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!
I love writing the male POV. Men are much more interesting to me than women, maybe because they are so uncomplicated but still so deep.
One of the things I do when writing dialogue is ask myself if a guy would really say that. Most of the time I have to rewrite it with simple, direct words. Short and to the point. That’s how my guys think and speak.
Great post! I loved both Kat’s description of the men she works with (chatty, sensitive charity workers) and Kaki’s description of men’s basic conversational technique. The scene from Ocean’s Eleven is a perfect example.
Thanks for the giveaway
I wanted to thank Kaki again for being here. Just after she sent me this post, I watched a conversation between my parents that seemed to typify everything Kaki says here.
My mom had just gotten off the phone with her mother. She’d tried to convince my grandma to come over to the house for lunch, but my grandma has been avoiding leaving her house more and more as she gets older, so she made a bunch of excuses not to come over.
When Mom hung up, obviously frustrated, Dad said, “Is she coming over?”
Instead of giving him the yes/no he wanted, Mom started recounting the entire conversation. Dad held up a hand to stop her. “If I wanted to know all that, I’d have called her myself. Is she coming over?”
Economical with words. That’s my pop. (Obviously not a chatty, sensitive charity worker.)
These are especially important rules for cowboys! LOVE THEM!
Wonderful post!!!! Pretty much sums up the male thought process!!! ;-P
Thanks for coming by, ladies.
Amelia, you’re right. When writing male dialog, put it all down, then go back and cut most of the words.
And Kat, your Dad is thinking in practicalities–does he stay, leave, prepare for a long afternoon? While your mother is caught up in the emotion–second-guessing her mom’s responses, over-analyzing, worrying, trying to find ways to cheer her up and ease her troubles. A great example.
Sarah, you’re correct. Cowboys pride themselves on the “Yup, nope,” responses. But they’re very good with the unspoken responses. Hee-hee.
Thanks, Debbie, although I wouldn’t exactly call it a THOUGHT process. HA!
Maria, thanks for coming by. There was a lot of good dialog in the Ocean’s movies. Pretty good eye candy, too.
Love to win Colorado Dawn by Kaki Warner……sounds very good…. and I just Love Kaki’s books…one awesome writer too ….firstname.lastname@example.org
I liked what you had to say, Kaki, but when you gave me my FAVORITE eye-candy and intriguing male, George Clooney, I now LOVE this blog!! Oh. And I agree.
Thanks for your comments, Joy, and Linda, and Theresa. Good luck on winning a copy of the book.
Chocolate is good for the Omega 3s, I hear. But eye candy is good for the soul. So thanks, George and Brad. And Gerard Butler. And Raylan Givens (now there’s a character worth writing about).
I really enjoyed your post, Kaki! I had to laugh out loud, since that fits most of the males I know. Love your books! Thanks for the giveaway!
Thank you, Cathy, for coming by…and for reading my books. Good luck on winning a copy of CD. It was a fun book to write.
Now that I think about it, I had a male boss who used to give me mile-long tangent-filled answers to simple yes or no questions. There are always exceptions. Gotta love men. 😉
Good point, Amelia. But that’s also a ploy to discourage more questions. “Use as many words as you can to say as little as possible”, as one of my characters put it. Thus proving he gave the subject thorough consideration, but confusing the issue so much the original question was lost. No question=no wrong answers. A win-win as far as he was concerned. He was sort of a doofus, though. Bless his heart.
You are so right about most mens POV they have few words to say. Although I have a nephew that never shuts up and he has always been that from the time he started talking, so I guess there are a few that talk to much.
I love reading your heros you do such a wonderful job with them. Your books are awesome and I can’t wait to get Colorado Dawn, I know it will be awesome. Also George Clooney would make a wonderful hero if your books were made into a movie. Thanks for sharing with us today.
Thanks for coming by, Quilt Lady. I also have a man in my family who can really get wound up. But it’s less like being talk TO, than being talked AT. Sort of like lecturing. Yawn. Clooney would be nice–but maybe too nice. Definitely too polished. HA!
Maybe Sam Elliot would be a better choice and he has a voice to die for.
I’ve read all four of Kaki’s books and awaiting to read “Colorado Dawn.” And yes, I think, I totally agree with Kaki (and if you’ve read the Blue Rose trilogy books) and her male outlook. The Wilkin boys are no exception. In her first book Brady was mistified half the time at some of the things Edwina try to explain to him in great detail. But I loved the way he responded, with one syllable. That’s why Kaki’s boks are so believable. Of course the fact that the Wilkins men are extremely hot makes you really not care if they talk at all. They can just stand there with that tall, dark and handsome, tough cowboy look while we drool all over the pages.
than one thought at a time. That’s what makes Kaki’s books so dog gone believable. Of course, the Wilkin men being hot makes you really not care too much
Correct that, I meant the Blood Rose Trilogy. Sorry about that.
