Posted On June 21, 2017 by Print This Post

Speaking Martian on Venus by Becke Martin Davis

Today’s scheduled guest was temporarily defeated by technology and will join us at a later date. In her place, RU Staffer BECKE MARTIN DAVIS ponders male and female POV – the whole “you say tom-ay-to and I say tom-ah-to” thing.

Remember John Gray’s book MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS? Its subtitle gives some insight to the book’s topic: “A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships.” I grew up in a house dominated by females, or at least it felt that way. The line-up went like this: my mom, myself and my two sisters on the girl side, and my dad and two brothers on the guy side. No doubt about it, the females were louder and more vocal, although the males weren’t exactly silent.

My husband’s family leaned in the opposite direction. My father-in-law was a seventh son, and my husband was one of two boys. My mother-in-law was an island of femininity and her voice, while not silenced completely, was certainly overwhelmed by male opinions.

My own children – older girl, younger boy – were pretty well balanced. That is not to say their communication styles were equal, or even comparable. But by the time they reached high school age they were both adept at making their thoughts and wants known.

If you’re of the male persuasion, you’re probably thinking, “Yadda, yadda, get to the point already.” (Perhaps even if you’re female…) We may not be as different as theoretical Martians are from possible Venutians, but men and women do seem to communicate in different ways. What does this mean in relation to writing fiction? Do writers have to become bilingual in order to make their characters true to life?

Without sliding too far into backstory, I’ll admit there was a time when I took a break from romance novels. When my kids were little and my life was filled with teething woes and potty training, I found little I could relate to in the novels that once brought me a blissful escape from the drudgery of commuting and a not-very-challenging job. Instead, I found relief in mysteries with plot puzzles I could try to solve.

I didn’t reconnect with the world of romance until my kids were grown. I discovered Jennifer Crusie’s books first, where I found women I could relate to. It didn’t take me long to add Nora Roberts to my “must read” list. I knew right away what I liked about these books – I didn’t have to imagine what the hero was thinking. It was the first time I came across the male POV in romance novels, and I loved it!

But I was confused, too. I knew these authors were women – Jennifer Crusie wasn’t a reverse George Eliot, nor was Nora Roberts a pen name for some Irish heartbreaker. And yet their heroes felt so real! As I read more and more contemporary romances featuring the male POV, I became hooked on these “new” romances. I even tried to write a few.

That’s where things got really strange. If there’s such a thing as a regular old female, I’m it. And yet when I put words on paper, the point of view I instinctively start with is usually male. When I write females, I run into trouble. My female leads are wimpy when I want them strong, and bitchy when I aim for kick-ass. When male characters take the lead, though, my critique partners and other first readers give me much more positive feedback.

I don’t get it. I’m a female – it should be way easier to write from a female POV. And while I’m certainly around males day and night, I don’t actually live in their heads. (Nor would I want to.) So why does writing the male POV work for me when so often writing the female POV is less successful? It’s like I’m a Venutian who was born speaking Martian.

I don’t have an answer for this, and I’m still curious about all the other female authors who write such fabulous heroes, including chapter upon chapter from the male point of view. Did these authors also grow up with brothers and sons as well as husbands? Did they – and I – absorb male speech patterns through some sort of osmosis? I think I can rule that out pretty quickly, since men tend to be more direct and less wordy. Writing in first person, I think it’s pretty clear these aren’t the meanderings of a male. (Do males meander?)

It’s not that I only read books by female authors, but I think the majority of books in my vast library are written by females. True, when it comes to romance, female authors greatly outnumber the men. But even my mystery bookshelves are tilted toward the female persuasion. I like the way women communicate.

What does it say about female authors that so many of us can write realistic, believable male characters, almost as if we can get into their brains? Maybe the whole Venus and Mars thing is exaggerated and at some level we instinctively recognize y-chromosome thought patterns. It could be just that, as Paul McCartney sang in his WINGS days, “Venus and Mars are all right tonight…”

***

Since, as I mentioned, I don’t have answers, I’m curious to hear your views on male POV. Do you enjoy books with alternating POV? (I do, but my daughter recently mentioned alternating points of view drives her a little nuts.) Do you enjoy reading and writing in the male POV, or do you prefer one over the other? When it comes to reading, do you prefer male or female protagonists?

Join us Friday when the fabulous SUZANNE BROCKMANN discusses her rediscovered love of reading.

***

Bio:

Becke joined the RU team in January 2011. She moderated the Garden Book Club and the Mystery Forum at BN.com until the forums were discontinued. Prior to that, she was a writer and instructor at B&N’s Online University and for two years she wrote a garden blog for B&N. During Becke’s twenty years as a freelance garden writer, she wrote six garden books and one book about ‘N Sync, co-authored with her daughter. Becke also used to blog at Michelle Buonfiglio’s Romance Buy the Book blog. Writing as Becke Martin, she has three short stories in the HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS anthology published by the Ohio Valley Romance Writers Chapter. Becke has two adult children, two awesome granddaughters and three cats. She has been married almost 46 years and lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park.

