Apr 08 2007

Writing Authentic Male Characters

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

This article will help female authors avoid some common pitfalls of writing male characters, perspectives and narrators.

Common Problems

The most obvious problem is relying on unrealistic stereotypes. Readers of both sexes loathe muscle-bound cavemen and sobby, helpless women. Don’t insult your readers’ intelligence.

Less obviously, many female authors shun stereotypes that are realistic. I’ll say much more about some realistic stereotypes later, but men do talk less about their feelings than women, particularly with other men.

Third, the author might not appreciate the differences between male and female perceptions. This is really crucial. Women writing male characters tend to linger on descriptions of scenery and what the character sees or feels. Generally speaking, male readers feel that it’s creepy when men describe something at length. Let me demonstrate.

One female classmate wrote a scene with a male narrator and his male roommate. The first characteristic the narrator mentioned about his roommate was his eye-color. That feels creepy because it suggests a level of closeness uncomfortable to most US guys. Later, the narrator focused on other weird details, like how buff the roommate was. It sounded like he ogling his roommate. The roommate says “stop staring at me” and the narrator asks “can I help it if I have such a sexy rommate?” The author meant that to sound sarcastic. But male readers assumed that the narrator really was gay. Try to keep your readers on your page.

Men are also more likely to offer details that are directly plot-relevant. For example, a male author wrote a story where a male narrator describes the passengers on the bus at some length. The narrator mentions some unusual details, like their ethnicities and the quality of their clothing. Virtually every male reader at the workshop readily concluded that the guy sounded creepy and sinister. The narrator turned out to be a terrorist. The guys weren’t surprised, but many female readers thought that it came out of nowhere because they thought that details like “I was sitting next to a suited white and a Hispanic in a coat” were just scenery.

Real males and females generally have different styles of tone, language, nonverbal communication and preferred subjects of conversation. Especially at younger ages, males and female sound very different. I’m reluctant to use myself as a baseline male, but I know that I talk a lot of smack– that is, when I’m playing something like bowling or fantasy football, I let my friends know how guilty I feel about their certain destruction.

In terms of subjects of conversation, I think that men are generally less likely to talk about people outside the conversation than most women. Men are also less likely to talk about their social status (how others view them). Men react to social status, of course, but I feel it’s something that they generally talk about less. They may be quietly resentful that someone less qualified got the corner office, for example.

This next one is a cheap stereotype, but I think it has enough validity to mention: sports! Many, many men are diehard fans of at least one team, usually from their college or hometown. I think that watching sports serves three main purposes for men: 1) it’s a nice way to socialize with other guys and 2) I love competing with my friends through March Madness pools and fantasy sports, even though I’m thoroughly unathletic, and 3) many men live vicariously through their teams, particularly college teams. Men really care that their school wins– a national championship says something! (What, exactly, is less clear). In fact, it’s hard for me to get through a job interview without a male consoling me about the plights of Notre Dame’s football program. (Don’t worry, Irish faithful! We’ll have a winning season next year).

I think that women generally appreciate that sports are important to men, but I think that women authors sometimes have problems with sports scenes because some women are unable to hide their contempt of the ritual. I think most men (and at least one woman!) are similarly contemptuous of Grey’s Anatomy and other luridly sexed-up dramas. If you treat either football or Grey’s Anatomy as an inherently frivolous activity that has no bearing on anything that matters, you may be missing the point. Of course they’re frivolous. But they are serious as far as men/women take them seriously and use them as socialization tools.

I’d also like to mention a quick psychological difference between men and women. Men more often think of things in absolute, rigid terms like weight and other measurements. Directions from men tend to sound like “turn left on Oak Street after driving a mile down Winchester.” Women are more likely to use landmarks, like “turn left at the orange house”.

Now I’d like to talk about stereotypes in general. Stereotypes are a major part of believability. For example, any Marine could be a pacifist, but everyone knows that Marines generally aren’t. Likewise, you can break any gender stereotype, but it gets harder with each character. If all of your guys act like women, that will probably bother readers.

Because everyone knows at least some males, we all have expectations (stereotypes) about what a male character should be like. So I would encourage any woman writing a novel or story about a male character to be bold. Don’t be afraid to show men acting or thinking differently than females… we’re not just women with short hair! The worst case scenario is that your guys are too stereotypically male, which is easy to fix. Beta reviewers can point that out for you. It’s much harder for a beta reviewer to circle a passage and say “this is too timid– I think this guy should be more masculine here.” So I urge you to paint in bold strokes , rather than worrying about offending men or looking unknowledgable.

ADDENDUM: Male Dialogue: Functional Conversation

I mentioned above that it would be unusual for a guy to describe another man in terms of his eye-color because that suggests intimacy. Generally, guys avoid physical descriptions unless they are directly relevant to the conversation. “Dunking on John is hard because he’s so damn tall.” Usually, men describe other guys in terms of what they do, even if what they do isn’t directly relevant to the conversation. I overheard this on campus.

Female: Is John a nice guy?

Male: I think so. He’s in my physics class.

Is John being in the guy’s physics class really relevant to whether John is nice? Probably not (although the guy might have seen John doing something polite in class, like holding the door for someone). I think that it’s better to interpret the physics detail as a functional definition of John: “I know John as my physics classmate.” The subtext is that he doesn’t feel very confident about his ability to assess whether John is nice. (NOTE: Perhaps even more so than women, men are dreadfully hesitant to use the phrase “I don’t know”).

My impression is that women are somewhat more likely than men to define people in terms of relationships, even if the relationship isn’t entirely relevant to the thrust of the conversation. For example, both of my parents hate Tom Brady. This is how they explained themselves.

Dad: Tom Brady learned real bad sportsmanship from Michigan. No real athlete would run up the score so much.

Mom: He’s treated his loved ones awfully. The mother of his children doesn’t want anything to do with him!

The functional-relational distinction gets blurry here. It would be far too simple to say that “women only think about relationships and men only care about impersonal considerations.” For example, Dad implicitly draws on his own relationship with Michigan and Mom’s objection relates to what Brady has done, been an ass to his family. But I think the distinction is somewhat useful because Mom focuses on actions in the context of Brady’s relationships and Dad focuses on his Michigan relationship in the context of an impersonal goal, like sportsmanship and chivalry.

Good luck! If you found this article helpful, you’d probably enjoy our other articles on writing. our other articles on writing here. If you would like beta-reviewing assistance, please drop us a line at SuperheroNation-at-gmail.com . Our waiting list is generally around a week.

135 responses so far

135 Responses to “Writing Authentic Male Characters”

  1. [...] the title of one of my most popular articles from “Helping Girls Write Guys” to “Writing Male Characters” (I explained my reasoning here).   I think that it’ll take 20 or so more days until I [...]

  2. lilacfieldson 01 Oct 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks for this article, I find it really hard to write guys!

    PS: I despise Grey’s Anatomy!

  3. B. Macon 01 Oct 2008 at 11:14 pm

    Grey’s Anatomy is despicable. Not even James Bond movies bend over backwards so shamelessly to shove sex into stories. And to be fair to James Bond, the romance in Casino Royale was a well-executed part of an extremely canny plot.

  4. Anonymouson 02 Oct 2008 at 12:06 am

    I watched the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy and swore never to sit down and endure such torture again. I’d rather be eaten alive by leeches.

  5. Meganon 14 Oct 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I’ve written girls all my life (except for one story when I was 7). I have to write guy in the book I’m writing now because the main character is currently busy dying. This and the super hero advice really helped. Thanks and God bless!

  6. Dallason 14 Dec 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I love Grey’s Anatomy.

  7. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Dec 2008 at 4:41 pm

    I don’t exactly see the appeal of the show, but to each their own. I’m more of a sci fi and cartoon viewer.

  8. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 14 Dec 2008 at 4:42 pm

    But I’m not a Trekkie. I’m a Whovian, as you can tell from my current pseudonym. Haha.

  9. Holliequon 14 Dec 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Doctor Who is the best. That and Firefly/Serenity.

    That said, I’m not much for sci-fi outside of that, at least in film or TV. Oddly, neither do I watch much fantasy. But those two genres are probably my favourites to read.

  10. Ragged Boyon 14 Dec 2008 at 5:49 pm

    I’ve never seen Doctor Who, but it sounds interesting.

    I love cartoons and sci-fi stuff, but not Star Wars, or worse, Star Trek.

  11. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 17 Dec 2008 at 1:50 am

    I like outfits that say “I care about my appearance” while also seeming casual. My favourite so far is Joshua’s outfit in The World Ends With You:

    http://sdb.drshnaps.com/sheets/Misc/Square/Other/IAWW/MugshotsJoshua-ItsAWonderfulWorld.gif

    His shirt makes me think he doesn’t like looking sloppy and his pants tone down the formal vibe. His hair looks like he got it cut to different lengths and then let it grow out a bit, but he leaves some parts unbrushed. I also like hair of about that length for male characters. Joshua’s clothes are also fairly simple compared to the other outfits in the game, which have heaps of zippers and buttons.

  12. B. Macon 17 Dec 2008 at 2:31 am

    Interesting. I think his shirt is a bit too long to wear untucked and I am not fond of his hair at all, but OK. I love the simplicity. Excessively ornate costumes are distracting and, umm, expensive for me and laborious for my artists. (If your artist costs $10-20 per hour, do you want him to spend that time putting in the scales on Captain America’s costume or moving on to the next character?)

    Also, to any comic book artists out there: I’d recommend sticking to accessories that either have a specific in-plot purpose (like Batman’s utility belt) or that will elicit a specific reaction from readers).

  13. HiFunctioningNerdon 04 Jan 2009 at 11:36 am

    I watch Stargate and Firefly, and the occasional superhero movie (Dr. Horrible is my fave.) Thanks for the advice. Apparently, I’ve been doing pretty well!

  14. Ragged Boyon 04 Jan 2009 at 12:13 pm

    I love extravagant outfits, but for my comic’s sake I’ll tone down the level of craziness.

  15. B. Macon 04 Jan 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I’m a big fan of Dr. Horrible.

  16. Davidon 04 Jan 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Since we’re talking about clothes, I have a question. When writing a question or doing a comic, should heroes change clothes or stick to one outfit unless necessary to the plot (like a disguise or something)?