You’re a hoot, Karen. I guess you could say the Wilkins boys do a helluva good job of hiding their highly intelligent natures behind simplified answers. Or, you could say they just don’t get it half the time, and don’t care the other half. Very male that way. But they mean well most of the time, so they get credit for that. (Your book should be getting there real soon, If not, let me know.) And thanks for coming by.
Just Loved the Blood Rose Trilogy,gotta love a cowboy that takes care of his family and his wife(if you know what I mean).Really love the little bit of suspence that you put in them, makes it hard to put down! Keep up the Good work ,just passed them off to my daughter.
Thanks, Teri. Glad you came by and good luck in the drawing.
I’d say that’s just about right. Whenever I assume my husband is going to be angry, upset, whatever, he just shrugs his shoulders, says he’s fine, and moves on. I’m the one that keeps on rehashing it. He definitely lives in the present, much more than I do.
Great observation, Jen. Women do try to talk things to death when they’re troubled by something. I think it’s a defense mechanism. We’re much less likely to just let something drop if it might impact their home, safety, children, relationship. We need to know where we stand. Men, too, I guess, but they’re just not as openly focused on it.
Great tips here, Kaki. I write Regency set historical romance and I often find myself over-writing the hero’s dialogue because men in 19th century England, while reticent were a bit more articulate. It is a tough line to walk. Any hints?
Hi, Louisa. Thanks for stopping by. Tips? Hmmm. Like Amelia said in the first comment–write it all down, then try to delete as much as you can w/o losing the voice of the character. I agree, though, men in the Regency were much more articulate than men in the western US. They were more adept in polite conversation and used more flowery language (at least, the upper class did). But I think when it’s a male-only dialog you can definitely cut back on the extra words. Men don’t try to impress other men with their manners as much as they try to impress women. (In fact, if it weren’t for women, there probably wouldn’t be so manners. But you didn’t hear me say that.)
ROFLMAO !! Your assessment of the evolution of manners is probably the most precise scientific fact in the history of human behavior !! Great tips in your answer. Thanks!
I’m still reading your Piece of Sky and i really love it especially how you described the hero. i’m fell in love with Brady 😉
yes, agreed with this post and sometime they said woman doing thing by heart and man doing think by brain 😉
Great way of putting it, Eli. Women thinking with their hearts, and men thinking with their brains. I guess it mostly depends on where their brains are located, right? Thanks for coming by and good luck in the drawing.
Hi Kaki! Love your description about ocean eleven male characters. That’s awesome and exactly describe almost all of my male friends:). Cheers aretha
Then you’ve got some great friends, Aretha, if they’re like Clooney and Pitt. I wish I had friends like that. LOL. Thanks for coming by and good luck.
I so had to laugh reading this post! It is absolutely true! Just recently we painted our walls in the living room and I wanted not a bland white but more like eggshell (you girls will know what I mean) and my boyfriend just looked at me and said, so you want white or not? *headdesk*
Thank you for the post and giveaway!
LOL, Claudia. I’m telling you, flowers, colors, perfumes, hairstyles, clothes–all they see is that they like it or not, or don’t care either way. Not important why. Just is.
But what I hate is…you ask, and get back, “whatever.”
You don’t ask and just do it…and get back “Gads, what were you thinking?”
Whereas, we women will happily give a pretty-firm-maybe opinion right away, asked or not. Bless our hearts.
Thank you for this fabulous post, and the great books. I forwarded it to a girlfriend dating a Strong & Silent type here in the West looking for a good book on relationships, and this qualifies as a cheat sheet!
With three moose-size adult nephews who nicknamed their mom the Head Warden and me the Assistant Warden I am certain there would be NO manners at all without women.
Ha! Larisa, everything about this comment had me chuckling. 🙂
Thanks for recommending my books, Larisa. Asst. Warden to 3 moose-sized nephews? Then you must be doing something right. HA! Sometimes it seems the bigger they are, the easier they are to manage. Or not. Thanks for coming by.
I am flattered to [presumably] earn a mention on your cool blog. In your defense, you write kickass heroes who practically ooze masculine maleness. The instance you mentioned was rare, and I was probably in the throes of PMS. xoxo
Aww, thank you! If they’re kickass, then it’s thanks in large part to you helping me keep them real. (Or, better than real :))
This is an awesome giveaway. I’d love to win Kaki’s book Colorado Dawn.
