Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Silence of the Man

A real hero speaks less and acts more. True. But in our stories, our heroes have to talk a bit more than our dudes in real life. And that adds a layer of complication to writing if one is a female. Let's face it, I'm not a boy. I don't think like a boy or a man. I don't speak in one word sentences (okay, my darling husband would love it if that were true!). Yet, my heroes must say more than, "Honey, where's my last pair of clean underwear?" Or better yet, "Huh? Grunt? Pass the beer nuts. Cowboys are playing. Pass the beer."

My dudes have to be sensitive and strong. Alpha and beta rolled into one amazing, finely chiseled man who is ultra cool and looks great in jeans, tuxes, nothing at all.

As Austin Powers would say, "Yeah baby."

But this is fiction so I get to play a bit with my heroes. I can layer a bit of internal dialogue into their interactions with my heroines. So even if they aren't talking to my heroines, the reader knows that the guy really does like, want, care, have an "oh man, I am in love and now I am freaked" feeling for my heroine.

Hard to finesse. Hard to write. I usually have to run my "guy speak" through a male filter (which ironically is a female writer who knows how to write "guy speak"). I also like to sit around and listen to the dudes in the real world talk. Where can I hear what they have to say? Well, hang around a bunch of retired military men and you'll get some good intel on "guy speak." Or spend an hour at any male dominated event like a football game, a hockey game.

Go to a bar. Don't go alone. But go and sit and listen. I once spent an hour every Monday at the local Holiday Inn Express bar writing and listening. The bartenders knew me and left me alone. I was relatively safe cause the local regulars knew I was married and had shown up there with my darling husband on occasion. Why? Well, it was close to my darling daughter's dance studio. I'd rather sit in a bar filled with business travelers and grizzled construction workers than at a dance studio with a bunch of moms discussing their daughters' varying dance talents.

But that's just me. Plus, I got to drink a glass of wine. All good. And all in the name of "research."

Where do you go to understand "guy speak?" Books? Bars? Games? Did you have lots of brothers? A great father image? Are your real life heroes alpha or beta or a combo of both? And how do you limit the guy's talk without limiting the romance sizzle?


Gwen Hernandez said...

Well, according to the Gender Genie, I write like a man already. Must be all those years in of working with them. Or maybe it's the tomboy in me.

I'd love to say I sit and listen, but I'm not as good at thinking to do that as I should be. I do gravitate toward the groups of men at get-togethers, at least at first. I need to remind myself to think like a writer and pay attention.

When writing, I just try to get into my hero's frame of mind. Every once in a long while, I'll run something by my hubby and he'll tell me he'd never say that.

You've inspired me to take advantage of those rare occasions (these days since I'm not working) where I have a bunch of men around. My boys don't quite count yet... ;-) Good topic!

Christine said...

Gwen: I love the Gender Genie. I have to run my stuff through it. Though I'm sure I'm "girl" all the way. Sigh. Good thing I have my male filters around!

Debbie Kaufman said...

I've started eavesdropping anywhere I find guys congregrating. My dear one speaks tech and isn't into sports, great for the marriage but not for the writing of a typical alpha hero.

I struggle with those moments that my heros have to be a little introspective. I mean, how do you keep that real, LOL?

Christine said...

Hi Debbie: Mine is a geek, too, but used to be more of a alpha dude in HS so he imagines he's a cool geek. But that's great for a marriage! How indeed do we keep the guy speak in their heads real? Answers out there will be greatly appreciated :-)

Congratulations again on the MAGGIE win and the placing this year!! Very excited for you.

Anonymous said...


(*with a little smile*)

Christine said...

Valance! Thanks for my laugh today. You're right. "Yup" sums up Man Speak for me! Very good.


Jeanie said...

I am all about Alpha male heroes. Mine don't talk much, but I get their emotions on paper through internal dialogue. My husband is a good source for guy speak. He will tell me in a heartbeat, "A guy wouldn't say that," or "A guy wouldn't do that. He'd knock hell out of somebody and then go have a beer."

Most likely with the guy he just knocked hell out of.

Christine said...

Jeanie: so true. Guys forget they're made so quickly, but women? Nope. I love your guy!!

M.V.Freeman said...

Interesting post Christine!

For me its just paying attention. I had the opportunity when I was younger to work extensively with men--and in the field I work in now you can see a marked difference.

And yeah, just like everyone else, I run it by my husband. LOL

Louisa Cornell said...

One of the many reasons I am glad I write Regencies! The men are far more eloquent although their ability to express emotions out loud are non-existent.

I use the Gender Genie too at times. Always interesting to see how it arrives at its conclusions.

I am fortunate that I grew up with two of the most Alpha redneck males on the planet. (And I mean redneck in the nicest possibly way.)

They love their Mama, they try to boss me around (in spite of the fact they are BOTH younger than me!) and they take good care of their wives and children.

I must admit to translating some of their sniping at each other over typical macho issues (who has the best gun, truck, hunting dog, football team, you name it) into Regency speak at times.

And I had my Dad for 40 years. One of the most honorable, tough, and strongest gentlemen it has been my privilege to know. (And a sucker for every stray animal we ever brought home!)

Carla Swafford said...

In my job, I work with men all day. So I hear a lot of guyspeak. The best is when you can hear them but they can't see you. I've found no matter the part of the country, most men (professional men) are careful what they say around women. My customer can be mad but never say a cuss word, but then he gets hold of the sales engineer and cusses a blue streak. So if you can overhear men talk without them knowing you're listening, then you can get the real deal.

I like to read and write alphas. Kinda edgy like Anne Stuart's. She's the queen of alpha males.

Christine said...

M.V: I wonder about the professions, too. Surely a male doc will speak differently than a male military man, right? Or not? I am surrounded by estrogen. Cats and kid are girls. Darling Husband doesn't stand a chance around us. He needs a shelter LOL.

Christine said...

Louisa: I would LOVE to meet your brothers and your dad sounds like a real hero. Every time you post a story about your family, my heart warms. And I love to read regency romances. I just wish I could write them as well as you!

Christine said...

Carla: I love it that you observe men with and without women around them. I believe you have hit the nail on the head, too. They do behave differently when they are amongst their own and think they aren't being watched by women. Boys are similar: they hit trees with sticks when they think their moms aren't watching, but if we're around? Well....

JoAnn said...

Great blog, Christine! I don't consciously think about guy speak, so maybe my guys are too feminine! They do have a tendency to cuss a lot, though.

My dad never uttered a single foul word in my presence. But one day when I was a college student, he didn't know I was waiting for him outside his office. I overheard him discussing a project with another male co-worker. Holy cow! Then later, I thought it was probably more about two guys trying to establish dominance than my daddy cussin'! :-)

Christine said...

Hi JoAnn--I bet that was very illuminating to hear your Dad in his world when he didn't know you were listening. I think guys like to bring out the heavy duty stuff when they are together.

I must confess, I am very bad because I am a cusser big time. I grew up in a mining town and my darling husband says I could embarrass a sailer. But when in Rome.... I tell my friends when I stop cursing, I'll probably be perfect and therefore in Heaven with my maker because there won't be a thing left to fix LOL.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Christine: I cut way back on my swearing once I got out of college. I was trying to be more mature and articulate and professional. And once I had kids, I went to almost nil.

So it totally freaked out the boys the other day when I got mad at a lady jaywalking slowly across a busy street and mumbled something like "get out of the f***ing way already". Oops. Did I say that out loud? =)