Guy Speak 

Feb 18 2022, 10:22 pm in

 

WHEN a man says he’ll do anything for a woman that means, unplug a toilet, kill bad guys and slay dragons. It doesn’t mean hold her purse etc.

This is not about a man saying one thing and meaning another.

I’m discussing male dialogue in romantic fiction. It drives me bonkers to read dialogue that has a man speaking like a woman. Male and female brains are hardwired different. While the male and female of the species have the same basic needs, they communicate those needs in different ways. Therefore, Y chromosomes express themselves differently and their dialogue is going to be different.

Different. Got it?

We as writers need to remember not to mess with the hard wiring and show that difference on the page. Don’t make your heroes fit so perfectly into some fantasy Prince Charming mold that the characters no longer resemble the male species.

Let’s begin with the differences in the way the two sexes talk. Women tend to qualify a statement by ending the sentence with a question.  “This color looks good on me, don’t you think?”

Guys get a new paint job on their Mustang. It will be, “Dang. My car looks good.” He doesn’t give a hoot or a holler what anyone else thinks.

Ask a guy a question that requires a yes or no. “Do you want to ride into town with me?” Men will respond with yes or no. Ask a woman the same question. “Yes, but can we stop at the mall first cause I want to exchange a blouse I bought the other day for a smaller size. If you don’t want to stop, I don’t think I want to go. But, ask me again before you go. I might change my mind.” 

When writing dialogue for a guy the less words used the better. A cowboy won’t ask the cows to please go into the corral because he has things to do, he’ll yell, “Yee-ha.”  A police detective isn’t going to say to a struggling bad guy “Please stop fighting me and put your hands behind you so I can get these cuffs on.” It will be, “hands behind you.” And maybe an expletive added.  Men cut to the chase. They don’t hem and haw and beat around the bush. They say what’s on their mind. “Nice dress. Take it off.”  Thank you Janet for that brilliant line.

Now let’s discuss feelings.

Men are not as complicated as women want to make them. There’s an old joke about what it takes to please men and women. There are 99 items on the woman’s list. Things like bring her flowers, candy, rub her feet, take her to dinner, etc. On the men’s list are 2 things: show up naked with beer. Pretty much sums it up.

Does your hero tell your heroine how he feels? Does he answer her when she asks how he feels?  If the answer is yes, then take your hands off the keyboard and step away from the computer cause we need to talk. Even though you want your hero to be the man we gals want, having him talk too much about feelings could be pushing the edge of the envelope.

Men will gladly tell you what they think, but what they feel…? Try this experiment.  Ask you DH, SO, any guy, what they feel about a topic you know they are interested in. A couple of days later ask them what they think about it. In my tests the how do you feel question was met with blank stares, and a “huh?” The what do you think question was answered with a five minute monologue and way more information than I wanted.

What’s the difference? The survey says a Y chrom is sure about what he thinks, but with his feelings, ehhh…he doesn’t want to look a fool to his woman. Men seem to be intimidated by the fact women are born with a master’s degree in the discussion of feelings. They figure if the relationship is good their woman won’t want to talk about feelings. Talking feelings when things are going well, throws a guy out of the game. He gets nervous.

This can be an excellent opportunity to add conflict on the page.

Her: “Why won’t you tell me how you feel?”

She’s thinking -OMG there must be something wrong he won’t talk to me.

Him: “I don’t feel anything.”

He’s thinking- OMG. She wants to talk about feelings. I’ve screwed up big time.

It can be a way to show character arc. In the beginning he doesn’t share much. As the relationship grows and he wants to make her happy, he begins to open up about his feelings. He doesn’t exactly like it, but when she lets him know how worthwhile he is, he becomes more willing to expose his own insecurities and sacrifice his comfort zone for her. As in TALK about how he FEELS.

Careful about the writing here. Even though you want your hero to be the man we gals want, having him talk about feelings to soon with TMI could be asking your reader to suspend beliefs. Above I said a man will sacrifice his comfort zone for his woman. Why? Because guys feel sacrifices show love. Men love the power struggle, love to be in control and those sacrifices, big or small, will center around that.  Something as small as letting his woman pick the radio station in the car when he wants to listen to the game, going shopping with her, holding her bag when he wants to be home watching the game is another way a man expresses love. He derives great satisfaction when she acknowledges that sacrifice with a simple thank you, or a smile. I’m not saying a guy should forgo flowers on her birthday. I’m saying write smart. Show love in more than one way.

And remember men are fixers. A woman goes to her man with a problem his first reaction will be to fix it not give sympathy.

Her: “My beloved VW was stolen.” She’s had that car since high school and loves it. She needs a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Him: “It was old. Come on let’s head out and get you a brand new one.” He’s all puffed up cause his woman had a problem and he fixed it just like that.

 

To get a handle on men’s dialogue I suggest you listen to love songs. The vast majority are written by men and feelings are rarely mentioned. They sing about what they are doing, are going to do to their woman, or what they want their woman to do to them.  Also when out and about watch and listen to how men interact with each other.

BTW, my opinion is most women aren’t looking for Prince Charming. They want someone who knows about unconditional love, how to be honest, true and faithful. Write you male protagonist with that in mind.

Happy Writing

                                                    Rita  

 

 

 

 

 

   

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