Editor’s Note: Once upon a time, there was a female writer who wrote about both male characters and female characters. But she didn’t just want to write any male characters. She wanted to write realistic male characters.
So this female writer asked a question on one of her Facebook writers’ groups. She thought she phrased the question very respectfully so that people didn’t think she was trying to stereotype men. Apparently though, she didn’t phrase it well enough, because her fellow Facebook writers’ group members proceeded to lambaste her.
Fully frustrated with them, she quit her groups and went looking on Quora instead. And since someone there had already asked the question, she copied and pasted the resulting answers below for other female writers writing male characters to benefit from.
And they all lived happily ever after. The end.
Editor’s Note Part II – After the End: You can find the whole thread here. Or look up the original question of, “What common mistakes do female writers make while writing male characters?”
Here are the best responses I could find and the names behind them…
Myth #1: Men and women tend to have the same exact thought processes.
“… Men typically are task oriented. When given a problem to solve, we tend to focus on how to solve it, and then go right ahead and do it. We don’t worry about consensus, unless we desire advice for a task that is beyond our skills. We don’t worry what other people feel about our solution or the problem, though we may be interested in what they think.”
– Murphy Barrett
Myth #2: Men are either emotionally empty or overflowing with poetry for the love of their lives.
“… Guys are often written either as stoics who have no feelings or great philosopher poets overflowing with the feels for our beloved… The point is, men do of course have feelings, but we tend to process them differently. Through a combination of nature and nurture, most guys tend to keep our feelings inside.
"We also tend to not actually think about our feelings. We’re more likely to look at whatever is causing our feelings, if unwanted, and see it as a problem to solve."
– Murphy Barrett
Myth #3: Men think about getting it on nonstop.
“… We think about it a lot, but it isn’t the only thing we think about. Even when thinking about our loved ones, it’s not always about sex. I am as likely to think about fun things to do with my girlfriend, or cuddling with her warm and happy on my chest, as I am about having sex with her…”
– Murphy Barrett
Myth #4: Men spend the same amount of time pondering their inadequacies as women do.
“… one mistake I notice when female authors write about men is how they grossly underestimate male stoicism and egocentrism. The result is a lot of fictional “sensitive” men who are essentially women with whiskers.
“Frequently, these authors describe men deeply pondering their personal inadequacies, the impression they make on others, and particularly their relationships with women. While men very definitely experience emotions, a natural vanity or else sheer cussedness tends to kick in as a defense mechanism.
“Men normally do not like to admit weakness and defeat – even to themselves – particularly since they are unlikely to reach out to others but prefer to handle many situations alone.
“This vanity and stoicism leads many men to transform their fears and self-doubts into resentment towards others. Particularly when it comes to their relationships with women, many men will reject and resent any guilt trips laid on them. Men are far more likely to anger or simply clam up than to cry. This sort of attitude makes for temporary peace of mind, although likely not for a better society…”
– Alan Nothnagle
Myth #5: Men and women use the same exact vocabulary in the same exact way.
“It's their choice of words, mostly; the dialogue. It's like women have never actually listened to a man, which is funny, because they always get mad at us for not listening…”
– Aaron Dennis
Okay, Aaron Dennis. Fair enough. But how do we write out dialogue inaccurately?
We need details here!
Since Aaron Dennis sadly didn’t give any such thing, I suppose that the best advice to give female writers is simply to get male beta readers before they publish their stories.
If you know of any good ones, let me know.