Gabrielle Bisset

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Remembering Men Are Not Women #amwriting #amreading

After reading in a romance novel for the third time that a man's cheeks warmed, I feel the need to state what I had always seen as the obvious. Men are not the same as women. The way we writers describe men can't be the way we describe women. First of all, it's emasculating. Why editors aren't telling romance authors this is beyond me, but making the hero just a taller, bigger version of a woman isn't sexy. So very not sexy.

It's also inaccurate. While males certainly do blush, have their hands get sweaty, and physically do many of the same things women do, these behaviors aren't indicative of the same things as when they happen in women. I should note here that I read adult romance, so none of what is about to follow belongs in a discussion about YA romance (which I wouldn't touch in a discussion with a 10 foot pole as I can't get into it). In adult romance, men are supposed to be grown adults. By the time men are adults, they don't embarrass as easily. There just isn't the "cheeks warmed" opportunity. If a man's face is red, it's likely because he's been working, exercising, or performing some other activity that has caused blood to flow to his face.

Same thing with the hero looking down at his hands or any other type of looking down. That's feminine and very not heroic. These aren't stereotypes either. Watch men for just a little while and you'll see that if any of them in a group are blushing or looking down instead of meeting another man's gaze head on, they're not respected. Men can certainly look away from the group, but the level at which his eyes are at is meaningful. In fact, keeping the spatial world in mind as we write men is very important. Males work on a far more primitive level socially, so when writers describe them, we need to remember this.

Also, and this is one of my real pet peeves, they do not speak like women. I know the temptation is there to have them talk about things for pages to get all that cool narrative info in about the couple's romance, but it's a rare man who has that much to say about anything that might appear in a romance novel. It's likely a stretch to make them talk much at all regarding many things romance novels focus on. :) (Note: I will say that non-romantic topics, such as fighting, killing, and other such activities that are like sports can have them talking for pages and pages. LOL) They also don't use many of the words we use, except when they're making fun of females. Grown men rarely say wow. Why? Because they've learned through interactions with other males that expressing such interest in anything is too feminine and just not cool and manly.

Fiction allows the writer to take some liberties, which I wholeheartedly agree with, but there are some fundamental areas that aren't okay to stretch. Men don't act like women, which is likely why they can't understand the interest in a genre that is entirely dedicated to something which they view in a far more visual way. The idea of Mommy Porn is a fine example of this. Mommy Porn is erotic romance. You know what Daddy Porn is? Porn. And if you've ever watched even a tiny bit of porn, you know romance is not the point. (Another huge pet peeve: Erotic romance authors should be required to watch a healthy dose of porn and often. I'm sick of reading erotic romance that's not hot because I suspect the author has had very little experience with their topic. But that is another post entirely.)

So writers, remember men are not women. Making them male versions of us defeats the purpose for the romance story. The best way to write men is to watch them first, but not the one you're married to. He's not a useful source. Go out and observe the creature in his natural environment (i.e., sports events, outdoors, you see where I'm going with this). Men are incredibly interesting people who deserve to actually be men, even in the romance novel, because let's face it: the romance novel is simply the fantasy of men being real men with the added really hot skills in bed and kickass fighting ability and/or wads of cash. So let's keep the warming cheeks to the ladies.


Gabrielle Bisset said...

I so agree, Buffie!

Dusty Moretto said...

I am totally with you there, Gabrielle! Men should be Men! :-)

Anonymous said...

I actually read a blog not too long ago written by a male erotic romance writer that was sort of the opposite of this blog.

Male writers of romance (erotic or not)are definitely the minority and the few I have read really portray the hero quite well for obvious reasons, they are men and they know how men act and react.

I can think of a couple off hand that can write a good heroine also but I've also read some that make their heroine sound too masculine in my opinion especially in speech.

To be successful (male or female writers) need to be able to portray both the hero and heroine accurately or it will take away from the story. I remember reading something and thinking to myself "A woman would not say that!" So in turn yes female writers be aware of your hero's words and actions to make them believable.

Great blog Gabrielle!

Heather Coulter said...

As a reader of Erotic romance, including yours, I do find it annoying to have the moment spoiled by this very issue. I have even written this into a couple of reviews - poorly written dialogue will ruin an otherwise prefect story.

julie beasley said...

i agree Gabrielle, i want my heroes to be larger than life. i dont want them cruel or abusive. or overly sensitive either. Theres no point having a gorgeous hero, if hes not acting the part. We read romances, whether its historical, erotic or other. Because we want to be taken places we didnt know we wanted to go, and not worry about about the hero acting all girly.

Gabrielle Bisset said...

I'm planning on writing a follow up post about authors writing about what they know (and what they don't know) and I think that's one of the issues relating to this. It used to be that writers were well-educated--yes, even romance writers--and they had a well-rounded view of the world, which helps a writer. Now, because of the indie revolution, you see more people writing who it seems are writing because a book made them want to write (i.e., 50 Shades). That's all well and good, but if the writer doesn't have experience with his or her subject and hasn't done any research, it shows. That's why some writers may be missing how men really are. They just haven't experienced that many (and I don't mean just been around them but REALLY looked at who they are).

sin said...

Totally agree!