Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Writing from the Opposite Sex's Point of View

My sophomore novel releasing this September--Dry as Rain--was originally a third person, dual point of view (POV) book written half from the wife's pov, half from the husband's. You see I didn't think I was ready to write an entire book from a male pov. I am, after all, a woman. I would have to do much research to get it right and I was up for all that. . . UNTIL... my publisher told me they wanted it to be first person all from his viewpoint. They said I wrote the man's point of view better than the woman's. What does this say about my estrogen to testosterone level? I'm not sure and don't guess I really want to know.

Not wanting to throw a year's worth of work away, I figured I'd better at least give it a try.

Did I get it right? I don't know. I guess I'll have to find out from the male reviewers. My husband read every word and I'd get an occasional raised eyebrow with, "He'd only say that if he were gay," remark which I would, of course, change, but all in all he gave me a thumb's up.

He was instrumental in some of the scenes where he would add a detail here or there that I never would have thought of, paperclips stuck to the back magnet of a dealership plate or the smell of new tires on a showroom floor.

Particularly tricky were the scenes between my main character, Eric and his best-friend Larry. I know how women relate, but it's not like I've ever been able to observe two male friends with no one else around. Having a guy who's willing to say yay or nay on a scene was a life saver. I also will probably draw some fire for saying the mindset I put myself in to write from a guy's perspective, but when have I ever cared about being politically correct?

So, below are the tidbits of masculinity I traded my girly thoughts with. Are they true of most men? Gina shrugs. They were true of my main male character though.

1. Men have an ego. They compare themselves with other men, differently than women compare themselves to other women. We size up her beauty, her figure, her talent and intelligence. My male character sized up his competition literally, by size first, followed by job,  income and attractiveness.

2. Men's eyes are drawn to flesh, like women's are to beauty. I'm apt to look at a beautiful vase, a pretty flower, a sunset, he might also admire those things but there's a stronger magnet in those high-heeled legs strutting by his table. My main character describes it this way: My eyes were drawn to flesh like metal to magnet, if my Aunt Edna showed some skin, I'd have to look whether I wanted to gouge my eyes out after or not.

3. The best defense is a good offense. Okay, maybe I'm paranoid, but I've noticed that at least the men who've been in my life abide by this philosophy. Catch them doing something wrong and they will turn it around into something I've done in less than a minute flat. No matter what he does, I end up being the one to apologize. I gave my character this defense mechanism.

4. Not all men are womanizers and cheaters. Maybe not even most, but there are plenty who are. My main character commits adultery, but his best friend would never have done it. Why does my main character cheat? She stops touching him, looking up to him, respecting him and he thinks, loving him. He succumbs when a woman he works with looks at him like he was the man he used to be. For him it came down to loneliness and needing admiration that he'd lost from his wife. Yes there's remorse and redemption of course.
5. Live and let die. Women will feel weird around their best-friend if they've fought. They might not talk for months and if they do someone is profusely apologizing most likely. Men? At least my male character? He and his best friend duke it out literally and the next day they're having lunch. Talking about it? Um... that's what the roughhousing was for. 'Nough said.

6. Sports. Yeah, they like them. My main character watches his favorite player make a killer layup and feels as happy as if he'd been the one to make it. Yeah, women don't tend to do that.

7. Feeling the pressure to succeed for the entire family and sometimes missing the boat. My main character, Eric, gives up a life his family loves near the ocean to give them the so-called American dream. A McMansion, luxury car, private school. It takes him losing his wife to realize relationships are more important than how much is in the bank.

8. Love makes the world go 'round. I think men want true love as much as women. My main character, Eric, certainly does. He misses it when he loses what he and his wife, Kyra, had. He describes the lonlieness as quite literally killing him a little more each day.

Okay, that's certainly not an exhaustive list but it's a lot of what ran through my mind as I wrote Eric Yoshida in Dry as Rain. I'd love to know how flawed or correct my thinking was. I'm writing my fourth book from another male's viewpoint, so please tell me if I'm off and what you can add to the list.

