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Thread: Boys don't cry

  1. #1
    figuring it all out teacherwelden's Avatar
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    Boys don't cry

    I have just finished writing a highly emotional chapter in which my MC, a 17 year old male cries.


    I was just wondering about your thoughts on this. Is this a positive or a negative move? I am in two minds at the moment as to whether I should leave it or delete the whole bit about him crying. My novel is written for an Australian market, it is not really the done thing here for young men to cry, certainly a sign of weakness. My MC is definately not weak, in fact he is quite the opposite, the turn of events has just taken their toll on him. As a side note the character's name is Maton, an Aboriginal word meaning 'strong'.
    I do think that this adds another dimension to his character, but on the other hand I am concerned that this may alienate some of my readers (especially male readers...who might pooh pooh the whole thing). Just wondering what everyone on this panel thinks. I am thinking of trying it out with some of my students perhaps see how they respond....I can always delete it later.
    All thoughts appreciated.
    Last edited by teacherwelden; 02-18-2013 at 02:36 PM. Reason: removal of text
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  2. #2
    Shooting stars. lolchemist's Avatar
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    Maton sounds a bit like 'mating' but besides that it seems fine. And I think you should leave the crying bit in. Maybe boys don't cry in front of anyone and would rather die than admit that they ever cry at all but secretly they all do. If they refuse to relate to this character and choose to view him as weak then the fault is theirs for being small-minded, not yours!

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  3. #3
    dragon seeker CatchingADragon's Avatar
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    I think whether the character is male or female, the believability of his or her emotional reactions will depend on the circumstances. If he's crying because he fell down and got a boo-boo, he's a wimp. If he's crying because the pet dog he grew up with has died, he's human. If we understand why what he's crying about was important to him, I don't think you have anything to worry about.

  4. #4
    American in England writingguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CatchingADragon View Post
    If he's crying because he fell down and got a boo-boo, he's a wimp.
    I cry when I fall and get a boo-boo.

    Just to echo and pretty much agree with everyone else - pain and suffering are part of life for people of any gender. Crying doesn't make him less of a man, and it definitely doesn't seem inappropriate just because the character is male. Men cry too.

    I'm not Australian and can't comment specifically on the market but I don't think it should matter. How much of your target audience do you think will say "rubbish, boys don't ever cry" anyway?

  5. #5
    Red fish, blue fish... J.S.F.'s Avatar
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    FWIW, I'd leave it in.

    You're never too old to cry for friends, or fallen comrades, or lost loves. It's part of growing up and growing old. In all my novels with the exception of one, the MC's are guys (in their teens) and they cry for their friends who've died, or because they love their girlfriends and don't want to lose them (they don't cry in front of them--did that just once in my first novel and it worked very well) or sometimes, because they're frustrated as opposed to being beaten up or punked.

    Crying is not a sign of weakness. If your MC cries all the time it may alienate the readers who'll think he's a bit of a wuss, but if it's just once and it's during a very emotional scene, nothing wrong with it.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    ... society is presently on the fence with whether it's okay for males to cry.
    Years back, an author would have been ridiculed for having one do so.
    Nowadays readers will more likely be left saying, "Hmm?"
    No definitive answer as such.
    So you might as well do what seems best to you.

  7. #7
    Out on the fjord Ellaroni's Avatar
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    Let him cry!
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  8. #8
    Clever User Title Mara's Avatar
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    Guys cry sometimes. They even do it in front of other guys. Even the really ultra-masculine types do it.
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  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW
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    I have one or two parts in my ms where male characters cry. At first it seemed they cried a lot and I did have to go back in and change some stuff around.

    If it's one glistening tear while sitting in solitary reflecting on that he just watched his mother bleed out from a car accident, I don't think that'd be a sign of weakness.

    If he bawls his eyes out after losing his wife and newborn due to childbirth, I still don't think that's a sign of weakness.

    But if every time something doesn't go his way he tantrums and cries about it, then yeah-- he's weak.

    You say he's a very strong character, and it may be a moment of weakness that he breaks down, but the rebuild will make him stronger. I think all men or boys or teens will connect with that overwhelming pressure on his heart and soul to the point where they just crack, even for a minute. And yes, I think it'll add more depth to your MC if he's human and has a moment of weakness where he can't help but to cry. I think you're fine.
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  10. #10
    stuck in the middle Dagrami's Avatar
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    Of course guys cry! It's not like we're immune to sadness or grief. Sure, a lot of us are probably less likely to do it out in the open, but there's no way I'd read a book where it happened and think: WHAT THE HECK!? What are these things pouring from his eyes?

    Don't worry 'bout it.

    And try not to generalise across the entirety of man-dom... If your character would cry in that situation - then he'd cry. The presence or lack of a Y chromosome doesn't have special emotion-hardening powers.

  11. #11
    starry sunrise Windcutter's Avatar
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    Have you ever seen SUPERNATURAL? That's a TV show. One of the main characters, a guy named Dean, is as macho as they come, yet he cries several times per season. This is all about perception and depiction. And reasons, of course.

    Now if he cries because the moon is reflected in a drop of rain sitting on a flower petal and the sight is so unbearably beautiful... I guess not everyone would relate, though it's a perfectly legitimate reason to cry, too.