  17. B. Macon 04 Jan 2009 at 6:44 pm

    In a comic, changing outfits based on the situation is OK but I’d recommend being a little bit careful with extra versions of a superhero’s costume. Extra versions take a lot of work and sometimes they come off as goofy or otherwise unattractive. For example, Superman’s Kryptonite containment suit looks pretty bad. A few of the more exotic versions of the batsuit also look unappealing.



    When else might it be a good idea to change a character’s clothes in a comic?

    —To show that time has passed. If your plot progresses two weeks, the character shouldn’t be wearing the same shirt and pants unless he’s a horrible slob. (This is less of a problem if he’s in his costume; readers will just figure that he’s wearing a different copy of the same suit).

    —To create a different impression of the character. For example, you could show that a character’s personality has changed by giving him new clothes. A character that has matured might wear clothes that are darker and more conservative, ie. Really sloppy clothes and hair could establish that a character is frantic in a particular scene.

    —To create a different mood. If you wanted to create a mood full of romantic tension, you’d probably have the two lovers wear clothes that are more stylish and sensual and probably skimpier than normal. A really cheerful scene might have bright and casual clothes. Etc.

    —To fit a different situation. If the characters are in a 5 star hotel, they should probably be wearing suits rather than t-shirts. This will help establish an ambiance (“this is a nice restaurant!”). If your characters are wearing t-shirts in a classy restaurant, it will look really weird and someone in the story should mention that. Likewise, you’d wear a different set of clothes to a basketball game or a first date or a business presentation or a Super Bowl party.

    –Alternately, you can show that a character has clothes that are grossly inappropriate to the situation. For example, we might have Agent Orange address Congress in a trenchcoat to emphasize how casual he is. However, if you intend the character’s clothes to clash with the setting, try to have other characters mention it. For example, the Congressmen would probably feel that Orange was disrespecting them. His boss would feel upset that he made the agency seem unprofessional, etc.

    In a novel…
    In novels, I wouldn’t recommend spending very much time talking about the costumes unless it’s directly relevant to understanding what is going on. For example, it’d be helpful for readers to know whether the character is in disguise, whether he’s in his Clark Kent getup or his Superman costume and whether he’s using a modified version of his suit, etc. I’d recommend being careful with modified versions of the suit in novels, though. It’s hard for readers to keep track of the superhero’s powers and capabilities when they change based on the situation.

  18. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 04 Jan 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I get annoyed sometimes when characters wear the same thing over and over again. In things like the Simpsons, it shows that they have a wardrobe full of the same shirt, but that isn’t realistic at all. I have a bunch of different things in my wardrobe.

    Arthur Dent can get away with it, because the world was destroyed when he was in his pyjamas and he was stuck in them.

    Characters should have different outfits over time unless there is a genuine reason, such as the story taking place in a school with uniforms. (But only if the school is the ONE and ONLY setting. Characters should have different outfits on weekends or after hours). Another explanation could be that other clothes are inaccessible, as is the case with Arthur Dent.

  19. Davidon 04 Jan 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I can see what you mean. A lot of TV shows just use the same clothes over and over. For example, Teen Titans shows pretty much all the Titans sleeping in their clothes (although Raven at least takes off her cloak). In certain shows, like the Simpsons, they sometimes wear different outfits at fancy parties or church. In Naruto, they change outfits once in a while. People say it saves time to draw the same clothes again and again, and people like consistent characters, I guess. Am I right in this assessment?

  20. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 04 Jan 2009 at 7:48 pm

    If I were ever to do character designs for a cartoon, I would change the characters’ clothes every episode, or maybe a few times an episode to show that time had passed. It would be easier if I made up a wardrobe for them and then combined a few of the same pieces for different looks. For example, a male character might wear a green jacket very often, but his pants, shirt and shoes would change.

    I’m a fan of Kim Possible and Danny Phantom, but it annoys me when the characters only have one set of clothes for each purpose. For example, I’ve seen ten episodes so far, but I’ve only seen Danny in about five different outfits: his street clothes, a tux, his pyjamas, a tracksuit and his superhero costume. I’ve seen his friends Tucker and Sam in even less, they only change twice: Tucker from civilian into a tux and Sam from civilian into a dress.

    http://www.foroswebgratis.com/imagenes_foros/3/1/9/7/0/465085DANNY%20FENTON%20(93).jpg (Civilian)

    http://data.nickelodeon.nl/misc/dynimg/media/dannyphantom012.jpg (Superhero)

  21. Davidon 04 Jan 2009 at 7:52 pm

    I like Danny Phantom. It was a gd. [Editor: ??] I like how his outfit appears and disappears. I used the same principle with Silence and her clothes.

  22. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 04 Jan 2009 at 7:52 pm

    A red white and blue colour scheme would also work for an Aussie or British hero, because those are the three colours on those flags. I think green and gold would be better for an Aussie, though, because those are our sporting colours.

  23. B. Macon 04 Jan 2009 at 8:35 pm

    That’s true, but I don’t think that it would resonate as much with Aussie or British readers. Compared to the residents of most industrialized democracies, I think Americans tend to be uniquely fond of flags and other visible signs of patriotic sentiment.

    Anecdotally, according to one of my professors a US Marine visiting British Aerospace once had to politely point out that they were flying the UK flag upside down.

  24. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 04 Jan 2009 at 11:34 pm

    It’s quite an easy mistake to make if the person who puts the flag up is unobservant. It’s a simple matter of looking at the red X. The left part of the X should be in the bottom part of the white X, and the right should be in the top. I’d dare say that a few British people have made that mistake too.

  25. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 04 Jan 2009 at 11:35 pm

    http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/tom/skuki/images/Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.png

  26. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 4:52 am

    There is a difference between the way Americans and the British think. That’s why a lot of British like my story the way it was the first time and why only a few Americans did.

  27. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 7:37 am

    “That’s why a lot of British people like my story the way it was the first time and why only a few Americans did.” David, I think that’s a really interesting hypothesis but I’m a bit skeptical. I agree there are a few important differences between US readers and British readers (particularly humor and style), but I’m not sure how much being British would have affected my observations about the piece (particularly the mechanics and plotline).

    I suppose you could test your theory by sending a novel manuscript to a few UK publishers, but I don’t think they will bite yet. As for the comic book industry, I’m not sure what’s going on in the UK but I’ve heard that the English-language comic book industry is dominated by US companies. (If you’re already professionally fluent in Japanese, there are a few really strong anime/manga publishers in Japan).

  28. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 9:10 am

    Honestly, I wanna publish in both Britain and America so I’ll improve the story so I can get published in America.

    With humor, America is more visual and Britain is more into slapstick humor (people getting hit or hurt in funny ways). If you want to see real British humor, go to Youtube and look up the Young Ones, Bottom and British comedians.

  29. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 9:58 am

    I’m very fond of Black Adder, Monty Python and the British version of The Office, but my writing is probably much more American.

    As far as the very best American comedy… right now, it’s got to be the first season of The Chapelle Show and The Onion. As far as superhero comedy goes, I enjoyed Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog greatly. The Justice League cartoons had some great one-liners and I also enjoyed The New Adventures of Lois and Clark.

  30. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 10:30 am

    thats cool hey where can i get one of your comics to have a look at?

  31. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 10:52 am

    Well, we have a really primitive webcomic here, but we didn’t have an artist or a letterer. It’s just a practice run for our eventual comic book. I wouldn’t really recommend it as a model. However, we’ll fix those problems to prepare it for publication.

    —The backgrounds are pretty awful in the webcomic. For the comic book, Banu will be doing backgrounds and they look pretty cool so far.

    —Because we were on an absolutely shoestring budget ($100) for our webcomic, our art was limited to 10 poses for each of 2 characters. We just reused those in our webcomic, which is wildly amateurish. For our comic book, we’ve budgeted about $75 a page for art that is surprisingly close to professional grade.

    —The lettering only got decent and consistent around 15-20 issues in. We’ll have a letterer from page one to finish, so that should look smoother and more professional.


    —The webcomic lacks a central plot, so it’s not a real story. It’s mostly just a rotating set of funny scenes. The comic book has funny scenes, but they actually advance a plot.

    —The webcomic has no real character development. It’s more like one of those sitcoms where the characters are pretty flat (Seinfeld, The Simpsons, etc). In contrast, the main character (Agent Black) develops considerably over the comic book series.

    —There’s no action in the webcomic, but Banu’s been antsy to do some fight scenes. In the first comic book issue, we’ll have a carbomb, a kickboxing match between a mutant alligator and a Navy SEAL, and possibly a minor fight with criminals at the end.

    In all, it costs us about $4 per page to produce the webcomic. The sample I’m preparing for Dark Horse will cost about $90 per page ($75 for art, around $15 for lettering) and probably double that for the cover.

  32. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 11:07 am

    Well, I was thinking more of buying a copy of one of your better selling comics. I haven’t read a comic in ages.

  33. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 11:22 am

    Ah, it’s not quite ready to be sold yet. We’re still working on a draft issue of the first five pages of #1 for our query. After we send that in later this month, then we have to negotiate a contract, work with an editor, finish illustrating and lettering the last 19 pages, and then probably make minor adjustments to the first five pages. Also, our editor would probably want to flesh out precisely where the story is going long-term before we publish the first issue.

    I’d be really pleased if it was ready in summer 2008, but I’m new to this industry so I don’t know if that’s realistic. I’ve been working on the first issue for several weeks and we’re still not close to sending off the query package.

  34. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 11:54 am

    That’s cool. So where did you come up with your ideas?

  35. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Well, I looked at a bunch of superhero-style stories and I tried to come up with a list of reasons they didn’t strike me as just right.

    Spiderman is my favorite comic series because it’s very fun and lively. But I think its action sequences are sometimes lackluster and the hero often sounds corny.

    Superman and Wonderwoman are boring characters. Their personalities aren’t conducive to interesting dialogue or engrossing plotlines. Also, Superman has some of the worst action sequences in the industry.

    The Punisher is intensely violent and very hard to like. I don’t find his revenge motivation very compelling. There’s no chance that it will end happily.

    Batman is also overwhelmingly somber and depressing. The villains are kickass, but Gotham City is so thoroughly screwed up that I almost don’t care if the villains blow it up.

