Sunday, April 22, 2007

Real Men Do, Real Men Don't

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?


Amanda Young said...

Great post Ally. My opinion is that you can't really define what makes a man by any broad sweep of the pen. They come in all shapes and colors and emtional ranges. I don't think there's any one thing that defines manliness. I like to see a broad spectrun, all the way from Femme to Butch and you do all of that and more in your writing. It's one of the reasons I always come back for more. *g*

Jenna Leigh said...

Congrats on the real man deal, I hope I make my guys geniuine too.
I confess that I despise chick flicks, love South Park, baseball and yes I would rather have my toenails pulled out than talk about my feelings. Does this make me a gay man?
You know, I did check out this dude's butt in the Hellmouth today he was a total hotty.. Wait.. I'm a dang girl, never mind. *winks*

T.A.Chase said...

To be believable to me, I have to believe in him. He has to be a man I can see living with, talking to or 'lusting' after.

It doesn't matter to me whether the hero is emotional or the strong silent type. As long as I can relate to him, then he's genuine or real to me.

Hope that makes sense. :)

Ally Blue said...

Thanks for the comments, y'all! I totally agree, I can't really define a believable male character by any particular characteristic. It's more the way all those parts are put together. Of course, there are some parts I like more than others
**evil grin**

Anonymous said...

I think for a guy to seem like a guy in a book he has to be fully developed as a character. There are too many things that make up a guy for it to be any one thing or set of things.

Vicki said...

For me, this depends a great deal on how well I identify with the characters. When I'm reading, I really pay very little attention to how manly a man is and a lot more to whether I can relate to him. As a reader, reading M/M fiction, I like to see men who break stereotypes. The gay men I've known have been of all types, sizes and had all sorts of interests, and I want to see that diversity in books too.

As a writer, I relate to my male characters a little differently, and I care a little more about the image they present. But I still like characters I can relate to.

Josh Lanyon said...

Great post, Ally.

I'll be honest (if not kind) here, and say that the majority of M/M stories I read do NOT ring true for me, and that I can almost always tell they are written by a chick, despite the pen name.


Because too many people write cliche characters, and too many of the women writing M/M fiction try too hard to show how tough and masculine their guys are. Dialog is especially weak. Throwing in a few unnecessary "fucks" doesn't make for "guy dialog." I wish more of the women writing this stuff appeared to actually LIKE men, let alone understand them.

That said, I think your own work shows nuance and character--my comments aren't directed at you.

Josh Lanyon

Ally Blue said...

Thank you Josh! That's quite a compliment coming from you :D

You know what, I think you nailed what makes not only a male character, but ANY character, believable. Nuance. All the little details that make a fictional person seem real. Which I think is more or less the concensus so far. In order for a male character to ring true, he has to be fleshed out, not just a cardboard cutout. The same holds true for any character. We as readers can't relate to them if they seem two-dimensional.

I can't pretend to always understand men, but I do like them as a rule. It bugs me when some women talk about men like they're dirt, just as much as it bugs me when some men do the same to women. We're all human beings, we all have our individual quirks, our good and bad points, why marginalize an entire half of humanity?

Yeah, I'm one of those people who's always quoting Rodney King. Because why can't we all just get along?

Aaaand now that I've swerved off topic (who me? NEVER!!! LOLOL), let me just say THANK YOU to everyone for this discussion! People are endlessly fascinating to me, I love hearing your thoughts about this :D

Vicki said...

Hey, Ally this is a great discussion. I just wanted to respond to Josh's comment, because it was such a great one. I love the nuances to any character, amle or female. I like to be able think that I really know those characters when I'm reading or writing about them.

As a general rule, I read very critically, and there are things that really bother me about some of the m/m fiction I've read. I won't go into that here, but a lot of it doesn't really ring true. It doesn't feel right to me.

I can also tell when a woman has written a piece, and when a man has written it. Just like I can tell when a woman has written f/f fiction or when it's a man under a pen name.

I like men. I won't claim to understand them, but I do like them. I also like trying to create believable male characters.

Ally Blue said...

You know what's weird, I don't think I could write realistic f/f fiction at all. No idea why. I know what I like sexually, I know what sorts of things a lot of other women like, and hell, I'm a GIRL, I should know how women think! LOL. But I don't think I could do it and make it believable. Go figure :P

Vicki said...

Ally, I'm a girl who likes girls and I still have problems writing f/f fiction. I get caught up in the whole how believable is this, and comparing it to really good lesbian literature. I'm terribly picky about what I read, and I think I set such a high standard for myself with this, that it ruins the writing process a little.

That's why I prefer writing male characters. I can put just a little distance between me and the characters and look at them objectively.

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