  12. #12
    I aim to misbehave Myrealana's Avatar
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    Boys absolutely do cry on occasion. If the emotion of the scene calls for tears, then they belong there.

    Heck, at the end of Les Miserables, my husband - grown man, US Army veteran, Kumdo black belt - was sobbing like a baby.
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  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    Guys cry, and there’s nothing wrong about depicting that in your novel
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  14. #14
    Vengeful Crystaline Hawk 45C AW Moderator Zoombie's Avatar
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    The idea that boys shouldn't cry or should hide it is bullshit.
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zoombie View Post
    The idea that boys shouldn't cry or should hide it is bullshit.
    This. I've seen ever man/boy close to me in my life cry at some point. If your character feels it, he feels it. Creating a false reaction for him would be offputting for me as a reader unless he confronts that reaction, like he's forcing himself not to cry because he's been taught not to or something. And honestly, the idea that crying shows weakness is disturbing to me.

  16. #16
    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    [Boys don't cry? I never got that memo...

    Gonna go make sure I'm on the "Proper Dude" mailing list.]



    The fact that this is something of a set phrase in our culture sort of suggests that society as a whole is aware that boys do cry. I think you'll be okay.

  17. #17
    I find ur lack of faith disturbing mellymel's Avatar
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    The LI in my current novel cries. I wouldn't even consider taking it out. No matter what anyone thinks or how they want to perceive it. Boys cry. Period.
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  18. #18
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    In the novel I'm querying, it's a big deal that the male MC gets teary at the end. In the one I'm revising, both guys cry at different parts, and it is so natural in those places that I would have never even thought about it except for this thread.

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  19. #19
    You can't sit with us! missesdash's Avatar
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    I also think the "boys don't cry" sentiment often comes from other boys. Because I can think of a lot of 'swoony' male protagonists in film and lit that cry.

    I mean Johnny Depp with greaser hair and a single tear running down his cheek *faints*

    I also think the more "unreasonable" the reaction is, the more likely a male character is to get ridiculed for crying. We accept girl who would cry because they're drunk or because they broke their favorite __________ or because they're frustrated with a bad grade. But a guy crying in those instances would probably get side eye. I think that has more to do with us infantilising women than demeaning men.

    I can't stand cry babies of any gender and there is of course the saying about how if your character is crying, your reader probably isn't. So the first issue is 'does it fit'? The second is how you want him percieved. Keep in mind your audience will be overwhelmingly female.
    Last edited by missesdash; 02-19-2013 at 12:37 AM.

  20. #20
    Roofied by Rylan Bloo's Avatar
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    You want to see men and boys of all ages cry...watch Old yeller with them...or The Incredible Journey
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  21. #21
    dragon seeker CatchingADragon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by writingguy View Post
    I cry when I fall and get a boo-boo.
    I just put a SpongeBob band-aid on, and I feel better.

    I think part of the "stigma" of guys crying in public is that, in most social situations, we're not sure how to and don't want to deal with another guy crying, so it's understood to be socially discouraged. That is, it just makes other guys uncomfortable.

    And personally, though I obviously can't speak for everyone, even if I feel like crying in public, such as in a movie theater or something, I physically can't. Whatever biological nervous system response that controls the phenomenon just won't. There's no effort to "hold back" or "look tough" or anything, it just doesn't work.

  22. #22
    late to the party ladybritches's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CatchingADragon View Post

    And personally, though I obviously can't speak for everyone, even if I feel like crying in public, such as in a movie theater or something, I physically can't. Whatever biological nervous system response that controls the phenomenon just won't. There's no effort to "hold back" or "look tough" or anything, it just doesn't work.
    I'm a woman and I have the same... er... problem? I can't cry in front of people.

    But I don't see crying as a weakness, and I don't think it should be a problem if your male character sheds some tears. If it's a really powerful scene the reader might even end up crying along with the character. (But they probably won't admit it. )

  23. #23
    Who rules?! Hyrules! Liosse de Velishaf's Avatar
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    When I was in first grade, I misread some directions and got my first F on an assignment, and I totally broke down crying in the middle of class. I got lots of weird looks, but I don't think my gender was the issue there. XD

  24. #24
    see you on a dark night Yeasayer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CatchingADragon View Post
    And personally, though I obviously can't speak for everyone, even if I feel like crying in public, such as in a movie theater or something, I physically can't. Whatever biological nervous system response that controls the phenomenon just won't. There's no effort to "hold back" or "look tough" or anything, it just doesn't work.

    I wish I could say the same! I can't count how many times I cried on the subway while reading an emotional scene in a book. And I've definitely teared up in movie theaters too. (Oh, and I'm a guy, so...)


    I second the if it fits the character's circumstances suggestion.

  25. #25
    figuring it all out teacherwelden's Avatar
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    Some wonderful thoughts...thanks!

    It felt natural to put it in there....my main concern was whether this may deter some male readers. I have no problem with crying whatsoever and the character is certainly not crying over something trivial. I definately need him to shed tears towards the end of the book, following the death of his best mate. I guess I don't want to overdo the tears, especially when writing for a market that as a whole tends to equate tears with wimpiness. I think I'll leave it for now, having already toned it down a little. Once I finish the book I'll make my final decision as part of the editing process. It is easily deleted out. Thanks again!
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