Monday, May 21, 2012

Say it Like a Man!

If you’re a female writer, have you ever mistakenly made your male characters speak like women?  I have!  As women, we emote; our language tends to be a bit more flowery, as well as effusive! 

My husband says, “Verbosity is unbecoming in a man.”  So now, whenever I write a scene involving a man, or men, doing  most of the talking, I read it to hubby, and he tells me if my men sound manly enough!

Not long ago, I attended a fantastic  workshop at my OVRWA monthly meeting, presented by writers Lani Diane Rich and Alastair Stephens of, entitled Writing Men, for Women.

The workshop provided instruction to women, on how to write their male characters more effectively.

My favorite part of the workshop encompassed dialogue.  A few tips I learned are listed below:

Men use absolutes, rather than relative language. For example, “She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” is more realistic for male dialogue, instead of “She has to be one of the most beautiful women I‘ve ever seen.”

Men will not use long sentences. I once wrote a scene where an older man talked to his long lost son, and it went something like this: “I’m just glad you’ve accepted me. For a long time, I was afraid you wouldn’t.  So now our relationship, and where it goes, is up to you.”  My husband suggested replacing all those  rambling sentences with only one: “So...where do we go from here?”

Men use simpler vocabulary with fewer modifiers.  So rather than the hardened criminal saying, “I feel as if I could easily remove that ugly face of yours,” he’d probably exclaim, “I ought to rip your face off!”

Dialogue is action and action is dialogue for men.  In general, readers don’t trust male characters who talk a lot.  We wonder what a talker is hiding.  Heroes take action rather than talk.  Instead of discussing a way to save the heroine, the hero plans and executes it.

Hope you find this advice helpful!

Do you sometimes express your men in a womanly way?

Thanks for visiting!


Old Kitty said...

I do like the simplicity of "Where do we go from here?"!! Yay! Take care

William Kendall said...

Very handy tips!

I write men and women in my solo and collaborative works, and I do try to watch how I'm writing each gender, so that their dialogue feels right for them.

Jennette Marie Powell said...

I think one reason my heroes swear so much is because most of the guys I know in real life do. I guess I'm doing something right, since my friend Jim Winter reads my books and gives me a thumbsup on my guy-speak and -think. Bummer I had to miss the workshop, though!

Becke Davis said...

Great job condensing the high points of the workshop, Maria!

Intangible Hearts said...

Oh my goodness, I'm sure I do this and thanks for pointing it out. Wonderful post!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Old Kitty: Yes, simplicity=male dialogue:)!

@William: You know to be conscious of it, which is great! As a man writing woman's dialogue, I imagine it's easier sine women spell everything out. Seems like men spewak in code!

@Jennette: You are doing the dialogue right! All your men in Time's Enemy sounded like guys!

@Becke: Thanks, Becke!

@Eve: Thanks, Eve! It's very easy to do unless a man points out, "A guy would never say that!" Which is what my husband does:).

Carol Riggs said...

Good reminders and advice! I've had my hubby tell me words and phrases a guy just would NOT say for my male characters. :) It's funny how different men and women are in that respect. Fewer adjectives or modifiers, huh? Interesting...

Maria McKenzie said...

Husbands come in very handy in the dialogue department! In regards to communicating, men really are from Mars and women from Venus;).

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I agree that "men will not use long sentences" because, while that may be true for certain men, I doubt it would be true for all men, which I think I can say with some degree of certainty because, while I cannot and do not represent all men, I think that, at the very least, I represent one, probably, which would be me, which is sufficient to disprove the initial statement, because if I, being a man, use long sentences, then it cannot be true that all men do not use long sentences but rather that some or most or perhaps almost all men will not use long sentences which means that you have to use your best judgment regarding the particular character you have created as to whether he would use long or short sentences, plus, you might also note my avoidance of absolutes, but that would be a whole other issue, which may mean a second sentence, and I'm pretty tired after just the one.

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Dcrblogs! Whew! You've said and mouthful, and you're absolutely right! Not all men use shorter sentences, as you've so clearly shown;)!