1. FoxPaw
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    FoxPaw Senior Member

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    Writing Male Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by FoxPaw, Nov 26, 2011.

    Being a woman myself and just starting my writing career, I don't feel one-hundred percent comfortable in my abilities to write guys properly. I usually write stories with a majority female cast and female leads. However, the world is not made up of just women (thank god! XD) so I wanted to know how to write men, otherwise I feel I might start writing stereotypes or fall into cliche personalities that make them one-dimensional.

    So, are there any tips I should know?
     
  2. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Tips: DON'T write a MALE character, write a character who happens to be male. I know I am not one to speak much since I cannot write young females to save my life, but I think you just need to write a character as a character. What would YOU want your male to be like? There is no one male that will represent all males. Do you want a quiet and sensitive guy? Then write a sensitive guy. A jerk? A jerk with a heart of gold?

    I mean, think of it this way. If I asked you how to write a woman, would you really be able to tell me something that stood for all women? Write a character and let gender be only a part of that character, not the definition.
     
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  3. FoxPaw
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    FoxPaw Senior Member

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    That's a really good point, Show.

    I guess I was so caught up on writing this character as a guy, that I forgot that gender was just a small part of him. Forgot that mannerisms and behaviors are more about an individual than a group of people. I was doing what I wanted to avoid doing the whole time, stereotyping. Sorry everyone.
     
  4. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's fine. :) Always just remember that stereotyping usually results from trying to write a particular type of character rather than just a character. Write a character who your story requires and if he is a male, then his gender need only be a part of who he is. I would recommend thinking about what kind of character you're looking for and then go from there in the search for models. Also, what is the age of the character? How big is the role? Lots of factors determine how this character will be. Really, male or female, a character is a character. There are obviously things to remember when writing any character, but I think the average character should be treated as an individual. Depending on what story you are looking to include a male in, I think it should be pretty easy to get inside his head. Remember, at the end of the day, more than anything else related to age or gender, this character is YOUR creation. Who knows him better than you?
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Show made a good point there.
    I happen to love writing from a guys' perspective, I don't know why but they always come out even more "real" than the women. Somehow I find it harder to portray women and I don't know why this is. I think I used Shows' method without realizing it, because besides from avoiding some traps (like having "my guys" getting too emotional _in a female sense_ and be too introspective) I just write about people who happens to be men. But I do remind myself sometimes about him being a guy when he reacts to things that happen around him.
     
  6. Marmalade
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    Marmalade Member

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    This is always going to lead to some doubt, regardless of how comfortable you are with your craft. If you haven't already, perhaps you could choose female authors who write male characters well, analyse what it is that makes them successful (or unsuccessful). When you think about it, men and women aren't intrinsically that different; we respond the same way to hardship, we make the same mistakes, we fight for the same principles. Emotionality doesn't actually undermine gender integrity, whether a man is 'too' sensitive, or a woman 'too' offish. There are very few choices a character should have to make that are predicated solely on gender. It's the individuals, not the sexes, who are really different.

    Tesoro, why do you think it is that men seem more 'real'? I find that intriguing.
     
  7. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a guy, and I usually write stories with an all-female cast. (more or less; my latest novel has five charactes in total, and four of them are female.) The first time I wrote a story like that, I did it for two reasons:

    First, I wanted to have an action/survival-story with a different main character than usual. It's a story where some people are stuck on a deserted island full of monsters, yet based on real science. Anyway, I considered having teenagers, adults, males, females and so on, then ended up with a 50-something year old housewife.

    And second, I wanted to avoid romance, but stick to the horror. Personally, I think there are far too many stories where a guy and girl end up in a bad situation together, then fall in love along the way. Some people like that stuff, but I don't. So I decided the main character should go to the island to meet four of her friends. It made a lot of sense that they were all female, so I ended up with five women, all past 50.

    I liked writing that story and loved those characters, so all my stories since then have had an all-female cast. True, the cast have been very small (as little as two people and a (male) dog, in one case), but still. Maybe I'm a male feminist. :D
     
  8. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Yes just write the character is great advice but knowing what a stereotypical male reaction would be or a stereotypical female reaction would be is a good thing to study. A stereotype lets you know how many/most men or women would respond in a given situation. It's okay if your character doesn't respond that way (if that's their personality) but knowing that the characters' response is unusual helps you make the character more believable.

