Dudes, how do I write guys??

Forums Fiction Characters Dudes, how do I write guys??

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  • #53744
    The Fledgling Artist
    @the-fledgling-artist

    How do I write male characters in such a way that they weren’t obviously written by a girl?

    In today’s culture the difference between men and women is being minimized, and as a christian I want my stories to shed some light on our differences. Yes we’re equal, but we weren’t made the same because we were made to full different roles.

    This question formed in my mind after trying (and failing) to think of “manly quirks” to make my guy characters feel more realistic. I pretty quickly realized that I have next to no idea how you dudes work.

    A common stereotype is that guys aren’t as emotional as girls. Maybe there is some truth to this, but I have reasons to question the validity of this. The first one being, my dad is a very emotional person. When my oldest sibling graduated, he cried. When he preaches sermons on God’s love and mercy, he cries. He just comes off as a more.. Not sensitive in the way that things bother him, but he either feels very deeply, or he is just very expressive about his emotions.
    Reason number two being another conflicting stereotype. The idea that guys are more prone to anger issues then girls. Anger is an emotion, yes??
    Do you guys really, really not experience emotions the same way as girls? Or do you just respond to them differently?

    I also know that guys tend to focus more on shapes then colors, but this is the extent of my knowledge. I obviously need help.
    Literally anything you can give me will be helpful! Though I’m a little more interested in the differences in how we process emotions then anything else.

    @Daeus @karthmin @taylorclogston @mark-kamibaya @anyoneplzhelpme

    "Though I'm not yet who I will be, I'm no longer who I was."

    #53751
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    😀 @the-fledgling-artist Cool question. My opinion’s always been that the first step is to realize that guys and girls share humanity. The things that make you a human and make your story worth telling work the same for a guy. Guys get confused like you do, have hobbies like you do, have dreams like you do, have spiritual walks similar to yours.

    You may have noticed male characters in stories you connect strongly with. You’re registering with their humanity. It’s the humanity that matters.

    BUT, yes, a guy that doesn’t act like a guy is weird. As a rule of thumb, I would say when in doubt always opt for a confident guy. Guys are the ones who don’t ask for directions and get in a lot of car accidents, at least compared to girls. There are certainly some wonderful insecure male characters in fiction, but they’re insecure because they’re confident something’s wrong with them… I don’t know how else to describe it.

    Guys also talk a lot less and are unskilled in just hanging around. They need something to focus on.

    While I’m no expert, I personally theorize that level of feeling between guys and girls isn’t hugely different. The main difference, I think, is that guys are more likely to hide their emotions. With your dad, I’m guessing he’s never bubbly and doesn’t talk regularly about his emotions. Those are more feminine traits. When he can’t hide his emotions though, he can’t and everything comes out. But the depth of emotion is probably always there, it’s just better hidden.

    How guys handle emotion depends mostly on upbringing and personality. For instance, I’m not super emotional, but I’m much more emotional than my INTJ dad. I also think that my foray into the world of art has helped me be more emotionally expressive than I otherwise would have been — at least in some areas.

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    #53761
    Eden Anderson
    @eden-anderson

    @the-fledgling-artist

    I am so glad you asked this question, because I’ve been wanting to ask it myself for the past couple of weeks. My WIP has a male dominated cast…so I totally understand where you are coming from. (*sigh* at least, now, we can be confused together. 😀)

    I’m not a guy so I hope you don’t mind me barging in here. 😛 I have a question I wanna ask myself.

    But first, I want to comment on some of the stuff you brought up. (guy-vs-girl stereotypes are kinda pet peeves of mine…but I’ll try to keep a cool head.)

    I agree with what @daeus-lamb said, although I would be hesitant to say that guys talk less than girls do. I grew up with four older brothers and honestly, they could out talk my sisters and myself any day. And it wasn’t just at home either, my one brother could basically strike up conversations with random strangers.😛 From interacting with other guys as well…I think guys can be as, if not more, talkative then girls. It depends on the guy and the situation…just like girls. There are shy girls and shy guys…talkative guys and talkative girls. I think sometimes we make it more confusing than it needs to be.

