Posted On October 1, 2012 by Print This Post

Handsome Hansel’s Point of View on POV

Welcome back Handsome Hansel of Dance of Romance to Romance University. Today, HH gives us his POV on POV!

Let me begin this post by saying that, even I, who doesn’t get surprised by much, was overwhelmed with the comments to my last posting for female writer’s insight into the male point of view (POV). After a deep breath… or five… I realized this is exactly why I was brought into the bosom (please forgive me) of Romance University.

So how ‘bout we get to it!

The male point of view…hmmm. As a male I suppose I am expected to have an inside track and to some extent I do. But it’s not because I share a similar chromosome with the rest of my gender, it’s that I’m allowed inside an inner circle because of my chromosomal similarity and you’re not. (Na na na na na na.)

All kidding aside now, the male mind is only as complex as the female’s. Why do I present that? Because my approach to finding a POV, male OR female, is that we are all characters of our own design. When I am writing from a female POV I make a conscious decision to dismiss the fact I’m not female. (Not really a stretch) I have to. I believe as a writer we are all guilty of overreaching, overanalyzing, and over-thinking everything. In a lot of cases it’s best to take a step back and write what we believe our characters would do, say, destroy – regardless if they are male or female. The Point of Views of either are not really that polar.

I had someone comment to my last post that they had a male friend read a scene in a story she had written to get his opinion on the male character. He dismissed most of the dialogue she had written for her character because, “I wouldn’t say that”. So she rewrote and probably rewrote, rewrote, rewrote as we writers tend to do.

My take on this is that as writers we are writing characters! Our characters do what we say, what we tell them to do and when we tell them to do it. Period. A science fiction writer never gets a chance to interview and follow around the grey/green large skulled, three legged yet very sexy (romantic tension is very important in sci-fi novels) alien. Yet they make these characters believable. Why? Because of the development of their characters.

I believe the best way to develop characters is by observation, not by interviewing. We can take bits and pieces of people we see or watch on a daily basis and construct a character from them. A believable, viable, with spot-on dialogue if we simply just pay attention to our daily surroundings.

I have listened to the frustration vented by fellow writers of not feeling they are getting honest feedback from people they share their work. They are told, “This is great”, “I loved it”, yet they walk away feeling kowtowed to. They see the surface but their gut tells them something is happening deeper down. This is the level of observance writers need in order to mold great characters.

I hadn’t had a vacation in over 5 years. So, based on an evening I had in Miami over 20 years ago, I decided my vacation would be spent in Miami and Key West. Once there I realized the people were entirely different. Pompous, impatient compared to my mid-westernness, and treated every just-turned green light as an emergency call yet they were still male, female and American so I should be able to relate, right? Hell no! Instead, I spent a LOT of my time watching, observing, enjoying the curtain calls each and every character gave me so I could get to the writing. In order to conquer a POV, you have to have one first for your characters.

Before I develop a character I remind myself there are over 7 Billion people on the planet. Cut in half to separate the boys from the girls and that still leaves 6,999,999 characters I haven’t a clue about. That sucks! For some reason we invent a character then try to reverse engineer it later. I’m telling you, that is NOT the way to go. Just as every person on this planet should embrace their originality so should the personas we choose for our characters. Again…period.

I am the guiltiest of the guilty. I will take the POV of a character and convince myself it’s not right. It takes a moment of self correction to put it back in place: “Hey, I’m a writer and *I* call the shots!” My characters are mine and mine to puppeteer. No one else’s.

So, in a nutshell, with sorrow in my heart, there really isn’t a true-diehard male POV anyone of us can tap in to. We are just characters in your writings. A man can be whatever you do and don’t want him to be. Make them believable. Make them real within their own fabricated skin and your readers will immerse themselves amongst your words.

The best writing in any kind of fiction, I feel, isn’t writing from research but from the ebbs and flows of day to day observations of the people around us. The soul resides in the living not the made up. It’s our duty as writers to bridge that gap for our fans. We make up characters but the best characters will be a culmination of what we observe of others, not a spaghetti-against-a-wall approach to the opposite sex.

When it comes to the male POV it’s NOT any different than writing a female character into your story in which you are unfamiliar with what motivates her. They are characters. We decide what moves them. What motivates them. What makes them tick. Don’t pigeon hole yourself into believing there is some tried-and-true answer to making a male POV work. We are characters in stories just as females are to men like me. Observe Observe Observe.

