Friday, May 26, 2006

How real is real?

In work for the other author ego, I had a critique partner mention a joke I had put in about bathroom habits. I knew it was on the line, so it wasn't a big deal, I probably would have taken it out on the read through. But it started me thinking about how real is too real for writing?

Authors do a lot of research and take classes in making their characters sound real, especially men. I know a couple of writers who struggle with making their male characters sound more like men and less like women.

A long time ago, I read a review somewhere of a book by S.L. Carpenter and Sahara Kelly (and it might have just been Carpenter on his own, I can't remember what book it was), which...really didn't like the use of fart jokes.

I'm also reminded of a scene in Mulan where Mushu and Mulan are walking through the soldier's camp. Mulan says, "They're disgusting." Mushu replies, "No, they're men."

Men and women do talk and act differently, that's a given.

One way, I think men can be different is that they are a little bit cruder with language. I worked in an office with four men and was there a lot of time, just me and the guys. It's amazing what they will say. And yeah, *sigh* fart jokes aren't exactly unrealistic.

Men do not use as many words as women. My DH makes me laugh a lot because he will answer a three paragraph email from me with one word (we email sometimes while he's at work instead of phoning). If I get more than four words from him, I'm asking him is he sick.

So when writers strive to be "real" with their men, when is it too real? How much realism is wanted or needed?

This doesn't just extend to writing men. I know some writers have wondered in sex scenes, how real is too real, especially when writing anal sex and with the use of condoms.

I'll answer the question, too, a little later.

May the muses have men


Anonymous Maureen said...

Well most romances I read the characters are larger than life, a fantasy. The characters a little more what readers dream of than what reality hands us? So yes we want the men to sound male… believable but probably a little more masculine, more heroic, than the men we find in reality. Why read something we end up with everyday in a romance? We know what everyday men are like, some things it’s nice to avoid when we read…we read to escape. So don’t need it there? Maybe there is a distinction between being realistic and reality.

Characters have flaws that real people have, a way we relate to them making them realistic, but they run a little deeper, are a little more defined in the characters. They get themselves in situations, real life people might never find themselves in or surviving but still realistic enough to believe it happens.

Sex is sweaty, hot, sloppy most readers know that and I don’t mind reading it realistic, but no need to go overboard. No need making the reader think they need a shower after reading it. Maybe a tall glass of ice water but not a shower. You want them to feel the physical contact between the characters, experience the emotions that go with it. Certain things can be left out we know it happens. Most readers have imaginations.

As for condoms, well having a man considerate enough to think of using one is many a woman’s fantasy. *g* and its part of the social protocol these days so contemporaries should consider the subject. And if the character of the hero/ heroine deems they would use one to make them realistic to the reader then write it in. I have read some very sensual, erotic passages, in fact I wrote a few, where the woman places the condom on the man.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Jan Springer said...

Hey Lani *jan waving*

I definitely am always struggling to make a guy sound like a guy. lol. It's tough when you don't know how a man thinks. *jan shaking her head*

And you're so right. In emails their answers are so short, it's frustrating!!! Grrrr.

Have a good day!


7:06 PM  
Blogger Melany said...

Maureen, yep, it's about the fantasy when you're reading.

I have seen readers say that seeing condom use pulls them out of the scene. I don't know. I like the respect that's shown, not to mention safety but that's just me.

Jan, LOL OMG yes on the short answers. It's so funny. But my DH helped me write a biography and I was amazed at his use of language. He can do it, it's just not his nature.

12:35 PM  
Blogger Lyn Cash said...

In February, a male friend paid my way to DC to visit him - a friend for like 20 yrs or so. I stayed a week with him, his significant other (male), and with two of their buddies. Came back home, wrote, and I'll be damned if TWO editors at TWO different houses didn't have one remark each about heroes in the books they were editing - ROFL - yep..."a straight man wouldn't say this" (or think like this). *THUD*

One editor suggested I use that language and mindset while I was into it, so...the first m/m book is being born.

The lesson for me was that I tend to absorb much of what I'm around, like some sort of emotional sponge. Makes me wonder what else lurks in there under the surface.

And here all this time I thought I was making these people/characters up, not channeling from past conversations.

2:47 AM  
Blogger Melany said...

You know Lyn? I do that a lot. I pull things out from people I know.

7:59 AM  

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