Male Authors, Discover Your Feminine Side

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photo by by Homo Eяectus

Therese here. Today’s guest is longtime WU community member Matthew Turner. Matthew is a writer from Yorkshire, England, who worked on his debut novel for six years. That novel, Beyond Parallel launches on January 8th. It’s a story that examines the big question, “What If?” (e.g. What if you hadn’t chosen a life with that person, if you hadn’t taken that day off, if you hadn’t chosen that day to drive to the grocery store at four in the morning?) In Matthew’s own words, “In the same mould as Sliding Doors, Beyond Parallel flips between two parallel tales” — the life that emerges for characters who choose path A, versus path B.

It’s also a tale told from a female perspective, something Matthew found, at times, challenging. He’s here to share that tale with us, and offer some tips on being a male author drafting a female’s point of view. Enjoy!

Discovering Your Feminine Side

I’ve spent my life surrounded by women. Some men may think this is brilliant, but let me tell you, it isn’t… always. Four cousins…five aunts…a sister…a mother…and numerous friends, all female. I wanted to play with robots and army men, but I was instead forced to film my sister and her friends rein-act the latest Kylie Minogue video. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that my writing is often aimed at the female reader. I wouldn’t call my debut novel Chick Lit, nor would I compare it to that Fifty Shades business, but it is built around romance.

That’s right, in my haste I decided to craft a journey that spends much of its time inside the mind of a young woman, something I’ve never been able to comprehend. I’ve tried, believe me, I’ve tried.

Here are a few of the things I did to bring out the girl in me:

Examined My Own Life

Surprise, surprise, a lot of my inspiration was drawn from sisters and mothers and cousins and friends. I thought about how they reacted to certain situations, how they responded to my questions, and what made them tick on a day-to-day basis.

Oh, and we can’t forget the countless girlfriends who have inspired me over time. Not all relationships have ended well, but they’ve all left their mark.

I complain about all the female influence I’ve had, but the truth is it’s made me who I am. I’m a man who CAN write from a woman’s perspective, and although it won’t always be 100% accurate, I feel I’m better placed than many.

Worked with a Female Editor

I’m not saying I’ll never work with a male editor, but I’m certainly glad the perfect one happened to be a woman. I was lucky to find Susan, who has helped bring things into perspective on more than a few occasions.

It’s vital to have an editor who pushes you and challenges you each and every time. Beyond Parallel required a keen female eye to keep it on the right track.

PhotobucketFound Female BETAs

The final piece of the jigsaw is to find some lovely BETA Readers to help get your manuscript over the finish-line. Again, I didn’t overlook male readers, but my primary focus was to have women look over my work. Each person is unique and you can’t please everyone, but after a few different minds looked over Beyond Parallel, I soon realised that I’d missed certain female traits. Small, but nevertheless important. Things I didn’t consider until women began reading my words.

You can’t say that!

I wouldn’t think that!

There’s no way that would happen!

Matt, you’re an idiot!

That last one is always my favourite, and even though such comments give an ego a beating, it does help craft a more realistic tale in the end. This is the number one, most important part of the whole process. It’s all about making the best book you can!

We Can Survive

If you’re a man reading this, yes, you can… Yes, you can create a story with a female lead. It isn’t easy, but it’s such an enjoyable and inspiring journey—so long as you understand that you will NEVER fully comprehend the female mind.

Readers, you can learn more about Matthew and his debut novel, Beyond Parallel, by visiting his website/blog, and by following him on Facebook and Twitter. And be sure to check out Matthew’s book trailer, just below. Write on!

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Comments

  1. Elizabeth says

    Interesting topic. Sounds like you put a lot of effort into crafting a polished book with characters that ring true. Makes me want to read it (definitely placing Beyond Parallel on my Goodreads to-read shelf after commenting)!

    I wonder, however, if the idea of a ‘female mind’ or a ‘male personality’ has more to do with broad stereotypes than reality. Of course, the subject’s been hashed out and rehashed to death; clearly, classifying traits, behaviors, actions, roles, etc. as male or female has great power over most imaginations. As someone who has been teasingly called a boy with boobs and who has a number of male friends who openly and avidly talk about their feelings, love to match their shirt with their scarf, and show people they care by baking cookies, yet also bark encouragement to each other as they lift ungodly heavy weights at the gym, keep a stoic face in public, and devour action movies for the explosions and hot chicks, I subscribe, mostly, to the people first gender second line.

