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wandergirl
04-27-2009, 04:33 AM
I've decided to have my WIP alternate between 3rd-person narrators, a boy (18) and a girl (16), but I don't have much experience writing from the male teen perspective. In this case, she's a tough little firecracker, and he's a funny, slightly smug, yet introspective guy who's had a relatively easy life.

I know a lot of you girls out there write boys well. What should I keep in mind to make my male MC seem genuine? (or female MCs, just to make the discussion helpful for everybody?) In turn, what makes an author seem like they're overcompensating when writing the opposite gender? For example, I hate it when female authors try too hard to make their male MCs sound raunchy -- though I love her books, Laurie Halse Anderson's use of the term "trouser snake" in Twisted haunts me to this day.
:::shudder:::

Toothpaste
04-27-2009, 05:24 AM
You'll hear it often but it's true. Focus on the character as a person first, gender second. What are your boy MC's fears, dreams, etc? Does he compensate for his low grades by being a class clown? Is he destined for a life of luxury and ease and so feels no compunction spending gobs of money on trinkets? Basically find what motivates him in life. There are more differences out there between individuals, than there are between genders.

As you said you hate it when authors overcompensate, and this is the surest way to deal with that.

That being said . . . I'll tell you one thing though that I have noticed a lot in many guys, they often believe they are the rational ones, and women are crazy. This is often not true on either account, but having a male character be baffled by a woman who is emotional, or having a guy desperate to want to fix what's upsetting the woman, is a pretty good one. Especially if this guy is all laid back and your girl is all passion and stuff.

Leila
04-27-2009, 05:39 AM
What Toothpaste said.

I think it's best not to worry about whether your boy characters are 'boy' enough. Just follow your instincts about the character and don't worry. I think the overcompensating comes from worrying too much and letting the worrying write the story, rather than you. Then, when you're done with the early drafts, give it to a few guys to read just so they can tell you if there's anything wrong.

Having said that, most of my stories are primarily from a female POV, because I'm a wimp and a perfectionist and I'm scared of getting a male POV wrong. Have to get myself to do something entirely in male first person some time and get over it :)

wandergirl
04-27-2009, 06:33 AM
Thanks, guys. I'm not so much worried about creating the three-dimensional "human being" qualities of my male MC -- that's one of the facets of writing in which I really take pride. But I do completely agree, especially with Toothpaste here: "There are more differences out there between individuals, than there are between genders."

Also: one thing though that I have noticed a lot in many guys, they often believe they are the rational ones, and women are crazy.
I read this to my husband and he said, "that's the truth." lol. I actually plan to to switch it up a bit, and have my female MC be the more guarded, reliant-on-wits type, while my boy is primarily driven by gut feelings.

Shady Lane
04-27-2009, 07:15 AM
I love writing boys. I'm actually writing first person girls in my current WIP for the first time.

I agree with Toothpaste--I'm struggling to come up with any kind of good advice right now. It's all about the character. Once you know him, you won't have to worry about making him sound like a boy.

HappyToWrite
04-27-2009, 10:41 AM
I say personality comes first. To focus more on his individualism rather than his gender.


That way you can avoid a lot of stereotypes that guys often encounter in books. I'm also writing my first novel from a boy's perspective. It's really fun. =)


I've also heard that it helps if you have a few guy friends to help with the male character shaping. Just an outline to start from.


I'm probably really late on the advice but I hope I helped. Good luck!

eyeblink
04-27-2009, 01:21 PM
I've written female MCs in past and present novels and short stories. It's not for me to judge the results but since some of the latter were bought by female editors it leads me to suspect I haven't gone too far wrong.

I'm not sure why this is. I have no sisters, and I went to a boys' school from the ages of 12 to 18. However, ever since then my education and work have been in a majority-female environment. Southampton University's English department had a ratio of 5 women to 2 men, and in my current workplace I'm one of two men in an office of 18, with a female manager whose boss is also female. So I guess a lot of it comes from observation and simple osmosis. I don't live in an especially ethnically-mixed area, and the majority of my workmates and friends are white (as I am). For that reason I'd be much more nervous about writing from the point of view of a different ethnicity than I would a woman.

I have written male MCs but for some reason they often come out unsympathetic. :) That's going to be a challenge in one of the WIPs I'm planning (triple first person, F, F and M).

This whole issue is something I've made an informal study of over the years. I agree with what has been said here - write an individual first, a gender second. It does help me that I'm a member of a writing group which is about 50/50 split between men and women. Then again, if you want to check a particular point on anything about women or men, find a sympathetic reader and ask her or him. (I always get fashions wrong, personally.)

In general I find there are a lot of very competent examples of writers writing the opposite gender. Both men and women can make slip-ups, but I find that the ones that women writers make are a lot subtler than the ones that men make. (Particularly egregious examples I've seen over the years - women pleasuring themselves by looking in the mirror (complete with gratuitous feeling-up of themselves), gratuitous mentions of periods etc.)

