Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Writing Like A Man
I’ll be honest. I’ve never written anything from a male point of view before. Actually, I’m already lying – I’ve written a few pieces featuring a male POV, but they’ve never been published and there’s plenty of good reasons for that. So DEMONIZED represented a particular challenge to me, in that it’s entirely from a first-person male perspective, and a particular type of male at that. Ethan Banning is a down-and-out private eye who smokes and drinks too much, is utterly hopeless with women, and desperately in need of some etiquette lessons. Oh, and he’s possessed by a demon that feeds off misery, anger, and despair, forcing Ethan to do some pretty unsavoury things to keep the demon’s influence over him at bay.
So I didn’t just have the challenge of writing a male voice, but also writing a hero who at times is rather unheroic. I mean, you’d be hard-pressed to catch Superman watching porn. The tricky part for me was keeping Ethan both believable and sympathetic. So I turned to my man friends. I say “turned to,” I should probably say “spied upon.” I made careful note of the conversations they had, (mostly focused on Ultimate Fighting Championship and cider), listened to the questions they asked each other, (“how much would you have to be paid to be punched in the face?”), and observed their social habits (all of which seem to revolve around Ultimate Fighting Championship and cider).
In the end I concluded I was hanging around with the wrong men and just started writing. Ethan first appeared in my 2009 novel, AFTERLIFE, so I knew a lot about him already – his sense of humour, his mannerisms and habits were already there, they just needed fleshing out. And I knew how other people saw him. Translating that into how he saw himself was easier than I thought it would be. Once I had a first draft I was happy with, I sent DEMONIZED out to beta readers, hoping they’d tell me Ethan “sounded” like a real guy and not a girl’s interpretation of a guy. I was really expecting bad news – not enough references to cider and being punched in the face, for example. So I was extremely surprised when not one of my beta readers commented on Ethan’s voice at all.
I’m going to assume that means I did a good job. Hopefully readers will agree. But if you do read DEMONIZED, and you do think I should have included more UFC references, please feel free to let me know!
Naomi Clark lives in Cambridge and is a mild-mannered office worker by day, but a slightly crazed writer by night. She has a perfectly healthy obsession with giant sea creatures and a preference for vodka-based cocktails. When she's not writing, Naomi is probably either reading or watching 80s cartoon shows, and sometimes she manages to do all three at once.
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