There are various things we are good at and things we struggle with as writers: some are great at first drafts while others consider themselves revision queens. Some writers are great with metaphors and flowery descriptions while others are better with shorter sentences and a fast pace. One of the things that I’m not so great at? Writing male characters. My critique partners have told me that sometimes my male characters come off a little…girlie. It’s something I really struggle with. I know when I’m finished writing that I will have to revise and revise all the dialogue where I have guys speaking to make sure they sound authentic because I don’t want my readers to finish reading my books and say , “oh my God, that did not sound like a guy at all!” Kind of like how when I put down a, (well, let’s not name this male writer here. Let’s just call him Bob) book by Bob and he just had his female characters all giggling and in the middle of a squealy pillow fight, and I’m pulling an eye muscle from rolling my eyes so hard at the lameness of his depiction of females (no, we don’t all sit around having pillow fights). I don’t want that to happen. So I look to books from authors I admire, like Sarah Dessen, to see how she handles male characters.
And one of my all-time favorite male characters? Owen from Just Listen.
First of all, Owen is completely swoon-worthy and I think he could totally go head-to-head with Twilight’s Edward for best male in a YA. Sure he’s not sparkly but he’s endearing because he’s the sweet, outcast, loner guy obsessed with music and not the typical Mr. Gorgeous all the girls are dying to date. I just loved how he was with Annabelle and rooted for them to get together throughout the entire book.
So let’s look at how Sarah writes him so you can see what kind of things I look at and learn from.
“You just asked me what I thought,” he pointed out, helping himself to a pretzel from the bag between us. “Why ask me, if you don’t want me to be honest?”
I love the straight forwardness you get from guys. Ask a girl something and they will tell you what won’t hurt your feelings too much. Unless they don’t like you. Then they’ll be mean.
“What kind of a person goes to a club—to see a shitty band, no less—the night before he’s due in court? It’s—”
“I’m serious! Do you know how much they suck? Seriously, even for a cover band they’re pathetic. I mean, if you’re going to just come out and admit you can’t write your own songs, at least be able to play other people’s well…”
“Owen,” I said.
“Clearly,” I said sternly, “that is not the end of the story.”
I just looked at him.
“Right,” he said. He ran a hand through his hair again. “So anyway, he was there, I got a look at him, end of story.”
The avoidance thing. I love how Owen doesn’t want to tell Annabelle what happened and is trying to dodge her questioning. And then when he’s cornered, he gives her a totally brief no big deal rendition of what happened. Total guy.
“Something happened.” He sighed, shaking his head. His face was flushed, and he was still fidgeting. “Something stupid. I made a mistake, and—”
Then, and only then, did I put it altogether. His absence. This shuffling embarrassment. And Will Cash’s black eye. Oh my God, I thought.
I looooove how great Sarah described Owen’s embarrassment. It’s so distinctly GUY.
These are just a few examples of what I look for to guide me when I’m writing males. Thankfully there are great authors like Sarah, who write cool guys who SOUND like real guys, for authors who are male-writing challenged, like me, to learn from.
Happy Birthday Sarah and Happy Birthday The Sarah Dessen Diarist!
Kristina Springer has authored The Espressologist, her debut novel which is hitting the shelves October 27. She also has a website for your to check out.
Tomorrow – Jenny from the UK and Wondrous Reads.