Truly outstanding examples are rarer. One I will single out is Joyce Carol Oates (a long time favourite writer of mine) and her novel What I Lived For, possibly the best (third person) portrayal of a male MC by a female writer I have ever read.

Stijn Hommes
04-27-2009, 04:33 PM
I never considered myself particularly apt at writing from a female perspective. The only female character I wrote reasonably well was a main character in a piece of fanfiction with her main traits already well-established.

Despite my own reservations, the first flash story I sold had a female MC, which just goes to show that if you focus on the story enough that the voice of the characters will sort itself out.

kaitlin008
04-27-2009, 06:21 PM
Maybe when you've written a little bit of it, let your husband (or some other guy you know) read it and see if he can picture the character as a boy. That's the only advice I can think of that someone hasn't already said :)

wandergirl
04-27-2009, 10:13 PM
A positive thing about writing male MCs in YA is that your book is more likely to appeal to teen males -- which is said to be one of the best goals we can attain, as teen girls read everything anyway. In particular, I thought it interesting that Scott Westerfield chose a female protagonist for his Uglies series (which was obviously a success anyway, but still. interesting).


I always get fashions wrong, personally.


haha. This would definitely be harder as a man writing a female viewpoint. Conversely, I'm always seeking to make my husband dress better. If I were a guy, I'd be dapper!

eyeblink
04-28-2009, 12:35 AM
A positive thing about writing male MCs in YA is that your book is more likely to appeal to teen males -- which is said to be one of the best goals we can attain, as teen girls read everything anyway. In particular, I thought it interesting that Scott Westerfield chose a female protagonist for his Uglies series (which was obviously a success anyway, but still. interesting).


Since you mention him, Westerfeld's Midnighters trilogy has a female MC, though the other four Midnighters (secondary protags) are two boys and two girls.

Zipotes
04-28-2009, 12:40 AM
I love writing guys. All my books are from the girls POV, but sometimes I switch over to the guy for awhile and I really enjoy it. It's a refreshing change.

Katrina S. Forest
04-29-2009, 04:06 AM
I've written a novel from a young man's POV, and a short story from the POV of a woman who thought she was a man. (And quite frankly, she acted like more of a guy than my other narrator.) The best thing that worked was to write it how it felt, avoid stereotypes, let a guy read it and tell me what I did wrong, and re-write it until it felt better.

Easier said than done, of course, but that's what worked for me.

TamiyahThirteen
04-29-2009, 01:34 PM
I love writing guys. All my books are from the girls POV, but sometimes I switch over to the guy for awhile and I really enjoy it. It's a refreshing change.

totally agreed :P

jmascia
04-29-2009, 05:50 PM
This is going to sound wrong, but I think we all have a little of both genders within us. It shouldn't be so hard for a girl to get in touch with her burly male interior, and it shouldn't be that hard for a boy to get in touch with his feminine side. Nothing should instill fear in you to try and deal with characters of the opposite sex.

It's-Magic!
04-30-2009, 12:10 AM
The series of books I'm writing switches 1st person POV, so it goes from the girl speaking to another character and so on...
I'm a girl and, personally, I am liked by no boys at school, but in a way, this helps me, because my MC is unpopular, and it also gives me more experience for what the boys think, because I want to write the TRUTH for an unpopular person (like me, lol) and not some lucky-charm stereotype.
That is why, in my current WIPs, I don't write about girls that are "perfect" who are unpopular, because in truth, it doesn't happen! I'm not joking; every girl with beautiful hair who wears tonnes of make-up at my school is more popular than me.
And that is how I gain my writing experience; from personal experience, bullying from all the school chavs and things like that. It helps me unhinge what they think about and helps me to write the baddies. (I'm not saying all boys are like that, lol, the boys I know are not chavs and I know enough nice people to be able to write about them).

Whew! Long post, but that is my truth.

wandergirl
04-30-2009, 12:41 AM
I am liked by no boys at school

YOU ARE, YOU JUST DON'T KNOW IT!!!

It's-Magic!
04-30-2009, 12:47 AM
Aww, thanks wandergirl, but hah, the situation is pretty....errr...dim, shall we say. Most of the boys at my school are so ridiculously biased and judging, it's terrible!

Again, I do not mean all boys are like that.

Leila
04-30-2009, 03:18 PM
I am liked by no boys at school, but in a way, this helps me, because my MC is unpopular, and it also gives me more experience for what the boys think, because I want to write the TRUTH for an unpopular person (like me, lol) and not some lucky-charm stereotype.
.

If it makes you feel any better, I was not a cool kid at high school. In fact, I was such a devoted library nerd that people always gave me confused looks whenever I left the library, like I made no real sense out of that context. I harboured a huge and agonising crush on a best friend's older brother who was in my form class right from the start, but we fell out of touch and I never thought anything of it. Then a few years ago, I ran into him again, and it turned out he liked me ever since I started high school. So the whole time I thought I was unliked, the first person I'd ever had a serious crush on had actually liked me all along. And having found that out, we started going out, and have now been together for almost three years :D

Moral: You never know.

