The majority of Romance Writers are female. Even the Male/Male romances are predominately written by women. Getting the male characters in a romance to sound like authentic, manly men is something of an issue. And the fact that I live with a sweetheart of a man who cries when he hears certain songs doesn’t help my writing skills any.
A lot of the issue is understanding how men and women differ in more than just anatomy. This thought struck me while I listened to some audio books that clearly were written by men. They weren’t Romances but most had a glimmer of romance in the story. Here are the ideas I gathered while driving and listening.
The first book is No Second Chance by Harlan Coben. This plot is the epitome of convoluted, which makes for a riveting story. Actually, it’s more like a bunch of stories piled into each other. There’s the story of the girl who used to live in the MCs’ house. There’s the story of the kidnapping and the ransoms. There’s the story of the former child star who found her perfect match in the ugliest and meanest man around. And there’s the story of the baby sellers and the baby buyers. Plus lots of FBI agents involved.
The story or stories are told in the first person, when in Dr. Marc Siedman’s head, and third when in other characters’ heads. And even when those characters are female, there’s not much change in the way the dialogue or other words are written. Mr. Coben comes very close to a gender-neutral style of writing, but he does keep to short, sharp sentences when action runs across the page. And the bottom line is that the character managed to live for 18 months not knowing where his daughter was or with any clue on how to get her back.
Brad Metzler and Tod Goldberg’s The House of Secrets is also complex with a couple stories going on through it all, but not as many as No Second Chance. I must say, and it’s something of a spoiler, that starting a story in the head of a character who dies soon after that always bothers me. Luckily, Jack Nash comes back in flashbacks to fill in gaps in what his children remember. I loved learning about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the condition from which his daughter Hazel suffers during this story. Oh, and there are more FBI agents in this story.
The chapters are short, the sentences are short, the action a little bit behind the scenes. And wow, Hazel can’t remember how she feels about anyone, not her brother or her father or friends or past lovers. She’s much less an emotional woman than a neuter person who can be written in the same way a man would be.
The last book that gave me these impressions was Field of Prey by John Sandford. So totally not my genre. I had to grit my teeth through the bloodshed and wait for the story to become interesting again. There’s a final crazy twist, however, that made it worth the read. In fact, this is book 24 in the Lucas Davenport Prey series, so I might just look up a few more of them. The little clues in this book about past events have my curiosity worked up.
Oh, yeah, FBI agents. A lot of them, plus more police and sheriffs and so on. And actually, not Federal Bureau of Investigation, but Minnesota’s own Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. They don’t just investigate. Nice rivalry understated. And very masculine in that the MC is around a voluptuous woman who would gladly give him sexual healing, but as a married man, he goes home and bangs his wife. Such a guy thing. A woman would make love. A woman would also let us know more about the appearances of the other characters she interacts with. Our MC does mention a slight rivalry with another agent, but beyond that, details are slight and fast.
We do find out that the murderer is short because he resembles another character in the book except for height. And there’s a jelly donut involved. But that twist at the end! Whoa. Dude.
If you want to learn more about how men write versus how women write, check out the links here:
I’d just like to mention that male writers should be learning how to write convincing Female Characters. Just a thought. And the books above are pretty good reads, but the differences in voice came across really well as audiobooks. I suggest you listen to them and take notes.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.