, but the "I want that piece of cake." type.

    Now imagine you had that feeling your entire life (it only subsided for about ten minutes after eating cake).

    Now imagine half the people (People!) you dealt with during your life were pieces of cake. Stop for a second considering the ramifications.

    You wouldn't like eating half your friends, but you're still perpetually hungry.

    The hunger never leaves you. You know the hunger. You've learned to live with the hunger. You remember when you didn't know how.

    Ready? Are you imagining the perpetual hunger?

    Now write your conversation about the alien invasion with Dr.Smith; he's one of your friends. You admire his knowledge of the alien topic, his grasp of international politics and his skill to maneuver between the military and the science nerds like yourself. And every thought that pops up in your head must be checked to verify it's not about his chocolate toppings. The hunger is sneaky.


    Well, maybe that was a bit long, but it's pretty much correct for all guys I've discussed it, both straight and gay.


    [Edit: Oh, and you can also write a short fragment that includes the character presentation, post it in the review section and then ask for specific reviews about that aspect of that character. You can PM me if it goes unanswered or you just want one more opinion.]
     
  12. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are few (if any) obvious "tells" because most of the differences are tendencies. As has already been pointed out, men and women compliment differently: women tend to compliment the person, men tend to compliment something associated with the person such as a possession or an achievement. Other noted differences are:
    • Women speak more than men when with their own sex, but speak less than men when in mixed groups;
    • Women use more "politeness strategies" than men;
    • Men tend to issue more directives whereas women are more likely to solicit cooperation ("gimme the pliers" v. "let's do it this way")
    • Women use more tag questions ("isn't it?", "don't you think?") than men;
    • Women use more intensifiers (eg "really") than men;
    • Men tend to interrupt more than women, control the topic of discussion more and give less feedback and support;
    • The significance of men's utterances is usually in the direct meaning. The significance of women's utterances is often (not always!) in the effect of the utterance on relationships (technically, men's utterances tend to be predominantly ideational; women use proportionally far more phatic utterances);
    • Men are far less likely than women to use "minimal responses" ("Mmm", "Yeah"), probably because they perceive them as agreement whereas women perceive them as an invitation to continue.
    • Women are far more likely than men to use the language variety of a class they perceive as "above" them. In other words, men are less concerned than women if their language is perceived as "common" or "coarse".
    None of these are absolute, of course. There are men and women who consistently go against those observations, and in specific circumstances pretty much any man or woman can go against them. But they're all based on real-world research into trends. And I make no comment as to the extent to which the differences are biological or cultural.

    An extra caveat: most of the research on this has been done on white middle-class speakers (some of it has been on afro-American speakers) and so might not apply to other language groups.
     
  13. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do this I 'cast' my main characters - I tend to use an actor with a varied collection of acting roles and who can sing, then basically. It helps with body language and also with description of the character I know which bits to stands out - big ears, chisselled face, long legs etc

    However I find being attracted to my characters useful if I have write romantic scenes.
     
  14. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    The keys for me is:

    Writing the opposite sex, is writing someone who face different expectations. Even if the person on the inside is the same they will have to deal with different expectations.

    So I would think about what sort of expectations you main character face in different scenes and from different characters. Sex is just one factor, he will face a lot of different expectations based on his age, status, job, ethnicity, religion etc.
     
  15. Gingerbiscuit
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    Gingerbiscuit Senior Member

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    I try to avoid "channeling the opposite sex" or anything that sounds like it might get me into trouble.

    Your voice will always come through your protagonist and you will of course discover over time that he shares a lot of your views and opinions, maybe even experiences. That's fine and I wouldn't be worried that it would make him sound effeminite, unless of course, as somebody suggested, one of the things you have in common is boys.

    Everybody's different, you just need to make sure that you develop a character that you can love.
     
  16. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I actually find male POV easier. Most people seem to think I'm a male when they read my work--the 'serious fiction' stuff, that is. It's fine for competitions etc but I actually had to try really hard to sound more 'feminine' before I got positive responses from women's mags when I submitted.

    Mostly, I have a balanced male/female POV when I write romances. For those, it's pretty easy to stay focussed and get into the mindset of the hero vs. heroine.

    I've been told the reason I come across as a male writer is because I don't give long descriptions about looks or have endless internal agonising--and the POV is often uncompromisingly black-and-white (or do they mean 'smug'?!) I know this idea of typical male 'voice' is generalising, but I think there's a grain of truth there somewhere.

    Edit: digitig's observations are great and spot on, I'd say...
     
  17. SeverinR
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    SeverinR Contributing Member

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    The one clear example I can think of that is a neon sign for a woman writing a male character...
    When Edward says to Bella-"Tell me what you are thinking."

    There are differences between male and female thinking. But no one thing makes a male-male.
    I assume your not wanting a metrosexual, a man exploring his feminine side.

    First,
    put youself in the right frame of mind. You must think like a man, not the "Marboro Man", just a normal man. Find the attitudes and mannerisms of the man you want your main char to be. Then try to think like that person does. Try to keep the feminine input to a minimum.

    Like other people have said, nothing individually makes a man sound gay or feminine, well other then being a transvestite or actually gay.
     
  18. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Oh, dahling, those shoes are so to die for!" might be a clue. But even then, a straight man might "camp it up" for laughs.
     
  19. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    thing is it is perfectly possible to be camp and not gay. Camp does not automatically equal being gay.
     
  20. Gingerbiscuit
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    Gingerbiscuit Senior Member

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    This is true, I go camping all the time.
     
  21. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That too, but camp is likely to be perceived as "unmanly".
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    only by men though - a straight camp sensitive guy never has trouble getting the girls.

    My Dad has been meterosexual since the 50s - at 70 he still gets the girls. Used to hate it have yet to have a friend who didn't fancy him.

    My brothers again 0 bother.

    Hugh Grant, Richard E Grant, Tom Cruise etc seen to do ok out of it.
     
  23. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't consider any of them to be "camp". Check out the old radio clips of "Julian and Sandy" for camp!
     
  24. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    From another guy's perspective

    I've definitely read books with a good male character, but I can still tell he was conceived from a woman's perspective. I wish I could tell you exactly what made me think that, I'm sure there are telltale signs, but in many ways it's intangible. I think ultimately, it's comfort. There is something uncomfortable in the way the female writer is writing a male character, and so I am distracted from the book.

    I think your best bet is to not channel the opposite sex, but to channel your character. The more you have a clear conception of what makes him who he is, the more comfortable you will be writing.

    Do some character building techniques. Write scenes with your character that have nothing to do with your plot, like have them go to the grocery store and see a friend from high school, etc. Interview them as you, the author, to find more about them. Ask them things like "What do you do in your free time?" or "Tell me about your mother?" Obviously, these things are not intended to be put directly into your story, but just to get to know your character a little bit better. There are many more techniques, so you can google it if you want more of these.

    Hope that helps!
     
  25. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Mein Strudel is probably the most in your face camp, but the sensitive, caring, foppish type is a more everyday kind of camp.

    My characters lean towards camp - so much so one of the men flounces lol None are of the in your face Carry On type camp.
     

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