Thursday, September 29, 2005


We really need to crawl into our character's skin for deep characterization. That means we need to see things through their eyes, feel how they would feel, talk like that would talk, etc.

In talking about writing male POV, Randy Ingermanson has more to say.

Randy says,
It's been nice to see this resurgence of interest in the male POV lately. I'm currently reading For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn. I was going to get it on Amazon and then discovered that MY WIFE BOUGHT THIS BOOK ALREADY! Lucky me. So I'm reading it. In the book, Shaunti reveals seven things women don't know about men. And one of her big points is that not only do women not know this stuff, they don't even know they don't know it.

So as I've been reading the book (I'm about half through it), I keep thinking, "Duh, this is all pretty obvious. How can women claim not to know this stuff? How dumb is that?"

Then I realized that I'm just as dumb. Because even though this stuff is obvious to me, it never occurred to me that it's not obvious to women. So I didn't know women don't know this stuff, and I didn't even know that I didn't know.

It's not bad when you don't know. It's bad when you don't know that you don't know.

If you sat in my class on the male POV last year at American Christian Fiction Writers conference (, you'll know that I claimed there are three basic ways men are different from women:
1) Ego (this is maybe 80% of the difference)
2) Sex drive (this is maybe 15% of the difference)
3) Logical thinking versus emotional thinking (this is the other 5%)

Author Shaunti Feldhahn is pretty much in line with me on those three things, so far as I can tell. This is a big relief to me because she actually did some research. I just pulled stuff out of my own experience and my own observations of other guys. One thing I like about Shaunti's book is that she gives the actual statistics, so you can see what the majority of guys thinks and what the minority thinks, and what the margins are.

As an example, she asked a zillion guys the question: If you had to live without being loved by anyone, or, live without being respected by anyone, which would you choose?

74% chose to live without being loved.
26% chose to live without being respected.
A sizable fraction of the guys, however, were confused because they didn't see a difference between the two choices.

Shaunti gives you the answers guys gave to several of these questions. And this is crucial for your writing. As somebody noted, if you want to construct a realistic male character, you need to have them think like the majority of guys. Which means your guys are all going to be stereotypes.

This is almost correct. Here's the problem: If you make your guy answer like the majority of Real Guys on every point, then your guy will have two problems:
1) He will be the Stereotypical Male Character, and your editor will hate him
2) He will be unlike any guy on the planet, because every guy deviates from the majority of guys on a few points. Even I do. :)

I would rephrase the procedure this way. If you want to construct a realistic male character, you need to have him think like the majority of guys ON MOST POINTS, but it's permissible for your character to think like the majority of women ON SOME POINTS. And there are a zillion different ways to choose the points where the guy will be stereotypically Real Guy and the points where he will be stereotypically Real Girl.

There is a problem, of course. On the points where your guy does not behave like a Real Guy, some readers will think, "But Real Guys don't think like that." The solution is extremely simple. You acknowledge that your guy is different from Real Guys on this point.

There are a billion ways to do this:
1) "Joe hated the way most guys leered at every hot babe who walked down the street."
2) "Wow, Johnny," Jane cooed. "I love that you can express your feelings. Most guys can't."
3) "No, I don't care that you beat me at checkers, Minnie," Mickey said. "I guess the other guys killed my pesky male ego in junior high by asking me every day if I was a man or a mouse."

Bottom line:
1) Know the stereotypes
2) Follow them on most points
3) Deviate from them on a few points
4) Let your reader know that you know you are deviating from the norm

Do this, and your guys will be as real as any Real Guy on the street.

Thanks, Randy, for your comments. You can find him at And, as publisher of Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, you can also find him at


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