    About anger…hmmm…well speaking from a the view point of a girl who has had a fair share of anger management issues herself, I think I can say without out lying that girls struggle with anger just as much as guys. Ever seen a girl fly off the handle???…just think about that memory for a moment…POINT MADE.

    Now, my question. The main character in my WIP is a male. He’s had a rough time of it…growing up on the streets, being falsely convicted of murder, betrayed by his own brother, horribly mistreated by evil people…he’s bitter, angry, full of hate. But because of certain circumstances and his own insecurities, he has taken all of these emotions and bottled them up inside of himself. To the rest of humanity he is a kind, gentle, if not quiet and slightly aloof, man. He’s a good man, too, he helps the people around him, fights the injustice of his country’s corrupted government…he works hard and people love him. But inside, he’s a tangled mess of bitterness and pain. He lives like this for years.

    Guys, is this realistic? Is is possible for a guy with this many internal problems and struggles to hide it all way, for years, and not blow a blood vessel??? I know that the human will is powerful…we human’s wear masks, we hide lots of things from each other…but is this character sounding believable to you?

    I’m just gonna tag all the guys that I know exist on here (and hope that they don’t care that I stalked them down 😛) : @theinconceivable1 @wordsmith  @parker  @warrenluther04  @joseph_darkgrate  @nuetrobolt  @samuel  @andrew @thewirelessblade

    "But how could you live and have no story to tell?" - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

    #53764
    R.M. Archer
    @r-m-archer

    I have multiple male characters in my current trilogy who are more gentle and emotionally open than the stereotypical guy, so I wonder from time to time if they’re overly “feminine,” but I also have more stereotypical guys, and I think all their personalities reflect their upbringing accurately. (All that said, I’ll be keeping an eye on this thread so that I can hopefully make them as realistic as possible without simply working off the “write them as people first” advice and what I’ve observed of the few guys I know.)

    Guys that haven’t been tagged yet: @josiah, @noahlitle

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by R.M. Archer.

    Fantasy/dystopian/sci-fi author. Mythology nerd. ENFP. Singer.

    #53766
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @eden-anderson Yeah, that’s possible. Sounds like an xNFJ, honestly — reminds me of some of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s characters. It’s just the longer this guy bottle’s up the worse it’s going to get.

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    #53770
    The Fledgling Artist
    @the-fledgling-artist

    @daeus-lamb Thank you so much for your thoughts! Focusing on humanity is great advice. And I appreciate everything else you’ve said too.

    Kind of a follow up question that I just thought of. Are there any common or reoccurring mistakes you see regarding how females portray their male characters? I assume you read a lot of unpublished works, but maybe this isn’t accurate.


    @eden-anderson
    I’m glad for all the opinions I can get honestly. (I’m also glad this thread can be helpful to you!)
    Guy vs girl stereotypes used to bother me too, but the more I learn about humans in general the more I’m seeing there are reasons people believe those stereotypes. Though with the knowledge everyone is different I can take those stereotypes with a couple grains of salt.

    Thanks for tagging all those guys for me! I couldn’t think of very many haha.

    "Though I'm not yet who I will be, I'm no longer who I was."

    #53778
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @the-fledgling-artist Well, I sometimes see girls write who write passive guys who don’t seem to have strong yearnings or goals, but, while this might stem partly from them not understanding guys, I think it’s mainly just a run of the mill character development problem that doesn’t have much to do with gender.

    I also sometimes see girls write guys who are silly — sillier than the guys in novels written by guys. My guess is this may come from their experience with guys who don’t know how to act around them and so fault to a careless attitude.

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    #53779
    Taylor Clogston
    @taylorclogston

    There are a few factors at work. The first is the circumstances of how a person grows up and experiences the world. Western society is working toward providing a more ambivalent experience for both guys and gals as they grow up, but we’re definitely not there yet. I still know Christian families in which the boys are taught to love cars and hunting and are never asked to do homey chores, and well, the girls are taught how to be wives and aren’t allowed to like masculine things.

