Kat: The Male POV

Cowboy silhouetteOver the Thanksgiving weekend, I had a minor eye issue that turned me into the worse kind of couch potato for three days. Stay quiet with eyes closed and listen to television (my doctor advised). On the surface, that seemed like a small price to pay (whatever it takes to preserve my sight), but I’ll admit I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to spend the long holiday weekend writing.

So, there I am vegging out on the sofa listening to crappy television shows that I wouldn’t watch if you paid me, bored out of my mind. If only I had downloaded an audio book app on my phone (she whined), I could have engaged my brain at least. But alas, I had not and now it was too late (no looking at computer screens either). So as idle brains often do, mine got busy fabricating the worse possible scenario. Blindness. Then I remembered a small detail from my story that I had filed away over a year ago.

Rose, Cheyenne’s birth mother had a degenerative eye disease that rendered her blind the last few years of her life. So far this fact hasn’t played an overt role in the story (I haven’t gotten to the point where everything ties together aka THE END), but I knew it would now because Rose told me so.  I knew her frustration at the limitations imposed by impaired sight, the grief over lost independence, felt her helplessness at being at the whims of fate, and most of all felt moments of sheer terror at the thought of life without sight. But, I also felt her courage and determination to do what she thought was best. Rose was no longer simply a piece of Cheyenne’s backstory, she had her own story to tell, her own distinctive POV.

It’s true that nothing teaches like experience, and while writing from a disabled character’s POV certainly doesn’t require sharing the disability, it sure does help. Which leads me to writing the male POV. Jenny Crusie admitted that she couldn’t write men well (I disagree) which led her to a collaboration with Bob Mayer.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the benefit of collaborating with a male writer.  I’m on my own with my male POV characters. Hawk, the antagonist, and Reed, the love interest each have their own POV scenes. Which brings me to my problem. Cheyenne’s voice is distinct because she lives in my head and I know her extremely well. And while I’m fairly sure Reed and Hawk do not sound alike on the page, a more active approach is called for to ensure they each have a unique and realistic “male” voice and POV.

Using language, tone, and style, I’ve come up with the following guide to help me develop individual POV’s for my male characters.

The sentence structure and word choices for Reed’s POV scenes are relaxed, simple, and clean.  No flowery language or detailed descriptions. In comparison, sentence structure and word choices for Hawk are blunt and hard-edged. Extremely short sentences, often one word only. Hawk also swears. A lot.

Reed isn’t introspective about his feelings (except when it comes to River or mentally ogling Cheyenne’s backside). He’s a fixer who concentrates on finding solutions to problems.  Reed’s scenes consist primarily of action and dialogue.

Hawk isn’t much of a talker and his primary outlet for his feelings is anger. To keep him from becoming one-dimensional, I’ve made his POV scenes much more introspective than Cheyenne’s.

Reed’s POV scenes generally have a positive, upbeat tone, laced with humor. Hawk’s scenes are highly charged emotionally. He tends to have mean-spirited thoughts, laced with a wounded child mentality.

I won’t know if I’ve successfully written realistic male characters until I hand off my MS to my critique group, but I think I’m headed in the right direction. Best of all, I’m actually pretty happy with what I accomplished last weekend “writing”.

When thinking about your male POV characters, do you simply focus on them in your head and write them, or do you have basic guidelines to ensure that each sounds distinctive and unique? Do you approach your male POV characters differently than your female POV characters? If so, how?



17 thoughts on “Kat: The Male POV

  1. I’m not sure if I approach my characters differently (consciously, anyway), but I’ll never forget Michille telling us at RWA this past summer about her husband reading some of her scenes in Luke’s POV and telling her, “A guy would never say that.” I laughed so hard, then I asked her if her husband would read MY male POV scenes!!

    What you’ve got sounds good, though, and I can’t wait to dig in to Hawk and Reed!

    • I heard Jodi Thomas give a talk once in which she reported about asking her husband if a soldier, mortally wounded in combat, would think about sex while he’s lying on the battlefield. Her husband asks, “Is he dead?” She says no. He says, “He’s thinking about sex.”

      • The thing I find even more interesting/challenging is that we are writing for a predominantly female audience (well, I know I am), so the male POV has to be credible but also attractive to a woman reader – probably another area where fiction has to be ‘better’ than reality.