    I do think fairly consistent differences in men and women arise not from interior traits but from external pressures. Certain scenarios elicit gendered reactions. Everyone gets judged on appearance, but, especially in formal situations, women are often held to a higher standard. A guy who’s not dressed sharply is, well, a guy. A lady who hasn’t bothered with makeup or nice enough clothes might be seen as selfishly not caring about the opinions of others, lazy, or failing in some regard. Or, for example, in more situations, women have to put a bit of thought into how their choices and actions will affect their physical safety. I wonder if men are as nervously watchful alone in car parks at night or if they keep track of their glass as scrupulously at clubs or large parties. Of course these examples are stereotypes as well.

    From your post, it sounds a little like your research led you to tweak your female characters based on differences engendered from exterior pressures? Did you also receive feedback that pointed to some internal, inherently female traits?

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

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    • says

      What a great comment Elizabeth.

      And yes, much of it comes down to external pressures and sterotypes, which let’s face it, are often wrong.

      Perception is a rather large part of the process though (for right or wrong), and I’ve tried hard to create something that can appeal to the right reader. I certainly couldn’t have done this without help from some amazing women in my life.

      As for the inside traits, well, I think I am more emotional than the average guy. I show my emotions on my sleeve and try to live the life I need to live. As such I found a lot of my own feelings going into some of the female characters.

      Great comment :)

      Matthew Turner

      Ps: Beyond Parallel isn’t on Goodreads yet, but if you sign up to the Beyond Parallel mailing list I will keep you updated as soon as it is -otherwise check around the 28th of this month :)

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  2. says

    Nice article, Matt! And that shade of lipstick is still very manly…just call it Sports Car Red and that’ll butch it up.

    I’ve only written short stories from a female perspective, but like you, have had many strong feminine role models in my life (and still do).

    Even though I grew up with a heavy military influence, I’ve noticed that when we men drop the false machismo and let our crew cut hair down, it’s quite easy to tap into the girl in all of us.

    As long as our buddies don’t see us. :o)

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    • says

      Yeah, those darn friends pressuring us :)

      I agree, once you let the silly macho nonsense down, it allows you to tap into the right feelings. We all have them, but others are more attached to them than others.

      I find it rather fascinating myself

      Matthew Turner

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  3. says

    well I refuse to believe “Matt you’re an idiot” because to me, Matt, you are a genius. It is common knowledge that most READERS and BOOK BUYERS are women. Recently, I heard A MAN say about Fifty Shades, that “it epitomizes everything that is wrong with women.” He explained: like there’s a billionaire, good looking, young man who isn’t real nice to the woman except to buy her things but whom she always “thinks and tries to decide what to do about for the whole book when she is not having sex with him.” Whether or not I agreed with that comment (let’s just say I grinned WIDE), it doesn’t negate the fact those books fly off the shelves, even though most women tell me “you have to read all three to see why its good, the third one is pretty good.” WHAT? Since when do we (tens of millions of women) buy two bad books to get to a third sort of good one? Apparently, we do so when lots of other women say to do so. Now, Matt, you got the right idea, brilliant Matt. Keep on truckin. Good luck with your launch PS I loved your website, and photo, nice hair. I think women will like it ;-)

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    • says

      Thank you so much, Diana. Very kind indeed :)

      And yes, I see a lot of my readers being women. It’s not to say guys won’t enjoy it, but women do seem to be closer to books than men (at least the kind of stories I write).

      As for Fifty Shades, I think it could be one of the most un-finished book of all times. I meet so many who bought, but only a couple who have finished the series ha

      It reminds me of Stephen Hawking’s Book :)

      Matthew Turner

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  4. says

    Written in close third-person, my work features multiple POVs, almost half of which are female. It wasn’t until I got a draft done and got to the beta-reader stage that I realized my work appealed to females, perhaps moreso than to males. I also utilized a female editor and started seeking primarily female betas. I think one of the nicest compliments I received on book two of my trilogy came from from a female beta reader, who said I had “nailed sisterhood.” I suppose growing up in a house full of sisters paid off after all.

