Tag Archives: Hero

How Do Women Write Men?

Interesting topic came to mind during a recent chapter revision.

It’s probably for the same reason you don’t see many male romance authors out there, simply because most men have no clue how to write a woman character and make it believable. Every little detail: gestures, word choice, slang, as well as what a woman would notice first looking at a man, or even another woman.

A lot of earlier romances had the stereotypical male hero: rough, tough, very little emotion, and all action. Either no words at all, or any words were based on the Tarzan psyche (Me want Jane. Me hungry.) I wonder if those male depictions in earlier writing were because most women authors didn’t know how to portray a realistic male character.

I ran into that issue the other week. My male character said certain things and behaved certain ways that didn’t sound believable. So I sent the chapter to a male critique buddy of mine, who helped me ‘man him up.’ (Another reason why I highly suggest joining a writer’s group!)

Such simple things like phrasing:

Original version: “People are mean.”

Manned up version: “People are cruel.”

Or how they refer to their own bodies:

Original version: ‘Thin Man clunked his beer bottle on the bar and jerked up his worn jeans over his hips.’

Manned up version: ‘Thin Man clunked his beer bottle on the bar and jerked up in worn jeans over his exposed whity-tighties.’

(I was told men never refer to their ‘hips.’)

There were several other areas that my critique pal noted were too ‘feminine’ for a male character (or at least the male character I was trying to portray). It’s amazing how different men and women will describe even a setting or what someone is wearing.

These kinds of suggestions are invaluable to me. It helps me learn how to write male characters better (and since my husband doesn’t read my work, I rely more heavily on my writer’s group.)

Women writers: how do you write your men? What tricks do you use to keep them realistic?

Mr. Perfect or Bad Boy Hero

I think everyone will agree when you’re reading a novel, any genre, if the hero is too perfect- or seemingly flawless- it’s boring. People like to have main characters with flaws. Sometimes even bad streaks. It’s the same thing with writers. When you’re writing a character that seems too nice or perfect, it’s boring.

I found that out with my previous manuscript. My heroine’s love interest seemed too perfect. And writing scenes with him in it was tedious. So now I get to have a fun time putting a few bad boy streaks in him. But I’ll start those fun revisions next year (a whopping 3 weeks away).

I’m having a blast writing my third manuscript. Mainly because the ‘hero’ in the story is hardly a hero at all. He starts a lot of the conflicts, has some unsavory ‘flaws’ and lives his life in a much less than charitable fashion. If I’m having this much more fun writing the story, I’m hoping my critiquers will have more fun reading it.

But this brought a big question to the tips of my fingers.

How bad is too bad before readers start to hate him? Before they throw the book across the room and refuse to read any further to see the redeeming qualities?

I think much of this depends first on the time period in which the book is set.

I believe Middle Ages and early Renaissance time period grants ‘heroes’ a little more wiggle room in the good/bad department, due to the harsh living conditions and necessity to live against the elements and endless bandits roaming the lands.

But for contemporary time period, what are some of the big No-No’s for heroes? I’ve heard several agents and editors say infidelity is the #1 Anti-Hero characteristic. Not necessarily promiscuity, but if the ‘hero’ is in a committed relationship or your intention to have the main characters end up together, infidelity is a major turn off.

Cruelty to children and the helpless is probably another big no-no. But how far can a writer go in ‘evil-ing up’ her hero?

I’ve perused a few sites trying to find what most others find as acceptable flaws, versus ‘too-much-to-handle.’

http://www.writing-world.com/romance/heroes.shtml

http://www.booklaurie.com/workshops_flaw2.php

http://fmwriters.com/Visionback/Issue9/Romance.htm

http://mysteryminx.com/intellectual-battlefield/heroes-hunks-and-perfect-men

But what do you think? What ‘flaws in a hero would make you toss the book across the room? What is your boundary between hero and evil?

I Win the Fights in my WIP

I don’t get to win too many arguments in my life. Mainly because I get too tongue-tied or flabbergasted to respond, until several hours or even days after the argument, I think of the perfect comeback or stinger, and by then of course it’s too late. I’ve already lost. Easy to say I’m not a confrontational person.

Except for writing. I just finished a scene in my WIP where my heroine and hero have a fight (not with fists, although she has the urge to slap him), but with words. I still suffer from the same deficiency and have trouble creating comebacks on the spot, but that’s what’s great about writing. I can think of the perfect quip and insert it in the middle of the argument later. Doesn’t matter how much time has passed. It still flows, and either way I WIN THE ARGUMENT! ;)

It’s interesting to note that the fight scene between my main characters flowed from my mind more easily than other scenes. I wonder if it’s the same with other authors. The most tense scenes in novels are often the easiest to write (or the scenes authors already have visualized before the rest of the book is plotted. It is said that JK Rowling had the last scene between Harry Potter and Voldermort completed before she even started the series). I write out the harsh words as I feel them come to me, and if I think of something later that’s better, more damaging to their self-confidence, or more of a knife-in-the-gut, I can amend it.

Writing has helped me explore my confrontational side, which I believed was non-existent before I started. I’m not saying I’m more confrontational in real-life now that I’ve started writing, but it’s helped me delve into a side I didn’t know I had. And I’m glad I’m able to put that side of me into a character that’s on paper, that way none of the evidence leads back to me and the only people who are hurt are entirely fictional. ;)

I must say, its nice to win an argument every now and then. 

Battling Themes Causes Bi-Polar Character

02.19.10

Image by colemama via Flickr

I’ve realized why I’m stuck in my writing this week. After a few weeks of frustrating writer’s block, and having to delete several chapters and revise several scenes, I read at my local writer’s group who gave me another reason to be frustrated. I’m not frustrated with the writers group- not at all. They pointed out another serious flaw that I have to go back and fix. But it gave me the first insight into my much bigger problem that spurned all the others I was fighting.

My theme is all screwed up in my current project. Some days my theme is about my heroine trying to reclaim the life she wanted before her injury. Other days my theme is focused on the anger and frustration in trying to deal with the pain of her injury. And other days is all focused on going after the love of her life. So when I sat back and compared the scenes, my heroine seems strangely bi-polar. Extreme highs and lows in her emotions and behaviors from one day to the next, its hard for me to keep track. I can only imagine what the reader would think.

My writer’s group told me that in the scene I presented, my main character is too nice. She was boring. I needed to *itch her up. And they were right. In that particular scene, she was trying to be too polite and accommodating.  But in the next scene, she was a raging, chemically imbalanced drama queen that sparked from a phone call. And the cycle seems to repeat itself over the next few scenes.

After perusing a few author’s blogs I follow and a several other sites, I narrowed down on my overall issue. I have too many themes and they’re all battling each other. I need to get a handle on which theme I want the most prevalent in the book and write the scenes that way. In fact, its suggested to write my theme on a piece of paper, and tape the paper to my laptop or on my desk while I write. That way I’m constantly reminded of the MAIN THEME throughout my piece. Because the other themes are present in my mind and in the overall situation, they’ll be lingering in the background, but I can’t let those overpower the main theme.

So now my problem is picking the major theme. I posted a poll a week ago on my blog getting other opinions to help narrow down my choice. I appreciate those who’ve participated.  I’d always love more feedback. But I thought I’d keep you all posted on my current WIP (work-in-progress).

Writers: have you struggled with the theme in any of your manuscripts? How did you overcome it?

Readers: have you read any books that seemed to struggle too much between themes? What kinds of themes do you like best to read?