Is Your Guy a *Guy*?

Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling suspense author who grew up an Army brat. After twenty-plus years of marriage, she and her hunky hero husband have a full life with four children and a Maltese Menace in Northern Virginia. Author and speaker, Ronie loves engaging readers through her Rapid-Fire Fiction, which includes the highly acclaimed Discharded Heroes series, the adventurous A Breed Apart series, and the much anticipated Quiet Professionals series.

Ronie can be found at www.roniekendig.com, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction), Twitter (@roniekendig), and Goodreads (www.goodreads.com/RonieK) .

      
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A few
years ago, a brand-new author leaped onto the scene. I loved the author’s
concept for the debut novel, and I jumped to read it. Just one problem: the author
did not know how to make the male character sound like a male. Repeatedly, the
character talked and acted like a female. I had to readjust my framework and
remind myself—the protagonist is a male.
The protagonist is a male.


Writing
is a literary expression of who we are, what we feel and how we think, which
may explain why many female authors find it so difficult to write male
characters. I think it would be correct to say that in order to accurately
write the male POV, one must understand the way men think (I hear many ladies
snickering right now). In a world were roles are being redefined, some of that is bleeding into fiction, into the way we write characters. In my quest to understand how to best write gender-appropriately, one author told me she writes men the way she’d like them to be (doing laundry, helping with dinner…). The key to remember in writing male characters is that: It’s really, truly okay for a male character to be MALE!

That line
of thought led me to the Gender Genie and Gender Guesser, online programs
that analyze chunks of writing to determine the author’s gender. The algorithm
is based off a study done between Moshe
Koppel, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of
Technology (full study findings here), which found indicators within documents that were distinctively
male and distinctively female.

When I teach at conferences and workshops, I remind
authors that every element of their scene should reflect that character, but I would also add that the composite of those choices will lend itself to determining your character’s gender. Not
just the dialogue (which is imperative) but the narrative and internal
thoughts. It’s great if your male character sounds like a guy, but if they are
thinking like a woman, there’s a disconnect.

 Here are some tips to keep your
male sounding like a guy (and remember, some are generalizations)

·      Men are one-box thinkers (see the Mark
Gungor video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZoqpjOZxf2M) – They say what they mean and focus on one topic. Typically, there’s no reading
between the lines. Which brings up another thing I’ve often seen. The hero is running for his life, dodging bullets and IEDs…yet the female author has the guy thinking about his love for the heroine and how she makes him feel. Sorry. Not happening. Guys are not only one-box thinkers they’re action oriented, doers. He’s not thinking about shifting relationships. He’s thinking about NOT DYING!

·      Sentence structureBecause they are
one-box thinkers, men often take the shortest possible route—to make their
point, in driving, in dialogue. So keep their dialogue short.

·      Men tend to state demands (“Give me an
iced tea.”) rather than preferences (“I’d like a Diet Coke, please.” ) the way
a woman would.

·      Action choice – make sure your word
choices to describe actions are appropriate (have your male character, stalk, stomp, across a room). I cringed the day I read a story where the
guy “giggled.” Please, please, don’t have your guy giggle (unless it’s a plot point). Girls giggle. Guys chuckle.

·      Word Choices – This should be weighed carefully whether writing a female or a male character because our
word choices indicate much about us—career, background, and yes, even gender. It’s
not uncommon to hear me use military lingo in everyday conversation, but that’s not something you’d hear from someone who’d n ever been around the military.

·      Length – The length of your narratives,
dialogue, and sentences will probably be shorter, more concise when writing a
male character. As writers, we’re naturally verbose. We have a lot to share with our
audience, but don’t let the author speak. Let your GUY speak! Men aren’t as talkative.  

·      Men are internal thinkers, so much of what
a character might work through should be done internally. . .but remember—men are
THINKERS (generally), not FEELERS. So they aren’t often thinking about how they’re
feeling. They’re thinking through logistics and a plan of action. (Don’t misunderstand—it’s okay to have
your male character thinking about his feelings for a woman, but really—keep it
short(er) and concise.)
Those
are the quick tips to keeping a male character sounding like a guy. Men are a
bit more complex than that, but those tips will go a long way in maintaining a
solid masculine voice in writing the male POV. The point is, while
generalizations about males and females are often exaggerated, they are based
in truth—there are  differences in the way men and women talk and
think. Writers have the daunting task of translating the known differences into
plausible, compelling fiction and characters.

Just remember: let your guy be a
guy.
                               

* * * * * * * * * * 
A fiery handler. Her tough bullmastiff. A
mission like no other.

Beowulf—a hulky, brindle-coated bullmastiff—is the only
“boy” for Timbrel Hogan. And she has a history to remind her why. But when
Timbrel, a handler at A Breed Apart, embarks on a mission to detect WMDs in
Afghanistan, she reunites with Tony “Candyman” VanAllen and her no-other-man
philosophy is challenged. While tension mounts between Timbrel and Tony, the team
comes under fire after Beowulf gets a “hit.” When tragedy threatens Tony’s
career and Timbrel’s courage, they must
maneuver through an intricate plot and a mission like no other. . . .

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