    X-Men is dominated by the theme that the US government is an evil persecutor. Again, there’s little prospect of a happy ending. I like Wolverine’s action sequences, but his personality is totally obnoxious. He’s the original Casual Psychopath.

    The Hood has surprisingly funny writing but was gratuitously dark and depressing. I’d like my fights to be a bit more epic, as well.

    I love the cartoony feel of the original TMNT cartoons, but they weren’t very well-written and the action is kind of forgettable. Also, I think the cartoony mood needs a bit of sobriety or it will probably not appeal to older readers.

    So, basically, we’re making a fun action-comedy that is fuelled by wacky humor with a dark streak. It’s kind of like a combination of 24, The Office, and Men in Black.

  36. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 12:30 pm

    That sounds cool. I got my idea for a superhero team from the Teen Titans. I got the idea for Silence from a Teen Titan comic that had a character named Secret. I thought it was cool to use an everyday word as a name. So she’s named Silence because she’s mute and if I took that muteness away would not be Silence anymore, so I’m keeping her as is. :)

  37. Ragged Boyon 05 Jan 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I actually went through alot of flip-flopping before I finally picked a character and story to do. Adrian was born from the remnants of my personality, that I don’t very outwardly express (kindness, warmness, materialism, and competitiveness). But I’ve got a bunch of characters and stoies sitting around in my literary salvage yard. I’m currently dreaming up a rock band superhero team.

    I’m personally a big fan of the Arkham Asylum series, pretty much every villian is even more screwed up (Mad Hatter is a pedophile, Joker takes pill and is extremely more feminine, Two Face can even perform simple functions without consult his tarot cards, Clayface is rotting away, Maxie Zeus thinks he’s Jesus, the list goes on). I’m a big fan of dark stories.

    I wonder would I be this way if not for my 8th grade “experiences”. I came out of middle school as the first black emo. I’m a big fan of Family Guy, most grownups hate it. They say it’s immoral, crude, and inappropriate, but its by far one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen.

  38. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I have a word of warning about Family Guy. Around once an episode, one of the characters will go off on a comic tangent by saying something like “remember that time when we [did something wacky].” I don’t recommend trying that in a novel or comic book. It’s not a good way to develop a coherent story.

    Novels and comic books sometimes go off on comic tangents, but it helps to be a bit more subtle about it.

  39. Ragged Boyon 05 Jan 2009 at 4:46 pm

    That’s probably the funniest part of Family Guy. To think of all the ridiculous things they’ve done in their past. “Around once an episode” that’s a little inaccurate, they do that quite frequently throughout a single episode. But, I understand why it would be annoying in a story. It’s also full of inconsistencies. Peter went to Prom with at least three different girls, so either he’s a through “playa” or he’s magic.

  40. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 4:49 pm

    That, and I’m also annoyed how often things unhappen when Stewie does them. For example, occasionally he will shoot Lois. Oh wait, just kidding! It’s Stewie and he’s useless.

  41. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Victory is mine!

    I’m collecting Family Guy DVDs.

  42. Jacobon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Family Guy is a rolling disappointment, but it’s not as bad as King of Queens. And neither is as bad as the the interminably bad Two and a Half Men. For example, here’s a random excerpt from the start of an episode.

    WUSSY BROTHER: When you moved in, I said it was vital to create a wholesome atmosphere for Jake [the failure son]. And you said you understand.

    LOTHARIO: Now, listen to me. When I said understand, it doesn’t mean I agree. It doesn’t mean I understand. It doesn’t even mean I’m listening.

    [OBNOXIOUSLY LOUD LAUGHTER]

    WUSSY BROTHER: So why do you say it?

    LOTHARIO: Because it makes people happy, and that’s what I’m all about.

    [OBNOXIOUSLY LOUD LAUGHTER]

    Sorry, but making the laugh track especially loud doesn’t disguise that that line is not remotely funny. Even the first one is a stretch, but at least it’s clearly intended as a joke.

  43. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I wouldn’t say it’s a disappointment. It’s not for everyone, granted, but it is still very good.

  44. Ragged Boyon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:24 pm

    I agree, I think older audiences are harder to please, no offense. I respect our differences.

  45. Holliequon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:26 pm

    I’m quite into comedy, but I rarely find the comedy-sitcom shows funny. I prefer stand-up. I think Michael McIntyre is the funniest British comedian today, but a lot of his jokes are rooted in British culture, so I’m not sure if Americans would get them. Other favourites of mine include Dara O’Brian and Frankie Boyle.

    The old British humour is great, too: Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and Only Fools And Horses are excellent.

  46. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I must admit there are some instances where I really wanna beat Peter up, but I guess that’s what they’re aiming for. Anyway, shouldn’t we get back to writing about authentic males? Also, shouldn’t we have authentic female characters?

    And can we have a section on writing about teams please as a point of reference?

  47. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Ragged Boy said: “I think older audiences are harder to please…”

    That’s definitely true, and generally I’m a really tough customer. However, I personally don’t feel that my standards for cartoon comedy are impossibly high. I’m extremely fond of the writers of a few cartoon shows for kids and tweens, notably Kim Possible, Justice League, Megas XLR, the first season of Jackie Chan Adventures, etc.

    For more mature cartoons, Futurama is superb. I find South Park and the Simpsons fresher and easier to watch than Family Guy. The Peter schtick just gets very tiring. Homer and Fry and the entire cast of South Park are failures, but I don’t feel a strong repulsion to them.

    That said, maybe it’s something I just don’t get. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been stumped at something that has found a definite market. I’ve always been stumped by the appeal of Grey’s Anatomy and most programming aimed exclusively at either women (Sex and the City) or men (Ultimate Fighting Championship).

  48. Holliequon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Oh, yeah, on authentic male characters, how do you guys (uh, at least I think you’re all guys) feel about Victor?

  49. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:34 pm

    I like Victor a lot. His reluctance to talk or think about his relationship seems very believable. I found the girl’s role a bit more awkward, just because she was pushing the issue so hard.

  50. Ragged Boyon 05 Jan 2009 at 5:42 pm

    He seems like a pretty straight-forward masculine guy, not a mega-jock, but an athlete. He seems pretty authentic to me. If there is anyone with a more feminine male character, it’s me. I’m not sure why, I guess because he dresses a little more effemininately and he doesn’t play sports, he’s more of the artsy type, but I think I pretty much established him as straight.

  51. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 05 Jan 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I love Monty Python, Blackadder (I have a cunning plan! Best line ever!), The Young Ones, Red Dwarf and several others too numerous to name. There is a lot of good British stuff on TV here, because we get it imported directly.

    There are some magnificent dramas, too. There was a brilliant show called Life On Mars, set in Manchester. You might have seen it, but that will have been the USA remake, which I suspect isn’t as good. Remakes rarely are.

    In the UK version, there’s a DCI (Detective Chief Inspector) named Sam Tyler who is investigating a series of murders in 2006. He is hit by a car and wakes up in 1973, discovers that he is now only a DI (Detective Inspector) and works for Manchester police. He tries to figure out how to get back while solving crimes in the 1970′s with his 21st century police methods. Back then the police were really rough, they’d hit their suspects and threaten them, but Sam is strongly opposed to it, causing a lot of conflict.

    DCI Hunt is the most funny character. “Drugs eh? What’s the point. They make you forget, make you talk funny, make you see things that aren’t there. My old grandma got all of that for free when she had a stroke!” “He’s got fingers in more pies than a leper on a cookery course.”

    Even the short series are great. My two favourites are Torn and Like Father, Like Son.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torn_(TV_series)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_on_Mars_(TV_series)

  52. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 05 Jan 2009 at 6:18 pm

    What do you all think of Isaac? I hope I made him seem like a guy, instead of a girl in a guy’s body.

    Heheh, I still find it difficult to put myself into a male POV when I’m female. At least I have plenty of references at for male behaviour at school, but they’re probably not good examples. Most of the guys I know swear like Marines.

  53. Ragged Boyon 05 Jan 2009 at 6:21 pm

    As far as femininity goes, he’s a little more so than Victor, I feel. But, he’s still pretty masculine. He comes off as more sensitve than most guys, but that’s not much a problem. He still doesn’t top Adrian haha.

  54. Holliequon 05 Jan 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Plus, he’s a superhero. I think we can make some allowances for Isaac.

  55. Davidon 05 Jan 2009 at 6:45 pm

    I so need to get some comics. Any ideas where I get some good ones apart from shops and the ones with characters that you’re talking about?

  56. Ragged Boyon 05 Jan 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I don’t know any free comic sites, comic books can be expensive, too. Marvel and DC offer online subscriptions to their comics, but it costs, I don’t know what to tell you. The next best thing I can think of is that you read some comic book scripts, I have a great site.

    http://www.comicbookscriptarchive.com/archive/?page_id=3

    They have lots of links to articles about writing comics, I find it a considerably useful tool.

  57. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 05 Jan 2009 at 6:59 pm

    That’s what I was going for. I know a couple of more sensitive guys at school who served as my basis when I was creating Isaac. The personality type is about the only common feature, because they look nothing like Isaac and act differently in a lot of critical ways.

  58. Ragged Boyon 05 Jan 2009 at 7:02 pm

    The characters that were talking about? Holliequ’s Victor, Whovian’s Isaac, and My Adrian? If you’re talking about them, Victor and Isaac are in novels, and Adrian is in my comic, but we don’t have anything published yet. I’m sure Holliequ or Whovian won’t be opposed to you looking in their forum and reading some of the chapter posts, feel free to look at what I’ve posted in my forum as well. I suggest you read the later works we did though. For example, in my forum it has the post when I was writing my story in novel form, but if you want to see my comic script you’ll have to scroll down.

    If you’re talking about other characters, then I don’t know what to tell you.

  59. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 9:58 pm

    “I so need to get some comics. Any ideas where I get some good ones apart from shops and the ones with characters that you’re talking about?”

    I don’t know if you’re alluding to download sites, but I’d really recommend legal means. As a producer of comic books I can vouch that we suffer under massive design costs. I think on average it costs about $300-400 to design each page, and that doesn’t even factor in printing costs. If my issues don’t sell to enough paying customers, the series dies. Game Over.