That is where the truth in a character resides.

HH

***

So what do you think, RU Crew? Do you have a “trick” for writing in the male POV?

Join us on Wednesday for Adam Firestone! Woot!

***

Bio: Like most of us, I’ve been around the block a time or two (or three) in the relationship world. I like to think of myself as having a pretty thick skin, however, that skin doesn’t surround the heart.

I’ve been in love; I’ve been in lust. I’ve been hurt and got up to do it all again, each time having learned more of myself as well as “wants” and “don’t wants” for my next relationship. Amazingly enough, I never gave up on that one true love wrapped in Romance. You can visit me here, at http://thedanceofromanceonline.com

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35 Responses to “Handsome Hansel’s Point of View on POV”

  1. My most basic rule of writing male POV is this:
    Men never use seventeen words to express an idea when three will do the job just fine.
    (Therefore, if I’d been writing this from the POV of one of my male characters, I would’ve just said, “Women complicate things.”)

    I think male and female characters are equally complex, men just tend to communicate in more succinct terms.

    Posted by Jamie Farrell | October 1, 2012, 5:45 am
  2. My family’s male to female ratio is two to one. I’ve observed a lot of action and heard a lot of dialogue. I make up how I want my characters to behave, but rely on my experience to set the tone.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | October 1, 2012, 7:11 am
    • Mary Jo,

      It certainly helps to have roll models for our characters. I love people watching at a venue and coming up with their stories. :)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 8:46 am
  3. Morning HH!

    Unlike Mary Jo, I was raised in an all girl family – except for dad, of course. But having worked with the public for the past 22 years (good grief, coming up on 23!) I’ve met such a huge variety of men. Some well spoken, some barely able to offer more than a grunt in communication. But boy do I have characters in my head to choose from! =)

    Thanks for the great post HH!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | October 1, 2012, 7:33 am
  4. I’m the only female writer in my critique group, so we have lots of “a guy wouldn’t say or do that” debates. To be honest, I always listen, but in the end, it’s my book and my character, so I decide. Period.

    Still, the guys have given me very insightful advice. For instance, they saved me from having my male character neatly fold a pair of jeans during an ultra hot love scene. (I know, what was I thinking?)

    On the other hand, one of the guys told me what he would do in a particular scene. (He’d lean down and kiss the dog first instead of kissing the girl.) I stared at him blankly for a moment, then responded, “You, my friend, are definitely not the guy I wanna write about.”

    Posted by Roxanne | October 1, 2012, 8:34 am
    • Ok, I actually choked with laughter on a sip of coffee to your post!

      As far as the guy neatly folding a pair of jeans after a hot love scene? I’m a Virgo so that sounds like something I would do but if the sex was hot or hell – who are we kidding here – even tepid, even THIS guy would never bother to fold my jeans. :)

      And the guy wanting to kiss the dog before the girl…one word…issues.

      Good to hear from you again, Roxanne!

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 9:32 am
    • Roxanne –

      I’m with HH – you brought a smile to my face today!

      Kelsey

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 1, 2012, 12:47 pm
  5. I absolutely agree that your characters are your own, but sometimes you just have to let them go and see where they take you. As much as I might want to write a character that is, say, carefree and spontaneous, if I already decided her parents are both alcoholics, I can’t. I know from psychology and sociology studies that adult children of alcoholics tend to be distrustful, perfectionist, anxious people who tend to over plan for everything. Writing any gender is the same. As long as the writer invents a background that will give the character certain traits, it doesn’t matter the author’s gender.

    Posted by Kelly | October 1, 2012, 10:13 am
    • Kelly I can’t agree more. I feel the place to start with our characters is with motivation. Why do they tick the way they do? What would my character be thinking/worrying about when they lay their head on their pillow at night?

      If we have those answers it becomes easier to bring them to life male or female.

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 10:54 am
  6. This is an interesting topic. Being female, you’d think writing a female POV would be a snap, but I seem to do better writing the male POV. Go figure!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | October 1, 2012, 10:16 am
    • Hey Becke!

      (I’m probably going to catch some flack for what I’m about to say but I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t! :)

      I am guilty of when I’m out and about of paying more attention to women than men. (Insert boyish shrug and awe shucks look here) I guess I feel because I’m a man I have men figured out. While I have way more female friends than male I still don’t rely on what they tell me women are like behind closed doors so to speak. I feel I get a more honest interpretation of a woman’s POV by watching them in action.

