On several occasions, I've been told by gay men who've read my books that my guys act like guys. Now first off, I consider it a HUGE compliment to be told by a gay man that the gay men living in my head ring true for them. I LOVE that. And I know exactly what they mean when they say that. They don't mean my guys go around grunting and scratching their crotches, or whatever it is some people think Real Men are supposed to do. They mean that for them, the guys in my stories are believable as men, and don't come off as women with boy parts. Again, this is something I love hearing, because it means I've done my job as a writer.
The thing is, this always makes me think, what precisely is it that makes my guys guys? Is it the way they talk? The way they think? How they dress? In my experience, men are much the same as women in one respect: they can't be put into neat little boxes. You can't safely say "all men love baseball and hate ballet" anymore than you can say "all women love chick flicks and hate South Park". It simply isn't true. One frequent point of discussion is the expression of emotion. Some men are quite comfortable expressing their emotions; others would rather pull their toenails off with pliers than discuss Feelings. So what is it that makes a man a man? Or can it even be defined? I couldn't give you a list of qualities which make a man in a book come alive as a man for me, but I know it when I see it.
What about you? What makes a male character believable for you as a man?