Voice: His/Hers

Years ago I had an editor ask me to change my point-of-view (pov) character from a female to a male. I’d written some books where I’d used both povs, but I wasn’t sure I could pull off a story written completely in the male pov. What I discovered was I had to go deeper into the character, really get him to “talk” to me, reveal his inner thoughts and tell me why or how he’d come to view the world as he did. It was a great experience, and it helped me develop as a writer. Also, that book (Jared’s Lady) did very well and led to several more contracts.

Recently a writer (male) mentioned he needed help writing from the female pov. In my opinion, there is no one pov for males or females. Not all women are going to think/act/talk alike, just as all men aren’t going to think/act/talk alike. There are general differences, but how you write a character and that character’s dialogue has to be based on what characteristics you (the writer) have given the character. (How’s that for a lot of characters in one sentence?)

Generally men talk in shorter sentences and in shorter, more concise paragraphs. They aren’t going to describe a blue dress as teal or aquamarine or peacock blue, and they’re more interested in sports, the stock market, cars, or… “male” things. But get a man talking about something he loves and those shorter sentences can go on and on. Create a male character who’s into art or design and he may use the above words to describe a dress. We, as a society, have placed certain “male/female” designations on characteristics, but those aren’t always accurate.

The same is true when writing a female character. Women tend to be more social, they tend to talk about family, the home, fashion, etc. They tend to use longer sentences as they describe something and talk longer. But your character may not be that way. How she’s been raised (with all girls or all boys, for instance), her parents’ values, her career, what she loves to do, all of these factors will make up how she converses with others.

As writers, we must get into the minds of our characters. We must know them better than our own children…or ourselves. Why would one woman say tisk tisk and another use the F word? Why would a man want to be a fashion designer? Or a woman want to be a race car driver?

Characters don’t always talk the same way. Put that female race car driver in a room with other race car drivers and what comes out of her mouth may not be anything like how she talks to her husband’s mother. Or maybe it is the same. The writer’s job is to help the reader understand why.

If, as a writer you’re still not sure how to write the differences between how a woman talks and a man talks, listen. Listen to women when they’re in a group of all women and when they’re in a mixed group. Note if there’s a difference in how much or little she talks in one group versus another, what she talks about, and how others react to what she says.

Yes, there are differences, but not everyone is different in the same way.

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16 Responses to Voice: His/Hers

  1. Very helpful right when I need it! Thanks, Maris.

  2. Kathy Crouch says:

    Great post thank you for sharing.

  3. Melissa Keir says:

    Very insightful! Thanks for the information!

  4. Paula says:

    Another great post.

    “Not everyone is different in the same way.” No doubt!

    As for characters in one sentence, I believe you came in at just under a Tweet. *wink*

  5. Thanks for the helpful post, Maris. My tweeting your wisdom makes me look competent.

  6. Hi Maris,

    Good advice. I often write from changing viewpoints especially in novels. I don’t have difficulty changing from female to male perspective because as you suggest, I listen for the differences in speech and conversation.

    • Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jacquie. The listening part is very important. My husband often accuses me of listening in on the conversations at other tables while we’re at a restaurant. And he’s right.

  7. I agree, Maris. Base dialogue on character not gender. Excellent post!

  8. Lucy Kubash says:

    Good post. I enjoy reading and writing in a man’s pov for variety. It is different, but as you said, it has more to do with the character himself. That is something good to remember!

  9. Maris SouleMaris Soule says:

    Thanks, Lucy. I, too, enjoy reading books that include or are totally written from the male pov.