    If getting out to a store is a problem, I’d recommend buying an online subscription to Marvel or DC or hitting Amazon for backcopies.

    If money is the main problem, I’d recommend turning on the TV or looking for back episodes on Hulu or Youtube.

  60. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 05 Jan 2009 at 10:02 pm

    I’m not opposed to anyone looking at mine, but I don’t have much there. I’ve written 56 chapters but only put two on my forum.

    I’ve changed the story dozens of times since I first plotted it and there seem to be many different ways I could take the story, so whatever I’ve got there might become obsolete pretty soon.

  61. B. Macon 05 Jan 2009 at 10:20 pm

    “Shouldn’t we get back to writing about authentic males?”
    –I wouldn’t worry too much about tangents here. I feel like a lot of the comments will be useful in other forums, so I’ll just move them around when I get a chance. For example, there were a few comments about costume design that don’t really pertain to authentic male characters but would fit in well on one of our articles on costume design.

    “Shouldn’t we have authentic female characters too?”
    –Yeah, but I don’t know enough on the subject to write an article on it. Our three contributors are men and we’re all a bit inept when it comes to female characters. (For book doctoring, Cadet Davis flat-out refuses to take on clients that have written romance with female leads because he doesn’t know how to make it work). I’m not sure exactly where to find helpful resources on female characters, though. The book 45 Master Characters has a brief section on female vs. male goals. That might help. You can probably find it at a well-stocked public library.

    “And can we have a section on writing about teams please as a point of reference?”
    You mean like where you have male and female characters, or just about how it’s different to write a team of superheroes vs. a single protagonist? Hmm. If you’re talking about having a team versus having a single protagonist, I might be able to help.

    —On a team, it’s more important that characters have simple origin stories and simple, generic superpowers. There’s just not enough space to explain five separate radioactive lab accidents. Realistically, it’s probably best to focus on the origin story of just one character, or of the team as a whole. For example, Soon I Will Be Invincible focused on the origin story of just Fatale and skimmed over her teammates. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had a team origin (they were all hit by mutagen at the same time).

    —I recommend 3-4 characters. 5 is doable but usually means that at least 1-2 of the characters will be some variety of unsatisfying (underdeveloped, bland, redundant, etc). I wouldn’t recommend 5+ characters for a first-time author. I wouldn’t book-doctor a book if it had 7+, because I would take that as a sign that the author had unrealistic goals.

    —Interesting relationships between the teammates are important. That usually means that you need a bit of tension, but it’s very tricky. There’s a fine line between a dramatic conflict and a wangsty soap opera. For example, I’d say that Justice League Unlimited handles the Green Lantern-Vixen-Hawkgirl love triangle pretty well. In contrast, I find the Robin-Cyborg and especially the Leonardo-Raphael catfights kind of annoying.

    I think it helps to have a few guidelines that characters can’t break. For example, even if Agent Black thinks that Agent Orange is completely loony and unfit to be a government agent, he’s still contractually obliged to be Orange’s partner. He can’t just go off sulking whenever Orange is in the room. In contrast, there’s not much forcing Leonardo and Raphael together.

  62. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 05 Jan 2009 at 11:20 pm

    I’m going to do all I can to ensure that FIGHT doesn’t turn out like Home and Away.

    There is a bit of conflict between Isaac and Tristram, but they have to get over it if they’re going to stop Cable from training his little squadron of evil.

    I’ve made Tristram and Atalya a 100% faithful couple and I’ve given Olivia and Requiem a close Platonic friendship where she treats him like a brother.

    Klemente is a childhood friend of Tristram, and they discovered their powers on the same day. (While Tristram has the same powers as Isaac, he rarely uses them because he is fatigued more easily, so he relies on his hacking skills rather than his psi-blasts or flight)

    Kamari met Tristram when he hacked her laptop by accident in an attempt to break Libra Electronics’ firewall. He’s the one who gets her a ticket to Perth from Brisbane by breaking the airport’s security codes.

    With their relationships mostly built up, there is little room for any “I hate you, go drop dead” type of drama.

  63. Davidon 06 Jan 2009 at 6:23 am

    Well, if you want some input I know a few females here that could help, and I know a bit myself.

  64. Davidon 02 Feb 2009 at 12:00 am

    Hey, I have a question about writing male superheroes. Do they all need to be over six feet tall?

    My character D is 5.5 and one joke I wanna run is that bad guys always underestimate him because his his size. Is that gonna be a problem? I really don’t want to make him taller.

  65. B. Macon 02 Feb 2009 at 5:33 am

    I don’t think it’d be a problem, but it might make the audience think he’s weaker than he is. Characters that fight with physical strength are almost always among the biggest characters on the team (Optimus Prime, Cyborg, etc). However, if he fights with agility more than strength, I think it’d be fine if he were short. That seems to have worked for Robin in Teen Titans. Additionally, all of the ninja turtles were around five and a half feet.

  66. Holliequon 02 Feb 2009 at 9:28 am

    I don’t think it’s come up yet, but I was planning to make Victor a little shorter than average . . . or the shortest male in his family. I can’t remember which (should have written it down!). That’s a bit of an issue for him, so just imagine what it’s going to be like when he meets the giants and half-giants, haha.

  67. Davidon 02 Feb 2009 at 9:47 am

    Does anyone else think Robin is a Mary Sue guy? I mean, he’s defeated the rest of the Titans twice, once as Slade’s apprentice and again as Red X.

    And he always seems to get things right. I mean, he was able to figure out that Terra couldn’t control her powers and he can send Cinderblock flying with a kick. Now is that Mary Sue or what?

  68. B. Macon 02 Feb 2009 at 2:56 pm

    I agree that Robin is a Mary Sue, particularly when compared to the absurdly underpowered Beast Boy. Cyborg is also a little bit weak, but Beast Boy is useless even when the Titans get turned into freaking animals.

  69. Ragged Boyon 02 Feb 2009 at 3:18 pm

    Adrian is about as tall as a regular Jacksonville teen, 5′ 9″ to 5′ 10″, who are surprisingly shorter and younger looking than most other place’s teens.

  70. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 12 Mar 2009 at 3:56 am

    There’s one really common misconception about female characters that I’ve noticed. We had to write a short story in class the other day, and it had to be set in a kitchen.

    Most of the guys wrote about women cooking up delicious foods, while most of the girls had theirs having to call the firemen because their kitchen went up in flames. We know the truth: not all girls can cook.

    The boys tend to do better in Home Ec than the girls. I recall one incident where the boys’ strange creation turned out better than my group’s textbook cupcake. On our side we had scorched fruit cakes (that somehow burned on the outside but stayed as the mixture on the inside) and the boys had… delicious cheese muffins with Vegemite as icing. They put butter and breadcrumbs on top. Not the most sane type of cake, but still yummy.

    One thing’s for certain: I’ll be surviving on fruit and takeaway. Haha.

  71. Mia.xoxoon 20 Mar 2009 at 12:06 pm

    When writing males and females into your story, its important to think about the gender roles of your society. Say, if females were expected to be stepford wives then it would be interesting to see them break these norms and venture out of the house (ie. Black Canary). This could be a good social norm in a futuristic society where women’s rights have already brought women to be equals to men.

    That being said, you could go the other way and have a minor character decide to play the traditional maternal role instead of being a corporate exec. trying to make it to the top. This could be a good social norm in a futuristic society where women’s rights have already brought women to be equals to men. It would be hard to write this as a main character’s trait, unless her inner conflict would be defending the world vs. keeping her kids safe. Also this would be a very hard situation for younger target audiences to relate to.

    Either way, you’d have to think about how males would react to the female character in either situation. Males can be attracted to either personality if you want a relationship to blossom. It depends what the male himself is looking for, if he’s looking at all.

  72. B. Macon 20 Mar 2009 at 12:13 pm

    Let’s see if I remember this scene from Justice League correctly. A supervillainess takes advantage of Superman’s chivalrous refusal to hit a woman. So Booster Gold, a time-traveler from the 24th century, does it for him. After all, 24th century society is completely gender-neutral. Pow!

    Thanks for commenting, Mia.

  73. Trollitradeon 03 Jun 2009 at 5:31 pm

    The comment about Booster Gold was hilarious, B. Mac. :)

    I’ve got a question about writing male characters. ^_^ How do you write a convincing argument scene between two guys? How do guys settle their differences aside from throwing a few punches?

    I’ve written some ridiculously girly confrontation scenes before… Eek!

    But if the male protagonist is FORCED to get along with his rival (who is bigger and stronger than he is, and he’d get CREAMED in a fist fight if he tried), how would he confront the rival and tell him to quit being a jerkoff? O_o

  74. Davidon 03 Jun 2009 at 6:27 pm

    one way i suggest is makeing the smaller guy outsmart the other guy with words and then when he gets aggresive turn round and say “it’s easy to beat somone up but try beating them with your mouth that you can’t do” have him play on the guys machoness u can have him convinsed that throwing the first punch is a sign of defet

    or something like that

  75. Trollitradeon 03 Jun 2009 at 6:55 pm

    So try to use wit to make the other guy look like a big, dumb idiot? xD Thanks for the suggestion, David!
    This particular situation could be a little stickier, though. It’s basically “fat kid/protagonist” vs. “soccer jock/rival”. O_O
    So the one being picked on, Ed, is bigger… But the other guy, Roy, is lighter, faster, stronger, more athletic, and Ed thinks the rest of the group likes Roy the best.
    Although Roy, the team leader, acts like a jerk towards Ed, he’s got his redeeming qualities, too.
    He’d risk a lot to lie for Ed, or fight for him if he was really in trouble (like with a gang in an alleyway or something).
    So Ed and Roy have to work as a team, but how could Ed get Roy to stop calling him fat and making jokes about him, without looking like a “wimp” or something?
    Girls would just talk to each other about it, but I’m not sure what the specifics of a spoken confrontation would be like for boys. ^_^

  76. Ragged Boyon 03 Jun 2009 at 7:14 pm

    I haven’t been in an actual argument is ages, but when I pretend to argue with my guy friends we usually go for personal attacks. For example, on of my friend used to be fat, so I poke fun at him for that. And he does the same calling me rail-thin toothpick monster. But in an actual argument you’d want to go for lowblows and critical insults or anything else that demeans a person. And I say it doesn’t matter how nice a person is, if they’re pushed to that edge they’ll go all out. Real arguments are loaded wth profanity, shouting (the louder the better), and you usually “get buck” as me and my friends put it, meaning you talk as if you’re going to fight. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a male verbal confrontation that didn’t end in violence. Heck, Adrian attacks Eric in my story.