    Psychology sort of tells us there are differences between men and women in the way that we process things externally vs internally, but everyone does both to a large degree and I don’t think there’s evidence that you could make useful inferences on any given person based solely on their gender. I happen to work at a factory in which there are more women gearheads than guys at all, and I also work at a comic shop where nearly all the clientele are male and very few of whom have beefy, external masculine interests. It really depends what slice of society you’re looking at in most cases. People gravitate toward environments that reinforce aspects of themselves they already embrace. There’s conjecture which I find convincing that this tendency, combined with the internet’s ability to connect anyone to anyone else in an instant, is a major reason western politics seem more extreme than they were even a generation ago.

    The stereotype of men having no emotion comes from the British empire’s upper class saying so. Look back to ancient times and non-modern Western cultures. It was only relatively recently Western culture decided males revealing their emotion was shameful. Experiencing and expressing emotions of all sorts is a fundamental part of being human, and even if we choose to hide it, it’s still there. A person very close to me has said he feels deep shame and insecurity about his masculinity because years ago he broke down crying in front of his family. This person believes to this day he shouldn’t have shown emotion upon receiving the news his father, the only person to protect him when all the world had abandoned him, had finally succumbed to cancer.

    Hormones are definitely a thing, of course, and even among people of the same sex hormonal balance can vary wildly. This isn’t a matter I suggest putting too much stock in because so far as I know most people acclimate pretty well to keeping their emotions in check, even if some guys are more prone to anger because of this. I suggest reading interviews/testimonies/whatever from guys who have had treatment for low test, and from people receiving testosterone as part of hormone replacement therapy. Someone who is not used to dealing with hormones like that is going to be able to give you a much better idea of “what it’s like” than someone like me who just had to get used to them like most people =P

    I actually don’t agree with Daeus’ confidence bit, I just see that as a cultural expectation. Western culture codes a lot of things as worse for women than for men. It’s becoming less of an issue as time goes on but expressed confidence has historically been negative for a women and vital for a man, and losing your cool is more likely to get you labeled a jerk if you’re a guy, but a crazy chick if you’re a woman.

    Sorry for this being so rambly. I do really feel it boils down nearly completely to the experiences that shape individual people rather than major biological differences. Like, I don’t think Vin from Mistborn would have been an innately different character had she been a dude. We’re told she needed to take extra care not to be sexually assaulted when she was a child on the streets, and there are expectations and opportunities she deals with as a woman as she grows up, but part of her whole arc throughout the Mistborn books is how she is a multifaceted person. She’s aggressive, capable, needs to learn to trust people, strives to improve herself, takes care of the people around her, and enjoys beautiful dresses and ballroom dancing. In my mind, that’s a great way to portray any character regardless of their gender. Although maybe unless your story takes place in Scotland the dudes shouldn’t enjoy dancing in skirts terribly often =P

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    #53783
    Daeus Lamb
    @daeus-lamb

    @taylorclogston Yeah, I agree. Vin as a guy still would have been Vin.

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    #53802
    Andrew Schmidt
    @andrew

      @the-fledgling-artist, well… with guys and their emotions, like the other people said, people are often just as emotional even though they may not always show it.

      As for me, it’s like to a couple people I may appear strange and a little mysterious, to a couple I may be really nice and like to go have some fun, to some they may see me maybe being a little picky about details, and sometimes I may happen to be a little snappy when tired or stressed, though I try not to be like that. I tend to be able to express emotion easier in written words (which I do.) Every once in a while I may feel a little insecure, though I try not to show that. I may even appear careless sometimes, though I do care. I just care about different things… Whatever emotions I’m going through, I may all the sudden be do nothing, then the next moment be doing something.

      Well, enough of that ramble. Just thought I’d throw that out there. 🙂

      "Muhahaha!"- Unknown Villain

      #53813
      Martin Detwiler
      @karthmin

      @the-fledgling-artist

      This first part is kind of a cop-out answer, but I think there’s enough substance to it that I can pull it off and still sound legit. So here goes.

