The Chick’s Guide to Writing Dudes

The Chick’s Guide to Writing Dudes

My WIP Sunburner is my second novel, but it’s the first where I’m writing from a male point of view. In my first novel, Moonburner, the entire book was from the protagonist Kai’s POV. Now, about 2/3rds of the story is from Kai’s POV, while the rest is from the perspective of Hiro, heir to the sunburner throne and Kai’s love interest. I have doubted myself throughout the writing and editing process, wondering if Hiro’s chapters fall flat.

In my case, Hiro is what I think of as a pretty typical dude in fantasy literature: strong, handsome, chivalrous, skilled in combat, smart but not overly intellectual, concerned with maintaining his honor and status. That’s all well and good, but what does that look like on the page? Inside his head?

So, I took some time to think about and research a few differences between men and women, and how they might impact portrayal of a male versus female protagonist. Full disclosure: stereotypes ahead!

Alright, here we go.

  • Women tend to absorb more information through their senses and store more of it in the brain for other uses than men do. Meaning, women are more detail-oriented, while men are more prone to be big-picture thinkers.
  • Psychologically, men are more visually oriented than women. I.e., a male character might spend more time seeing and observing his setting visually.
  • Women talk a lot more than men. Each day, women speak up to 8,000 words and use as many as 10,000 gestures. Men use fewer daily words (up to 4,000) and gestures (up to 3,000). This will definitely impact characterization, though just because a guy isn’t saying something, doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking it.
  • But…when a man says something, it’s often exactly what he’s thinking. There’s less hidden meaning and innuendo.
  • Women are more emotional than men. Seriously. Their brains have a larger hippocampus and deeper limbic system, which means they can feel a larger range of emotions. But that doesn’t mean guys don’t have feelings!
  • Because men often aren’t as comfortable with the full range of emotions, a typically male approach to a stressful (especially emotional) situation may be to withdraw, rather than engage or open up.
  • Men are more pragmatic–looking for solutions immediately, rather than sympathizing or empathizing. I don’t have a scientific study for this one, but seriously, I feel like every dude I’ve ever complained to has immediately tried to solve my problem. Sometimes I just want to vent!
  • Men tend to have a higher libido and have more daily thoughts about sex. Especially if you’re writing romance, this is an important point!
  • Men are more ego driven, which can influence behavior. This can manifest in needing to feel like a provider, defend their honor or the honor of their partner if insulted, proving they aren’t afraid, etc. They also have weaker impulse control, which could account for higher levels of aggression and violence in men.

So that’s all well and good, and provides a nice framework for writing a stereotypical dude character. But one of the most important parts of creating compelling characters is making them multi-faceted and interesting. Thus, you don’t necessarily want a male character who perfectly conforms to all the stereotypes of male behavior…he will likely be far more interesting to the reader if he has unique attributes, perhaps even some attributes that would be considered  typically female. Just be cautious about going too far, as part of the author’s job is to meet reader’s expectations, not confound them.

If you want to dig deeper into this, check out some of the sources I relied on for this post:

13 Real Differences between Male and Female Brains

Different Brains, Different Behaviors: Why Women Lead Differently than Men

How Often to Men Think About Sex

Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus

How to Write from a Guy’s POV



Getting to know my characters

Getting to know my characters

I’ve finished a more detailed outline of the book, and now I am turning to my characters, to get to know them. Certainly, I’ve thought about my main characters–who they are, their motivation, and their development over the book. But I need to go deeper before I start writing, to ensure that their personalities come through on the pages. I also need to spend some time with my more minor characters and supporting cast.

In fact, while I always planned for my two main characters, Ana and Rhodes, to end up together, as the plot progresses, I am beginning to see her falling for a supporting character instead. I need to think carefully about this. As a reader, there is nothing I hate more than when the couple you are rooting for doesn’t end up together. And, I think the reader might feel bad for Rhodes if I didn’t find a lady for him, too. It is fascinating to me how my characters, as one-dimensional as they are right now, are already starting to take on a life of their own.

I’ve also been thinking about some of the traditional fictional characters, to make sure they are represented in my book.

Protagonist: Main character, who is faced with the conflict that must be resolved

Antagonist: What the main character struggles against, the source of conflict in the book

Foil: A character whose personal qualities contrast those of the protagonist, and serve to highlight the protagonist’s traits. Often can be the protagonist’s sidekick

Anti-hero: A major character (often the protagonist) who struggles for values that aren’t universally accepted, but who we admire and are drawn to nonetheless

Mentor: Protagonist’s confidante and conscience–often voicing the lesson that the protagonist must learn

Minion: The Antagonist’s right-hand man/woman, who tries to manipulate the protagonist and further the cause

Ficelle: Character that can help the protagonist discover information the author wants to convey in a compelling manner

These are just some types I have been thinking and reading about trying to integrate into the story. Currently, I don’t think my story has an anti-hero. Something to add, perhaps?

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