    I like David’s outsmarting idea, though.

  77. Trollitradeon 03 Jun 2009 at 7:24 pm

    Thank you, Ragged and David. ^__^
    I’m guess that riled up men DO often settle their differences by beating the crap out of each other. xD
    Like you said, Ragged, anybody can be pushed to that point, no matter how nice you are, or even if you know you’re gonna get your butt-whooped. O_o
    Even if you lost BAD, would it still be worth the trouble just to see your rival with a bloody nose?
    If their issues finally blew up into a FIGHT, though, I suppose it might send Roy a clear message that Ed is sick of being picked on, and although they might not be “friendly” afterwards, maybe Roy would have the good sense to chill out and quit being a jerk to Ed?
    I once heard that men don’t hold grudges the same way women do… O_o Dunno if it’s true or not.
    Think it’s possible for two guys to get over their differences and be actually be friends after something like that? …Even if the soccer jock gets the girl that he and Ed were both vying for? >_>;;
    I kind of doubt it. O_o

  78. Ragged Boyon 03 Jun 2009 at 7:34 pm

    Well, if their vying for the same girl, they probably won’t get along. But if not I could see them being friends. My cousin who is 16 has been in a fistfight with almost all his male friends and their all still friends. Usually, unless there’s a specific reason they don’t like a person, they won’t hold a very strong grudge. Except for me, most guys aren’t very caddy.

    I know that if I got into a no-holds-barred fight, the first thing I’d look for while I’m arguing is a weapon or an opportunity for a surprise attack. Now most guys look down on weapons and say their for punks. But when I leave with a bloody nose and you leave with a black eye, lumps everywhere, a fat lip, and a bleeding forehead, I say one of us sure as hell won.

    But usually, most guys use their fist. After punches they go for the takedown. If one can get the other on the ground, he’ll usually win.

  79. Trollitradeon 03 Jun 2009 at 8:01 pm

    That’s really helpful, Ragged Boy. xD Thank you!
    I’ll keep those dynamics in mind whenever I get around to these two guys fighting each other.
    I ought to ask my brother as well. ^_^
    There have been occasions where I thought he was gonna pulverize somebody for an injustice, but somehow, nobody came back to the house beaten up. O_O
    I’m surprised the other guy was still alive/unharmed, though he was pale and looked like he got a good scare. O_o
    My brother didn’t brawl very much, but he did sometimes. ^_^;;

  80. Don 22 Jun 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Hi!
    It’s about time I wrote in this section, considering that my protagonist and all his friends are guys! :P I know, I’m so tough on myself.
    Alright, so I don’t need advice to know that I can’t write “guy-ish.” Could I post a little excerpt one of my chapters here and get some ideas of how you’d re-word the dialogue or something to make it more “manly”?
    Thanks in advance! This site is AWESOME.

  81. Jennyon 03 Jul 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Hey everyone. I need some help thinking up a name for my main guy. My story is kind of Lord of the Rings themed so that kind of period name. He’s a bodyguard for a girl named Iluna and I’m thinking of having a romance between them.

    If anyone could think of a name or a way to improve the character that would be great.

    Thanks for your help!

  82. Bretton 03 Jul 2009 at 4:27 pm

    Hey Jenny, welcome to SN. Here are some names you might consider. I tried to get some that have different flavor than traditional LOTR-esque fantasy names.

    Vandenza
    Manasseh
    Asahel
    Abishai
    Melchior
    Descartes
    Madathon
    Zerva
    Mordecai
    Mystarchus
    Xander
    Quell

    Btw, about the romance thing. I’m not so sure that’s a good idea for this particular plot, and its not just because I’m prejudiced against romances(which I am). I pretty sure that the bodyguard-charge romance has been done. Or at least, it feels cliche. Besides, the bodyguard is experienced, which means he’s likely 30-40-ish. A “girl” will likely be 19 at the very oldest. If these are elves, those numbers get scaled up even more dramatically. In other words, we’re approaching “Twilight” levels of romantic creepiness.

    Here’s some angles that might work better:
    -Girl likes him and tries to seduce him. He’s hardcore not buying it and harshly rejects her at every opportunity.
    -He likes her, but she thinks its creepy.
    -They’re an arranged couple with LOTS of unresolved conflicts and bitter feelings they have to work through.
    -They hate each other at the beginning, but by the end they develop a relationship that is 100% platonic.
    -He tries to be a father figure and she resents his lecturing/overprotectiveness and deliberately tries to shake him off.

    Some of these have also been done, but they feel a bit fresher and less grating than another “we hate each other, but now we’re in love” story. Or even worse, another “we love each other, but dont say anything until we’re thrust into mortal danger together” story. God forbid another “we just love each other” story. Ugh! XP

    Also, because you’re a girl, please place extra emphasis on making your male protagonist sound legit. Nothing is more annoying to a male reader than a weak male protagonist. But for some reason, girls tend to find them romantic. (wtf?)

    Hope I was helpful (and didn’t step on your toes much)!

  83. Jennyon 03 Jul 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Hey Brett Thanks for the feedback. But do you think it would work if the bodyguard and and girl were around the same age? Because I was thinking that the bodyguard would be sent with Iluna because they knew each other (ie. growing up together) and the bodyguard was a newly commissioned knight so he would be a little reckless

    Would that work or should I just scratch the whole romance deal all together?

  84. B. Macon 03 Jul 2009 at 10:01 pm

    “Would that work or should I just scratch the whole romance deal all together?”

    I think it depends on your target audience. If you’re interested in writing for mostly women, the romance angle sounds promising. But romance usually doesn’t play too well with guys. When masculine stories work in a love interest, the romances are usually pretty short and shallow, like James Bond or Star Trek or Superman, etc. But many women readers are very receptive to romances that are longer and more involved.

    So I think the main question is your target audience. I think it’s very hard to reconcile male and reader females on romance. I’m having a lot of trouble coming up with any examples of a romance that played really well among both men and women. Maybe Leia-Han from Star Wars or Peter-Mary Jane from Spiderman.


    Also, I suspect that it might make the relationship more interesting if there’s some sort of obstacle between them. It’s usually pretty easy to add an external obstacle to romance. For example, Romeo/Juliet had warring families and Jasmine/Aladdin had grossly different class expectations. In both of these cases, the obstacle affected how other characters treated the pair, but not how they treated each other. A more internal obstacle would affect the relationship. For example, the main obstacle to the Han-Leia relationship is that Han’s selfishness makes a bad first impression with Leia.

    I feel that internal obstacles are usually more interesting because an external obstacle creates a straw-man adversary but an internal obstacle is usually more three-dimensional. For example, we can’t really sympathize with the characters that are pushing Jasmine to marry a pompous prince rather than Aladdin. But we can sympathize with Leia’s initial coldness to Han.

  85. StarEon 09 Sep 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Hello! What would make two guys really hate each other when they used to be close friends? And now they’re ex-friends/rivals? I’ve got two prominent guy characters named Naveed (the “hero” guy) and Kain (the “ex-buddy/rival guy), and I’d like their dispute to seem more reasonable, and not so wangsty…

    The best I could come up with so far is that a few years ago, they both liked the same girl and Kain called “dibs” on her. But she and Naveed “hit it off” better, and since Kain has a long history of being scorned by women that he’s head-over-heels for, he gets really angry with Naveed for stealing his girl. On top of that, though Naveed and Kain were good friends, they fought often and were competitive with each other. Both felt the need to show up the other, but usually it was more like friendly-competition that often went too far.

    The “girlfriend stealing” is just backstory, so it doesn’t unfold during the actual novel. It’s like an “old wounds” sort of thing, and Kain has become increasingly unstable since then. (Plus, the girl he liked is still WITH Naveed) Does this sound like a reasonable way for two guys to start hating each others’ guts? I really want the fall-out to be more of Naveed’s fault, not just “the girl was more attracted to him and now Kain’s jealous”. That’s too Mary Sueish…

    Um, any “manly” ideas for me? Hahaha. (The girlfriend stealing probably happened when they were teenagers, but when the story takes place, these characters are closer to 20 – 25)

  86. Ghoston 09 Sep 2009 at 2:03 pm

    StarE,
    Well another option, besides the girlfriend stealing, is that one betrayed the other. For instance you could have your hero betray the trust of his rival because the rival did something morally questionable. Or you could have the rival betray the hero by setting the hero up to take the fall for something minor (that way you still keep the rivalry idea instea of all other revenge). You could also use socioeconomical status as a point of contention between the two characters. The rival might always challenge the hero because he is richer, more popular, or has a higher status than the hero so he should therefore be superior to the hero (but of course isn’t). Anyways, hope this help.

  87. Wingson 09 Sep 2009 at 2:04 pm

    There’s always betrayal and the like. I’m not too helpful when it comes to this stuff.

    Backstabbing girls now, I have files and files on that.

    - Wings

  88. StarEon 09 Sep 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks, Ghost and Wings!

    The rival doing something “morally questionable” and the “betrayal of trust” suggestions got me thinking, but I just ended up confusing myself. It’s got a lot to do with the actual plot of the story, but I’ll try to explain the rivalry idea without boring you guys to death or taking too long.

    The main characters in my story are sort of in a futuristic sci-fi/fantasy setting, in a forced-militia (sort of like sending jail prisoners into war), and the only way for them to escape to freedom involves secretly stealing thousands of “data strands” from the master computer, so they can crack an important password. The only way they can ACCESS the master computer happens to be excruciatingly painful.

    Without ranting and raving about details, Kain (the rival) finds an alternative. If they subject OTHER prisoners to the excruciatingly painful process, then Kain and Naveed can gather the password datra without having to suffer personally. Naveed (the hero) doesn’t like the idea of TORTURING other people so he, Kain, and their friend Vanessa can get escape. Kain is damn sick of hurting himself to get the password data, and he thinks torturing the other prisoners is no worse than leaving them behind when the group makes their escape. So why not? Why NOT torture them, so the trio can escape from the futuristic prison?

