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 Boys’ adventure fiction has been replaced by girly fiction— after all, girls tend to be more enthusiastic about reading, why give mere boys any thought?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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“How Do You FEEL About Your WIP?”

writeitUnuseful writing advice: in several how-to-write books I have, the authors suggest you worry about how you feel about your current writing project. With some people, feelings are everything these days. But here is a truth: feelings don’t last. The writing project you are in love with today will feel like dreck in a week or two. Feelings aren’t enough to carry a writing project to the finish line.

What does help is finding logical, rational reasons to pursue this WIP. If you have been a big science fiction reader for years, and your current WIP is science fiction, that’s a logical reason you might be the right writer for the project. If your book is set in a place you actually lived, or your book touches on an issue that you or a family member has lived through, those are also logical reasons to continue the project.

Your logical reasons can help you keep going when your emotions about the project wane. It actually can help you generate new positive emotions for the project, or it can help you keep writing when every word you write seems awful and in need of immediate deletion. (We all have writing days like that.)

If you do have strong emotions about a prospective WIP, does that mean you have to give it up for something more practical? No, no, no! Too many would-be writers are trapped writing the wrong WIP because they think it’s practical. Instead, think about your feelings. Are there logical reasons to favor the loved project? If you feel very strongly, you can probably think of some. And those reasons will help keep you writing, each day and every day, until the project is finished— including the rewrites.

I have noticed that the feelings-based writing advice mentioned above was written by women authors. It would of course be a violation of feminism for me to mention it. Which is why I mention it. Because the feelings-based approach lets so many of us down. We often need something stronger to carry us through.

I am writing this on my Kindle today, as I am in a rehab center after a stroke. I can’t do as much on this blog as I like to do, so if some kind readers would consider sharing this to their social media, I would be most grateful.

Never Do Gender-Switch Writing Exercise

DexterA lot of older how-to-write books suggest various gender transforming things as writing exercises or practices. One of them is switching a character or real person’s sex.

For example, if you want to base a character on your Aunt Mabel, including her quirks and her life experiences, you are told to switch Aunt Mabel into Uncle Milton. That way the real Aunt Mabel won’t take offense.

These days, that is bad and unusable writing advice. How can you change the sex of a character when society forbids us to notice any difference between the sexes? Except of course that males are prone to evil and sexism and must be replaced by obediently feminist women.

The sad thing about this increasing feminist ideation in our society is that actresses can’t be happy about the parts they can get unless those parts were written for men. So we have to suffer through female remakes of good movies, which are dull, but good for us since they will remove some of our brain cells and turn us in to better feminists.

So the sex-change writing exercise is out for today’s writer. What can we do instead? Make a character significantly younger or older. What will your YA sixteen-year-old heroine be like at 75? Write a page or two about it.

Changing a character’s race is as problematic as sex. If you actually change the character because of a race change, you are guilty of racism. You can change character ethnicities, though. From Italian-American to German-American, for example. Or you could change a character’s region– from Texan to California girl. Or social class— make the son of a farm worker into the son of a university professor.

One thing all of these switching exercises require is knowledge. Otherwise you are just switching character stereotypes, or showing off ignorance. We don’t want to do that.

If you are going to make a character older, know what real people of that age are like. Don’t be like that very young writer who made his 30 year old character old and feeble! Older writers have the advantage here, having lived through a number of life stages already.

The same with ethnicities and regions. You are probably going to have to stick to the ethnicities/regions you know best– your own, and those of your lifelong friends.

Do you have any tricks to help transform your characters— to make them more unique, or less like a real person you know?

YOU are the *star* of your author blog

WordpressThis is scary for most of us. We want to be modest people, or at least have other people think we are. But when you become a writer, and you start an author blog, you have a little bit of internet real estate that is all about you. The horror!

I remember one author blog I once read by an Evangelical pastor who had written a fantasy novel about the Nephilim. He posted when his book got accepted by a vanity press. He posted when his book cover got designed. And he posted when the book came out. And, being a modest Christian gentleman, that was the last time he posted.

Don’t be like that. Your author blog needs regular posting, and it can’t all be about events of your publishing or self-publishing life. You need to decide some things. What is your niche as a writer? Not just your genre. What is special, even unique, about you-as-writer?

Your ideas about your writer-niche will change over time, but what do you think it is right now? What topics does your niche bring to mind that you might post about?

