Jul 15, 2012

How to write like a guy when you're a girl

To start off the week, I give you the trailer to The Silver Linings Playbook, based on the book by Matthew Quick, whom I interviewed here. Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert DeNiro, this movie looks AWESOME. Now I have to re-read the book to see how close the screenplay is because I'm a book nerd that way. The movie opens in November.



So my topic this week is How to Write like a Guy when you're a Girl, mainly because it's dawning on me that there's a good possiblity the MC for my newest WIP is actually a guy. I'm writing her as a girl and having a hard time. She's just so...guy.  How can you tell? you ask.

A few ways. All of these are gleaned from the fact I've been married for half my life, and am currently raising two boys. Granted, men/boys are as varied as we are in their approach to life but after many discussions with  Hubs on this topic, I've uncovered a few Secrets to Being a (heterosexual) Man. (The qualification is due to the fact I've not lived with or had a long discussion on this topic with any gay guys.)
  •        Guys are direct. They don't hide who they are. If a guy finds something interesting, he'll go after it no matter what society thinks. The push to conform so many girls feel at this age generally doesn't apply. I realize there are exceptions - there are always exceptions - but this is a major difference in the teen years.  
  •        Guys fight...like guys. There's no long-term pouting or cold shoulder treatment. They may dance around the topic but when it comes up, they confront it. Head on. Boys deal in physical violence like girls trade in barbs, insults and petty put-downs - an emotional violence that studies show does more serious long term damage than a punch to the face.  
  •           They don't obsess over the opposite sex.*  Guys are just as direct with girls as they are with their friends. The problem is, that directness gets distorted because girls are hearing them through the hormone phone. Remember the movie "He's Just Not that Into You"? If he likes you, he'll call you. If not, he won't. He may not use words (because guys are chicken and seriously hate getting yelled at) but the message gets through.  
  •         Guys speak with actions a lot more than words. And if allowed, they won't talk at all. Unless you're a girl whose attention they want and then they get all goofy. Which is an action all by itself. 
  •        Guys will take what's offered without thinking they are required to give anything back. In a word: selfishness. Teenage guys have it in spades. (This is why they need to be trained. ;) There's no worrying if he hurt someone's feelings, no automatic obsession over how he came across. Guys spend way less time being embarrassed than girls. (See: guys are direct.)
  •         Guys live in the present. They go after what they want without fear of the consequences. Of course, this changes as boys turn into men but when they're young and single, they're pretty single-minded. Studies show the female brain is much better suited to considering long-term consequences, to picturing all possible scenarios in a second or two. This is why, when my toddler son went sledding down the hill heading toward a tree, I went racing down after him while my husband simply watched him go by.
  •       Guys don't notice the details/specifics. The baby was a girl, the food tasted good, you smell nice, that dress is pretty. Etc.
*mostly. John Green's male characters tend to do a lot of obsessing but there are life or death circumstances going on.
Bottom line: if a girl's emotional landscape is a mountain range full of peaks, valleys, glaciers and fast-flowing rivers of emotions, a boy's is more like a rolling plain. The peaks and troughs of a boy's inner life are (generally) much slower, gradual and less dramatic.
  Compare and contrast your favorite male/female  heroines. How are they different?
Next week, we'll discuss how these attributes translate on the page.



11 comments:

elizabeth seckman said...

As the mom of four boys, I agree. I once told my brother (who had four girls) that I'd rather deal with my boys...the girls would get mad and even at an early age had elaborate paybacks and alliances; my boys would deck each other and fight was forgotten. Sounds violent, but it's so less ugly than girl fights.

Kyra Lennon said...

Excellent tips, thanks for sharing!

Jade Hart said...

I haven't felt strong enough to write a guy POV, but I love reading them. Great post :)

Kimberly Gabriel said...

Such a great list - and I love the cartoon you end on! Very true and cracked me up.

Suzi said...

Great post. Can't wait to see next week's too.

I've got a few temporarily trunked WIPs with male pov. So this is something I'll definitely be looking at hard when I get back to editing them.

I liked the sledding story. That's about the truth with dads/kids.

Tobi Summers said...

I'm writing a YA story from a male POV for the first time in ages, and this is such useful advice because I'm really nervous about it. Granted, the boy's a little out of the ordinary because of certain events in his past, but I think the general suggestions will still apply. Thanks!

kkrafts said...

Raised three boys myself and now am happy to say, I'm glad I didn't have girls :-)

Carrie Butler said...

You know something funny? When I'm writing male POV, I force myself to sit like a guy. It helps!

Rowenna said...

I love these tips! Of course every guy is different and no one fits a perfect mold, but it's a great reminder that sometimes the thoughts/reactions/emotions/insecurities we have as women aren't necessarily transferable to a male experience! One of my best guy friends, btw, summed up "guys are selfish" by stating "all guys are narcissistic bastards." It was a fair warning in high school :) but they do, in fact, mature lol.

Emily R. King said...

"Guys don't notice the details/specifics. The baby was a girl, the food tasted good, you smell nice, that dress is pretty. Etc."

LOL! All of these suggestions are great, but as a mother, THIS is the one I hope to fix in my boys. They WILL notice when I get my hair cut, darn it! :)

Lisa Regan said...

Holy cow, you just hit every single one of these right on the head! I can't believe how spot-on these are. Yeah, one of the things I've always envied about men is the whole direct thing. With women everything is so darn secretive and passive-aggressive. Most of the time I have no idea what the heck's going on! LOL. Great post!