      That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! :)

      Thanks again Becke,
      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 11:01 am
      • I have two brothers and a son, as well as my husband, so I’ve been exposed to male viewpoints my whole life – and they are all very different!

        For me, male POV is easier because when I write women, I try to keep my own point of view out of it. That’s not always easy!

        Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | October 1, 2012, 12:01 pm
  7. Great subject and excellent observations, HH! I tend to agree with you. Writing POV is challenging, whether it’s qualified by gender, socio-economic status, race … the list goes on and on. I think our own cultural indoctrination leads us, as writers, towards certain confinements as we develop our characters–not so much our gender. A skillful writer should be able to overcome those confinements and write a wide range of characters. As for your writing, your skill definitely overcomes your POV as a male writer.

    Posted by susan furlong-bolliger | October 1, 2012, 10:37 am
    • Thank SO very much Susan! I think I’m actually blushing and it’s hard to be all manly when you blush. :)

      I too believe we confine ourselves when it comes to characters. We over think. Just like Hemingway and his commas.

      Thanks for taking the time to travel from Twitter to RU and visit me.

      (To others reading this: be sure to follow @FoulPlayAuthor on Twitter)

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 11:12 am
  8. I think back on the male characters in my novels and they are each very distinctive and unique in their POV, including a gay couple in books two and three – Gregory is the quieter “four words will do” type, while his partner Flynn is very outgoing and more like one of the girls. It was so interesting to have them become part of my cast of characters. Very interesting post and comments HH!

    Posted by Mary Metcalfe | October 1, 2012, 11:18 am
    • Thanks Mary and I’m glad to see the Owly link worked!

      You bring up an excellent point, by the way, regarding gay characters. It could be argued that because I am a man it should be easier for me to write a gay male character than for a woman writer. When in reality I wouldn’t have a clue where to begin with the exception of the guy who has cut my hair for the last 10 years and a few other friends who are also gay.

      One of my favorite poets, writers, and pure souls is Sylvia Plath. A favorite quote of hers is:
      “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

      We need to breath that kind of life into our characters. They are, They are, They are.

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 11:46 am
  9. A POV is just that, a POV.

    I’m all for writers (of any kind) to ask opinions and POV’s, but the major mistake most writers are making is that they just take it all so personal.

    With that said, the readers also take it way too personal.

    I’m guilty of it myself as a writer and a reader.

    That’s why I really like your message that in the end it’s the writer who’s boss and not the other way around, sure one should please their readers, but at the end of the day, a story wouldn’t be unique if all stories were the same.

    However I often hear writers say that their characters write themselves… Is that even possible? What’s your take on that?

    Posted by Soraya E. | October 1, 2012, 11:21 am
    • Again Soraya you cut through the thick and keep us focused on what’s really important. I appreciate you for that. (And your friendship.)

      Every single person out there has a uniquely imprinted POV. I believe the phrase “The truth is stranger than fiction” is based of the fact there are characters out in the world roaming around even we authors are afraid to write about! Yet…when we challenge ourselves, we CAN bring the believability into any character we desire to materialize from our tapping fingertips.

      Characters writing themselves? Absolutely. I feel sometimes I’m cursed when I’m out and about. I will notice someone sitting on the other side of the room, let’s say a woman checking her lipstick in a compact mirror while keeping an eye on the door; low cut blouse, heels she is just getting used to, and a Martini with a side of water set in front of her. While that is what my eyes see, it’s not what my mind sees.

      My mind writes the story of everything that happened prior to what my eyes see. It’s automatic. I can’t even help it. It doesn’t happen with everyone I see only those who, for reasons unbeknownst to me, stick out.

      I suffer from other people’s de-ja vu. Whether I’m right or not about what my mind sees doesn’t matter. I’ve just had a character appear in my head with a full-blown story. It’s getting to a keyboard in time to let her out before she disappears that is the problem!

      Thanks, S! Keep things under control on your side of the pond and I’ll hold down the fort over here. Agreed?

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 12:06 pm
  10. I am not of one of thosue authors who think that my characters control the story – I do – and that means that I have to make sure that not every character acts like the last. Male or female.

