A lot of people think that men are a simple topic. When Dave Barry wrote a book on the subject he made jokes about how no one thought he’d be able to get a whole book’s worth of material out of it. Even a lot of men share in this attitude. Sports, sex and video games are pretty much all they are shown to care about – unless power and money take the place of sports and games.
Now part of this might be because of the prevalence of sitcoms on TV, which have a tendency to reduce people to easily sketched caricatures. Dramatic television and books are a little more balanced, but even then outside the central characters there is a tendency to create men who are fairly one dimensional.
It’s true, in many ways men are simpler than women. We take a lot of pride and a lot of flack for that. However, there’s an assumption that simple because we’re dealing with one thing at a time we’re single dimensional. There’s a line to walk in properly depicting men and a skilled writer needs to learn what it is.
But, while there’s a large and growing body of study into women in literature as writers and characters, little or no study has been put into men. Some might say that’s because men are already so prevalent in stories, so isn’t it time for women to have the spotlight? But that assumes that all the portrayals of men are accurate and depict the thoughts and characters of men with all their good and bad points. That’s not a good assumption to make any more than it would be to make such an assumption about the depictions of women.
I am in no way an expert on writing or men, although I am one and that makes me better suited to speak on writing men than, say, on writing women. So what I propose is take a look on some things that I think you should keep in mind when writing for men. There’s a comic strip that runs in the local newspaper called Between Friends, a comic about the friendship between a trio of forty-something women . My mother was surprised to find that I read and love it. But there’s nothing that’s given me more insight into women than reading a comic strip that’s written by them, for them. While the entertainment value might not be as high, hopefully in exploring what writing men means we will develop a better idea of what writing men entails for all of us. This isn’t going to be a regular even, to the extent that Genrely Speaking is, but it’s an idea that’s caught in my mind and I want to explore it with you some.
If you are a male writer, please chime in with things that you think I might have missed. If you’re a non-male writer, and something doesn’t sound right to you, by all means hash it out in the comments. It’s not possible to have a definitive set of guidelines to writing for men, but hopefully we can get a clearer picture over time.