June 26, 2013

Writing Club Wednesday: The Male POV

Hullo, Misfiteers!

Last Wednesday, Jenny talked about the ever-elusive voice, but today I wanted to get a little more specific. The male MC.

Since a lot of us writing Young Adult these days are women, and most of the YA out there is female-MC-centric, this is one that gets overlooked a lot. I can only think of a handful of recent books off the top of my head that have a single-POV with a male MC, and only a few more that have a male POV at all.

So writing male POV isn't the most common out there, even for male authors.

In two weeks, I have my debut novel, Eyre House, coming out. It's male POV. And while writing it was hard, querying it was even harder. Every contest I entered it in came back with at least one comment that they couldn't tell my MC was a guy. Every contest. (I even had someone ask if Eyre House was going to be f/f fiction, because the MC just seemed so butch...)

So I thought, "Ok, male POV is just hard, I just have to make this more obvious."

Now, I have four brothers. I've taught teenage boys for years. If any girl knows how a guy's mind works, I figured I had to be on that list. Right? Well, yeah, I was actually right. I went back to all my betas and CP's, even had my brother read (he didn't have any trouble figuring it was a guy).

The truth is, male POV just isn't what people expect when they pick up YA. Most readers seem to just automatically assume the MC will be a girl. Which, that's a whole other post, really. Because I'd rather talk about the how. Share some of the things I looked at while trying to capture an authentic male voice.

Yeah. It's boy vs. girl time. Growing up with brothers & teaching boys, these are some things I've noticed.

Thought patterns.
Most girls tend to over-think things. Yeah, I know, but there's a reason the stereotype exists. We think a lot more with our emotions than guys do. Which isn't to say that guys don't think things through. But in my experience, guys tend to be more impulsive in the way they think, and they do it without the emotional baggage that girls seem built with. Girls think how something will make them feel emotionally. Guys think about how it'll make them feel physically. So when I was writing Evan, and dealing with first-person POV, I tried to work for a harder edge to his thoughts, and while there was plenty about his feelings, I tried to keep it concise and straightforward.

I think we can all agree that you put a guy and a girl in an identical situation, and they'll almost definitely behave differently. It's just the way we're built. I wanted a MC that was unmistakably male. He rides a motorcycle. He swears. He lets his lower extremities do a lot of his thinking, even when his brain says he shouldn't. He walks into a situation and acts, instead of thinking it through. Again, a lot of that may seem like stereotype, but sometimes you have to use those stereotypes to your advantage.

Here's the tough one. But especially if you're writing multiple-POV, your male MC must sound different from your female. ABSOLUTE MUST. Whether it's giving them a harder, tougher edge, or whatever, it just has to sound and feel different.

There's nothing concrete I can list and say do this. The best thing you can do is get a few guys to read. But whatever you do, don't give up on it. We need more authentic male POV out there.

So what are your thoughts? How do you write male POV?


Dahlia Adler said...

When I write in 3rd person, I seem to have no trouble writing male POV. I've done it in a few books, and I always feel like I do a good job. I think it must be related to placing distance between the characters, because I'm writing my first male POV 1st person and it's the first time I've worried it doesn't sound "male" enough. I think it's easier to, say, make a male character sound more aggressive, less insecure, more sexually inclined, less artistic and descriptive, less emotional, etc. when you're writing 3rd, but then you get into their heads with 1st and suddenly realize, "Wait, are we really that different?" Or at least that's how it's been for me....

Anonymous said...

My current WIP has a male MC, and these were all great things to keep in mind! Thanks for the great article!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, so much seems to be easier with 3rd person. 1st can be tough, period, and writing the opposite gender just makes it harder!

Sarah Hipple said...

This is really interesting. It makes me want to try my hand at 1st person male. Of course I only just decided to try out 1st person (female), so I should probably take this one step at a time & finish that up first.

Jill Haugh said...

Interesting post. Never wrote from a male's POV before, and I wish you luck! Don't give up! Your voice needs to be heard.
~Just Jill

Kate Scott said...

I always love it when I find books with male POV's. I've dabbled a little with male MCs but never found a compelling enough story to bother polishing with a male POV. Your post is inspiring me to go back to one of my old WIPs (with a male MC) when I finish my current project. Yay for boys :)

Susan Francino said...

So glad to find this post, and I *love* that you think we actually need more male POV's in YA! (I end up writing male POV a lot myself--can you tell? :P ) Like Dahlia, I also write in 3rd and haven't found it to be a huge problem so far...but I also haven't found any male beta-readers yet--so that test is definitely coming up! *bites nails*

There are a couple things I try to keep in mind, though I'm constantly looking for things to add to this list! One I read in a similar article a while ago is that guys are more goal-oriented than women. They want to fix things. They focus on doing the job. I more recently read that guys notice detail less than girls do. There are a lot of tidbits to think about.

I also have a little brother, which helps because I get to see how he acts in front of his friends and then contrast that with the (often endearing) vulnerability I see at home--which is exactly the balance you have to strike in male close 3rd, I think.

Susan Francino said...

*once. I also wanted to add that I think your point about girls over-thinking things compared to boys is a GREAT one. I think I'm probably not tapping into that gender difference enough...their wonderful lack of emotional over-thinking is one reason I love being around guys (they tend to call me on my irrationality)--and I think writing a male POV should be fun in a similar way.

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