From the bestselling author of Crossing Oceans comes a powerfully moving story that tests the limits of love’s forgiveness. Like many marriages, Eric and Kyra Yoshida’s has fallen apart slowly, one lost dream and misunderstanding at a time, until the ultimate betrayal finally pushes them beyond reconciliation. Just when it looks like forgive and forget is no longer an option, a car accident gives Eric the second chance of a lifetime. A concussion causes his wife to forget details of her life, including the chasm between them. No one knows when—or if—Kyra’s memory will return, but Eric seizes the opportunity to win back the woman he’s never stopped loving.  


sampakan said...

Okay, yeah I think you've got it. For the most part, anyway. Let me offer just a little defense for us males. Sure we have egos, though I think it could more aptly be termed "self respect." And yes, this self respect is fragile, but why wouldn't it be? Right or wrong, a male's self respect is based on performance. Yes, I understand grace--at least I struggle to. But in the world, a man's worth is based upon performance.

And while it's terribly wrong for a woman's worth to rest so much on her beauty, it's equally unfair for a man's worth to be dependent on his size or performance.

On your point seven, I doubt most women realize just how much pressure goes with being a good provider. No matter how many external things come to bear on a man's ability to provide, he is ultimately responsible for his family's well-being. Or so every man I know feels.

Christine Lindsay said...

I'm a bit the same Gina. I've been told I write better heroes than I do heroines. But like you, I pass everything through my husband, and I too get the occasional raised eyebrow at things I've written.

Ane Mulligan said...

It's a spot-on list, Gina. Sure there's more, isn't there always? But I can attest to the fact that you do a man's POV very well. From the beginning, I always like Eric's POV scenes the best.

But I think it depends on the book. Crossing Oceans was so well done from Jenny's POV. So I'm thinking it's the story that defines the POV.

Dry as Rain is always Eric's story. Kyra is simply the wife. Okay, not simple, but you know what I mean.

Michelle Massaro said...

Great list! I have a male character whose viewpoint I write from and this is definitely giving me some food for thought. Love it! This is getting a bookmark from me. :)

Nicole said...

Gina, I'm inclined to write from male POVs. I think men have been given a largely bad rap in CBA fiction. I love the difference in men. Hard to figure sometimes but well worth the investment to get to the inner workings of the male mind. You captured a few of their more prominent characteristics, and your writing will no doubt be a fresh wind in CBA fiction. (I've got one coming out from mostly first person male POV soon, so we'll find out how we do with it, huh?)

Brenda Anderson said...

Having grown up on a farm with four brothers, I'd say you've done an excellent job.

I love it that you've created a book told from the male POV, something the CBA lacks, and I look forward to reading Dry as Rain.

Michael Ehret said...

Gina, Good stuff and mostly right. A few comments from my perspective:

1. Men have an ego. Yes.
2. Men's eyes are drawn to flesh. Yes, yes, yes, ok. But I disagree with your "like a woman's are to beauty." That seems, in a way I can't quite define, a little simplistic.
3. I don't disagree, but I think this is a human thing, not a man thing.

4. Thanks for saying this. But the reasons you give for why he does commit adultery, while not excuses, are certainly realistic. But many of us would never, ever, cheat, regardless. And too many don't think that's true. Fidelity is a key male trait too, eh Ronie Kendig?
5. OK as a generalization, but I have ended friendships after arguing with a friend because it was too painful to pretend it didn't matter.
6. no arguments, but not all men catalog sports stats. I could care less, but I do like to watch anything but baseball. My daughter, on the other hand, she's a stats "guy".
7. Spot on. I don't know a single guy who's not this way.
8. Absolutely. Once we find it, we want to keep it. Part of that hunter-gatherer "mine" mindset. And we like it to, too.

Can't wait to read your book.

Carrie L. Lewis said...


I think your 'mindset' list is spot on. The one thing I would add is that studies show (and my husband confirms) that what men want more than love is respect. Respect and encouragement.

As for women writing from a male point of view... I'm thrilled as all get out that I'm not the only one more comfortable writing with the voice of a male character! Kudos to you!

Gina Holmes said...

Thanks guys. Good thoughts. :)