How to Write a Dude

Devon Barlow is a headstrong young man nearing his twenty-first birthday. He’s highly intelligent, very physically active (he goes spelunking on Pluto, how cool is that?) and he has a strong suspicion that his parents might just be pirates. Save for brief forays on Mars or Earth during the holiday seasons, Devon has lived the bulk of his life on board Zephyr, a hauler-class space ship. 

I am a thirty-something single mother who reads too much and spends an embarrassing amount of time on video games. (Hey, games help keep my creative brain fresh and stuff. Don’t judge.)

So how does a thirty-something single mother find the “voice” of a twenty-year-old boy in order to believably display his character on the page?

Well … I read a lot. 

I did say I read too much, didn’t I?

In this case I deliberately hunted for books with young male points of view (really not that hard to do, you can find them in just about every book you pick up) and I studied them. I looked at what they thought or felt or did differently from how I might have reacted in any given situation and I jotted it down in a notepad. 

I also talked to guy friends. If there was a situation happening on Zephyr in the book that could be easily translated into day-to-day life, I would nudge a guy and ask; “Hey, when you were twenty what would you have done if …”

Disclaimer: These friends know I am an author. They find it highly amusing when I quiz them about what it’s like to be a dude and are more than happy to help out. However … most of them still think I’m crazy so … do this at your own peril. 

That said, Devon Barlow might be a twenty-year-old young man but he is also a human being. He may think and feel differently from me but that does not mean I cannot relate to him. (Except for the pirate thing. I never suspected my parents of being pirates.)

Fiction is the place where we can mind-meld with the world around us. It helps us understand people precisely because we find ourselves relating to characters vastly different from us. It teaches us to look at the core motivation in people because we know that, male or female, that motivation is what’s going to define them as a person.

So!

How to write a dude when you’re a girl?

1) Read. (You should be doing this anyway if you’re a writer.)

2) Observe and/or ask your guy counterparts.

3) Find the core motivation.

… and if anyone else has tricks to writing the opposite gender I’m happy to hear them. I’m sure I missed a few.  

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What I’ve Learned from Vampires

I’ve had this week off from school and was focused almost exclusively on writing/editing for Tapped. (Yep, I’m still not in love with that title.) With a few Vampire Diary deviations I’ve been pretty well focused on getting this draft completed so that I can go to work on editing Persona.

Yes, you read that right, I’ve been watching The Vampire Diaries. Me, the “vampirism = socially acceptable necrophilia” woman who constantly wrinkles her nose at all things bloodthirsty and angsty actually became addicted to this show. I blame Ian Somerhalder for that. Or rather, I blame the writers who created Damon Salvatore’s snarky, hilarious character for Somerhalder to sink his teeth into. (Pun totally intended. You can kill me later for it.)

**Author’s note: if you follow the link on Mr. Somerhalder’s name it will take you to the IS Foundation, which is all kinds of awesome. You can look up The Vampire Diaries if you want to actually see him.**

Now, I should probably mention that there are vampires in the Sedition series, they just aren’t undead and their consumption of a specific kind of blood gives them magic. So it’s not like I totally hate vampires, I just hate broody vampires constantly complaining over their eternal youth and fixation on killing people. Which, I’ll give the writers over there at Vampire Diaries two thumbs up for making Damon very different from this stereotype. They have one broodster on the screen (Stefan) so it’s nice to see a counter.

But I think the real thing that caught me in this show was that the characters were complex enough that I honestly wasn’t certain what any single character would do in any particular scene. Each character brings a certain dynamic to the story and the writers really know how to use that dynamic well. What one person would do when presented with a half-starved, blood-craving, twitchy man is completely different from what Damon would do. So viewers are left wondering what’s going to happen next and who it’s going to happen to.

And because I relate everything to my personal craft, this teaches me the value of understanding not only the characters on my page but the dynamic that exists between them. The relationships are paramount. Each character exists within the context of these relationships, has a history grounded in these relationships that will dictate future motivations, and every action/reaction that occurs on the page impacts these relationships.

There are always conversations in the writing community about how important it is to know your character(s). I’m going to stretch that a little further — know your character(s) and how they exist within the context of their relationships.

I’ve taken to using 3×5 cards dedicated to discussing just one relationship. For example, using the book I am currently editing, one card reads Johanna Rorry vs. Seach Barlow and everything below discusses how Jo feels about Seach, why she feels it, and how it might hinder/help her in the story. One day I will find a program that I actually like and make these notes on the computer instead, but for right now I need something tangible and easy to access.

In any case, this is what I learned from vampires.

Or at least what I learned from The Vampire Diaries. I still consider vampirism a weird form of necrophilia and fully admit that I am torn while watching the love stories unfold in the show. On the one hand, I’m a sucker for a good love story. On the other hand, I see dead people kissing. Or worse, living people kissing dead people. How is this not a problem?

But for now I’m just going to ignore it and enjoy Damon’s snark. He is the king of snark.