Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Understanding Male Characters

One problem all authors face is writing 3D characters of the opposite sex.  Some manage it better than others, some fail dismally.  However, a readthrough of some psychology texts will help as will a close observation of people.

The trouble with those two, however, is finding the right psychology text and not getting arrested, propositioned or punched while you stare at people.

With that in mind, here are a few pointers about men, an area where I have some specialist knowledge.

Men think slower about emotions than women as well as less often.  It's not that men can't be emotional as any brief look at a football game will show. Nor is it that they focus on negative ones, you only have to look at a father/child relationship to see that.  They just take their time.

Male emotions are as deep as those of women, just not so apparent.  Some of this is genetics, but it's also due to upbringing and society.  When confronted with looking at his emotions a man will take days to work it out, but will be thinking rather than talking and doing it subconsciously most of that time.  Oftentimes he will also have trouble finding the correct words.

This can make for some dramatic and comedic scenes and can be seen in most good books/films/tv shows.

Men share silence.  They can say nothing of any value to each other yet, after an hour, feel like lifelong friends.  Maybe it's instinct, maybe it's an unknown hidden attribute of men, but they can spend time in another's company and know them well without actually telling each other anything about themselves.

It's also why, after years of friendship, a man can say something and his friends be surprised. Men share time not (many) words.

Yet another way to build tensions between two male characters or a man and a woman.

Men do.  If they want to show love they'll buy something or work harder at the office to get more money.  They'll provide more things.  Saying the words isn't as important and they can get surprised when it seems important to a woman.

As with all rules there are exceptions.  A man raised in an all-female household will be more aware than one raised in an all-male household.  Their genetic makeup and upbringing will change these attributes to a greater or lesser degree.  In short, these are guidelines not hard and fast rules.

With that in mind I leave you with this perfect example.

That just leaves me to ask a question:  Will somebody please explain women to me? 

And on that note, I bid you adieu and I shall see you on Friday.


Lisa Shafer said...

Well, I agree that women often write up male characters that are not realistic at all -- read any romance novel for an example of this. And I do know men/boys who fit the description you're giving above very well. But, none of the men in my family are like this -- even the ones raised with all brothers and no sisters. Also, of the men with whom I work, very few are like this. And, although your example is funny, it would be a jerk of a guy indeed who was so neanderthal that he couldn't verbalize the statement that his motorcycle wouldn't start when asked.

Dana said...

Very helpful--and not just for writing. Thanks.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

Good information to know! Enjoyed this post very much.

Martin Willoughby said...

Lisa: I don't know of a man like this either, but they were meant to be general guidelines towards maleness rather than an accurate portrayal of every man.

Dana: You're very welcome.

Cindy: Glad to be of help.

E.B. Black said...

I do think there's value in this post and please don't think I'm arguing with you because we do need to try to understand people that are different than us or we can't write about them accurately, but . . . .

I don't think men and women fit into stereotypes like people want them to. I know people say that men in romance novels are unrealistic, but that hasn't been the case in my life. One of my ex's was a very strong-willed man who was also extremely in touch with his feelings and would regularly tell me he loved me and compliment me and discuss his emotions with me. My current boyfriend is extremely gentle and regularly compliments me and tells me he loves me about a thousand times a day. He is slower with processing emotions, but he discusses them with me when he finally understands them. My ex I dated for five years, my current boyfriend I've been with for two years and they still continued to speak to me that way through out the entire relationship. I have a weakness for men who know how to compliment and regularly profess their love, which is why all the men I've had a serious relationship with told me they loved me within a month of dating them, which is abnormal apparently, but not for me.

Because of this, the men in my romances tend to compliment a lot and say they love the woman a lot. I've been told that this is unrealistic and that men don't actually behave this way, but all my boyfriends have behaved this way with me, so it doesn't make sense to me when people say this. If men aren't this way, then why have I found so many that are?

And just so you know, these men came from completely different backgrounds.

I would like to write men more accurately, but at the same time, I'd like people to realize that men and women come in all kinds of varities and just because certain ones don't behave in a certain way, doesn't mean all of them don't.

Gabriel C. Taylor said...

I love the guidelines, and I agree with your request for some guidance on writing women. In the past, I've had sisters, female friends, and now my wife read through my work whenever I have a female character. It helps to get their perspective, but I still feel like I'm in the dark sometimes.

Martin Willoughby said...

EB: I agree. The point I was making is that there are general trends in maleness that can be used as a starting point rather than a one-size fits all. I have met men who are all the things I've listed, but they have been the exception.

My male characters are not like the description above, but they have tendencies towards that.

Gabriel: I'd like to understand women better too.

Caitlin said...

Haha if you replace "Motorcycle won't start" with "Laptop won't connect to the wi-fi" I'm pretty sure this exact thing has happened to my husband and me. Thanks for this post. I think I'm going to go back over a few of my male characters with some of this in mind. Thinking about it now, I think some of them may come off more feminine than I'd like for them to.

As for women? Hell, even I don't understand us.

Martin Willoughby said...

Caitlin: If women don't understand women, what chance have men got?