November 1, 2011

A Different Point of View

Here I am, returning at last to the questions on You Haven't Got an Appointment! The next one I was going to answer is Yaasha Moriah's first:

As a female, how do you craft your male characters in a way that is true to the male perspective? How do you know if you have their viewpoints right and are not carrying feminine elements into their characters?

Yet another question that I am very excited to answer - you gals have done a grand job coming up with applications for the Circumlocution Office. Yaasha's is particularly applicable, as the protagonists of my last novel and my current one have been men; and in The White Sail's Shaking I have to write from Tip's perspective in some scenes and Marta's perspective in others. And it can be awfully hard.

So, how do I write from a male perspective. First off, I have to say that I find it easier than writing from a female perspective. That may seem odd, and frankly I haven't quite figured it out myself. The best way I can explain it is that men are much more concrete, logical, A-B-C thinkers and so their point-of-view is easier to demonstrate, whereas women tend to be more visceral and (let's face it) illogical. Balancing a woman's emotions with her thought processes is a much more delicate business than threading a man's feelings through his actions, at least for me. Because I do less in the way of character sketches and character "crafting" than some writers, I have difficulty explaining the ins and outs of how I manage a man's perspective, but here is what I have to offer.

Observe. As a female writer, observe the men in your life - brothers, fathers, husbands - and how they interact with the world. Also, observe the male characters in good, solid literature. An excellent example, albeit somewhat hackneyed, is Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice fame: he is a strong, silent type, but he is also shy and uncertain when it comes to his relationship with Elizabeth Bennet. Men do have emotions. In some ways, the very fact that those emotions tend to be steadier than a woman's make them more powerful; if you've ever seen a grown man cry, you know what I mean. Characteristics of men and women are not cut and dry; both are made in the Image of God, and they share elements.

Just write. Write your character as he is, and then sit back and analyze it. Critiquing him before you even write two scenes with him in them will probably not help; writing a character, I find, is the best way to work out their kinks and quirks. Also, the more male characters you write the better you are likely to become at discovering how to do it without either making their point of views too feminine or making them stereotypically masculine. Practice makes almost-but-not-really perfect, after all.

Get others to help. My dad is my best critic. Some people won't show others their novel until they are finished; I like to give my dad chapters as I write. He'll tell you (or maybe he wouldn't, but he tells me) that I tend to make my male characters too pacifistic in the first draft*, and he helps me iron that out in the second. Having him read my stories is extremely helpful and fun, and gives me, well, a different perspective. So if at all possible, I advise getting a father or brother or husband to critique your writing for you. It's extremely embarrassing at first, I will grant, but it pays off in the end and becomes enjoyable as you get used to it.

I don't know how well that answers your question, Yaasha, but I hope it does! I had fun scribbling up some semblance of a reply, and I hope to answer your other one soon.

*but just wait until you get to the duel, Dad.

art by Chris Rawlins, deviantART

13 comments:

  1. Abigail, so excited you answered this question, because this is something I've been working on diligently for the past few years. The first time I ever showed a few chapters of a work-in-progress to an adult writing friend, his most prominent comment was: "Your guys all act like teenage girls!" Initially deflated, I swore I'd correct that weakness!

    The first and the last tips you gave were pretty much what I've been practicing so far: observing men and asking for their input. My dad, like yours, is very critical (in a good way) and honest. Only recently he mentioned that one of the stories that he reviewed for my blog wasn't quite true to "the male ego" (as he put it). This left me highly dissatisfied and, once again, I swore I'd keep working on it.

    Your middle tip, about allowing the male character to develop as you write is something that I needed to hear! I'm a perfectionist and I tend to get irritated if I can't get it right the FIRST time. But you're so right; every time I've just worked with a male character for a long time, I find that he becomes more real and it's easy to go back and make a few corrections to make him more consistent with his "later self."

    Thanks for your discussion on this topic, Abigail! Writing can be a little like self-inflicted solitary confinement, so I love hearing what develops from other writers' experiences!

    P.S. Maybe this sounds crazy, but when I read "For Young Women Only" by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A. Rice, I learned a lot about the thought processes of guys. It's been helping with this area of my writing!

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  2. This is interesting Abigail, I tend to prefer writing male protagonists better as well. :D

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  3. Very good tips. Most of my writing happens from a male POV...

