The Art of Writing Believable Men

gibson While I am in no way an expert on the male psyche, I do have brothers and I worked in a male dominated profession for over ten years so I have had plenty of exposure to their logic, conversation, and ways of interacting with each other. After reading a book with very authentic male dialogue, I then read a passage in another book, where a male character tells a friend that his wife is his life. Now don’t get me wrong, because honestly that is a lovely sentiment. But none of the men that I have been around would say that about their wife to me or any of their other friends in normal day to day conversation. That statement just seems like a crying in my beer, she left me country song.

Although the heroine tends to make or break the book for me, nothing brings me out of the story faster than a male character that seems over the top. While it is usually dialogue that brings me out of the story, sometimes the actions of the hero is the culprit. Nora Roberts tends to have her male characters engage in fist fights to resolve arguments. Deborah Smith had her hero, Gib Cameron from When Venus Fell, get a belly ring just like the heroine, so he would think of her every time the fabric touched the ring. Um…yeah.

I know that my impression of how a male should act or talk has been imprinted on my brain from my own upbringing and father. Who would guess that it impacts the type of male heroes that I like?

On the one hand, I don’t want to read a romance book where the hero never expresses his feelings to the heroine, since where is the romance in that? However, it is the scenes that seem more male oriented that stand out for me. While Sandy mentions Derek and Sara’s spectacles in her blog I read mainly contemporary books so my moments are different. I haven’t read some of these books in years, but I still remember Truly Madly Yours by Rachel Gibson because Nick Allegrezza buys Delaney Shaw snow tires. In Finding Mr. Right by Emily Carmichael, the hero takes care of the heroine’s dogs. And then there is Michael Dante from Deidre Martin’s Fair Play dressing up as a stereotype Italian male in a wife beater T-Shirt to entice the heroine out on a date. Just recently I read a new to me author, Sue Moorcroft, whose hero from Starting Over takes care of the heroine while she is embarrassingly ill during that time of the month (even goes to the store). None of the moments I mention seem especially romantic. You could almost say they are commonplace. However, it is the way I see men act and how they express caring so these types of scenes are meaningful to me.

Interesting enough Dr. Phil (not an endorsement) states a similar sentiment but in a different way: “If you want to know how a man really feels, pay attention to how he treats what he values. Whatever it is, if he gives you what is precious to him (whether you value it or not), he has performed an act of love that may mean much more to him than any words he might say.” Or in plain English, actions speak louder than words.

Of course romance books have a gradient. Some are pure female fantasy with the hero saying and doing things that most men would never do. Others seem like they are written by authors that understand real men and their actions. In Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson, I felt like I could be eavesdropping on a private conversation between a man and his son when Sam LeClaire discourages his son from liking Barney, and the male ribbing in Shannon Stacey’s Yours to Keep mimics how the men in my family act.

Do you have a preference? Are you attracted to heroes that are not afraid to say what they feel? Or are you touched more by the day to day caring? Which authors do you think have a good understanding of how the male mind works? Which authors write the best romantic male fantasy hero? And lastly, if you have a preference, does it duplicate how the males in your life act? Or is it completely different?

– Leigh Davis

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