Owner, designer and main blogger behind Rabid Reads. I also offer virtual assistance to authors and web maintenance services. rabidreads.ca
Entire college courses and fields of psychology, plus a few libraries full of books, have been devoted to the differences between men and women—besides the obvious difference, of course.
One school of thought that has begun to wane in recent years is that male and female psychological differences are all products of environment—that little boys prefer toy guns and trucks and baseballs because that’s what their parents buy for them. More sophisticated gender studies have shown that while environment is influential, there are just flat-out basic differences in the way men and women process information and react to their environments.
Which brings us to authors, especially authors of romantic genres. How does that work?
Well, we can have a guy read our stuff to see if our male characters are reacting realistically, but…well…let’s be honest. I’m not sure we want them reacting too realistically because we already have that in our lives, right? We want our ideal guy, and it’s often the bad boy alpha exterior harboring inner wounds and a vulnerable heart.
Uh huh. Sounds realistic to me.
Anyway, what women authors need to do in creating that “perfect” male character is to make him believable, if not completely realistic. And that’s where a working knowledge of male-female psychological traits comes in handy. Think of it in terms of “Data In/Data Out.”
When women look at men, they tend to take a quick overall look then hone in on the eyes, the smile, the language—women interpret. Women respond to touch and to scent. Men are more visual. They look and process quickly, so the male character is going to assess a woman’s looks more quickly than a woman will assess a man’s—or at least in a different way.
Men are less patient. If your hero and heroine approach a supermarket checkout aisle and there are three people ahead of them, the heroine will pick up a magazine, and maybe bitch and fume, but she’ll stay in line. Unless it’s an urgent purchase, the hero will probably toss his stuff aside and leave.
Men go first, assess later. Assemble the bike, then read the instructions as a last resort. Drive forty miles out of the way rather than actually read a map, then insist it was an intentional scenic drive. (GPS might have closed this gap)
Men speak more bluntly. They don’t use euphemisms very often. They don’t qualify opinions by adding “maybe” or “sort of.”
Men want to solve problems, and do it their way. They’ll react more quickly than women, and in a more physical way. And, of course, without soliciting input.
They don’t elaborate. “That’s nice” or “you look hot” might be the response to a “what do you think about….” question from the heroine. You won’t hear words like “fabulous” or “fantastic” or “gorgeous.” Unless, of course, he’s being a smartass.
Conversations are about the exchange of information, not small talk.
They might be emotionally needy, but they aren’t going to say so—even if they realize it. And a lot of times they do realize it; it’s just harder for them to verbalize. The easiest emotion for men to express openly is anger, and their friendships tend to be built around common interests rather than emotional ties.
Now…. that gives us a good base as authors in writing male characters, although many women have some of those traits (I’m one of those build-it-first-ignore-the-instructions people), just as some men can talk about emotions. But it’s a good working base.
Authors still need that anti-stereotyping factor, however. For me, that comes in the form of backstory, and I’d imagine that holds true for most authors.
Every human being has a story, a past that makes us who we are. That goes for men as well as women. A man’s emotional flaws might come from trauma or abuse or high-stress experiences such as military duty. Physical flaws change people as well. In my Penton series (written as Susannah Sandlin), vampire Will Ludlam was abused and also an undiagnosed dyslexic. Turned vampire at a young age, he reacts to things very differently than Mirren Kincaid, a Scottish gallowglass warrior eaten up by guilt over the number of lives he’s taken.
In the Sentinels of New Orleans series, the male characters are similar in gender traits, but their backgrounds give them their unique spin.
For example, Sentinels character Alex Warin is a shifter—the first in generations in his otherwise human family. He was taken out of his home environment as a teenager and learned to control his “gift” in a paramilitary environment. As a result, he’s very regimented. He sees the world in black and white because that’s what he was taught. He distrusts the preternaturals because he’s been trained from a young age to kill them and see them as enemies. He respects authority and has trouble not responding to an order from a superior—that’s how he learned to function in his strange new world. He is possessive and tends to be a bully because he grew to adulthood surrounding by other alpha males.
At the same time, under all that gruff intolerance is a decent man. His significant something-or-other, DJ, is, by contrast, a woman who is comfortable with shades of gray. She’ll happily break the rules if that’s what she needs to do to get the job done. She won’t follow an order that runs against her values. She’s independent and capable, and doesn’t tolerate being “managed.”
DJ and Alex fight. A lot. Will they make it as a couple in the long run? That remains to be seen. Because men and women? They ARE different!
About the Book
From award-winning author Suzanne Johnson comes the fourth book in the smart and sexy Sentinels of New Orleans series.
Wizard sentinel DJ Jaco thought she had gotten used to the chaos of her life in post-Katrina New Orleans, but a new threat is looming, one that will test every relationship she holds dear.
Caught in the middle of a rising struggle between the major powers in the supernatural world—the Wizards, Elves, Vampires and the Fae—DJ finds her loyalties torn and her mettle tested in matters both professional and personal. Her relationship with enforcer Alex Warin is shaky, her non-husband Quince Randolph is growing more powerful, and her best friend Eugenie has a bombshell that could blow everything to Elfheim and back.
And that’s before the French pirate Jean Lafitte, newly revived from his latest “death,” returns to New Orleans with vengeance on his mind. DJ’s assignment? Keep the sexy leader of the historical undead out of trouble. Good luck with that.
Duty clashes with love, loyalty with deception, and friendship with responsibility as DJ navigates passion and politics in the murky waters of a New Orleans caught in the grips of a brutal winter that might have nothing to do with Mother Nature.
War could be brewing, and DJ will be forced to take a stand. But choosing sides won’t be that easy.
|Sentinels of New Orleans Series|
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What Makes A Male POV Believable?