      It kind of came up in the previous comments, but I would say that you should pay a lot of attention to the cultural norms of your story (whether it’s real-world or a culture that you have created), when trying to write accurate male characters (or female, for that matter). An excellent example that immediately comes to mind is Brandon Sanderson’s world of Roshar (the Stormlight Archive), where it is a cultural norm for men not to read or write – in contrast to the majority of real-world western culture, where it has been a cultural norm for women not to read or write. Point being that a manly man in Roshar isn’t going to want to write. Education!? You mean… the art of the sword? And a manly man in Western culture should probably be educated in order to get a refined, gentlemanly aura. I shall write her a letter to express my deep emotional attachment. It shall have a poem in it. All that to say that gender roles and norms are really quite tied to the culture in which your character lives, and if you can accurately portray that aspect, in addition to giving your male characters realistic humanity, then your readers should be able to fill in some of the moods and connotations based on their own innate (subconscious) knowledge of how guys work.

      It can be fun to play with these norms (because a lot of times, they are rather arbitrary), but unless you have a good grasp of what’s typically the case in a given culture, it isn’t always the best idea to purposefully subvert these norms.

      However, that does not entirely get to the heart of your question, because there are legitimate, fundamental differences in how men and women tend to approach and interact with the world of emotions. Notice the italicized word in that sentence; none of this is a science, and men really are everywhere on the spectrum of what’s considered ‘the male approach to emotions’. Also, keep in mind that this is my own personal brand of explaining the differences in the best way that I can think of.

      Men and women, considered as a blank slate, both experience powerful emotions in equally powerful ways. However, our brains react to these emotions differently, and our culture often greatly influences the ways in which we express these emotions. (In addition, the culture in which one’s emotional outlook is developed as a child can greatly effect the extent to which you experience emotions.)

      When a man is confronted with a powerful emotion, he does not usually process it in conjunction with the rest of his emotional makeup as one mashed up whole. He tends to see it as it’s own problem, joy, or event. Men tend to compartmentalize in general, and they do this with emotions as well. Thing is, emotions weren’t exactly made to be put into boxes, so guys are usually a little slower on the uptake in figuring out their own emotional makeup as a whole – less in tune with themselves, so to speak. That is not to say that a man does not know his own mind. Because men compartmentalize their emotions, they are sometimes able to work through them more quickly than women can, and therefore tend to be a little more decisive in emotionally rich situations (whether positive or negative).

      However, I can personally attest to the fact that compartmentalization does not mean that men are unable to see the connections between different emotions, or that they don’t understand how this one emotion over here effects this other behavior over there. Rather, men tend to compartmentalize first and connect second; this is usually the opposite way around from how women approach their emotions. They connect everything first, and then after working through all of it emotionally, they compartmentalize and understand their emotions individually.

      This seems to explain to me why women are much more often overwhelmed with an “I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-with-me-right-now” conglomerate of emotions than men are. Men are just as capable of being overwhelmed by emotions, and to be honest probably are overwhelmed just as frequently, but they usually know which emotion or blend of emotions is causing their reaction.

      This is not to say that men react to their emotions only after thinking about them individually. Emotions aren’t really that linear. They are called “feels” for a reason. But what I am saying is that men start off from emotional ground zero with a mindset that subconsciously takes each emotion as it comes along and gives it its own mental space, whereas women start off from emotional ground zero with a mindset that subconsciously collects each emotion as it comes along and makes a soup out of it in the same mental space.

      Eventually, both can get to a place where they are in emotional chaos, and some kind of emotional release needs to take place for them to reset to some degree or another. For both men and women, this is usually an external expression, and this is where we get into different cultures creating a ‘normal’ way for men (and women) to express their emotions.

      +++

      I agree with what Daeus said in his comment, but I would use the word independence rather than confidence. It is my opinion that across the board, men and women are equally confident (or lack confidence), but men express more independence socially, creating the impression of confidence.

      myths don't die

      #53827
      theinconceivable1
      @theinconceivable1

      I think this question has been sufficiently answered XD

      INTJ- trying to grow into real wisdom; James 3:17

      #53838
      Andrew Schmidt
      @andrew

        @karthmin, I like your answer. 🙂

        "Muhahaha!"- Unknown Villain

        #53841
        Daeus Lamb
        @daeus-lamb

        @karthmin Yes, all that.

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        #53848
        Parker Hankins
        @parker

        @eden-anderson, I do believe you’ve written that character very well. And yes, men do happen to get angry more than show emotions, though lots of women can do the same. Men do show emotions too, though.

        Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.

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