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Make POV Work for You: Writing the Male POV

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This has to be one of the most popular topics amongst female authors at any conference out there. And the funny thing about it was that until I attended the 2004 ACFW conference in Denver, the first time that Randy Ingermanson taught this subject, I didn’t know anyone had trouble writing the male POV. I’ve actually always found the man’s POV easier to write in than the woman’s. And sitting in that class, though it was highly entertaining, I didn’t really hear anything I didn’t already know about men. I guess because I always found it easier to build friendships with guys growing up, I’ve done a lot more observing of them on a subconscious level than a lot of other women, who only look at them as “the opposite sex,” have.

Several years ago, my aunt Rinn introduced the women in our family to a fabulous little book that, to me, is the absolute best resource on writing the male POV ever. There are two versions of it, but I’ll call it by it’s shorter name: Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti (the version I own has the word Single in front of Men and Women in the title).*

This book gives the best analogy as to the differences in the way men’s and women’s brains (and therefore thought processes) work than anything else I’ve ever read. Basically the concept is this:

  • Men’s thought processes are a series of boxes—like a waffle—and they can only be in one box at a time. If they’re in the “working on the car” box, they can only think about working on the car; if they’re in the “watching football on TV” box, heaven help you if you try to engage him in a conversation about anything other than football (or possibly the TV itself, since it’s in the box with the football game); and sometimes, they go into the “nothing” box—when you ask him what he’s thinking about and he says, “Nothing,” he really means it, apparently.
  • Women’s thought processes are like a plate of spaghetti. Each idea/train of thought is its own noodle, but it crosses over and touches so many others that it’s very easy for us to jump from noodle to noodle to noodle and back to the original one without any effort at all. Every thought and issue in our lives is interconnected with just about every other thought and issue in our lives.

Now, these aren’t absolutes. I’m one of those women who can jump from spaghetti to waffle and back again easily. There are times when I get into the “zone,” whether it’s watching TV, writing, reading, or whatever, and I will not respond to anything that isn’t related to what I’m doing. I can also very easily compartmentalize my emotions and set them aside (in a “box”) to be dealt with at a more opportune time. When I have a purpose or goal (such as getting a work project done when I worked in a large office environment), I got annoyed at anyone who brought up anything not directly related to the project at hand. So there are crossovers. There are some men who can jump from idea to idea to idea with no effort. So don’t just take these as stereotypes that every man is this way all the time. It’s just a really good starting point for figuring out the differences in how we act/react/interact with each other.

As a result of experiencing life in boxes, men are by nature problem solvers. They enter a box, size up the “problem” that exists, and formulate a solution. In their careers, they consider what it will take to be successful, and they focus on it. In communication, they look for the bottom line and get there as quickly as possible. In decision-making, they look for an approach they can “buy into” and apply as often as possible.

A man will strategically organize his life in boxes and then spend most of his time in the boxes he can succeed in. This is such a strong motivation that he will seek out the boxes that “work” and ignore the boxes that confuse him or make him feel like a failure. . . .

A man also takes a “success” approach to communication. If he believes he can successfully talk with the opposite sex and reach a desirable outcome, he will be highly motivated to converse. If, on the other hand, conversation seems pointless or women seem impossible to understand, he loses his motivation to talk and clams up. “Hanging out with the guys” can become a pattern for men—sometimes they truly enjoy the male bonding, but other times they’re avoiding the consistent conversation women often enjoy.

(Bill & Pam Farrel, Waffles/Spaghetti)

How often have you heard a man ask, “Is there a point to this?” when in conversation with a woman? If he doesn’t say it out loud, he’s probably thinking about it. So get that into his viewpoint with your heroine who rambles. Want a great internal conflict for your hero? Put him in situations where failure is guaranteed. Give him a problem he can’t solve, a decision that can’t be easily made without the heroine’s (rambling) input.

But one of the most important things to know about men is that they say what they mean and mean what they say. They don’t mince words, they don’t beat around the bush, they don’t drop hints and hope someone else will catch on and understand what they’re not saying. Now that doesn’t mean that they say everything that’s on their mind—they can be very judicious with the words they choose to let loose, which gives lots of opportunity for subtexting. But he’s not only not going to try to wheedle and hint his way into something, he’s going to get extremely frustrated by a woman who does.

There’s so much more good stuff in this book that I wish I could post the whole thing here, but I’ll respect their copyright and refrain—but I will encourage you to find a copy of this book (you can probably buy it used on alibris.com or Amazon, if you don’t want to pay ten bucks for it new), because it will be one of your best writing resources you’ll ever own.

