Writing Better Male Characters for Young Male Readers


ChuckNorrisReading is becoming less of a thing, and for 1/2 of the potential reading population, there is an obvious reason. Writers are taught to write ‘strong female characters’ for the sake of young female readers. Since that might be hard, it’s considered good enough to have compliant feminist female characters who spout current feminist slogans periodically.

But how does that affect the young male reader? By the time a boy has learned to read, most boys have internalized the idea that boys and men are evil, sexist pigs who are always wrong unless they strictly obey the nearest feminist. And even then they will never be as right as a feminist woman, unless of course they become one….

Reading has become a hostile space for boys. The genre of science fiction, once fun for boys, is now full of spunky women and token gay male couples— things that the average young boy won’t like reading about. Boys’ adventure fiction has been replaced by girly fiction— after all, girls tend to be more enthusiastic about reading, why give mere boys any thought?

But boys are humans, too. Shouldn’t we want boys also to have enjoyable fiction? After all, as a teen I enjoyed books meant for boys as well as ones with ‘strong female characters’ and was the better for it.

How are some ways we can make our fiction more boy-friendly? First, drop the feminist jargon. Boys don’t need to hear that men are pigs or that one should always believe a woman who accuses a man…. Let the boys grow up into strong men before we tear them down.

Second, tone down the emotional content. Men and boys are less comfortable talking  about their emotions than women are. Boy readers won’t enjoy emotion-centered stories. It’s something most boys aren’t really able to deal with yet.

Another factor is to have a strong male mentor character for your boy hero. Many boys suffer from carelessness these days, and others may be estranged from their dads. A good male character can help a young man with such needs. Think a character that could be played by John Wayne, rather than a metrosexual.

The thing about mentor characters is that they tend to disappear when the boy hero is ready to stand on his own. And boy heroes are very early ready to stand on their own. They never feel quite ready, when the mentor dies or disappears, but they always are, if only just.

Male readers demand more action. Don’t have your characters sitting around talking about doing stuff. Have them do the stuff! That’s actually a good rule in fiction for either sex— less talking, more doing.

Finally, learn to trust your male characters. Don’t think of them as potential sexist or male pigs. Let them just be guys. You don’t judge your female characters by how well they conform to male social patterns. Treat your male characters the same way— with respect for their differences.

For my regular readers— I am still not home yet, am in a rehab center near my home recovering from a small stroke. Am carrying on, blogging using my Kindle and trying to stay active on Facebook. 

 

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