    That being said I will tell you that...

    guys want direct answers to questions
    guys feel uncomfortable when you talk about emotions in public and sometimes when you talk about them in private
    guys often don't get that a girl is mad until she flat out tells him
    guys have trouble following a conversation that changes subjects at random times (meaning the way girls often talk).
    guys really don't see the dirty socks on the floor and really think the dishes are done if they load the dishes from the sink into the dishwasher (it doesn't matter that there are still dishes on the stove and table)
    guys think in terms of the bottom line and want you to make your point and quit rattling on

    I get my experience with guys from my 6 brothers, many foster brothers, husband and my own sons. And I don't mean this as a slam on guys, it's just they way it is and I could easily come up with just as many (probably more) funny things that are how girls think.
     
  9. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    The bolded are correct.
    The underlined are incorrect.
    The italicised are debatable.

    It's true that guys want direct answers to questions. Everyone does, though. In fact, I'd say that girls want direct answers even more than guys do. It's just that girls, more often than guys, avoid giving them.
    It's not true that guys are uncomfortable about emotions. I'm pretty free about mine, but I know what it's like to be close-mouthed about it, too. For the most part, guys just have people they will talk about it with, and people they won't. It's not a matter of whether you trust someone, but it's just who you feel comfortable talking about it with.
    Guys do get when girls are mad. It's easier if she says so, but for the rest of the time, it's really about how observant the guy is. I'm usually pretty good at it. I'm not spectacular, but I'm certainly capable.
    Guys talk directly. Women... well, don't. We say what we want to say. Women take it and try and turn it into something else.
    Incorrect, mostly. I see all the dirty clothes on my floor right now. It's just that I still have clean underwear and socks available, so I don't really NEED to do washing yet. As for dishes, I know I have dirty dishes on my desk there and my bedside table, but it's November and I'm doing NaNoWriMo. I haven't been home much and couldn't be stuffed cleaning if I am. We do it when it needs to be done, and as for dishwashers... if it's clean, all you have to do is dry it when you want to use it. That's not hard.
    That's right.

    I know you didn't mean it as a slam. I'm totally aware. I just want you to be aware that this isn't a retort. It's just a minor correction and some elaboration for the OP.
     
  10. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    @ AmyHolt
    cliches or truth?

    It is easier to think that we know what the opposite sex is like, but how easy is it for us to tell them all of this and not let themguess and vice versa.

    I believe that evry person is an individual and therefore to pin point or label them with this is how we feel and this is how they feel is rather naive I think.
    I sometimes read through what ''men think'' and think to myself ''I think that too''.
    The best way to tell is to ask them directly I think therefore I cannot make a constructive comment on each of the statement just in case I am wrong.

    1) guys want direct answers to questions
    guys feel uncomfortable when you talk about emotions in public and sometimes when you talk about them in private

    I am a girl and I think that too
    2)guys often don't get that a girl is mad until she flat out tells him
    This I think is unfounded.

    3) guys think in terms of the bottom line and want you to make your point and quit rattling on
    I think that too.
     
  11. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a fair point, but there are fundamental differences between men and women, and there are fair generalisations that can be made about each sex. Not a lot of the cliché sayings about men or women are true, but men are less likely to hold grudges, for example. I'm a prime example of an exception to this, because I do hold grudges, and I don't often forgive the people on the other end.
    But as a rule, a majority of men don't hold grudges. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to because women are more emotional than men.

    Again, it's a fair point to say that everyone is an individual subject to their own personal prejudices and traits, but it's not naive to give a generalisation about an entire gender when those generalisations are largely well-founded.
     
  12. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I'm going to echo the point that's been made about stereotypes. Don't do them. On the flip side of this, as an example, I'm a woman but by no means "feminine." I'm direct, competitive, I watch shows like "The Walking Dead" and hate chick flicks, and I have zero interest in pop-culture or baby-making, so books that have all female characters align with the stereotype will just make me want to quit reading that book. I'm sure that guys will get annoyed reading something where all the male characters are hotheaded, afraid of emotion, inept at picking up body language hints, etc.

    Instead of thinking in terms of male vs. female, think in terms of the individual character. What are their motivations? What are they thinking? What are they feeling? WHY are they thinking/feeling those things? What makes them tick? Why? Think about your plot and about this character's specific role in the story -- what types of traits and motives will help them achieve their role in your story? This is far more important than gender and will get you far better developed characters.
     
  13. Cacian
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    Cacian Banned

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    Holding grudges is something you learn to do not because you are a bad person or you are not nice, it ibecause you have not had any other way of dealings with the initial problems that led you to hold a grudge.
    I have lived with men who hold grudges like you would not believe it.
    However, I am a woman and I could not hold grudges for more then five minutes because it is not in me.
    So I would say that men are as emotional as women if not more becaue men don't usuaully air out their feelings with their mates.
    Women are more into gossips and chatter and would talk about their feelings more.
     
  14. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't know for sure :) Like you said, men and women aren't that different, I'm pretty sure for most of the time they go through the same things and have the same problems, but maybe it's the way they act in reaction to those things that distinguish them from each other? I'm trying really hard to apply the same principle when i write women but I find it incredibly hard, they seem to live their own life, or maybe it's just that I'm letting too much of my own thoughts and experiences interfere when I'm writing women. instead of getting inside this female characters' head I think about how this situation would have made me feel/react, and I never do that when writing men, since i don't know how a man like him would react. i just know how My character reacts, as an individual, because I feel I really know him. that is the best explaination i can offer. :)
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    sorry, double post.
     
  16. Pellshek
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    Pellshek New Member

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    When I find myself writing a female character (I am male) I seem to fall repeatedly into an annoying trap. I start out fine, writing her as a character and not a gender - for example, she's smart, rude, career-oriented, a fiercely loyal friend and girlfriend, an attentive and kind daughter. All well and good.

    The problem comes when I try to explore some of her internal life, or dig into her emotional relationships. I repeatedly reach for variations on the "Women are emotional" cliché. And so, every reaction I give her tends to degenerate into samey mush whereby she becomes overly emotional, over-analytical, not that concerned with linear logic, is extremely clear when communicating etc. etc. Similarly, when I give her dialogue, it always seems:

    1. Highly emotionally literate (surprise surprise!)
    2. Very strong communication-wise (if she is talking to a man, he'll be the opposite, all tongue-tied and unresponsive)
    3. To contain a certain feminine mystery to it
    4. Occasionally, there is a particularly feminine manipulation in it.

    All of this inevitably ends up feeling like cliché to me and makes all my female characters kind of samey, except for external stuff like how they are at work or whether they holds doors open for old ladies. It's like I only have one tone when I am inside a female character - in touch with her emotions and highly capable of communicating same. Yawn. It also inevitably tends to make it hard to write negative or nasty female characters, because all of the above stuff about emotions and communication are healthy and positive in the main. Simply giving negative female characters male emotional traits seems a horrible cop out.

    The corrollary of this, when I am in the internal life of a man, I can make him feel and do anything I like because I know how a male mind works. And so unpredictability - and thus richness of character - seems to come easier with male characters. They end up as more rounded.

    It has occurred to me that perhaps the reason I keep obsessing on this "emotion" thing is because that is, indeed, the main difference between men and women! So, it is inevitable and unavoidable that that's what I'll be reaching for. But I am far from convinced that's true.
     
  17. Pellshek
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    Pellshek New Member

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    Edit - dupe.

    (Impatient man not willing to wait 5 second for the post to appear! lolz)
     
  18. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    Funny, even though our reasons for it are totally the opposite, we seem to have reached the same conclusion :))
     
  19. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    All that is true for some guys, but not everyone. I'm a guy, so I should know. ;) An ex-girlfriend once complained to me and said all men are the same. I told her she might be right, but if so, all women are the same too. That pretty much ended the discussion. ;)
     
  20. Ocean Seven
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    Ocean Seven New Member

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    The bolds in your quote I have an issue with. (Ironic) If we're talking in general, than sure, but there is a fair number of males who wouldn't fit with those, myself being one of them. Sure, if you're dragging a conversation on for a very long time I can get bored and want it to be done and over with, but I commonly drone on (at least on forums, kinda hard to yak on and on when you have a stutter ;3) and on and on and on and on myself, so I'd be a pretty bad hypocrite if I truly said I fit that. (Sort of a moot point because I can understand that it's your opinion on it, but to say that they are 'correct' is incorrect itself. Like Show said way up top, you can't really say something that would stand for all men or women.)