    But that’s how I got myself confused… Doesn’t Kain have a point, there? A sick point, but a point nonetheless? Other than being “moral and selfless-sue” or something, why wouldn’t Naveed go with Kain’s plan? Apparently, he’d rather subject himself and his own friends to hideous torture instead of do it to somebody else so they can escape with their lives… Does this even sound like a good moral argument between the two guys? How can I tip the argument in Naveed’s favor without it simply being a matter of “morals”? This is a survival situation, afterall…

  89. Lighting Manon 09 Sep 2009 at 6:40 pm

    What if Naveed and Kain’s crimes were worse then the vast, vast majority of other soldiers? They could be murderers, or rapists which might temporarily hurt how immediately likable they are, but it is never unrecoverable, it could be a case of self-defense or some sort of other oh-that’s-an-okay-murder type thing.

    Kain or Naveed’s crime could also arise from the girlfriend incident. What if she was a year younger then Naveed and Kain was the same age as her, or vice versa, and subsequently below the age of consent? If Naveed or Kain, probably Kain, got particularly jealous one night and phoned an anonymous tip in, getting Naveed arrested for statutory rape, that would lead to a great deal of strife. This would make him more senior as a soldier, which would hamper Kain’s ability to compete with him, and help Kain sow dissension against him.

    I think it coming down to torturing shoplifters to help a rapist and a murder would move it beyond “mere” morals, but I don’t think that objecting to torturing a mass of people so he can go enjoy ice cream again would make a character a Mary Sue, by any means. It isn’t selfless, he just isn’t willing to be a monster, at least from what you’ve said.

    Not to imply that this is the case with you, but this does bring up an issue with the “interwebz” being so thoroughly permeated by anti-Sueist behavior, and the various loosely connected definitions, you end up with people that think the only non-Sue protagonist is a megalomaniac puppy-eating mass-murdering that resembles a flaming chimpanzee but doesn’t actually have any fur or fire, so people won’t think it’s a furry.

  90. StarEon 09 Sep 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Hello, Lightning! Thank you very much for the input, it’s very helpful. Briefly, about the Sue issues, I guess I’m extra worried about it because the majority of my female protagonists have strong “Purity Sue” traits, where they’re just really nice, outgoing, and all the other characters get quickly and strongly attached to them… Because of this, with all my characters I’m trying really hard not to make their sole motivation into, “Because it’s the right thing to do and everyone will agree with me! Yay!” I do think Sueisms might be overblown online, though still important to consider…

    About your input, the “not willing to be a monster” thing is pretty useful. I’m considering what kind of crimes Naveed and Kain are in for, and maybe making them extra-bad crimes would be the right thing to do? Originally, Kain’s crime was holding up a convenience store and putting the clerk at gunpoint and Naveed’s the one who’s in for murder. But Naveed seriously regrets it and has since developed a new respect for the lives of other people. That would add fuel to the fire when Naveed finds out that his friend wants to torture unsuspecting prisoners.

    I think Naveed could find out about Kain’s “alternative plan” to torture the other prisoners AFTER Kain has already tried it out a few times. So Naveed would be outraged about it because Kain already crossed that “torturing the shoplifters” threshhold, and Kain is angry in-turn because Naveed would rather continue to subject his own friends to the torture instead. Does this sound like a viable argument from both sides? Somewhere in there, I need to involve the issue about them both liking the same girl, but maybe the moral argument is the main reason the guys become rivals?

  91. Holliequon 10 Sep 2009 at 8:52 am

    To be honest, that sort of argument does not scream “we’re now rivals!” to me. If Naveed now really appreciates the value of human life, and, even more, objects to Kain doing this behind his back without attempting to reach a compromise (“find really bad prisoners and use them, not just any run-of-the-mill-shoplifter”), then this seems something that could turn into a “I never want to see you again” thing. Perhaps Naveed would agree to work with him to get out, but…

    Also, I think you should be careful with Kain. His name already has bad connotations. Even though he was imprisoned for the lesser crime, he seems to be the more “evil” of the two. Be careful you don’t turn him into a Designated Villain.*

    I think you could make this more interesting by making Kain’s approach seem more reasonable. Obviously, it’s not going to be the moral choice no matter how you spin it, but perhaps by this point the torture is actually damaging the health of Naveed/Kain/Vanessa. It’s not ethical to use other prisoners for it, but Kain is looking out for his friends here. Also, if Kain only used older criminals, he might be more sympathetic (I’m not sure about ages here, but if there are any teenagers or people in their early twenties, Kain might take pity on them. This is relative, as Kain is only in his early 20′s himself).

    What do you think?

    *http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DesignatedVillain

  92. StarEon 10 Sep 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Hello, Hollique! Thank you kindly for your input. :) Now that I’m thinking on it, maybe Kain IS meant to be more of an antagonist than a rival? Technically, he and Naveed aren’t competing for anything… They’re after the same goal, but they disagree on the methods so they have trouble working together in close-quarters now.

    I think I need to make the argument pretty bad, though, so I can portray the two guys as ex-friends/enemies… So maybe this argument was a “last straw” sort of thing, and they DIDN’T want to speak to each other again, but after they cool off a bit, they realize they still have to work together if they want to escape? So then Naveed and Kain make the compromise about which prisoners are “okay” to torture, and they go with it although Naveed doesn’t like the idea.

    But if Naveed gives in and works with Kain to torture people, then I’m not sure how to fuel the continued hatred between the two… Do you think it would be better if I had them dislike each other from the beginning, instead of once being friends? I need something to keep them at odds, and if they never got along very well to begin with, maybe that would help me?

    I’ll try to think about that on my own for a little while. :) It’s hard to explain enough details about the novel to ask for help with the specifics…

    Oh yeah, and I’ll be careful about the “Designated Villain” thing. Thanks for the heads up! I definitely don’t want to portray Kain as completely evil-for-evil’s sake, even though he’s antagonistic and a bit depraved… Can I avoid making him into a “Designated Villain” by making sure he has sympathetic qualities, rationale behind his “madness”, and by not making him “kick puppies for no reason”? :)

    Thanks so far, you guys!

  93. Moondragon007on 27 Sep 2009 at 2:56 am

    On the question of whether or not to change a character’s clothes, a good compromise would be to keep the same style and change the color. Some people do that in real life, particularly if you’re on a tight budget and you stock up on clothes when they go on sale. For instance, I have 5 t-shirt blouses all the same style, just different colors. And I buy all my pants in navy blue or black so I can match them with any shirt.

  94. Leighon 27 Aug 2010 at 8:33 am

    Good to see an article on this subject, though most of these I already knew. One of my story ideas involves a male lead, but I’m worried I won’t be able to write for a male realistically since I’m not a man. I have similar tastes to men, comics, violent video games and movies, but I don’t know if it’s enough.

  95. Ghoston 27 Aug 2010 at 10:36 am

    Leigh,
    I feel your pain. I feel like I have the same problem with wirting female characters. While none of my lead characters are women, I do intend to use a female is my story who plays a huge supporting role. I find it helpful to start out with an archetype and then flesh them out. After that I usually ask female friends to look over the character bio and tell me what they think, what they like, and what they feel is unrealistic for a female character. Sometime I hit the nail on the head, and other times I completely miss the mark. Unfortunately, whether it is a result of nature or nurture the opposite sex has just a different way of thinking and behaving. I mean if understanding how the opposite sex works was easy we wouldn’t have all the relationship problems we do.
    Some people don’t like using archetypes because they feel like it make characters stereotypical. However, I like using them(especially when doing a character of the opposite sex), because I feel like they help me keep the characters consistant.
    If you are interested in archetypes I recommend “45 Master Characters ” by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. She only uses 8 archetypes, but she does a male and female version of each archetype. Then she does a good and evil version of both the male and female archetype. The chapters for each of archetype are only about 11 or so pages in lenght, but they are pretty indepth and well explained. The book also contains archetypes for secondary characters and some of their possible variations as well as a male and female “heroic” journey plot line. All in all, I found the book to be helpful, but if you don’t feel like buying the book you can alway try searching online.

  96. Leighon 31 Aug 2010 at 7:22 pm

    Ooooh… Now that sounds like a nice book. I’ll have to look into that. I agree, archetypes are at least a good starting point for characters. Seriously I need that book. XD

    I’ve made my own lists for “archetypes” based on horoscope info, but I feel many of those tend to lean towards the feminine side.

  97. Ghoston 31 Aug 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Yeah finding good archetypes is hard. Most of the ones that I have found have been kind of onesided. The ones from Carl Jung are alright but they don’t really cover both genders.

  98. Jimmyon 14 Mar 2011 at 5:47 am

    Is it fine for a man to describe another man’s eyes if the describer is homosexual/bisexual/has feelings for the person?

  99. B. Macon 14 Mar 2011 at 8:06 am

    Yeah, Jimmy. When someone is intimate with someone, I think they’re close enough to notice them.

  100. Castilleon 14 Mar 2011 at 4:06 pm

    For me, I’m trying to make all my male characters stand out and have character of their own. I’m also trying not to get too cliche or make the characters act improbably.

    For example, the chapter I’m currently writing is from Reyes’s POV (My super-strong protagonist). In it, I tried to emphasize his working class background, in a scene that emphasizes his inexperience and difficulty controlling his emotions.

    In the scene,he has to forcibly restrain a traitor(Amber) that’s trying to escape. As he subdues her, he finds himself using (quite a bit) more force than necessary. Later, in my plot, he will regret this- but I decide upon that to show how a working class man with anger issues could misuse his powers.

    Actually, he regrets it immediately after-when he realizes how badly he’s hurt her. if he continues down this path. -So he does the only logical thing a male with testosterone does when he needs emotional comfort…

    goes right into the arms of another woman. (And actually he only stops because this other woman ‘Claire’ implores him to)

    Sound realistic or not?