    Great job on a subject I’ve rarely seen covered, and good luck with your book!

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  5. says

    Matt,
    I can identify with your dilemma. I am a male writer and most of my favorite authors are females who write in the category of women’s literature. I am often told my work is considered women’s literature as it explores the dynamics of family relationships. One of the reasons I chose CG as my author name, rather than use my real name, is that it is gender-neutral. You hit on several important points for male writers seeking to write female characters and topics. One is to hire a female book editor. Another is to choose female beta readers. It’s essential because there are certain things a male cannot see or know from his perspective. Thank you so much for this post. This is a topic rarely covered at all and even more rarely written about so well as you have done.

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    • says

      So true, I couldn’t believe some of the obvious things I missed. It’s hard though. We can try and get in the female mind, but only to an extent.

      As for your name, this is sometimes required. It’s a shame how perceptions play that role, but they really do.

      Matthew Turner

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  6. says

    Great article! I wish you all the best with your launch. As authors too many times we’re told we ‘can’t’ write something because it is not ‘us’. I tend to go against that as well. My 2nd novel was told through 1st person POV with a female protagonist patching her past together so she could move on with her future. Many reviewers said they 1st had doubts when they received the book a male author could fully get inside of a woman’s head. ‘Patchwork of Me’ went on to win several awards this year and was greatly embraced by female readers (and many of those reviewers). Keep writing what you want to write, Matthew. And I look forward to reading it!

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    • says

      Congrats on the awards :)

      And yes, I hate to conform. I want to try as many POVs and challenges as possible in the future. It makes life much more interesting.

      It’s tough, but you can fight through it and create something of value. All in all, I find this very exciting indeed.

      Matthew turner

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  7. says

    “Matt, you’re and idiot” made me laugh! :-D

    I love it when I read something from a male/female pov and it isn’t until later I learn that the author of it was a different gender, it’s that nice, “Oh!”

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  8. says

    Thanks for sharing your process with us, Matt. I think this will always be a challenge for writers whenever we write from the perspective of the opposite sex. I’m working on a romantic thriller with a male protagonist and I am greatly relying on feedback from my male critique partners.

    BTW, your book sounds amazing. I love the concept of exploring “what if” which is why I liked Sliding Doors and The Butterfly Effect. Can’t wait to read your book.

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    • says

      Thanks Reese,

      I love ‘what if’. It’s always fascinated me!

      How have you found the challenge so far? It’s interesting, right?

      Without the feedback I received, though, well, I wouldn’t have gotten far ha.

      Matthew Turner

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  9. says

    Matt, thanks for this! This is helpful to me because I find similar challenges when writing from a male character’s point of view. My new novel will definitely be from a man’s point of view, and I look forward to broadening my horizons. I look at Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, because she writes from Thomas Cromwell’s point of view quite seamlessly. It can be done – it’s just a matter of training the right muscles and getting the best advice!

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    • says

      I agree, like writing in general, it’s all about practicing!

      It was tough at times, and on more than several occasions I wondered if I could do it justice, but the challenge was great.

      Easy is never fun :)

      Matthew Turner

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  10. says

    I was nervous when my novel Finding Magic went to female beta readers–tbe primary protagonist is a woman, as is a key antagonist. But I guess living with a strong woman for going on 40 years and having three daughters taught me something, because my characters were accepted by all. Although I do have my feminine side–in college I took a test that measured masculine and feminine traits/attitudes. My feminine side was almost as strong as the masculine. This was way back in the day, and the professor was very quick to assure me that I was all right, nothing to worry about.

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    • says

      Ha I think I should take that test

      I think if you can satisfy the strong women around you, you’ll do okay everywhere else. In my experience the women who know you well don’t hold back :)

      Matthew Turner

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  11. says

    Funny, I had no idea you were from the UK, though I could hear the accent in this piece.

    Lovely cover, Matt. If it’s any comfort, the same gender insecurities plague me. I write romance and inhabit the male lead’s head a good chunk of the time. I’m sure I’ll hear, “Jan, you’re an idiot” many times yet.

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    • says

      Oh yes, English born and bred :)

      And thank you, the cover took a few tweaks, but I’m really happy with it. I’m sure you will knock it out of the park too. Ask some guys though. They will point you down the right path :)

      Matthew Turner

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