My exposure to the Hallmark channel has always been brief and unpleasant, like getting a finger pricked for a blood smear. And no, it isn’t just the acting, although that alone is cringe-worthy.
It’s the male dialogue.
One scene in particular stands out in my mind. It’s from a prairie romance called Love Comes Softly. (I can’t remember the names of the characters—sorry.) Here’s the scene: pregnant girl who’s lost her husband is staying with prairie widower and his daughter. Gal is in labor, Guy comes in to assist. Gal freaks out and frantically tells Guy she doesn’t want him in there.
Guy: “Gal…Birth is a natural process.”
*choke, snort, cough* Sorry, Guy, but you lost me there. What man in his right mind would try to calm a freaked-out woman by telling her that birth is a natural process? (Especially in an era where childbirth was NOT seen as a disease.)
Here is my rendition of what Guy would have said if he were an actual, real-life man.
Guy: “Look, Gal, this ain’t my first rodeo. I’ve delivered calves and foals and even my own daughter. This is your first, and if I’m not mistook, you’ll be wanting help here in a while. I’ll be on the porch; I’ll check in on you when you start hollering.”
Ah, now that’s so much more man-like! Practical, unwilling to intrude too much into her womanly role, and maybe a little annoyed that she doesn’t think him capable of catching a baby.
So here’s a little advice to the Hallmark channel’s script writers: don’t think like a woman when you write male dialogue—think like a man.
From a young age, most of my favorite books (with the exception of the Nancy Drew series) featured male main characters. Treasure Island, Run For Your Life, and The Horse and His Boy were titles more likely to pique my interest than the Honey Bunch series. I suppose I fell in love with the idea of adventurous chivalry, which is more suited for a male character than a female. Fast forward a few years to when I began writing. How was I supposed to portray the point of view of a guy? Was I doing it right? Did it sound silly?
I can’t say I got it all right at the beginning. I remember one particular instance where my beta-readers/editors told me a letter from Jausten (a chivalrous knight dude from my novel Royalty in Disguise) sounded like it had been written by a girl. In the end I scrapped the idea of the letter and moved on.
For my next novel, Dorian the Daring, I took on almost the entire plot from a male point of view. It was a learning experience, and I had to re-write several parts as I dug deeper into the mindset of the opposite gender, but in the end I emerged with the approval of several male beta-readers, and with a few words of advice for those seeking to write from the viewpoint of the opposite gender.
- Study them. Whether you are studying guys or girls, there are plenty of “test subjects.” Talk to them and get their opinions on a broad range of ideas.
- Do your research. Read books written by guys about guys, or by girls about girls, whichever the case may be. Pay attention to stereotypes—they may not be completely accurate but they can give you a feel for the typical outlook of a gender.
- Dig deep. You have to do this with any character you portray, but especially so when learning to write from the viewpoint of the opposite gender. Put yourself in the character’s position and “search your feelings.”
So there you have it: three tips on how to write from the opposite gender’s POV.