  101. Ghoston 14 Mar 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Castille,

    “So he does the only logical thing a male with testosterone does when he needs emotional comfort…goes right into the arms of another woman.” Without any more background on the character, I would have to say that the character sounds a little cliche and shallow. Simply because a man is in need of emotional comfort, does not mean that he will run into the arms of another women. Unless your character has an ego the size of texas, he should be able to rationalize and justify forcibly restraining someone. Unless he causes some kind of serious injury, I dont find it to be a possible action. I think a more reasonable response would be for him to become withdrawn from her or hesitate the next time he needs to use force.

  102. B. Macon 15 Mar 2011 at 12:32 am

    I agree with Ghost that he may be overreacting to his use of force against the woman, especially given that the woman is a werewolf… However, it may be believable if he reacts rather strongly if he’s either very gentle by nature (so that any violence against women makes him feel really uneasy) and/or the forcible restraint gets really (unintentionally or intentionally) messy.

    On the other hand, I can see why someone might have a harder time getting in a fight with their partner/sidekick. (Except for Batman. He’s never more than a panel away from clobbering Robin).

    “So he does the only logical thing a male with testosterone does when he needs emotional comfort…” This may be selling male emotional complexity a bit short but I’ll leave that to you.

  103. Castilleon 15 Mar 2011 at 2:49 pm

    I was also maybe thinking…how to make it not-cliche? Maybe have her come up with a plausible explanation that would even fly with Gregory.

    Maybe something like “The moment I saw that Sasquatch… my sense just told me that even you couldn’t handle it Reyes. That’s why I ran.”

    Maybe he ends up bruising her really badly? Remember this was a woman who traveled with him for 6 months before the events of the story. Reyes saved her life, and thus feels a bit of responsibility on that front.

    Also on authentic male character front… it makes sense for Greg to have the antidote for the cause of Reyes’s powers right? That is, even though they’re brothers, he’ll not hesitate to use it if he determines that Reyes is a potential threat to national security. (Because in my universe superheroes didn’t exist before Reyes.) Does it make sense to try to pressure his brother into going to work for the government so he won’t get in trouble with the law?

    And B.Mac…You read that chapter I sent you…Is Mendoza’s ego the size of Texas, or bigger than Texas?

  104. B. Macon 15 Mar 2011 at 8:11 pm

    “Is Mendoza’s ego the size of Texas, or bigger than Texas?” Mendoza? I thought we were talking about Reyes.

    Mendoza does have quite the ego, I think, and his interactions with Claire are a bit nastyish. He doesn’t give me much of a violent vibe (yet) but I don’t think he has the empathy to care much if he did hurt someone. (Note how Mendoza used the bloody sock as a chance to create a mawkish scene for his documentary).

    “Does it make sense to try to pressure his brother into going to work for the government so he won’t get in trouble with the law?” I haven’t seen much of Greg’s character and motivations yet, so I’m not sure if it’d be consistent with his characterization, but it could be. There are some people that care so much about their work that they’d put it in front of family. He may even think he’s doing his brother a favor (keeping him out of prison, which is more than he’s willing to do for Amber–he might even have had to pull some strings to get the antidote made). The last time I saw him interacting with Amber, it sounded like he was an anything-goes sort of cop, so it’s not THAT much of a leap to imagine him putting the pressure on his half-brother.

    Speaking of Greg’s motivations… Later on, when you’re ready for rewrites, I’d recommend revisiting why an FBI agent is so unconcerned about getting kidnapped by a director. (One possibility would be having the agent come along willingly, but the director refuses to tell him what it’s about, saying only that the FBI would be interested to see what he has to show. Given the director’s previous work with Reyes, I imagine that Greg would be interested).



    If Greg has an antidote for Reyes’ powers, why does he have it with him on this trip? (One possibility is that he’s just crazy-prepared for everything, but we haven’t seen much of that so far).

  105. [...] Writing Authentic Male Characters - Superhero Nation (being female, I found this useful) [...]

  106. Snowon 17 Aug 2011 at 10:02 am

    Poking around this site quite a bit, seeing as I just found it. No hard feelings about reviving dead threads, I hope?

    Very helpful article on the brains of men… I didn’t even think about the intimacy of describing eye colors, although the lingering stare of description was something I was already familiar with.

    Thanks for the tip on what to describe; I plan on spending a lot of time in my male protagonists head, and I wanted to make sure I was getting it right. This helps.

  107. ShyVioletson 18 Oct 2011 at 12:06 am

    Hey people :)

    If a male character lets his girl friend chew him out without offering ANY argument on his own defenses, will he come off as a wimp?

    I think his choice is diplomatic because he obviously doesn’t want her to me any madder than she already is but i don’t want him to be a push-over.

  108. Mynaon 18 Oct 2011 at 2:59 am

    It depends on the situation. I think any person would want to defend themself if they were being accused of something, but maybe the guy char’s idea is that he’s not going to say anything now, just let her chew him out, and then talk to her when she’s less angry so it doesn’t escalate into a fighting match when they sort it all out.

  109. ShyVioletson 18 Oct 2011 at 6:33 am

    The female character is known for having a temper and hold grudges while the male character is very easy going so I think he handles the situation well. She has a right to be angry (he let her teenage daughter sneak out) but he has his very good reasons for doing that. he was accused of a crime he didn’t by his girl friend (she’s a cop) and her daughter is really the only one who believes that he is innocent and she snuck out to go after the real culprit.

  110. Brunoon 18 Nov 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Reading your article, I just remembered something I read long ago about boys x girls:
    It was some biological kind of thing. Women, as the child-bearers, are completely vulnerable during pregnancy and soon thereafter, thus, they need to ensure lasting relationships with protective males to care for them during that time. Thus they tend to be more relationship focused then males. Men, on the other hand, worries more about real objective stuff. Men want to be bad-ass enough to be the alpha male and the alpha predator, thus ensuring they get the girl. And that requires a lot of objective stuff, I guess. Even with great relationships to get a good hunting pack you still need to raise yourself over the others into the alpha to get the girl. Also, relationship building is girly, thus unmanly and non alpha, so a big no-no. Years and years of evolution fine tuned both into their respective ‘roles’, and no matter what feminists think, this won’t change due the biology of the thing.
    That’s just what I read somewhere too far away to remember clearly.

  111. ShyVioletson 19 Nov 2011 at 3:33 am

    Well since males are weaker at birth than females, and don’t mature as quickly, they need protection from their parents longer. The are, however, stronger after maturity so it makes since that they they would take more of a protector role, but strictly speaking in the animal kingdom that’s often all males do. The females are usually the hunters and raisers of the young and in many cases the leaders of the family group. Just look at most couples you know. Who is really in charge?

  112. [...] Writing Authentic Male Characters by B. McKenzie at Super Hero Nation [...]

  113. [...] Writing Authentic Male Characters, [...]

  114. Fluffmongeron 31 Aug 2012 at 11:46 pm

    Looking for a bit of guidance.
    I am very much a girl. And don’t quite understand guys very well, despite trying.
    I’m wondering about how one would go about taking the rather cliché plot/character development arch of the tough as nails guy growing softer, generally due to love, and making it actually realistic and not so cliché. As it stands, my dude, Dom, is a fighter, who despises losing. And also frivolous sentiments and fluffery. He’s a loner. Mia is a more innocent girl who happens to fall in with him. And eventually, in love with him. I plan on having him leave her at the end of the story, and breaking her, mostly emotionally. I’m not sure if this would come o as convincing or not though…

  115. B. McKenzieon 01 Sep 2012 at 6:16 am

    One possibility that might help would be having the relationship change him in some way besides toughness -> softness. For example, in Up, the main way the romance changes Carl is making him less adventurous –> more adventurous.

  116. Anonymouson 23 Dec 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I love both King Of Queens and Star Trek, although my KoQ obsession probably stems from watching it with my dad.

  117. Dr. Vo Spaderon 23 Dec 2012 at 7:09 pm

    @Fluffmonger,

    Heh…Dom. I know this a few months late but is he into cars?

    @Anonymous,

    “King of Queens” really is a pretty good show. It and “Everybody Loves Raymond” are two of my favorite non-modern shows.

    @B. Mac,

    I don’t suppose you’ve seen Fox’s “Justified”? There’s a character in it named Boyd who I think is a pretty good example of trait blending. Yeah. I’m thinking about TV shows now.

  118. Anonymouson 09 May 2013 at 12:19 pm

    B. Mac, did you like Dr. Manhattan?

  119. B. McKenzieon 09 May 2013 at 7:33 pm

    “B. Mac, did you like Dr. Manhattan?” He strikes me as a somewhat more interesting version of the Martian Manhunter (e.g. super-aloof, removed from humanity, a hyper-big picture thinker, etc). I think the human-turned-god angle gives the character a bit more depth than (say) just making him a character that had always been a god. In addition, the conflict with Rorschach struck me as unexpected and well-executed.

    HOWEVER, most of the characters I’ve seen in submissions which bear any resemblance to Dr. Manhattan strike me as fundamentally unworkable. In particular, one thing Alan Moore did brilliantly was that his story was not mainly about action or fights. If you are writing a story that hinges on combat, giving a protagonist godlike powers far beyond the scope of his antagonists will probably strangle any possibility for suspense or challenge. (Also, from a marketing/sales perspective, superheroes with relatively limited superpowers* have dominated the box office for at least 15 years and comics for perhaps 30 — there are too many Supermen for too little demand).

  120. Anonymouson 10 May 2013 at 2:38 am

    Thanks a lot!!

  121. Samm Bon 31 Jul 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Hi,
    I was an English minor in University – have done a lot of creative writing. I majored in sexuality, marriage and family studies though… so gender vs. sex happens to be a topic I am not only found of but consider myself to be well researched in.

    I found this article interesting on a number of different levels. First things first – character development is most definitely difficult when you don’t have a clear idea of who your character really is as a person. I don’t agree you should stick to writing gender stereotypes because that is what readers expect or find comfortable – that is a good way to develop believable characters in most cases yes – but here is my take on male characters or just masculinity in general.

    Masculinity is a tricky business – I feel like male writers writing male characters fall into a masculinity performance trap. Society constantly tells guys that they need to be, be it strong, unemotional, independent, and so on… so when male writers write masculine characters that follow all the masculine stereotypes I feel like that guy ins’t a real guy and the writer has some issues in terms of how he defines himself as a man.

