Why do some female authors authors have trouble writing male characters?
Is it because they are creating an idealized version of masculinity they can be comfortable with? Or is it because they don’t how difficult it is to be a man—not despite our “simplicity” but because of it.
Today, I’m going to help you demystify male characters by revealing powerful secrets into the psychology of men.
Understanding What Makes A Man A “Man”First, let’s understand that women operate under many contradictory, complex rules. These rules create a “shame web” that trap women no matter which way they turn:
- "Work hard, but make it look effortless."
- "Dress sexy, but not slutty." (etc.)Men, on the other hand, only have have One Rule:
- “Don’t show weakness.”This is not the intricate ever-changing web of women, but a rigid iron box—a prison that can tightly bind our responses. Every decision men make gets filtered through the One Rule. This happens even with the most enlightened, “in-touch with his feelings” kind of guy. A sensitive, confident man may be able ignore or reject it, but he will always briefly consider it, even if only on a subconscious level.
Nature or Nurture?Where did the One Rule come from? Is it nature or nurture? I believe it is both; the desire to dominate and control our surroundings—to “defend our territory,”—is hardwired in. But that desire is consistently reinforced by other men; those we fear and those we love, both of whom encourage us to be bound by it or pay the cost.In primitive days, men had to be strong to contribute, let alone have any position of respect. The minute a leader showed weakness, he was banished or killed. No man wanted to go out on a dangerous hunt or to war with a man he considered weak, because that weakness could get everyone injured or killed.That fear and loathing for any display of “weakness” is still with us today. As boys and as men, we are constantly told to “man up” and “grow a pair.” And it’s not just other men who constantly remind us of the One Rule…
Women Reinforce The Rule Without Realizing ItWomen say they want a kind, caring, sensitive man—a man who can be vulnerable. However, when a man dares to open himself up—to show how truly scared he is—the woman may reject him for not being a “real man.”Again, evolution has hardwired women for security for themselves and their offspring and a weak man is a threat to their security. He may not be able to physically protect them as well as not being able to provide the resources needed for basic needs such as food and shelter.It often seems that where women are concerned, men can’t win. We have to be careful how much we share—just enough to appear “sensitive,” but not enough to appear weak. And as soon as a man feels rejected, he learns he can never truly reveal who he is, even to the woman he loves.So men are forced to put on an act—a constant strutting, preening show of strength—both to attract and keep a mate and to prevent other men from taking what is theirs.
Anger or AvoidanceBeing confined by “Don’t Be Weak” allows men two possible responses to shame over not being “man” enough: anger or emotional withdrawal. Pointing out actual or imagined weakness in a man triggers one of the two, which will often trigger the other if the man continues to feel disrespected.The greater the shame, the stronger the reaction. It is a terrible idea to push a man by demanding he respond when he clearly doesn’t want to or doesn’t know how to. This is a point where men most need to be shown care and respect and to know he is valued for the whole person that he is. If he continues to be shamed, he may blow up and/or walk out rather than “talk things out.”
Men Fix ThingsWhen presented with a problem, men prefer to solve the issue as quickly and easily as possible. They hate to dwell on things or hash over every tiny little detail, but to get to the heart of the matter and fix it. This minimizes the amount of time we may potentially appear weak while getting us back to appearing strong as quickly as possible. It may not always the best solution, but it is the one we are most comfortable with.When the female expresses confidence in his advice and ability to reach a solution, he feels powerful—respected and loved. He is in his element once again, a strong man fixing things. Any “weakness” he may have displayed (even if it was only in his own mind) is replaced by feelings of self-worth.Unfortunately, men and women have different ways dealing with shame. This may cause gender miscommunication, such as in this familiar exchange:Woman: "I just need you to listen to me!"Man: "But how will that fix anything?"But what these two are really saying is:Woman: "I need to know you love and support me through anything."Man: "I love you and hate seeing you hurt. It makes me feel weak to do nothing, I want to make the hurting stop."Cross-gender writing doesn’t have to be hard—if you do your research. It also helps to get Beta readers and/or an editor of the opposite sex.Now that you understand how men process shame and deal with problems, you have the framework not only to write convincing male characters, but to better understand the men in your life.
Want more men’s secrets? Read How To Write Male Characters: Part 2, which walks you through the dangerous minefield of male bonding scenes.
Special Credit goes to Brene Brown, whose amazing, uplifting research into the mechanics of gender shame processing inspired this article. Her book, Daring Greatly: How The Courage To Be Vulnerable Transforms The Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, is a must-read for writers that will not only make you a better writer, but a better person.
Also helpful was the cross-gender writing chapter of Fiction First Aid by Raymond Obstfeld, one of my favorite revision and self-editing guides.
Further Reading On My Blog:
A good guide for modern masculinity only.
Not a fan of the language or how it addresses women, but you get the idea.
A few of these have been making the rounds on tumblr, but I haven’t seen one that says this yet:
- You don’t have to come out
- You don’t have to feel pressured to come out
- Being in the closet is not shameful
- It’s about protecting yourself
- If coming out will make you exposed to…
You have no idea how long I’ve waited for someone to STATE THE DAMN OBVIOUS
i’m so old
it was actually 14 years ago, you are not with math
you’re not with math either
Reblog for the last one
it’s a game show where everyone eats the furniture in a room and tries to see which is made of chocolate
So basically you’re telling me this is the best fucking game ever created
hahah :D He smiles like: Uhhh even better than cock :D
I will work on monday and if I like the job, I can have it :) It’s not that well paid, but good for college anyway :)
|This is a tumblr hug. Pass this to at least 10 of your favorite tumblr followers to show how much you love them as best buddies. Make sure you don’t break the chain. Happy tumblr hugs ~! (◕‿◕✿) (◕‿◕✿) (◕‿◕✿)|
*sending it back*
im all about having more body posi media but not when the message is “boys like curvy girls” because who fucking cares what boys like
Chris on OITNB! :~)
can u retweet me here please? ;-; Thank you so much!