Why you need to think like a man to write romance (well)

Thoughtful man
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I’m not suggesting you need to be a man.  You just need to think like a man.

Alright, bear with me.

(And if you’re a man reading this, don’t be offended, men can write romance too. I’m just operating on the assumption that most romance writers are women).

Memorable romance relies on a strong man

Think of some of the most memorable romance books you’ve read. It’s not just the leading lady you remember is it? The recall probably goes something like this, “Oh, Simon (or Matt, or Pete or so forth). Now there was a man I could fall for.”

Exactly. A man you could fall for is NOT going to talk, act or think like a woman. He’s going to be authentically male (with some fantasy elements thrown in of course, usually along the lines of him being good looking, accessible and heroic). Now before we descend into an argument over whether such a man exists, he is still, at his core, male. So…

Say it like you mean it and keep it simple

A great example of this was brought to mind for me recently when reading Nora Robert’s latest romantic suspense title, Whiskey Beach. There was a particular scene between the leading male and another male character, a friend, and it made me grin from ear to ear because it was just so spot on.

Why? They spoke ‘guy.’

No, I’m serious. They did. Their exchange was punctuated by short, sharp sentences (guys don’t usually waste time on lots of words), some light hearted poking fun, a bit of swearing and it was all completely straightforward and to the point. I felt like I was overhearing a conversation between my husband and his mates.

One of the reasons I love reading Nora is that she writes men well (she claims this is due to having lots of men in her life – she grew up with brothers and then had sons). I grew up around a reasonable amount of males too, which is why I genuinely love writing male characters into my books.

I’m female and I’m writing romance

This is not a bad thing. The good news is that you should hopefully have a pretty good idea of what women want when it comes to romance.

But what do you do if you feel like you don’t possess any innate male knowledge? The solution isn’t unpleasant, I promise you. It involves men 🙂

Here’s some quick, easy tips to bring out your inner male for the purposes of your writing:

  • Observe. A lot. If you’re a writer, you’re probably a people watcher, so watch every male you can. At the shops, on public transport, the interactions of your male partners and friends. Without it turning into a creepy, stalker sort of experience, that is.
  • Talk to the males in your life. Ask them for their opinion. I was writing a scene for my latest chick-lit book and without giving too much away, I needed my lead male to cope with some competition. I had a reasonable idea of what his response was going to be, but it was enlightening to discuss the situation with my husband and hear him put the scenario into perspective (in short, sharp, no nonsense sentences!) It put it into guy speak for me.
  • Read. Copiously. If you’re trying to create a memorable lead male, look at what other successful authors have done. I’ll mention him here (yet again): Simon, the slightly cranky, dark and handsome lead from Nora Robert’s 2010, The Search, sticks in my mind. He’s not good with women who cry (know any guys like that?) but he’s still caring and fiercely protective. Or in another genre completely, Daniel, from Julia Quinn’s On a Night Like This. Daniel is funny. Guy funny. And he starts the novel by doing one of those predictably stupid guy things that lands him in hot water, but inexplicably makes us like him at the same time. All part of that elusive male charm I guess…

Think about your relationship from the guy’s perspective too

The last point worth making is that it’s important to put a serious amount of thought into the dynamic between your leading lady and your guy. They are going to have something special, so you need to figure out what that is going to be (beyond a superficial attraction, of course).

Usually the male in the equation will bring something to the leading lady that she may not have even realised she was missing (or may not even be entirely convinced she requires), but it will make a lasting impact on her, and on him, too.

It’s also got to be something that is unique to your guy, too, because, let’s face it – if your leading lady’s friends could already satisfy that need in her, then well, it wouldn’t be a traditional romance novel then would it?!

It’s raining men!

Alright. This really is my last point: writing men should be fun! It doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging at times, but try and embrace the opportunity to view the world from a different perspective and you might be surprised where it takes you!

Do you find it easy or difficult to write the male characters in your stories? What helps you to embrace a male outlook?

3 Replies to “Why you need to think like a man to write romance (well)”

  1. On the opposite tack, many of my lead characters are women. And I think I have a problem where my women sound too much like men. Defining or describing any sex in voice is pretty tricky, well it is for me.

    There are so many men who are unlike me, and the reverse for men. I find basing my lead women on a know person works. I can find many things about who and what they are from searching about them and trying to meet them.

    The trick is don’t use to much of their real life in your character, or you could wind up in trouble.

    1. Hi Rob,

      Thanks for reading. You make a good point – there’s no such thing as a typical male or female and I think it makes sense to learn from the people you know and incorporate that into your writing (although not too closely as you say!) I think so long as we recognise or are conscious of the differences between men and women before we sit down to write, it will hopefully help to create more authentic characters.

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