        I remember Jenny C had a great anecdote about writing Don’t Look Down with Bob Mayer. Near the beginning of the book, the hero sleeps with a gorgeous actress who is not the heroine. From memory the exchange went something like: Bob wrote his first draft and Jenny said no, the hero had too much of a good time. Bob said what? Are you crazy? This woman’s an actress, she’s drop-dead gorgeous, OF COURSE he had a great time. And Jenny said if this is a romance and he’s going to get a HEA with the heroine, OF COURSE he did not. The sex scene between the hero and the actress as published is brilliant and hilarious. It manages to make the hero’s behavior credible (She was in my bed, naked – what do you think I did?) without ruining the romance.

  2. There’s an article in the current (I think, or maybe last month’s) RWR in which several writers talk about how they write the male POV. Their guidelines are simple: keep the sentences short. Men don’t understand women’s clothes (the heroine wears a “red dress,” not a “magenta wrap-around mini.”) Men state opinions; they don’t discuss issues. And so on. I don’t usually write a lot of male characters, although in one book I had a ton. In that case, I gave them all quirks to keep them differentiated. Some readers hated it; others found it amusing. And what can I say? It worked for me. 🙂

  3. I’m not entirely sure how I write men. I’m pretty sure they don’t think about sex enough (-:. But then again, neither my male nor my female characters are thinking about shoes (except if they break or something).

    No, let me take that back. Bunny gets clothes made; her boss is paying for them because she’s wearing them while representing the newspaper, and Freddie (the boss’s son) was the one who suggested them. The way they interact with the clothes may be gender-influenced, but it’s more character-influenced. Freddie is fashionable, likes pretty girls in pretty things, and notices that Bunny needs these for the Arion Ball. Michael didn’t notice them; he’s very attracted to Bunny’s spirit (but does this mean he’s dead below the waist? I don’t want to give that impression), but he realizes the need to look good at a ball. Half of it is charity, half of it is so she represents the magazine he publishes well. He leaves the decisions up to his housekeeper. Bunny hasn’t been focusing on clothes because she can’t afford new clothes and her camera stuff. She’s been wearing mourning for her mother, and the gift of clothing makes her intensely aware that she doesn’t have nice, girly stuff anymore.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that the male POV and the female POV are two rainbows that tend to overlap in a lot of areas, depending upon your character. A male character who would notice that the heroine is wearing a magenta wrap-around? That is a character with a lot of characterization packed in right there. He’s got sisters who made him crazy, he’s in the fashion industry, he might be gay, it’s possible that he might be a transvestite . . . it’s definitely an off-hand observation that says loads about the character. The main question is, is it saying what you want it to say about the character?

    Hope you are feeling better soon — so cool you are using the time for reflection. I hope the story is taking you out of the drudgery of real life a little bit.

    • First, thanks for warm wishes, Micki. All is looking good. Secondly, the experience made me realize how much I love writing (and reading and swimming) and miss it when I can’t. It really renewed my love of writing. I hit the office door running when I got the a OK to start using my eyes again. Hopefully, I’ll be back in the pool this weekend (find out today).

      I love your comment about the overlapping rainbows of male/female pov. Men don’t have to be “macho”, women don’t have to be swimming in pink. It’s definitely something to remember.

      BTW: I guess I’m out of the loop because I had no idea you were writing Bunny’s story (yay!). Can’t wait to hear more it sounds wonderful!

  4. Ladies – thank you for this discussion. Your basic “male characteristics” seem to fit a lot of guys, and would probably work as a good baseline for building a more complex character (e g one who knows about magenta vs red). I wish I had an equivalent baseline for writing realistic female characters, but right now all I know is it’s *hard*.

    • Geez, not sure what this says about me, but I’ve never considered how difficult writing the female POV would be for a man, but maybe we can help you out.

      Here’s a pretty good start:

      I would also suggest that you make a point of listening in on women’s conversations (if you haven’t already). Watch how they interact with each other. That’s what I did when researching how to write realistic men. Instead of hanging out at the “girlie” gym machines, I worked out in the freeweight area which is mostly men at my gym. I watched and listened to the way men interact with each other, how they talk, the language they used, what they talked about, and so on. It’s not a perfect solution, but it definitely helped me with the male POV.

      So how about it, ladies? Any other advice on writing the female POV?

  5. I find male POV hard, so all tips gratefully received. One of my issues is how to make hero manly in a non cliched way – any advice anyone?

    What’s the winter retreat? Have I missed something?

    • Some of the best (sexiest) male characters I’ve ever read, were so sure of themselves, so comfortable in their own skin, that they didn’t need to prove it. They didn’t strut around, punching people out, but they stood their ground.IMHO going against type in one or two ways (he listens without offering to fix her problem for example) can make the hero manly without being cliched.

      The 8 ladies are gathering together for a writing weekend in January–i.e. the winter retreat.

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