    As for the second, that's almost exactly how I write. And how chats with friends in groups commonly end up when everyone is chatting away in rapid-fire mode.

    The third point can be jokingly challenged by citing politicians in general.Stereotype or not, when you have to re-listen to a speech a few times to figure out what they really mean, you know that that point doesn't hold too true.


    On a different note, I agree with your underline. If you got me going, I wouldn't shut up about it if I could help it. (Eight years of collecting helps keep momentum there...) Likely for different reasons than others, but all the same in the end.


    That all being said, writing a male character can be done by writing it how you want them to be, and/or using such stereotypes. I know in my large cast, I have several males with several stereotypical aspects, such as Blaze, who is basically the living incarnation of the stereotype that males can't stop thinking about sex. (Most of the males are typical badassery types, but the best example of how to write a male is Ocean Seven, who is literally me as much as possible.)
     
  21. duckturtle
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    duckturtle New Member

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    When I really started getting into writing, I found that all my female characters (total dude here) were cliche and not really good then I started to realize that all of my female characters were basically the same. Like you, I didn't feel comfortable, so a good majority of my early stories contained nothing but males characters.

    Then one day, I just decided to loosely base my female characters on the women in my real life whether it's my wife, mom, sister, ex-girlfriends, the waitress at my favorite bar, female co-workers, etc. A good chunk of the time, I'll exaggerate a particular trait, have the character react similar to how their real-life counter-part would react, talk like with similar dialogue, dress the same, etc. I even do that with all my male characters. Now my characters on both sides of the sex line feel real and natural to me.
     
  22. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    guys want direct answers to questions
    guys feel uncomfortable when you talk about emotions in public and sometimes when you talk about them in privateguys often don't get that a girl is mad until she flat out tells him
    guys have trouble following a conversation that changes subjects at random times (meaning the way girls often talk).[/B]
    guys really don't see the dirty socks on the floor and really think the dishes are done if they load the dishes from the sink into the dishwasher (it doesn't matter that there are still dishes on the stove and table)
    guys think in terms of the bottom line and want you to make your point and quit rattling on
    lol Thanks for the elaborations. I will have to let the guys in my life know they are most certainly not normal. ;)

    @ cacian - I think they are all truthfully cliche.
     
  23. Devrokon
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    Devrokon Senior Member

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    Observe males you know and document it in a writing journal. Then, consult your work when you need ideas of how males function. BINGO! :cool:
     
  24. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    I agree with Show.

    It's so very easy to get bogged down in male vs female when writing characters. When you write about a woman do you think about the fact she's female when you're writing? Look at it that way.

    People are people. Yes, there are differences that are evident but really at the end of the day people are people. Everyone has things that drive them. Strip it down to that and you'll be fine.

    I used to be horribly intimidated by writing male characters, let alone writing from their perspective. Now I don't find it so difficult. People say there's fundamental differences between men and women but there are always exceptions to that rule. Remember people are people. :)
     
  25. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yep, people are people. There may be physical differences that are pretty much a rule to stick to if you're going to be believable, but I think we all pretty much know what they are. ;) And frankly, thinking of myself, I'm hardly the typical "guy," especially not like any of the ones typically portrayed in fiction. Yet I'm a real person. And plus, regardless of what kind of guy you end up writing, the most important thing is also that he fits into the story. If you have to push yourself so hard to write a particular character, maybe the story doesn't really need him. Just speaking from my own experience, if a story needs a character, they're writing themselves so much already that knowing how such a character would be in real-life is merely just shading in minor details of who they are, because the bulk of the character would've already been written by the story's need for them.
     

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