Here endeth irrelevant life story.

This is going to sound wrong, but I think we all have a little of both genders within us. It shouldn't be so hard for a girl to get in touch with her burly male interior, and it shouldn't be that hard for a boy to get in touch with his feminine side. Nothing should instill fear in you to try and deal with characters of the opposite sex.

That's a really interesting point actually, I agree. I'm not sure what's made me so scared of writing male POVs and so worried that I'll somehow get them horribly wrong. Maybe society's obsession with gender. I help choose and wrap up presents for babies at work, and so many people insist on fairies and ballerinas and pink ribbons for a girl and get grumpy if it's not 'girly' enough, even if the girl in question is two weeks old and doesn't even know what 'pink' is, and even though some girls never really are into that kind of thing at all. I sometimes wonder if gender being so rigidly defined is really healthy. We're all human in the end. The idea that girls can only do 'girly' and boys can only do 'boy-y' is really limiting. There are heaps of writers out there like John Marsden who write the opposite gender brilliantly.

It's-Magic!
05-01-2009, 03:22 AM
This is going to sound wrong, but I think we all have a little of both genders within us. It shouldn't be so hard for a girl to get in touch with her burly male interior, and it shouldn't be that hard for a boy to get in touch with his feminine side. Nothing should instill fear in you to try and deal with characters of the opposite sex.

Excellently executed! A great point that also made my day!:ROFL:

wandergirl
05-01-2009, 03:46 AM
The idea that girls can only do 'girly' and boys can only do 'boy-y' is really limiting.

YES. When I have kids, I will so support them in whatever they want to do -- and certainly I won't force barbies on the girls or trucks on the boys. If my son wants to dance ballet and arrange flowers, I will pick posies right alongside him. And if my daughter wants to play touch football -- well, my husband will have to help with that, because I'm pretty hopeless, but you get what I mean :D

It's-Magic!
05-01-2009, 04:10 AM
Wandergirl - I agree. I think part of the trouble is today, some people are so twisted in their stereotypes that they don't give the inner person/soul a chance.

TamiyahThirteen
05-19-2009, 05:47 PM
This is going to sound wrong, but I think we all have a little of both genders within us. It shouldn't be so hard for a girl to get in touch with her burly male interior, and it shouldn't be that hard for a boy to get in touch with his feminine side. Nothing should instill fear in you to try and deal with characters of the opposite sex.

I think you're right. It sound funny be i get it since I'm not always the girly girl. A lot of time my mom swears I am a boy in a girl's body lol But it's just that I have both characters in me.

So for the humor/money/sex aspects, I kind of understand how a guy sees it.

ad_lucem
05-25-2009, 12:08 AM
I've decided to have my WIP alternate between 3rd-person narrators, a boy (18) and a girl (16), but I don't have much experience writing from the male teen perspective. In this case, she's a tough little firecracker, and he's a funny, slightly smug, yet introspective guy who's had a relatively easy life.

I know a lot of you girls out there write boys well. What should I keep in mind to make my male MC seem genuine? (or female MCs, just to make the discussion helpful for everybody?) In turn, what makes an author seem like they're overcompensating when writing the opposite gender? For example, I hate it when female authors try too hard to make their male MCs sound raunchy -- though I love her books, Laurie Halse Anderson's use of the term "trouser snake" in Twisted haunts me to this day.
:::shudder:::

Hey there, :)

I'm writing two male characters at the moment. As a matter of fact, I prefer the male perspective.

Everyone in the world possesses a little bit of both male and female qualities.

Here's a fun self assessment:

http://www.lavc.edu/myweb/raskofsa/HS_Assignments/HS_A1b_Bem_Androgyny_Test.pdf


FYI, I'm a definite Tom Boy and tend toward the masculine side of the scale (go fig, I think of myself as more androgynous--personality-wise).

I think the important thing to remember is that we're all PEOPLE. Gender is just one facet of the human experience. Men/boys have feelings, needs, desires. Men can be tender and nurturing and women can be dominant, even violent.

That said, there are some things which are more typical of males than females:

Women/girls tend to use social aggression over physical aggression. A man who is angry is more likely to have the urge to punch someone in the face, whereas a female is more likely to spread vicious rumors that get someone punched in the face.

Women are socially allowed to be more emotionally expressive. Men are encouraged to shut up about those things.

Women/girls tend to have close intimate friendships and men are more broadly (in general, not always) accepting of new friendships/alliances. Girls=cliques, men=lots of acquaintances with a few close friends.


Of course, there are lots of other things, but that's what comes to mind off the top of my head. To me, expressions of gender depend on the character.

Good luck :)

Blackest_Nite
05-27-2009, 07:50 AM
Though I rarely write in male perspective, I find it extremely fun. It is much easier (as posters above have said) if you think of the character's personality first and then gender.