Over 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?