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12 Responses to “Speaking Martian on Venus by Becke Martin Davis”

  1. When I’m writing, I prefer to have both POVs (hero and heroine) represented. And I’m with you; I connect with my guys much easier than my girls. Their scenes come to me faster and stronger, and they develop better for me. I’ve never had anyone tell me my girls weren’t well developed, but personally, I just connect with the guys first.

    I wonder if it’s because I’m writing the guy I would want in that situation, but I’m not writing my ideal heroine. (Why would I? I don’t daydream about heroines.) I think maybe, since I know the guy better, I just write him better. Well, faster, anyway.

    I could also be way off base. Hard to tell. Great food for thought, though.

    Posted by Staci Troilo | June 21, 2017, 8:23 am
    • That’s an interesting point, Staci. Maybe it’s not so much that romance writers create realistic male characters, but male characters that portray the way we’d really like them to be.

      Also a good point about heroines. I think I let a little too much of myself slip into my female characters. It’s not that I think I’m awful or anything, but I tend to be a pleaser and to avoid conflict, neither of which are good traits for a romance heroine.

      MORE food for thought! Thanks so much for joining in!

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 21, 2017, 12:03 pm
  2. I love the way you approached this topic!

    I don’t really know if my males are realistic or not. No one has told me they’re not, including the males who’ve read them. But your thoughts and questions make me wonder, if I do write the male POV well, why?

    I hate shopping/browsing/wandering. If someone has a problem, I want to fix it more than be a placid listener. I go straight to the heart of things (though admittedly wordy about it LOL). Emotions are not my strong suit in general. So I have a lot of traits that people tend to attribute to guys.

    My heroines tend to come off that way, too. They’re very assertive and take-charge, not very touchy-feely. So sometimes I have to work to make them likable to certain people.

    Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | June 21, 2017, 11:44 am
  3. I only wish my female characters would come across as assertive and take charge! I would say displaying emotion is not a strong suit of mine, but you can tick those other boxes next to my name. I wonder if birth order comes into this at all? I’m the eldest of five so I have no problem being bossy or taking charge when things need to be done. I’m not very good at following orders or staying on the sidelines – I guess those are male-ish traits. But then not all males are alphas, and I’ve recently read some blogs that made an excellent case for more beta males in romance novels.

    I’m interested in your comment about working to make your heroines more likeable. I definitely feel that way. I wonder if this is common?

    BTW, I would say your male heroes are definitely believable and realistic.

    Thanks so much for your input! (Now giving me even more food for thought).

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 21, 2017, 12:12 pm
    • Oh, yeah, I bet you’re right about birth order! I’m the oldest of all the cousins and I have a little brother. Who is not an alpha, but not quite a beta. Gamma, some people call heroes like him. 🙂

      I’m not sure about the heroine part.

      Aw, thank you for saying that about my male heroes! *smooches*

      Posted by Natalie J. Damschroder | June 21, 2017, 2:43 pm
  4. Becke,

    I read your post last night and again just now, and I know where you’re coming from. I have an easier time writing male characters and like you, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because as women, we’re harder on our own sex? I always create the female character first before developing the male lead. But once I’ve nailed down the hero, the heroine always, and I mean always, pales in comparison and I start to question everything about her.

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 21, 2017, 7:15 pm
    • I’ve always liked your heroes AND your heroines. I don’t know if the heroines pale in comparison or if it’s hard for them to compete on a level playing field. Maybe we do judge our own sex more harshly.

      And the plot thickens…

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 21, 2017, 11:45 pm
  5. Evening Becke! I’ll make things more complicated and say I can write the male POV of a SECONDARY character so much easier than hero/heroine. Why? Again, no idea. I just know that the dialogue and character traits just flow….my H/H wander around, semi dressed on a white landscape. Ugh!

    And I too struggle with the dilemma of making my heroine strong and assertive, without being a b!tch. =)

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Peters | June 21, 2017, 9:59 pm
    • Oh man, you are so right about secondary characters complicating things even further. Sometimes I have to reign in certain secondary characters who try to steal the show. Maybe it’s because there is a little less pressure on writers when it comes to developing secondary characters. I definitely have more fun writing those characters.

      *bangs head on desk*

      Not sure if we’ve come up with any answers to the questions I brought up. With every comment, we seem to tally up even more questions!

      Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 21, 2017, 11:49 pm
      • Hmm. Sometimes, my secondary characters are easier to write (and god forbid, more interesting) and then I go completely off the rails and start thinking about giving them their own story.

        Posted by Jennifer Tanner | June 22, 2017, 1:02 am
        • That’s probably how series got started. I love it, as a reader, when an interesting secondary character gets their own story. Male or female, secondary characters are fun to write. Maybe it’s because I’m a pantser, and there’s excitement for me in letting the “less important” characters find their own story, while I need to know a lot more about the “lead” characters.

          This could explain why I have a stack of unfinished (that is to say, unfinished in the sense of not ready to publish) stories waiting for my attention. Not sure yet if my attention will call for another round of rewrites or just repeated pounding on the delete key.

          Posted by Becke Martin Davis | June 22, 2017, 8:29 am
  6. I’m okay with a dual POV as long as there’s no head hopping. That drives me nuts.

    I love reading (and writing) male POV, I love to know what they’re thinking.

    Posted by Laurie Evans | June 23, 2017, 9:05 pm

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