In the past couple of weeks I’ve written two guest posts from the point of view of male characters from The Seventh and also finished the first draft of my latest book, Sing In Me – which features a point of view switching between the young male and female characters.
But I’m not convinced I think like a bloke.
Firstly, I had to accept that when sixteen year old Gabe was looking at my main female character from behind, he would be less likely to notice her beautiful long, dark hair, than he would be to notice her cute butt in faded jeans. He might not even see the hair at all – the butt might be the main point of interest for him. It was quite difficult to bring myself to write that into his story. I compromised with Gabe, in the end: he noticed both her pretty hair and her cute butt. But I suspect if I’d let him have his boyish way in this Gabe POV piece, he would have been zoning in south over north.
My other sixteen year old boy character, Drew, made it a little easier for me. He’s a bit of a literary soul, and he’s a thinker. He had also had a bad weekend and was struggling with trying to manage a psychic ability he didn’t want or understand. I felt like I could get away with a big emotive reaction in the Drew POV piece I wrote. But I did allow him to fantasise about kissing the girl.
Then yesterday I had to field the constructive comment from a beta reader of my new novel that “Will is a bit girly, isn’t he?” My response was to howl defensively that “Will is a poet! A poet! Of course he’s not going to sound like your average Joe!”
Actually I believe this poetic guy, Will, would speak differently from non-poets. We also need to remember that these words are coming from inside his head. He’s not expecting me to put his thoughts into a book and send them out for all the world to see. So he feels safe to explore his emotions and vulnerabilities. But I guess the question is, how much would a guy – even a poetic guy – explore his emotions and vulnerabilities, generally speaking?
I like to think the answer is: as much as any girl would. But I’m not sure I’m being realistic. I once asked a close male friend how he managed to not cry when watching terribly sad scenes in movies or documentaries. He shrugged and said, “I just think about something else.”
That in itself struck me as deeply depressing. To have to rip your thoughts off something you’re interested in and think about … I don’t know, the new shovel you bought the day before, or how to get a really nice surface on a DIY coffee table project … that must be both annoying and inconvenient. To have to derail a normal emotive thought process to prevent a normal bodily function (tears) in response to seeing something sad – just because you’re a guy and guys aren’t supposed to cry – seems like a poor way to live.
It also makes me a tad impatient. For God’s sake, I remember thinking, this isn’t the freakin’ 1950s. Men should be able to shed a tear without being thought of as wimpy or girly.
These thoughts lead me to a question. My character, Will, sheds tears. Several times. He experiences deep and powerful emotions, insecurities and vulnerabilities. He says no to sex for emotional reasons. My question is, does this make him an unbelievable male character? A slightly girly (ahem, poetic male character), I can take. But I need him to be believable.
I leave you with a little piece of Will’s internal dialogue. Send me your opinion on whether or not he’s believable, if you get a chance!
Let me get something straight. When I was with this girl, my desire was always there. Pilot light style. Always present, hovering, ready to fire into action. Well, it fired. And to keep this hackneyed analogy going, it blazed into something that felt like it was quickly going to get out of control. A surge of emotion-fuelled lust that had me gripping her by the arms, my hand in her gloriously soft hair, pulling … or maybe pushing her face even closer into me, into the oxygen-depleting kiss. It made me panic. I pushed her roughly away and hissed at her to stop.
Laura was uncertain; but holy hell – uncertain Laura was captivating. Red lips parted; teeth catching doubtfully on the bottom lip; chest heaving; eyes questioning and curious. Dear god, it took every bit of my strength not to pull her back to me again. I stood watching her, suddenly aware of how I must look to her: in a stupidly nonplussed pose, with a hand out in front of me as if to stop her advance, and the other one finishing its anxious journey through my hair and coming to rest on the back of my neck.
(from Sing In Me, unpublished work)