It said that men acted with his brain and women with his heart. Well, sometimes I saw the opposite. Actually, many men that I have met even doesn’t have brain I guess. Ok, now I’m thinking like a girl >_<
But I love your description about male characters in Ocean's Eleven. The conversation between Clooney and Pitt were really men. That's how they are.
Thank u for this giveaway 🙂
Sorry, I made a little mistake, I mean women with her heart 😀
Amel, thanks for your comment. And there’s nothing wrong with thinking like a girl. Especially if you’re the only one in the room doing any thinking at all. HA!
But I think every man has brains: it’s just that sometimes they reside above the belt and sometimes below the belt. (OK. That was mean, I guess. Sorry. Maybe.)
I love all her books. Kaki is a wonderful writer. I would love to win a copy for my best friend and reading buddy Lisa.
Great advice Kaki, and so true. Again, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Men are such funny ‘creatures’ and I just love the three different personalities of the Wilkin’s brothers. Chocolate coated on the outside, soft and gooey on the inside.
Great post Kaki! I love your books!!
Thanks, Kim. Good luck, for Lisa’s sake.
Sharen, don’t let the brothers hear you say that. They think they’re the toughest guys on the planet. HA!
Sharalee, I thank you for that. They’ve all been great fun to write and it means a lot to know readers are enjoying them.
A lot of times I can appreciate a man’s point of view, and try to adopt it myself. I like that men are more practical and less emotional than women. I work in retail and would find that my male customers are so much easier to deal with than the women customers. Always
That’s so true, Helena. So freakin’ true.
What a wonderful post! Loved it and love your books!!
I agree, Helena. I’m a bit of a pragmatist, too. It’s just easier that way. All that emotion gives me a headache.
Thanks for coming by, Terry. And good luck on winning a copy of COLORADO DAWN.
I love writing the male POV. only problem is their POV scenes tend to sabotage my total word count estimates. Men are so inconsiderate 😉
LOL, Tes. And how exciting for you that your debut book, DELIVER ME FROM DARKNESS is coming out in just over two weeks! I know you’re busy right now pimping your paranormal, and I appreciate that you took the time to drop by. Good luck!
Ha! So true. 🙂 That’s why we need scenes with lots of girlfriends gabbing together. Bumps that word count right back up.
Whoa…I just received an email that I won this giveaway. Yay!! Can’t tell how happy I am. Thank u so much Kaki for giving the copy of this book, and thank u Kat for having this giveaway on your blog.
I’m so happy 😀
Congrats, Amel! I know you’ll enjoy it. 🙂
I’ve been trying to write from a male perspective in my newest novel, but I’d be inclined to disagree with you on the “men don’t talk much, especially about their feelings” rule. My father and I both have the tendency to drone on endlessly, especially about our feelings.
Love this post! I feel more confident writing the second viewpoint character now. I thought something was off about him, now I know why (too much introspection for one.) So far have had him switch povs in a chapter with the main pov (woman) and it already looks and feels better. Now to make him sound and act more guy like.
I would like it if you’d add to the list that some guys when alone with their girl or wife are a little different than in public. My guy will tear up when his favorite characters on are saying/doing something sad or amazing, usually fighting for what’s right or standing up for a friend. This tearing up he calls ‘allergies’ as a half joke. My guy will also notice a pretty new shirt or outfit saying ‘you look nice.’ It might take a while, like a half hour or a couple of hours (lol) but he does notice. Guys care but I think they first have to sort through what’s been going on in their head first before they do. If he’s hurting (he usually is hus job sucks) then he’ll be somewhat grumpy, but it’s nothing you did so wait it out. Men/People need space so just bide your time before wanting to chat, that’s what I’ve learned.
Men love having a concrete (short) list of wants and needs from you, just don’t abuse this. My guy is sweet and wants to help out so I have to be careful of randomly talking about something I want or think is neat because next week he will have it. (A good way for him to to go broke! Meep!) And, I like getting my own things… So that’s something to add to the list.
Guys love a good sense of humor, we often have a fun banter where one of us makes a funny comment and the other does they same and we keep going until we can’t laugh anymore.
He’s 50 some years old and while mature, intelligent, dependable and a hard worker he’s also silly, sweet, caring, giving and naughty. *Waggles eyebrows* I hope that helps someone.
The recapticha thing stinks and doesn’t wait long enough. There are way better ways to cut down on spam (do a search) without punishing visiters. Make no mistake that’s what it is.