Aug 12, 2012

How to write like a guy if you're a girl, part II

(WriteOnCon is THIS week! If you write kidlit, check it out here. I highly recommend it! And go here to sign up for our Fact or Fiction bloghop in September.)
The first post on this topic focused on characteristics of guy narrators/MCs. Today I'm highlighting plotting traits of fiction that appeal to boys/young men. I've mentioned in earlier posts that YA geared entirely toward boys is super-small...probably for a few reasons: as evidenced by NPRs recent top 100 YA reads list, most YA authors are women; and guys as a whole (especially teen guys) aren't big readers to begin with.
However, in case some of you are writing to reverse this trend - the one where teen guys aren't big readers -  here are a few characteristics of boy-friendly fiction I've noticed in my reading travels.
1. Guys like books with violence. A lot of it. I'm not talking about gruesome, bloody battles with lots of dismembered parts. Consider Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. The entire book focuses on the development of Ender into a master soldier/strategiest. Card includes the violence almost clinically. In the Harry Potter series, the violence escalates but again, Rowling uses it as a sign of escalating conflict rather than dwelling on the bloody reality. So does Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games and James Dashner in The Maze Runner. In all these books, violence is a tool rather than an end to a means. And if you can put a different twist on the violence - one of your characters is into martial arts - all the better.

2. Guys don't like soap opera-dwelling angst. In Ender's Game, the MC endures all kinds of emotional and physical stresses but Card details Ender's reactions - and his angst - very swiftly. Harry Potter and Katniss Everdeen both have plenty of emotional fall out from their actions but neither of them dwells on it. They're always moving forward, turning their angst into action. 

3. The setting is nuts-and-bolts realistic. World building is precise, the rules are clear and cause-and-effect is logical. Think of Star Wars or Battleship Galactica or any popular sci-fi. Sure, there are lots of gadgets and cool wizardry but all of it is based on fact. Yes, the sci-fi genre requires such careful attention to what-could-be, but I believe that's one of the reasons so many guys are sci-fi fans. The realistic use of imagination appeals to them. (LOTR is, of course, an exception, although Tolkien's world has very clear rules...and also lots of #1 and #2.)
4. Guys like plot-driven stories or stories based on fact. There's a whole genre for character-driven stories: chick lit. Jodi Picoult, Barbara Delinsky, Jennifer Weiner - they're all great, but my husband or son are as likely to pick up a book in this genre as they are to get a mani/pedi.
5. Guys like books about guys. Hunger Games has proved that this trait isn't because most guys are sexist (although I think that's a factor) - it's because most books with female MCs concentrate on girl-stuff. Angst. Little violence. Lots of deep thinking. Little action. Lots of he-said, she-said drama. Etc. Guy MCs force the author to concentrate on guy interests.
6. Very little romance. Need I say more?
So what did I miss? What are some YA novels you've read that would appeal to a guy audience?
Have a great week!


10 comments:

Kimberly Gabriel said...

I'm always really impressed by authors who can capture boy and girl audiences seamlessly - like Rowling, Collins and Veronica Roth. Even in Hunger Games and Divergent, I'm pulled in because I love the romantic storyline. But you're right, the authors don't dwell on it or make it too soap opera-ey. Because of it, the boys get into those books as well. My favorite point you make is that the story is constantly moving forward turning angst into action. Great post!

Lisa Regan said...

Wow you hit every nail on the head. That is very interesting and I think these are good things to keep in mind for any genre. Funny, my brother never read as a teenager but started as an adult and he said he really enjoyed Ender's Game!

Jolene Perry said...

I just finished a guy book for guys, and yes, there was a murder...
;-D

It's on our last beta reader now before we send the MS to our agents...
We'll see what happens with it.
I"m sort of looking forward to writing another one like it :-D

Jenny Morris said...

I think you have hits all the major points. These are the things I look for when I pick up a book for my son. Although we prefer to call it action instead of violence. Lol. I've started a boy book for boys but haven't finished it. I hope I'm able to pull it off.

Emily R. King said...

Boys, boys, boys. They're fairly uncomplicated, aren't they? I make writing a male POV much more complicated than it actually should be. Thanks for the reminders of how to "think like man." :)

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Yep, I can pretty much vouch for all of these based on what my husband and son like to read. There are guy-exceptions of course. I know a guy who loves reading romance novels, for instance. *quirks eyebrows*

Nicole said...

Great advice! It seems like guys also like a decent dose of humor.

Kimberlee Turley said...

Recently read OLDSOUL by Dan Haring. Guy author, male protagonist. Little bit of romance, plenty of violence. Yup, it's got everything on the list.

Donna L Martin said...

Greetings!

I'm hopping over from GUTGAA and just wanted to get a head start on visiting some new blogs. Nice to meet you and you have a lovely blog...

Donna L Martin
www.donnalmartin.com
www.donasdays.blogspot.com

meradeth said...

Such good points! Every boy-book I've read fits these points :) I'll second the little bit of humor addition too--though I think that's appreciated by both boys & girls.