    And as to what your dad said about your male characters...I've heard it from my dad, too. And my response was the same--"Wait until you get to the duel!" :)

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  4. Writing male characters isn't really something I've done before, but I'm going to have to deal with it soon in my current project. I also have the joy of starting out with a character who has serious attitude issues and anger problems. Fun. So now I have to figure out not only how to write a male mind, but a twisted male mind.

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  5. I can understand about writing male characters being easier. I never have a problem with making them manly...which is REALLY weird, cuz I'm a girly girl, fashionesta, and lover of pink. Oh well, guess I'm just a oddness of nature. But, male characters are so, easy. THey never throw fits about having to die, and cause me the least amount of trouble. I love my men almost as much, if not more, then my girls!

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  6. Yaasha - So glad you enjoyed it! Like you, my first attempts at writing from the male perspective were complete failures - but then, everything about those stories was abysmal. They have long since been sent to the "round file."

    I tend to be a perfectionist, too. I want it to come out just right the first time around so that I don't have to worry about editing. However, White Sail's has been teaching me not to sweat the first draft so much, because if I did I could fill buckets with the sweat White Sail's demands. There are always those second and third drafts!

    Grace - Thanks! In Tempus Regina I'll be returning to writing from the female point-of-view. I'm dreading it a bit, but I hope Regina is the sort of character who will be easy to write. Now let me find some wood to knock on.

    Keaghan - I don't consciously make my characters pacifistic, but that does tend to be how they come out in the first draft. Isn't it nice to have people to help critique for us?

    Melody - Oh, the joys of writerhood. I suppose it's kind of like being a parent: the labor is excruciating, then you have to suffer sleepless nights, but as the child gets older they become easier to deal with. As a writer you have to write that first sentence (ugh!) and then you have to spend the first 50,000 words walking your main character up and down in the middle of the night, but by the time you get to the end, you don't regret it. (My crazy analogy of the day.)

    Ashley - It is nice that being a writer and killing characters, etc., doesn't forbid us from being interested in clothing and jewelry. What crazy lives we lead!

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  7. I had a bit of this problem at first with Basil in my novel. He tended to "mother" everyone, and my mother actually pointed out I was modeling him after myself--responsible, older child in charge of everyone else. :D I had to go through and iron out his pink thinking. :P But it turned him into a better guy in the end, I know.

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  8. I can see how that would be a difficult business, Rachel. I've never written from a younger boy's perspective; I wonder how different that would be from writing from a young man's point-of-view.

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  9. It's rather strange for me to admit that I have an easier time writing male characters than I do writing female. I think it's because I find it more fascinating to try to understand the way a man's mind works.

    For me, delving into their perspective is more a trial and error process than anything else. I find that with each male character I write, the next one gets better. Thanks for this advice - observing, just writing, and getting feedback from other males are all very helpful tips. :)

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  10. It's alright, Sky - we're all crazy here, so you can make your confession. I'm glad the advice was helpful. Are you writing from a male perspective for NaNo this year?

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  11. Indeed I am, though I'm drawing upon a myriad of perspectives. My main male protagonist, Gavin Gray, is a blacksmith, which makes things a bit tricky. I'm still trying to figure out what you would call a blacksmith's shop. Google didn't have any answers. :P

    At any rate, I have about four male characters that get to be written about in detail. Two of them are my protagonists, so I write about them more frequently. The other two are the villains, so I bring them in when I need a sinister scene or two.

    Thanks for asking. It's always good to be able to tell people about my characters. I would talk about my novels all day if I was able to. ;)

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  12. I think it would just be a smithy. At least, that's what I've always heard it called; never having dealt with one myself, I haven't pondered it much!

    Oh, I know the feeling. Fortunately both my sister and my sister-in-law are writers as well, so we can have nice chats about our characters and not sound totally bizarre to each other. What would life be like without a few of us odd writers?

    I hope your inspiration picks up for the rest of NaNo, and that your keyboard positively burns with the speed of your typing. November is such a lovely month.

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  13. Yeah, a smithy sounds about right, though I just keep calling it a blacksmith's shop. I think more research is required on this subject. :P

    Oh, that's wonderful. A good many of my friends are also writers, so that helps. It's good to have inspiring friends who know what it's like to have characters and ideas rattling around in your brain. ;)

    Thank you so much! Inspiration has, in part, returned. My poor keyboard is groaning right about now. :P

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meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
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Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
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Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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