I was a little surprised when a literary agent told me I write the male voice better than female voice. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, though, considering I used to always choose male characters for RPs (nerrrrd) and I’ve never written a manuscript that didn’t have a male POV included (most had an actual male protagonist).
In the project I’m currently drafting, I am trying to use this skill to write first person present tense from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old guy.
Luckily I have some personal experience with this particular species, and before I sit myself down to write I like to reflect on this enlightening conversation with my brother (he was 18 at the time):
Brother: The semester went well! My roommate stopped talking after midterms, so that was funny.
Mom: What?! Was he okay? Did something happen?
Brother: I mean, he didn’t give any indication that something was wrong.
Me: Um, when someone stops talking, that’s kind of an indication.
Brother: … Okay…
Me: Wow, I can only imagine what would have happened if someone in a girls-only townhouse stopped talking to everyone else!
Brother: Haha. … What would have happened?
Me: Ha! [Thinking he was joking]
Dad: … Really, what would have happened?
So there you go. Boys.
While of course it’s important to remember writing males is the same as writing any fleshed out character, I still find it helpful to read the occasional set of tips to remind my brain how a male perspective works. Having brothers to actively interview also helps. By studying and collecting tips, I amass knowledge that helps me when I start to write. I let it all melt into a subconscious influence, and then I have at the story with whatever freedom I want.
Here are some resources I’ve found pretty helpful in my search for insight:
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but men do not notice every little thing about women. Even astonishingly attractive women get a generalized assessment. Eric waxing poetic in his head about the curvature of the folds of Amber’s ear lobes and how they blend perfectly into the side of her porcelain face happens exactly zero percent of the time. Nope. It’s a cute little idea, but no.
[…] To put a finer point on this vague topic, when I first met my wife and for a matter of months afterward, I couldn’t tell you what her eye color was to save my life. THIS IS A WOMAN I EVENTUALLY MARRIED and I had to make a conscious effort to notice and remember her eye color. That is not hyperbole. I still get nervous when I get quizzed about her eye color.
In general, I believe girls are more likely to think empathetically (I’ll avoid using the word ’emotionally’ because of the bad connotations). Guys are (generally) more pragmatic–for every problem, there is a solution, but often the consequences don’t matter as much as simply solving the issue to begin with.
It’s generally true that girls approach a problem more logically–they can often see ways around a problem or solutions that guys just simply missed. Exactly how, I’ll never know. I think most guys just try the direct, brute-force way first.
Length – The length of your narratives, dialogue, and sentences will probably be shorter, more concise when writing a male character. As writers, we’re naturally verbose. We have a lot to share with our audience, but don’t let the author speak. Let your GUY speak! Men aren’t as talkative.
Men are internal thinkers, so much of what a character might work through should be done internally. . .but remember—men are THINKERS (generally), not FEELERS. So they aren’t often thinking about how they’re feeling. They’re thinking through logistics and a plan of action. (Don’t misunderstand—it’s okay to have your male character thinking about his feelings for a woman, but really—keep it short(er) and concise.)
The character who is clearly the author’s crush. This gets really, really uncomfortable. Not only is the male character absolute perfection physically, but he’s sweet and sensitive and always ready to cuddle the female character. He does no wrong. And it becomes painfully obvious that the author has created her idea of the ideal man and is now fangirling over him extremely hard. So, ladies, if you have created a male character than you adore, be careful. Chances are, you’re idolizing him. Some female readers will end up idolizing him, too (which is creepy, by the way), and other female and male readers will end up growing disgusted and moving on. So stop obsessing over your perfect guy and create a real person who isn’t annoyingly flawless. Thank you.
No matter what you’re writing, if your intended audience is female, make sure to include plenty of personal pronouns—“I,” “you” and “we”—and descriptive terms. If your intended audience is male, on the other hand, trade in pronouns for articles—such as “a,” “the” and “that”—choose active verbs, limit adjectives and include concrete figures, like numbers. Observe the stylistic differences between these two statements: “I’m sorry we’re late; we had a flat tire on our way here,” and, “The tire blew when we hit 70 on the freeway.” Chances are you can tell right away which sex is talking in each one.
If all else fails, you can use this gem from my older brother’s sage experience:
If he [your male character] has an opportunity, he’s going to do something stupid.