    The truth is – characteristics that are stereo-typically female, like caring, compassionate, good listener, intuitive to peoples emotions…. things like that – men and a lot of men I know have those characteristics too… it just makes a lot of men uncomfortable when another man behaves that way (because this threatens hegemonic masculinity). For example – when my husband told his friends that he wanted to be a stay at home Dad – they said … “oh … because your wife makes more money then you?” (the logical – fits into hegemonic masculinity answer) He said, “No, because I really love kids and taking care of them.” – this answer makes alot people uncomfortable, like when a male teacher teaches kindergarten… something isn’t right with with my husband, or something isn’t right with me as a mother…

    If you are going to use gender stereotypes when you write – be selective and intentional about which ones you use and why… because the truth is… people are people and characteristics are simply characteristics, we as people are much more complex than stereotypes – put some complexity into your characters.

    Here is where I strongly disagree with some of the stereotypes in this article. Some men that I know (like my husband) has always given me directions by using landmarks and it drives me crazy! So if I read a scene where a male gave directions that way I would laugh and think how that male character reminds me of my husband.

    I feel like I’m rambling – but the point I’m trying to make is… please stay away from stereotypes. Try to think about people for who they are or for who you want them to be… the trick to writing believable characters is thinking long and hard about why they would do or say what you are writing out for them… and being consistent.

    One last thing – I don’t believe for a second that guys don’t check out what other guys look like and I would even go so far as saying that guys – likes girls – even compare themselves to other guys – but they won’t admit it. I’m a counsellor now – and trust me, what guys aren’t saying out loud is emotional and feminine – as a society we repress men and isolate them – it’s really quite sad.

    So if you are writing a male character who happens to be insecure about the way he looks? Sure, by all means, have him check out his male roommate as often as you want! But make sure your intent is clear that he is comparing himself to his roommate and isn’t just enjoying how sexy his roommate is – unless of course you want your male character to be gay… which is great. I love reading/writing gay male and female characters. Keep it consistent though.

    Thanks for the read! I really did agree that most of the examples given in this article were examples of poor character development – but I think the character development was poor because the intention behind what was written likely wasn’t clear – not because “a guy would never think that” or “a guy would never do that”. The truth is – a guy might think that and a guy might do that – just have a clear reason as to why. Have a rational for everything your character says and or does – always ask why. And if your answer to why ends up being … “Because that is what I would say..” or “That is what I would do.” – you probably aren’t being true to the character you have created and that might be where a character begins to feel unauthentic.

    Cheers! :D

  122. Aleajon 06 Aug 2013 at 4:12 pm

    What about deciding how a guy says certain things? For example, I know (I’m a girl) that if someone’s wearing something ugly, a female might say, “Ew, did you see ____’s top?”, whereas a guy would just raise an eyebrow. But referring to the whole descriptive thing, I’ve found that women use more words to express their feelings in general. I just don’t know how to write male dialogue without making them sound female.

  123. Thalamuson 06 Aug 2013 at 11:36 pm

    Speaking as a male person, to the above comment, you are going about it the wrong way if you think an ugly top would be worth commenting on even in the guy’s head. How fashionable clothes are generally is not a priority for most men (definitely not in the same sense that it is for women) or, at least, you could find more interesting things to focus on in your story. Unless you are trying to show a male character as unusually fussy and/or appearance orientated, I don’t see why it would be important enough to go in the narrative.

  124. Thalamuson 06 Aug 2013 at 11:38 pm

    Please note that I am not speaking as a writer here, but as a male person who thought the idea of a man needing a way to express his dislike of an ugly top in your story was a little odd as a priority.

  125. Kid Writeron 07 Aug 2013 at 7:02 am

    I’m fairly new to this website and would first like to say it has been very helpful for me, thank you one and all who have ever worked on this site!

    Secondly, in my current superhero story (a series of short stories, actually) my main character is a bit of a wimp. He’s not very masculine (not feminine though), so is it alright for him to be wimpy, even though he’s my main character? Could he sound not realistic enough?

  126. B. McKenzieon 07 Aug 2013 at 5:13 pm

    “Please note that I am not speaking as a writer here, but as a male person who thought the idea of a man needing a way to express his dislike of an ugly top in your story was a little odd as a priority.” I agree very much.



    “I just don’t know how to write male dialogue without making them sound female.” Part of the issue here might be the character’s motivation. Does your guy have any reason to talk with X about what Y is wearing? Most guys don’t care.

    1) If a guy has an issue with someone’s attire, he’d probably bring it up directly with the person (“Hey, we have a client meeting today! Lose the jeans”).

    2) It’d be really weird for a guy to disapprove of somebody’s clothing just because he didn’t like how it looked. Professionalism and family standards are serious. Fashion sense is not.
    LADY: “Eww, did you see Jane’s top?”
    GUY: “Unless she came to work naked, I’m going back to my desk.”

    My personal thinking here:
    1) Most guys aren’t super interested in matching up colors. Also, men may have a harder time perceiving color differences.
    2) Outside of maintaining professionalism and family standards, worrying about somebody else’s attire strikes me (and probably most guys, I’d wager) as generally petty and superficial. Even in those 2 cases, I’d punt this to someone else if possible.
    3) Guys generally aren’t super-interested in clothing beyond the basic functions of warmth, professionalism, and above all not getting arrested. If a guy spends more than 30 minutes buying a shirt, he damn well better be getting married in it. :)



    Guys definitely do gossip, but it probably wouldn’t be related to attire. E.g. ask one of your male friends to tell you about his worst coworker and I’m sure you’ll get some amusing anecdotes. However, if pressed on the point, he will claim (and will genuinely believe) that he is not engaging in gossip. “Gossip” is for ladies. He is, uhh, evaluating a coworker’s job performance. :)

  127. Aleajon 08 Aug 2013 at 3:49 am

    Thanks, that helped a lot. :)

  128. Tricksteron 01 Jan 2014 at 2:57 pm

    I’m female and I had the misfortune of a roommate who watched Grey’s Anatomy, ER and other shitty medical shows (she was a nurse-in-training). They are really annoying.

  129. B. McKenzieon 01 Jan 2014 at 3:41 pm

    ROOMMATE: “We DON’T get to sleep with coworkers every day? Then what are all these cots for?”

    EVERYONE ELSE: “Uhh…”



    Opposite of this story: I never watch cop movies or spy movies with cops or spies because they ALWAYS complain about how the movies aren’t realistic.

  130. amyon 20 Feb 2014 at 7:19 am

    Thank you so much for writing this article (even though I’m years late to the party). As a woman, one of my pitfalls is definitely over-describing scenery or how one male character views another male character. It often comes across as too lovey-dovey, as you mentioned in the article.

    One of the characters in a book I’m currently writing is a demon attempting to pose as a human, but due to his vanity he ends up creating a body that is far too flaw-free and pretty to properly pass. And while it’s easy for me to write lewd descriptions of him from the less-scrupulous characters in my story, it’s much harder to come up with descriptions from the “normal” characters’ perspective. What WOULD a regular, everyday guy notice about him? Certainly not the fact that his eyes are a tad too green or his hair is far too shiny to be human. It’s difficult coming up with that perfect balance of “this character notices something off about the other character’s appearance” rather than “this character is attracted to the other character because he keeps mentioning his pretty eyes and hair”.

  131. Wolfgirlon 21 Feb 2014 at 6:53 am

    For Amy the other characters could notice he seems a but too pretty and think maybe he’s homosexual or something.

  132. B. McKenzieon 21 Feb 2014 at 7:06 am

    “What WOULD a regular, everyday guy notice about him? Certainly not the fact that his eyes are a tad too green or his hair is far too shiny to be human.” Some possibilities: A character might notice that ladies are paying a LOT of attention to him, particularly a character that’s insecure about his own appearance. If a character sees this demon as some sort of romantic competitor, it would make sense if he regarded/treated the demon differently than he would treat someone that wasn’t romantically competitive.

    Alternately, it’s possible that a guy might notice that something looks… off about him. E.g. if someone’s eyes had a really unusual shade, it’s possible that someone would politely encourage him to get them checked out by an eye doctor for a potential infection. If it looks like the demon posing as a human has ridiculously shiny hair, it’s possible that another guy would work a joke into conversation about how much gel the demon uses.

    If there’s ever a situation where the demon SHOULD look like a wreck but still looks perfectly groomed, that might be noticeable. E.g. if you know or have a pretty good idea that someone woke up less than 10 minutes ago and still looks perfectly groomed (e.g. because you had to wake him up for the carpool), that would be noticeably unexpected.

    I’m guessing a demon isn’t a paragon of self-control or healthy living. It’s possible that another character would notice a discrepancy between the demon’s appearance and his behavior. For example, if you knew someone ridiculously fit that you’ve only ever seen eat junk food, you might be interested enough to follow up on that. In a well-meaning way, you ask him about what he does to stay fit (because he must have some sort of kickass exercise regimen, right?), which might create an awkward situation for him even though you didn’t think anything was amiss. PS: A lot of ridiculously athletic guys treat fitness/health in general as a social activity, which could also create problems for the demon (e.g. I think it’d be plausible for one bodybuilder to ask another what sort of exercises or activities he did for developing his shoulder muscles). I wouldn’t recommend making this the main topic of conversation, though, but rather adding it as a brief exchange in a conversation you were going to include anyway.

    Anything BESIDES the character checking out how good looking the demon/guy is would probably work — e.g. anything related to suspicion, concern, advice, or potential medical concerns would probably feel a lot more natural.

  133. Stormon 04 May 2014 at 11:41 am

    At the part about the roommate describing physical traits, you make it sound bad that a character could be interpreted as gay. I think you should just keep in mind that not all characters need to be straight, and gay characters are actually important.

  134. B. McKenzieon 04 May 2014 at 4:25 pm

    “You make it sound bad that a character could be interpreted as gay.” The problem with the above scene with the roommates was that the narration unintentionally implied a romantic interest that did not actually exist. If the author had intended it to sound like the character was ogling his roommate, the scene would have been fine as written.

  135. Anonymouson 27 Jul 2014 at 7:33 pm

    This is a really great article! I think it’ll be very helpful to me. It’s just… the Brady thing really tore me up. Haha!

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