I am asked a wide range of different questions about the way that I write, but the question that comes up most often is ‘How do you write male characters?’
It’s a great question, but it’s always a little irritating. I mean, I’ve never been a duchess either, but no one asks me how I manage to write those types of characters!
Basically what it all comes down to is three things, so if you want to write male characters, pull up a chair, and see whether these three tips can help you:
1. It’s all about motivation.
Just like any other character, it’s important to know the motivation of your character. It’s through their motivations, fears, greed, and hopes that you can start to weave your character’s words and deeds. Sometimes this is as simple as the opening plot: man is disinherited and seeks to reclaim his place in the world.
Sometimes you want to make it a little more difficult for your readers to work out: man is grumpy and particularly dismissive of women. Was he abandoned by his mother? Spurned by a lover? Betrayed by a sister? It’s the plot narrative that will reveal that to the other characters in the book, as well as your readers.
Before you start to write a male character, sit down and work out their motivation – and this can change throughout the book. Perhaps he starts the book as a private detective, just determined to make ends meet; then meets a woman in criminal distress and his motivations change to help her; then she betrays him and his motivations change to hunting her down and punishing her; then it’s revealed that she never betrayed him it was a misunderstanding, and his motivations end in marrying her and keeping her safe.
2. You need to be observant.
Masculinity is learned.
What do I mean by this? I mean that the way that men sit, stand, and scratch are behaviours that are learned from other men, and that means if you’re observant enough, you can start to learn too.
Now obviously if you are writing a historical romance, like I do, you will need to do a little research about the specific habits of the time. For example, did men in your historical period smoke or chew tobacco? If it’s smoke, was it in a hookah, cigarette, cigar? How did they hold them, cut them, throw them away?
It’s these little descriptions of habits that will make your male characters feel like real living people. I often receive emails from readers telling me that a particular habit of one of my characters has reminded them of one of their loved ones, and of course we’ve never met! But I have observed that exact same behaviour in the men around me.
3. Edit, edit, edit.
No writing is perfect immediately. It’s a great shame really, but there it is! I myself have 60,000 words to edit this afternoon (or at least make a start on), and I write a pretty clean first draft.
After you’ve finished your manuscript, leave it for a few weeks and come back to it. Print it off, and read it as though it’s the latest book you’ve bought. Do the characters ring true? Do they feel a bit awkward? Is there a section that doesn’t fit anymore, or do you need to add an explanatory scene earlier on?
It’s these edits that will fine tune your male characters, and give them the breath of life that only a great author can give. Although it may be painful and time consuming, it’s worth it for your readers.
I hope these tips have helped you! Do you have any other tips for writing male characters? Let me know in the comments below!