    I jsut finished turning in Book 2 of a four book series about four men who are pulled back to their hometown and have to face the choices they have made. Jackson was the stoic, silent type. Lucky is a talker and a charmer. Teague is a charismatic lawyer who talks but weighs every word. And, Beck is the flirt, the guy who lets his words deceptively keep you at arm’s length.

    Four different men. Four different POV’s and reactions to situations – just like the “real” men in my life. None of them are stick figures. Each are individual – just like in reality.

    Robin

    Posted by Robin Covington | October 1, 2012, 12:15 pm
    • Robin,

      Expertly put. While boys and girls can stand on the opposite sides of the gym at junior prom and try to figure the other group out. We are all individuals not labels or caricatures of a preconceived persona. We need to trust in our characters (aka our writing) as they take on a life of their own.

      Thanks and I would love to learn about your book series!

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 12:27 pm
  11. Thanks a ton for the reminder that, as writer, we do still have some control over our characters :-). I’m one of those guilty of over-thinking and analyzing my stories and story people. Sometimes, I just need to let them BE.

    It’s also a great reminder that I need to get out and eavesdrop a little more. Research!

    Kelsey

    Posted by Kelsey Browning | October 1, 2012, 12:50 pm
    • It’s great to hear from you Kelsey!

      Like a great meal, there are several ingredients we need to come together to make it taste incredible but it’s the final stage – cooking – which brings it all together or makes it fall apart. We are a clever bunch, us writers, but we are our own worst enemy sometimes. For me, I keep two (very) simple principles at hand: Solid and Fluid. Is my character a brick or do they have motion, movement, and…wait for it…fluidity? Getting out and paying close attention to those around us reveals exactly how mercurial we all are.

      Thanks, K.

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 1:08 pm
  12. Hola HH!

    Your post reminded me of Jack Nicholson’s character, Melvin, in “As Good As It Gets” when he’s accosted by the receptionist at his publisher.

    Gushing Receptionist: How do you write women so well?

    Melvin: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

    I didn’t grow up with brothers, but it’s easier for me to write the male POV. Men normally don’t express their emotions as easily as women, and as someone already pointed out, they’ll respond with one word answers or short sentences.

    This is the case when I’m writing male dialogue, but even if the character might not say much, his brain is engaged, and it’s important to fill in the dialogue with his internal thoughts.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | October 1, 2012, 12:51 pm
  13. Yes! Yes! Yes!
    (Great scene by the way!)

    While dialogue is very important it’s more important to write the things they don’t say: feelings, emotions, reactions. When a character says something ask yourself “why did they say that?”

    (I am going to re-watch that movie again tonight.)

    Thanks!
    HH

    Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 1:18 pm
  14. My main series is written from a female POV, however many of the characters within the novels are male and I have never had a great deal of difficulty in defining them as characters and trying to portray them as a reader. Maybe that has something to do with the fact I have three brothers, so possibly I have an advantage, I don’t know. Many of my short stories, however, are written from a male POV and I’ve always felt quite comfortable with this – sometimes more comfortable, mostly because they are more horror-based and for some reason I seem to be able to make a story more gritty when writing from a male perspective.
    All in all, I agree, it’s YOUR story so you form the character in the way you want and all you can hope is that people can relate, or at least, think that they are believable.

    Posted by Linzi | October 1, 2012, 2:27 pm
    • Linzi, I truly appreciate you stopping by and bringing our favorite beverage. ;)

      I too believe that having a certain circle of people around you, in your case boys, helps in understanding how to develop that type of character. You have a constant stream of perspective from which to fish. As writers we need to play to our strengths.

      Horror? I was afraid of you before! (Only a little bit) But now?!?!

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 4:35 pm
  15. I write YA, so add in the complication of writing teen males, and that’s where I am. I’ve learned from a lot of observation and listening to get this POV closer to where I want it, but it’s still tricky. In the end, I remember we are all human with wants, crushes, feelings,goals, insecurities etc. We may express (or not express) them differently, but they are the core of all actions and dialogue. Great post, HH. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Michele Shaw | October 1, 2012, 3:49 pm
    • Michele,

      I’m glad you brought another perspective into the discussion. I have not even ventured into YA although as the father of 5 I breath a sigh of relief when I watch my kids read book after book after book. And it’s authors like you I have to thank for that. So…Thank You.

      I’m curious, do you find yourself reminiscing of when you were your demographic’s age in order to help write your characters?

      HH

      Posted by HH | October 1, 2012, 4:39 pm

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