Not everybody fits into stereotypes or common behavioral patterns. But nine times out of ten, they do. To write a convincing male character, you must understand that men and women are different.
So you have to consider this when deciding what their personalities are and how they’re going to react in different situations. It’s a popular belief in many writing communities that we don’t have to critically examine how we write male characters because men are in everything.
Everybody knows how to write a male character which is false. We need to critically look at how we write male characters because some writers suck at writing male characters. Are you writing a male protagonist but are not sure if you’ve created a well-rounded character, then be sure to stick around. Let’s get started.
How to write male characters?
Writing an authentic male character is essential to my readers and me. However, I have seen writers, mainly young and new writers, struggle with writing male protagonists from their struggles. I’ve noticed three major mistakes, and I’m going to hop right into those.
To write about male characters, I will talk about black men, white men, tall men, short men, gay men, straight men, trans men, cis men, and all the men. Combining my manly research with the many male characters, I am breaking down my 10 best tips for writing male characters.
Specifically, if you are not a man, please take this advice and meditate on it. These tips are based on loads of research, interviews with men, and reading.
1. Understand your character’s expectations
People regularly confuse societal expectations with biology. Men are expected to be strong, tough, powerful, and emotionless. Thus we assume it’s biology that isn’t necessarily the case.
Men are often larger than women, and typically being larger means producing more muscle. But that doesn’t equate to being both physically and emotionally stronger. It doesn’t equate to being naturally protective, and it certainly doesn’t equate to being emotionless.
There are a lot of preconceived notions forced onto men that push them to man up. They’re expected not to cry and to take charge. They are pushed into leadership roles, whether or not they’re prepared. Moreover, these are roles that are forced onto a person, whether or not they are naturally suited for them.
- If you’re writing a story in this world, you need to understand your male character and how he fits into this world’s expectations.
- If you’re writing about a fictional universe that you’ve created, you can make up any societal expectations you want. You don’t have to make your male characters fit into the expectations of our world.
So learn to differentiate between society and biology. It’ll make a supreme difference in your writing of any character, regardless of gender.
2. Treat your character as a normal human being
Men have emotions. Society telling men to be stoic doesn’t mean they’re not feeling much pain on the inside. Anger is the only emotion men are allowed to have.
Men may not be as inclined to express their emotions freely doesn’t mean they’re unfeeling, which is crucial to consider. If you’re writing from a male point of view, maybe the character isn’t crying. That doesn’t mean he’s not feeling incredible pain, guilt, or remorse.
- As a writer, you need to convey that internal struggle.
Otherwise, readers won’t be able to believe or connect to the character. Sadness, joy, excitement, nervousness, and self-doubt are normal emotions that most people in this world experience. Anger is on the table. But keep in mind that most men don’t punch walls when mad.
3. Don’t add excessive romance
The male character is not all about sex all the time. Men have a stereotype of being super sexual. But if they were as horny as your writing, they would go extinct. This stereotype mostly comes from societal expectations. Sex drive is innate in many people, but men are encouraged to be sexual globally, whereas women are expected to be pure.
These expectations are not indicative of reality. Some women are raging sex fiends, and some men are romantics who would rather wait for the right person. Some men are too focused on their goals to care about sex, and some don’t care about sex.
Underdogs and losers are not synonymous. Everyone loves an underdog. They’re trendy and hero stories, especially if the hero is male. But an underdog is someone people underestimate, who maybe doesn’t have the best reputation.
Remember, an underdog has to win eventually, so there needs to be something going for him. A majority of people overlook these positive traits. So think of it this way if the character is an underdog in an athletic sense, then maybe it’s because they’re small or not particularly muscular.
If he’s an underdog in terms of politics, maybe it’s because he’s poor or from a lower class. These are appropriate underdog traits, but you need to offset them with positive traits that endear them to the reader and help them achieve their goals.
4. Don’t use directly forbidden words
When you write a dual perspective story, especially with one male voice and one female voice, you need to differentiate between the points of view. It’s painfully common for writers to differentiate these voices using the forbidden words. You can tell we’re in the female point of view because she speaks like a nun, and you can tell where in the male point of view because he uses bad language.
I have no problem with the F word, but that’s my point. It’s not inherently masculine to swear, and even people who swear prolifically do so with intention. If this is the only way you can define masculinity, maybe get out into the world, and meet an actual human male. You may discover that they have a wider vocabulary than a single four-letter word.
5. Make a natural physical appearance
Did you know the average height for men in the United States is 5.9”? So if all of your male characters are in the height range of 6.5-6.7”, you’re being a bit unrealistic. A recent poll of 15 countries rated the average male height between five foot 11 and five foot four. See what happened there?
Many people are attracted to tall men and chiseled jawlines and six-packs. But you’re writing about a beauty contest, a strip joint, or another setting where physical appearance dictates relevance isn’t realistic. It’s about as believable as a cast of blonde glamour models with natural bubbles.
Even if the man is super athletic, not everyone can get a six-pack. There is a genetic predisposition there. So don’t make your male character unrealistic so that readers feel uncomfortable relating to reality.
6. Dominance doesn’t have to be predatory
You want to write about a strong, confident, powerful man and make him protected. But predatory behavior is the opposite of protection. Ever consider that dominance comes from a Type A personality. It means you have power and influence over people.
