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: