When female writers create male characters...

Yesterday, I came across a blog post that was created to answer the question: I’m a female writer and I want to make sure my male characters come across as believable. How do I do this?

 The blogger decided to answer this question by detailing how different men and women are in the way they think.

The post asserted that the differences between men and women should lead writers to:

  • Portray male characters as only saying what they mean (in contrast to female characters who can be written as having hidden agendas in their speech).
  • Write male characters as more brief and to the point in their dialogue, with considerably less emotional sharing.
  • Male characters should be written as more egotistical/brazen than female characters.
  • Male characters should be written as more turned on by visual stimuli than female characters, in terms of sexuality.
What do you think about that summation of a male character?

Personally, it made me cringe.

First of all, according to 90% of what’s on that list, apparently I’m a man.

Which is odd, because I’m pretty sure I’m a woman and I never knew that being straightforward and expecting the same of others had anything to do with whether one is female or  male….and since when do the majority of females shy away from brazenly making fools of themselves for the sake of an ego boost?  

The traits listed above aren’t specific to men, they’re specific to certain human personality types that have been created by two things: DNA and personal experience.

So, my issue with what the author of this post wrote is that when a female writer is attempting to create a realistic male character, she would do better to focus more on the character’s backstory (where he comes from, his culture and the environment that he grew up in) than on simply attempting to mimic stereotypical personality traits typically associated with male genitalia.

So, what makes male and female characters differ?

To sum it up, not a whole stinking lot.

When we’re creating a character, the character’s backstory is what’s most important.

The backstory affects the character’s view of life and other people, as well as the way they talk, walk, and react to various situations.

While gender might play a small role in shaping a person's reaction to a particular situation (for example, how I react to a Hallmark commercial during a certain time of month), the individual’s upbringing and background carry much greater weight in affecting who a person is at their core. When you think about it, our upbringing is what affects our view of gender and of ourselves in relation to gender roles.

So, instead of second-guessing myself as I write my male character’s dialogue by stopping every few minutes to wonder: “Would a guy actually say this?” what I’m going to start pausing to ask myself is, “What happened in this guy’s past to make him say something like this?”

I really hope I live to see the day when humanity finally gets over the race verses race and male verses female stuff and starts seeing what we all have in common.


We’re all humans, period.
2/14/2013

What do you think about that summation of a male character?

Mostly I think it's actually a statement of social position and associated confidence. The social superior is free to say what they like directly and clearly, and is probably used to doing so when giving orders. The social inferior must be more careful with their words, and may equivocate in case it becomes necessary to have said something else in retrospect.

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