One of the things I love about Kaki Warner‘s historical Western romance novels is how she writes men. They’re authentically tough and often befuddled by women. I personally find writing a hero’s point of view very difficult, mostly because the men I know in real life are chatty, sensitive charity workers. My critique partner Moriah once commented on a scene I wrote: “Does he watch a lot of Dr Phil?”
So I asked Kaki for some advice, and she’s been kind enough to share her tips.
Leave a comment below and you could win her latest novel, Colorado Dawn.
DISCLAIMER: In no way is anything I write here meant to be insulting to men. I speak in gross generalities (and mostly about American men). I am fully aware there are MANY men who are sensitive, fully in touch with their feminine side, and the total opposite of what I am about to say. OK? OK.
Let’s start with the obvious: Men are pretty basic. That’s not to say they aren’t complicated, thoughtful, or fully aware of what’s going on. Most of the time they just don’t care. Certainly not the way women do. Ask a woman how she feels, and you’ll get a complete rundown of how she slept the night before, how bloated she feels, how upset she is because of what her BFF said, how mean her boss was, if she’s starting her period, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Ask a man how he feels, and after a quick mental check: Am I hungry? Sleepy? Thirsty? Horny? He’ll usually answer fine. And that’s that.
The same holds true in dialogue. Example:
Her: Let’s go to the mall. There’s a big sale in the furniture store, and I saw an ad for the cutest little table that would be perfect by the couch and would set off the dark stripe in the drapes and look great with that new rug we got last week. What do you say?
Him: Mall? (That’s pretty much all he heard out of the entire sentence, so that’s what he’ll react to.)
And then there’s description. A woman might spend half the afternoon trying on every item in her closet multiple times to get the absolute perfect ensemble. She may have worked on her hair for an hour and re-applied her makeup three times. When she’s finally ready, she’s a work of priceless art.
His response: “You look hot.”
He doesn’t think in terms of her four-inch heels making her legs look great, or the cut of the dress setting off her finer attributes or disguising her less fine. His brain doesn’t think in words like sheath, pumps, up-do, wrap, or clutch. So, if you’re in his POV, don’t even use those terms. Always keep in mind the guy you’re writing about is not your best girlfriend—don’t expect him to speak or act like her, or notice the things she would.
So here are a few simple rules for writing in a male POV.
1. Use as few descriptive words as possible, especially when dealing with flowers, colors, fragrances, dress styles, or spices in that dish your heroine spent all afternoon preparing (unless he’s a horticulturist, painter, designer, or chef). You may know a dress is mauve, or lilac, or amethyst, or the color of the first early crocuses in spring. But to him it’s purple. Period.
2. Remove 99% of words dealing with emotion. Feelings in men mostly relate to the physical: pain, hunger, thirst, weariness, horniness. They rarely talk about being “upset” about something, or feeling blue, or being lonely or sad. That’s not to say they don’t feel those things, but they won’t want to talk about it endlessly like a woman might.
3. In dialogues between men and women, men will use fewer words than women, and will often give monosyllabic answers. Maybe they’re afraid of saying the wrong thing and getting into trouble. Or that giving out too much information will only generate more questions and then they’ll be stuck in an endless conversation in which they have no interest whatsoever. At least that’s the way it works at my house.
As an example, here is a great short dialogue in one of the Ocean’s Eleven films. As I recall, the characters played by George Clooney and Brad Pitt are on barstools watching a sports game on a TV behind the bar. Neither ever takes his eyes off the TV throughout the entire exchange.
Clooney: “You think we need more men.”
Pitt: Eats a peanut.
Clooney: “I should probably get more men.”
Clooney: “OK, I’ll get more men.”
Can you imagine how much longer that conversation would have gone on between two women?
So there you have it. A few of my personal guidelines when I write in a male POV. Remember to keep it basic and simple. Men are creatures of action and reaction. Talking is secondary. Don’t over-ponder, or over-analyze, and for heaven’s sake, don’t think like a girl.
Have any ideas of your own you’d like to share?
Leave a comment and on Tuesday January 17th I’ll randomly choose one person to win Kaki’s latest release, Colorado Dawn!