Saturday, May 2, 2009

Boys Will be Boys

The other day I was sunning myself on the back porch as my children played in the sandbox.

My three boys, to be exact. I like to listen to them and hear what they say to eachother. That day, however, I noticed a strange thing. Almost alien.

Although they were definitely playing together, building some sort of fort with toys, all their communication was nonverbal.

Translation: Grunt, Giggle, Scream, Giggle

This made me think of my heroes and how I write them. Do they sound girly? Are they talking too much? Asking too many questions? The best advice I ever read was that men don't ask, they state.

How do you masculinize your heroes without turning them into a stereotype? What author, in your opinion, writes great men?

36 comments:

Angie Ledbetter said...

Having an overabundance of testosterone, it's not real hard for me. Plus, the men in my fam & circle of acquaintance are outdoorsy menly men, so I'm familiar with the speak.

Something that may help is to read it out load. Your ear will pick up what sounds girly. :)

Jessica said...

Great advice about reading out loud. I hadn't thought of that for characterization.

sherrinda said...

I've got 3 boys and they are very non-verbal. But they aren't grunters either...more of the silent type. I like a hero to take charge and do the occasional grunt or snort. Hey, my heroine snorts in disdain on occasion! I must be a snort loveer...either that or I've picked up some bad habits from the men in my house!

anita said...

My crit partners are really good at catching any "feminine" sounding dialogue from my heroes. But really, I've never had any trouble in that arena until my most recent completed MS.

My hero was the intellectual, nerdy, professor sort and I tended to feminize him a bit in a few places. But the girls called me on it and I was able to fix it right up.

One author that I think writes GREAT masculine heroes is Laura Kinsale. She ROCKS!

Janna Qualman said...

Terri needs to see this post! :)

I try not to worry too much over it, but it is something to be aware of. I agree with Angie that reading it aloud helps you know if you're headed the right direction. It just feels right.

Jessica said...

Sherrinda,
Snorting is a valued quality. LOL Lucky you on the silent types. Mine take after their daddy. Sigh.

:-) I'm hoping they'll give me good fodder for male pov too.

Jessica said...

Anita,
I've never read Kinsale but I'll have to try her out. I've heard of her.
So Julian was feminine a bit? Did they think it was in his actions or narrative? Just curious. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Janna,
Thanks for stopping by. :-) Aloud is one of the best ways to catch things, I think.
So Terri needs to read this? Does she have boys or just trying to write them?

anita said...

Well, I think it was more in his dialogue, as far as him admitting to other men that he wasn't experienced in the "seduction" arena. Those were the only places they had any problems with. Basically, I had him spilling his feelings too easily. So I just went back through and took those parts out.

Since then, I've had several of the gals say that they love him as a hero, so I think that nailed it. :-)

Kristen Painter said...

In my first draft, I just write my hero without being too careful of his dialogue, but when I edit and polish, I try to shorten his dialogue where I can. Men speak in shorter sentences, so that's one of my tricks.

Windsong said...

I'm not sure. When I'm writing as my characters, something in my brain changes. I think like them, think in their voice, as I write. Depending on how different the character is from me, this can be exhausting. For me, it's seeing what the betas think. So far, my boys have been boys. ;-)

Jessica said...

Aha, Anita. Yeah, men usually don't spill too easily. LOL

Jessica said...

Kristen, awesome trick! I'm going to remember that one.

Jessica said...

Hi Windsong,
I agree. Writing is exhausting. I usually feel that way when I write my heroines, not so much the heroes. It's great that you can get into their povs. And nice that you have some betas for feedback. :-)

T. Anne said...

I have three boys as well (one dd too she came 5 years after the last boy) I always try and envision my male MC speaking the words I give him. SOmetimes I don't by it so I cut and alter. In my fantasy world men speak more. lol. That's OK right?

Jessica said...

LOL It's fantasy. I think it'll work. Heehee. :-)

ElanaJ said...

Hmm, I don't think I write boys very well. When I'm struggling I read JK Rowling. She *gets* boys. She never, ever made Harry into a girl. Ever.

I also think James Patterson does a good job with making Fang very masculine in the Maximum Ride series. He doesn't talk much, doesn't blather on about his feelings, does what has to be done, etc.

I also adore Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson. He doesn't sit and analyze his feelings about girls or anything. He's very masculine.

I could go on, but this has turned into a novel all it's own! LOL.

Jessica said...

That's a great list. I need to read some of those authors *blushing because I haven't*

Sounds pretty smart of you to study Rowling like that. :-)

Krista Phillips said...

Jessica, don't feel bad, I haven't read any of those either. Probably need to broaden my reading repertoire (I usually stick to Christian romance exclusively...it's my addiction!)

