All my novels are told through alternating points of view (POV), from male to female. Sometimes, I swap chapters evenly. Other times, I switch them at whim, depending on whose internal reaction is needed to drive the story. When it’s my hero’s turn to strut his stuff, I get to channel my inner dude, and I love it.
As a woman, writing the male POV is a blast. There are tricks to nailing those voices, devices you can use to set the tone when your hero takes charge. I’ll break this down into three categories—word choices, setting, and dialogue—and I’ll use examples from my novel, CHASING CRAZY, to illustrate my points.
The easiest fallback when writing a male POV is tossing out shits and fucks like a gun slinger. Not necessary. Abrupt, hard action words can conjure a similar image, without all the dirty words. Don’t get me wrong, damns and shits and fucks have their place (and they’re fun to write!), but it’s important not to use them as a crutch. Below is a paragraph written from a female POV. I’ve then flipped it into male (as it is written in my novel) to illustrate the differences.Female POV: Squeezing through the entrance, I slip off my backpack, place it beside one leaning against the wall, then I roll my aching shoulders. I glance around. Some travelers are in a lounge area on the left—two on computers, others seated on an orange couch. A girl around my age is at the bookshelves, dragging her finger along the spines.
Now from the male POV: Squeezing through the entrance, I drop my pack beside one leaning against the wall. I crack my neck and poke around. Some travelers are in a lounge area on the left—two on computers, others hanging on an orange couch. A chick’s at the bookshelves, dragging her finger along the spines.In the male POV, I use sharp action words, such as drop, crack, and poke. The girl saw people “seated,” whereas the guy noticed them “hanging,” and he used the term “chick.” Each word was chosen to create a sense of voice and perspective. Nothing is accidental. Also, men tend to be direct in their thinking, and shorter sentences can reflect this.
Setting:Men and women see the world differently. Whereas women tend to attach more emotion and meaning to situations, men tend to be more abrupt in their thoughts. This affects setting. I work setting into scenes gradually, through actions. Again, below is a paragraph originally written in a male POV, but I’ve flipped it into female first to show the difference.
Female POV: I open my can and take a sip while our group mingles around the sparsely wooded area beside the meetinghouse. The charred barbeque smell from the deep pit in the ground lingers, our dinner of roast chicken and potatoes as good as my grandmother’s cooking, the food and memory warming my belly.
Now from the male POV: I crack open my can and take a generous gulp while our group mingles around the sparsely wooded area beside the meetinghouse. The charred barbeque smell from the deep pit in the ground lingers from our tasty meal of roast chicken and potatoes.
Again, word choices have been made: open vs. crack open, sip vs. gulp, but it’s the second line that exudes gender. My guy didn’t think much about his meal, beyond the fact that it was tasty. He was probably hungry, he scarfed it down, and that was that. But my female version connected the meal to a time in her life, adding a deeper emotional reaction. This type of character development can be done for the male POV, too, and I do it often, but pick and choose your moments, and your words.
Dialogue:Two things come into play when writing dialogue: the action tags, and the dialogue itself. For the tags, male reactions are often more physical: jaws clenching, necks cracking, shoes crunching gravel, hands tightening into fists and scrubbing chins. It doesn’t mean men can’t ponder life around their speech. Both have a place in a manuscript, and all writing is dependent on the hero you’ve created.
But the dialogue itself is somewhere a man’s voice can shine through. Often, men—especially tough, alpha males—chop their sentences, leaving off subjects, even verbs. Examples:Instead of “Are you going outside?” the man may say, “You going outside?”
“I’m not sure” can become “Not sure.”And “I’ll see you later” becomes “Catch you later,” or even just “Later.”
Every character is unique, as is each point of view and voice. The above examples may not work for the hero in your novel, but they are suggestions that will hopefully help you examine your writing and encourage you to make active choices when crafting words.
Happy writing!Kelly Siskind