As an example, if you write historical romance, you might post about your favorite books in that field, notable authors, books in that category which have been made into movies or cable TV series, and so on. Stick to the books in your category that you, personally, enjoy. Your blog may find some readers who appreciate your taste in books, and perhaps might be keen on your own books.

Another example. Suppose you are a Christian pastor, have a seminary education, and write fictional stories that are allegories about living the Christian life under difficult circumstances. And they are cool, exciting stories in their own right. You might write blog posts where you answer people’s questions about the Bible and faith matters. You might also review and recommend Christian books, both fiction and non-fiction.

For your own personal blog, you have to decide for yourself what your niche is. What things go with your writer persona that will give you stuff to blog about? Get a sheet of paper out and brainstorm some ideas. Blog a few, and see what gets a response. Keep trying! Once your blog takes off it will be a good book-promotion tool for you.

How to use Facebook as a Writer

facebook_logosIf you are a writer or a would-be writer, you may have been told you have to build a platform. If you are short in the hammer, nails and boards department, you may be relieved to discover that involves Social Media. And, hey, Facebook is social media.

I have a personal FB account which I use to communicate with my mom, brother, nieces, aunt and cousins, as well as some random writer friends. That account is nice, but for platform building you want to do something more.

That something more used to be making a FB author page. I made one for myself back when that was something worth doing. Your fans would like your page, and you would announce things about your forthcoming books, or share your author blog’s posts.

Then they changed the rules. FB would only show your posts to a small number of the people who had liked your page. They offered to show your posts to more people if you’d only pay for a FB ad to promote each one of your author page posts. Who can afford to do that?

Some authors then started making personal FB groups to serve the function that a FB author page used to. For an example of this, look for the group ‘Finn’s Firebrands’ on FB, by author Declan Finn. Currently this method seems to work well for many authors.

In either case, you have to post to your author page or group regularly to keep your fans engaged. Not always just stuff about your own books and blog posts. Maybe your author friends have new books out that your fans might like. Or you just reread a great book and want to share something about it.

Of course, Facebook, like Twitter, is notorious for being unfair to Christians and/or Conservatives. But FB is where the people are. I have not yet personally been suspended from Facebook, but when I report bullying from those offended by my polite conservatism, it seems they feel people telling me to eat shit and die is OK with Facebook.

Your Facebook, like your other social media & like your blog, must eventually come into line with your ‘author brand’s – your author persona. But don’t worry too much about that yet. Right now your task is just to get started as an author on Facebook.

I am writing this from my Kindle as I’ve had a small stroke & can’t work from my computer until I get back home. Sorry I can’t be as responsive as I’d like to be.

Writers afraid to admit they are writers

Are you a writer who doesn’t like to admit it? Or maybe one who doesn’t like to talk about your book?

Sometimes we just feel so self centered talking about our own books. Shouldn’t we put others first?

There is a time to be unselfish and help your writing friends get ahead. But if you have a book out there and you never do anything to market it, if you never try to become more of an influencer, how well can you help others?

Sometimes we don’t like to admit we are writers because it sounds like an immature pipe dream. Like the scrawny uncoordinated kid who plans to be an NFL superstar.

But if you love books and ideas, and are willing to do the hard work to improve your skills, the odds are in your favor. You can learn to write things other people want to read. You can learn simple ways to let other people know about your book, so you will gain readers.

But it takes work. Work on your book. Work on your blog. Work on your Facebook and twitter. It’s not just your hobby. it’s a second job. Do your job!

Personal note: I am currently in the hospital so writing this on a cell phone. Excuse my errors!

Writers write, Authors market

Recently I’ve been reading a book about how to be a successful author. It was pointed out that writers write books. But authors market the books they write. Not just half hearted, lame techniques like posting a book promo in a Facebook group that allows no book promos.

We need to learn more about book marketing. Sometimes that means reading an e-book by someone who regards book writing as a way to make money. Making a little money won’t kill your writing career. And the people who sell a lot of books may know a bit more about marketing than we do.

I have purchased a few books on marketing and I am hoping to put some of what I’ve learned into effect.

One book I have is ‘How To Make A Living with your Writing ‘ by Joanna Penn. I suggest you get that book or something like that , and read until you get just one idea you can use right now.

Then carry the idea out. Extra point if you share what you did in a comment on this blog!