Now, for fun, here’s a list (from the book) of the Top 25 Reasons Why It’s Great to Be Male:
1. We know stuff about tanks.
2. A five-day trip requires only one suitcase.
3. We open all our own jars.
4. We go to the bathroom without a support group.
5. We leave a motel bed unmade.
6. We kill our own food.
7. We get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
8. If someone forgets to invite us to something, he can still be our friend.
9. Everything on our faces stays the original color.
10. Three pair of shoes are more than enough…maybe too many.
11. Car mechanics tell us the truth
12. We can sit quietly and watch a game with a friend for hours without thinking, “He must be mad at me.”
13. Same work, more pay.
14. Gray hair and wrinkles only add character.
15. We can drop by and see a friend without having to bring a little gift.
16. If another guy shows up at a party in the same outfit, you just might become lifelong friends.
17. Your pals will never trap you with, “So, notice anything different?”
18. We are not expected to know the names of more than five colors.
19. We are totally unable to see wrinkles in our clothes.
20. The same hairstyle lasts for years—even decades.
21. We don’t have to shave below the neck.
22. A few belches are expected and tolerated.
23. Our belly usually hides our big hips.
24. We can do our nails with a pocketknife.
25. Christmas shopping can be accomplished for 25 people on the day before Christmas and in 45 minutes.

(You can find even more, along with several of these, on the post Fun Friday—Why Men Are Never Depressed)

*Note: This is a book written from a religious perspective, and I do not endorse nor support everything within it. As I said, it helped me in understanding the differences between how men’s and women’s thought processes work, and I can then take that with me into my own worldview of how those thought processes should lead men and women to interact with each other—like equals, always and forever.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Thursday, May 7, 2009 2:09 pm

    Great post. Fun and funny, and informative. Thanks, Kaye!

    Like

  2. Marcie Gribbin permalink
    Thursday, May 7, 2009 3:07 pm

    Love this post, Kaye!!

    Like

  3. Thursday, May 7, 2009 3:14 pm

    One of my friends told me about that comparison a few years ago and it makes so much sense! 🙂 I’m definitely a spaghetti person ~ mostly due to the fact that I have 4 kids under the age of 8 and have to juggle so much. That helped me ‘visualize’ so much more about my husband’s focus…and explained so much! 🙂

    Jolanthe

    Like

  4. Thursday, May 7, 2009 3:38 pm

    This is going to be interesting for me – my book three of my time travel series I have to write in a 14 year old boys POV – no idea how I’m going to tackle that! Read lots of books from boys POV.

    I think it’ll definitely be challenging.

    Like

  5. Thursday, May 7, 2009 3:42 pm

    You would think that with six men in my house, I would have an easier time writing male POV. 😉 Buuut I guess not. I can see what you mean about the subtexting…what a great idea.

    Like

  6. Thursday, May 7, 2009 6:06 pm

    I’ve never found it difficult to write from a male POV either, Kaye. In my current WIP I struggled with the female POV, and had to write all her scenes in first person to find her voice at all.

    Like

  7. Thursday, May 7, 2009 6:51 pm

    That’s wonderful insight about the male POV. I’ll definitely have to find a copy of the book. I’ve read similar lists in e-mail forwards about why it’s cool to be a guy. I just never thought of putting them in my books. Duh! Seems like a no-brainer now. Thanks for the tip!

    Like

  8. Renee permalink
    Thursday, May 7, 2009 10:38 pm

    Hmmm this is funny, half of the 25 things on the guys list I do (1-3,5, 8, 9-12,15,19,20, 24 &25), plus I think in a “waffle” most of the time! Don’t ask me a question when I’m watching the Steelers play unless it’s about football ’cause you probably won’t get an answer! Ask me a question about my car or any car today chances are I can answer the question! So yeah I definitly don’t fit most of those stereotypes! I loved this…terrific!

    Like

  9. Jess permalink
    Friday, May 8, 2009 12:39 am

    I think reading Nick Hornby really helps with the male POV…though he mostly writes in first person. He’s just so honest about how men think.
    Interesting points. I’ll have to check that book out.

    Like

  10. Saturday, May 9, 2009 6:49 am

    Love the list, Kay. Cracked me up.

    Like

  11. Saturday, May 9, 2009 4:01 pm

    I dunno about the packing for a trip thing, or maybe it’s just that my husband is slightly OCD…he has this rule about having twice as many underthings (undershirts, underpants, socks) as the days he will be traveling. Also, his clothes are bigger than mine. So his suitcase, or his portion of the suitcase = always bigger than mine!

    Like

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