Writing male POV/dialogue: I usually close my eyes and 'listen' to my male character stay what I wrote if I have any doubt.

Does he sound like a pansy? Does he sound like he's "in the closet"? (Seriously, I know that sounds bad, but you know what I mean.) If so, I tone it down, or man it up a little. *grin*

But we don't want to be TOO authentic either. I mean, guys say stupid stuff sometimes. We want our women readers to fall in LOVE with our hero, even though he has faults. If we make him TOO realistic we'll just want to drop him off at the side of the curb or go after him with our handy dandy baseball bat. LOL

**disclaimer** I’m a bit tongue in cheek here. I LOVE my husband and would never hit him with a baseball bat. Not a metal one anyway…*grin*

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jess -

Groan. Here's another thing I have to double-check in my manuscript.

I recently read Julie Lessman's, "A Passion So Pure." She's great at nailing down the whole gender difference thing.

Great post.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jessica said...

LOL Krista! You do have a point about authenticity *snicker*
Great comment. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Susan,
Sometimes it does seem like an endless checklist, right? Sigh.
You're right about Lessman. I never doubted the testosterone flowing through them. LOL!

Jody Hedlund said...

I will definitely need to be on the lookout for this tendency as I revise my book. I haven't really paid attention to whether I've feminized my hero. So thank you for reminding me of this!

Jessica said...

No problem Jody.
Like Kristen said, there's some shortcuts. For example, I try to not use any question marks with my guys. If he asks a question, turn it into a statement. LOL Makes him sound like a bossy, annoying man right off the bat! Snort. Okay, well, don't make him too annoying... LOL

Warren Baldwin said...

Suggestions from a man ... let the boys be boys - play out side, be a bit rough, get scraped up, eat with dirty hands, play in the mud, track it through the house, hunt animals (and if you don't want a gun in your story or book, they can at least stalk the animal just to look at it).

Suggestions for writing about a man ... same as above.

Actually, for a man you could add a few extra features - desire to provide for his family, working hard. On this one, you might want a guy with a good outside job - logging, construction, driving an oil truck. If he has indoor work, let him wear jeans and workboots on the weekend, dig in the garden, cut firewood, hunt, to to car races, football games.

Then, if your hero is a spiritual leader, let him be the first up and getting the family ready for worship on Sunday am, read a memory verse at mealtime, say an evening prayer, and give spiritual advice to the teenage kids.

I'm a minister for a rural church where we have a lot of hundters. For the guy visitors to our church I have hunting memorabilia in my office - deer antlers, elk antlers, a bear skull, a moose tooth, and hunting pictures. It resonates with men who may be real outdoorsy and are uncomfortable with church.

Just some ideas from a guy!

Deb Shucka said...

The sounds effects make me laugh! What a great conversation this is about writing men.

Irritable Mother said...

"Men don't ask, they state."
Sounds like good advice for a bride-to-be, not just a writer! We need help understanding them in the real world as much as in the writing world. *grin*

Jeanette Levellie said...

Jessie; What a fun post!
Since i write non-fiction, my men say what they say (I may embellish it a bit!), and they don't go on and on like we women do. They usually cut to the chase.
Dr. Dobson quoted a study that said that little girls use all meaningful sounds, ie: words, whereas little boys produce only half of thier sounds as words. Interesting...
I think you are on the right track, listening to your sons. In more ways than one! HA!

Travis Erwin said...

It says a lot that you noticed that. Lots of people, especially on writers wouldn't have.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Isn't it amazing how having little boys gives you such new insights into the way the minds of the opposite sex work? I grew up with four sisters, so every day with my little guy just opens to my eyes to all the differences.

And off the top of my head I can't think of any authors who write men or boys extremely well - I guess that might be because I tend to stick mostly with books with women as the main characters;)

Jessica said...

Warren, great advice! I love it. Even if a man isn't outdoorsy, like you said, there's something different inside of you. LOL Wish we women could figure it out.
Thanks so much for commenting! :-)

Jessica said...

Thanks Deb!
I have a feeling those sounds are going to be a part of my life for quite awhile. LOL

Jessica said...

LOL Karen!
Very true. Poor brides-to-be shouldn't expect to talk everything out with their hubbies, or to even reason with them. *snicker*

Just kidding. :-)

Jessica said...

Hi Jen,
Great info about the study. I've heard that too and do try to keep my heroes fairly succinct. Thanks for passing that info along!

Jessica said...

Hi Travis,
Thanks for stopping by!
Listening to kids is a lot of fun. They say the cutest, sometimes the most truthful things.

Then again, sometimes they lie. LOL

Jessica said...

Hi Kate,
So do you write women's fiction?

I grew up with all girls too, but my stepdad was in the marines and though he was gone a lot, he kind of imprinted on my memory what males are like. LOL Very bossy.