You’re comfortable and natural in a leadership position. There’s nothing wrong with this. These are great, desirable traits. But you can write a man with these traits without making him a predator.
Influencing people is not the same as forcing your power. If you have to force your influence, that’s the opposite of having influence. So understand that you can write a strong, confident man without making him a sex offender. It’s about charisma and how they garner attention. If any gender has to force you to follow their lead, that’s the opposite of what you’ve intended.
7. Understand man’s feelings
Men can also be victims. Many people seem to be under this ridiculous misconception. Boys and men could be victims of sexual assault, and they are victims frequently. Men are allowed to resist and big shocker, and they’re allowed not to be attracted to you.
It’s not some proclamation of power for a character of any gender to assert their sexual dominance over a man. So, understand this fact properly.
8. Don’t forcibly add the hierarchy
The hierarchy is based on pseudoscience. It doesn’t exist in the wild. Alpha/Beta essentially represent extremes. Beta males are doormats, and alphas are sexual predators, and apparently, there’s nothing in between. Yet it again goes down to terrible characterization. You need to hone your craft if you can’t write a man without shoving him into one of these awful manmade boxes.
- Flesh your characters out, create character profiles, and see men as human beings capable of layers and depth.
While predators and doormats do exist, they are not an accurate representation of all men in the entire world. Thus, they should not make up the entire cast of your novel.
9. Use the variation of men
Men are not a monolith when people stereotypically write their male characters, usually as womanizing. There are billions of men on the planet, and some are different from one another. It’s fine to write the occasional douchebag, but if this is the only male character you can create, it’s a weak attempt at excusing poor writing.
Men are diverse and varied. Not every male character needs a perpetual boner because he’s a guy. Not every male character needs to be a cheater because he’s a guy. A better idea would be to practice the art of characterization and create three-dimensional characters.
10. Don’t override the charter’s personality
A big mistake is writers making male protagonists stereotypically masculine. We’ve all seen this in at least one book where the male character is strong, muscly, athletic, loves fighting, and only drinks beer because he’s manly and cool. You don’t want to do that because this isn’t realistic or fun to read.
- Don’t forget that male character should have their personality.
They’re not flawed characters walking around trying to either be stereotypically masculine or the opposite. Make sure that you don’t write a stereotypical male protagonist. Don’t write a male character who is stereotypically feminine for not making them stereotypically male because you are still creating a flat character.
If your character breaks gender stereotypes, that’s awesome. But you also want your male character to be their person. They might be outgoing and charismatic and enjoy spending time with their nieces and nephews. Maybe they love to watch football on game nights and enjoy reading a good, cozy mystery in their spare time.
- Don’t dwell too much about what makes a male character masculine or not too masculine.
Write a well-rounded character with their personality and traits, and you’ll be good to go.
Bonus tips: Show the internal conflict
The great mistake is not giving male protagonists internal conflict. If they mostly fight off bad guys, but they don’t have any issues of their own, then you’re doing it wrong.
Men are as emotional as women are, and there’s nothing anyone can tell me to change my mind. Men go through personal issues, too, even if they choose not to talk about them. They struggle with self-doubt and traumas too.
- So it doesn’t make sense to write a male protagonist who doesn’t have any internal conflict.
They bring that and don’t have any thoughts because that’s the only way a person would not have any internal conflict. We all have problems we deal with, and your male protagonist is not immune to that.
6 male characters you should know before writing
Before writing male, you should consider some male characters. You can use these characters as tropes. Here are 6 male characters/tropes for you.
1. Men like logic
Males are more logically driven, while females are more emotionally driven. A man is far less likely to make a significant decision based solely on emotion. Men tend to slow down and think logically about everything and possibilities before deciding. In contrast, women tend to be more emotionally driven and emotionally charged when making major decisions.
2. Men are more willing to take risks
With battle axes flying everywhere in the heat of battle, a man is far more likely to jump right into a risky move than a woman. Women tend to hesitate, and they don’t jump right into something that’s a high risk without thinking about it. Men tend to do it before they can talk themselves out of it.
3. Men can fight against the situation
Men are not as open with their emotions as women are because men tend to take that logical approach when it comes to problems. Their focus is on problem-solving, not on how they feel.
So they are far less likely to dwell on how they’re feeling about a particular problem or a particular situation. Men look for solutions and figure out how to fix them. Also, they find practical solutions to the problem.
4. Men are more direct with their communication
Men don’t draw pens, and they say what they mean. They interact differently from how women interact on a surface level. Also, they are straightforward and open-minded.
5. Men hate acting
Men aren’t petty when it comes to women being guilty. Pleasure is being catty with that one girl that we don’t like. When a man doesn’t like someone, he’s either going to ignore them or do what has to be done so that he can ignore them. That doesn’t mean that men don’t gossip with their friends or that they don’t care about dirt, but they’re not going to be openly petty the way the women are.
6. Men are simple
Men are not going to get into deep conflicts over trivial things. Women are more sensitive than men, and deep conflicts with women can arise over trivial things. That’s not the case with men.
As we previously discussed, men are more direct communicators than women and will go for the work. To create a genuine rivalry between two men, you need to have a very clear and concrete conflict to make it seem believable.
I hope these tips and characterization will help you write a male character perfectly. If you have any ideas or questions, then feel free to ask in the comment section.
Read books to get more ideas:
More writing tips:
Table of Contents