1. pouted
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    pouted New Member

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    Writing from a male's perspective?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by pouted, Nov 4, 2013.

    So, I've been developing this story since the summer, and though I'm still putting things together, I still don't feel secure with this character. It hit me almost immediately that the story would make much more sense coming from my male protagonists POV, but my heart still belongs to my female. I know who she is so well and fell in love with her instantly. I'll be honest and say that this is my first attempt at writing and overall I'm still really shaky about everything. Especially writing from a male's POV (I am a teenage girl).
    His name is Joshua Sales, he's 18, a dreamer, obedient, gangly, sheltered, and self-deprecating. He's treated as an up and coming brainiac but doesn't feel he's special in any way. He gets so much attention for his looks that he deliberately dresses down, and refuses to fix his teeth, because he's concerned that people won't take him seriously. I still don't know his voice. I don't know if I'm insecure about him or myself as a writer. I just know that I don't feel that I'm ready to take him on in text.
    I'm worried, mostly, that I'll turn him into a cliche. He's going to go through a lot of development throughout the story and I don't want to make him too masculine and unrealistic. How should I approach this?
     
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  2. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Pouted,

    Writing from a different gender's perspective can certainly add a greater bit of difficulty to the exercise. So far of the 3 novels and dozen short stories I've written, only one short story was from a female's perspective.

    It may be easier to write from the male's POV in third person limited than first person POV. Also, if you've got some male friends that read and could give you insight in what you're getting right and what you're getting wrong, it might prove helpful. Getting male dialogue is one thing. Getting male motivations, is another. Of course, your audience may have a bearing on your success as well.

    You won't know unless you try. Give a few chapters so a run and see how it goes. One thing that will happen, whether you write in the female's POV or the male's POV, is that from the beginning of the novel to the end, you'll become a better writer. Yes, you'll get to know the characters and such, which will improve things, but just by writing and experience you're later chapters will be better than your earlier ones. And this leads to the certainty that you'll be revising and editing that first draft multiple times. Still, giving the first few chapters a run may give you an idea if you're ready to tackle the mail POV.

    Something that you can do is seek out female authors who have written from the mail POV. See how they did it, if the perspective rings true to you. Study how those that do ring true did it. Take notes and then consider applying what you learned to your own story and writing style.

    Good luck as you move forward, whichever direction you take.

    Terry
     
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  3. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My biggest tips:

    0) Don't write a male who happens to be a character, write a character who happens to be a male.

    If the story revolved around the struggles he faces as a guy dealing with stereotypes, accurate in his case or otherwise, then that would be one thing, but it sounds like your story has already been established with a different focus, so I would go with the idea of just ignoring pronouns for as long as possible.

    1) research/Google "misconceptions about [men, gender differences, male psychology…]"

    If you just Google "how do men think," then you might get a bunch of cliches and stereotypes, joking or otherwise, in addition to the legitimate information, but starting the query with "misconceptions about" gets you the people who've put more effort into the subject than the others have.

    2) People are never cliches, only groups.

    If you feel that one of your males is too stereotypical for your comfort, but that it is important for him in particular to be like that, then don't just tell the audience that not all guys are like him, rather show them the other guys in he story who aren't like him, and make the other guys as important as he is (or at least almost as important).
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Your description says you know the character, you say you know him, but it sounds like you lack confidence you can write what's in your head. I suggest you write it and get some feedback from knowledgeable critics as to how they feel your character came across.

    If it's a decision about the whole story's POV, you can write more than one POV, or you can try them both out (the male and the female) and revise it later if you think one POV will do.

    The male critics in my critique group see things differently than the females. It's a small group, not sure it represents a wider population, but sometimes the guy-gal POV difference stands glaringly out.
     
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  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's an attractive challenge to write from the POV of the opposite gender, You may feel limited as a writer if you cannot do it, and in a sense you are.

    However, you don't HAVE to tackle that challenge if you aren't ready. Write from a character perspective you're more familiar with, and shelve the challenge until later. As you grow as a writer, you'll learn to observe people better, and you won't have to ask for help.

    Character writing is an exercise in observation, of seeing into people through their actions and showing them to readers in the same way.
     
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  6. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    The first complete story I ever wrote at age 9, I wrote from a male POV. I don't prefer it, but I think that I can write equally well from both and I do write equally both.


    Just write it, don't think about gender too much. Make sure it sounds like a guy, but there's no need to really change it that much.
     
  7. Aurin
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    Aurin Member

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    I'd write part of it from the female POV including the male character appearing, then the same part but switching the genders of the POV.

    I've written my novel from the female POV but am adding chapters in from the male/antagonist POV - I found that because I've written so much about him from the female POV, he's been quite easy to write with a clear voice without too much struggle. Otherwise it's a blank slate trying to get his voice which would be tricky.
     
  8. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    The story I'm writing has both a male and female POV. I heard a quote from a male writer (I believe, George RR Martin) who was asked how he wrote such strong female characters. He answered that he wrote them as people. I plan to do the same to both my POV characters.
     
  9. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @pouted - write your characters as people. The range of gender-associated behavior and thinking spans those who are biologically male and biologically female. That is, you can find plenty of men and women who exhibit some (and sometimes many) traits often associated with the other gender. If you ask yourself "what would a male do in this situation" or "what would a female do in this situation," I think you're on the wrong track. The right question is "what would this character do in this situation?"
     
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  10. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    As some others have pointed out, they're all just people. Even though there are traits and modes of thought and expression that are more typical of one gender versus the other, by no means are any of them 100% exclusive to one gender. It could become a problem if every single thing your male MC does is vastly more typical of what most women would do, without any acknowledgement that any of this is atypical. But at the end of the day, men and women are all just people, with a lot more in common than not.

    The vast majority of characters I write happen to be male. I don't know why that is, it just seems to happen. (I guess I have a lot of male characters living in my head.) I just did a writing exercise where we had to rewrite a scene where we were given a man and a woman in a situation. I had not intended to get more deeply into either character's head over the other. But as I was writing, it ended up coming from the male character's POV. That said, I have written some women characters (although I was told one of them seemed more like a guy).

    I don't think you can force yourself, though to write a particular character -- they have to kind of emerge from your mind, and their gender is a part of who they are. Try to get to know your characters, and if one just isn't coming across right, or developing, maybe you need to change characters. See what you can do by doing some character development exercises -- writing some scenes with him and see if you can bring him to life. Don't think about whether what he does or says is sufficiently masculine. Just write him and see what happens.
     
  11. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just echoing what others have said - write the person, not the gender. I rarely write female MCs, but that's just because I like male characters better. I've also seen some horrendous female characters written by females - horrendous because the authors seem to go out of their way to make the characters non-stereotypical and go to the extreme, which make the women bitchy instead of strong, for example (TV is great for that junk). So just write the person.
     
  12. KRHolbrook
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    KRHolbrook Member

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    Honestly, there's not much of a difference in writing from a male's view and from a female's view. Guys are normally straight-forward, but females can be the same way. Females can be more emotional, but males can be the same way. Females can be susceptible to abuse, but so can males. Guys have a high sex drive, but hey, so can females.

    Take the gender out of the situation and the character is just...them. They can be either female or male, depending on the anatomy, but that doesn't matter. What matters is what makes them who they are, and that's their past. No person's past is completely the same. I'm female right now, but I'm pretty sure if I was male I'd still be how I am today.
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm pretty sure if you observe enough males and enough females, you will notice some general differences. Writing them as people, sure, but ignoring their differences altogether?
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Characters aren't statistics but individuals. They have whatever traits you give them and don't have to conform to a general distribution.
     
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  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Not the point.
     
  16. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    The differences would most likely be from how society treats them. But, this is the same as anything else that society treats differently. The reaction is human.
     
  17. KRHolbrook
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    KRHolbrook Member

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    The only thing I've ever noticed as a difference between the two are that guys tend to grab their crotches more often than females. Other than that, they are their own person.
     
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  18. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Haha.

    Some people have a more limited experience so I guess the differences can look more pronounced to them. If you get to know a diverse group of people, you see that it is largely bollocks. Sure, if you wanted to graph them you could find some sort of distribution, but any given individual of any sex could fall anywhere on the graph, so it makes no sense to force characters into a specific place on the continuum.
     
  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Speaking of straw men, (in a friendly way ;) ), this is still not the point and I'm not arguing against this at all. If you want a feminine guy or a masculine gal, that is absolutely within the realm of normal. If you want a genderless POV, or one wants a POV that doesn't depend on gender cues, that is peachy keen, no problem.

    But if you want to write a male voice that the readers recognize as a male voice, there are some things one can do to express that voice in a certain way, just as one can purposefully make a female voice more female than not. There are times this is needed to get the character's voice you are aiming for. And in that case, ignoring gender differences may not be the best approach.
     
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  20. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Ah. OK so we're talking about two different things, basically. Yes, I think in general readers are going to have a conception of a voice that tends to seem male to them versus one that tends to seem female, based on their own experiences which are more likely than not to reflect the distribution in the population. If you want a voice that a reader will immediately understand as either male or female, I agree this would be something to consider. It's not a technique I'd be likely to use, and when I'm reading something I don't really care whether the author goes with a female or male voice, I just want an interesting character.

    As to the other point, are you saying you don't agree that some people have a more limited range of experience and their views on what is normative in terms of gender traits reflects that more limited range of experience? Because if it is the case in even one individual, then my statement is true :)
     
  21. KRHolbrook
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    I haven't read the posts before this all that much, and I apologize if you have stated the answers (or if anyone else has), but "some things" is pretty vague of an answer. It's one of my personal pet peeves when someone becomes vague about trying be helpful, and ends up being not helpful at all. But even when speaking, I don't see the difference between male and female. I know females that cuss a lot and males that don't, as well as vice-versa. I know males can have high voices or deep voices, and I've heard females with highs and lows as well. I don't know what these "some things" are.

    I write through the voice of a male in my novel, and I'm not seeing anything that differs from the voices of females I've written.
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I'm taking it to mean that if you want a reader to react a certain way more or less immediately, you have to play into their preconceptions. Even if the preconceptions turn out to be false or based on limited data, if you know what they are then you can tap into them quickly. Not a route I'd take in this instance, though.
     
  23. KRHolbrook
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    KRHolbrook Member

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    So basically...become a stereotype for the female and male genders?
     
  24. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Well, people do recognize stereotypes awfully quickly :) I like interesting characters, and stereotypes don't generally interest me. I couldn't care less what the gender of a main character is, so long as the author makes me engaging and tells a good story.
     
  25. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One need not dumb it down to cussing, or use stereotypes like eyes that stop at a woman's breasts.

    I'm still at a point in my writing that I know it when I see it, but other people can express what it is better than I can.
    What Women Need to Know About Writing Male Characters
    I had to be sure the one scene my male hero is seen crying was right. He finds evidence his love has been taken, her things are spilled on the ground, boot prints all around. He is certain he will never see her again. She enters the scene. After embracing she says,

    "You're crying?" Brin touched the tear on his cheek.
    "Of course I'm crying, I thought you were gone."

    That's it, no more reference to tears. Men don't cry. This was a critical event. In the story it is a critical event the readers know that. Brin, on the other hand tears up more than a few times, thinking of her father long dead, of never getting home again, when being ditched as a kid and feeling alone.

    Writing the male POV
    This article from The Atlantic was insightful despite being about men writing female POVs: The Mixed Results of Male Authors Writing Female Characters
    The article is worth reading.

    I'm writing a different female partly because I don't like the way females are constantly portrayed as rescuees. While I dislike as much, the tendency to overcompensate with women who kick butt and hold their own in a fight with a man. The female scientists takes off her glasses and becomes worthwhile in the story. That's a bit of a different issue from voice, but voice matters writing an intelligent female, nonetheless. One need not emasculate men or create two physical equals as love interests. It's nice women get some hero cred, but rarely realistic.

    More from the Atlantic article worth quoting:
    To just dismiss the differences to me seems shortsighted. Research, OTOH, makes more sense.
     
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