I am not going to pretend that I am the be-all-end-all of male romance writers. However, I have noticed some things about male romance novels (typically gay romance novels written by women for a male audience) that leave me wondering if women even know anything about men to begin with?
Women who write for a female audience do very well. Some men who write for a female audience also do rather well. I would not put myself in that category. Men writing for a male audience do just as well as women writing for a female audience. But then we come to the issue of women writing for a distinctly male romance audience, specifically gay romance. This appears to be where things often, not always, but often fall apart.
Lately, I have endured reading a handful of the so-called gay romance novels written by women. Some were really good. I’m not talking to these female authors who actually “get” men and what we like to read. Others, hmmm, not so much.
Ladies, if what we read in your novels is what you really think men are like and what we think about and how we really behave, you, many of you, have a very sore understanding of what makes the male mind “tick”.
Sure, there all many different kinds of men, just like there are different kinds of women. But when two guys get together for a romantic encounter, good God, we are not brainless savages.
So, either I have just been unlucky enough to be choosing and reading rank-amateur female authors, or there are quite a few female authors who just do not understand men. At least not this civilized man.
So in the spirit of understanding, allow me to offer a few tips and insights into the male psyche that might help you as an author understand men, straight or gay, just a little better.
1. Men are not idiots. At least no more than women are.
The recent gay romance novels I’ve read paint a lot of guys involved as stupid, dumb, aimless, insecure Neanderthals with smelly bad habits and a one-track mind of doing anything that moves. Yes, I do know a few people like this, and I avoid them. They exist. But they are not the majority of the male population.
Please stop writing these idiots into your novels. You don’t like seeing women portrayed as idiots, they are not representative of your gender as a whole, stop creating the impression that men are the same way. I hate reading a plot-driven story where the heroine does something incredibly stupid just so the guy can swoop in and rescue her. You hate it too. Guys doing stupid things are equally irritating in stories.
Most of the gay men I know are successful, highly intelligent, cultured people that would give your “gaydar” a run for its money to pick them out of a crowd. They are not football jocks, gym rats, mechanics, rodeo cowboys, Navy SEAL team commanders, nor any of the other typical male fodder I’ve been reading. Not that these are bad professions, but not everyone in them are brainless dweebs.
2. Men love “romance” as much as women do.
Guys like to date, ladies. Just like you do. They want to be asked out. They don’t just bump into each other in the hallway at work one minute and then start doing it in the men’s room the next. Male relationships build just like any other. Sure, there is the occasional fast hookup, but that can happen in any meeting between two people, gay or straight.
Too many of the male romance stories I’ve read just push the couple into sex before either of them knows anything about the other guy. Huh? Yea, sure, I do know a couple of people who are rabidly promiscuous like this, but they are the exception, not the norm.
Men, especially a first time romance with another guy, is going to be a very different dynamic than the a straight couple romance where sex is not just anticipated but all but expected. Not every guy is flaming gay or wants to do it with every other guy. Unless you’re sitting in a gay bar, most guys are timid about approaching another guy–even if they know he’s gay. And just because you’re gay, doesn’t mean another gay man is going to want to hook-up with you.
3a. Upgrade your vernacular.
This one is just personal taste as a writer myself, so take it with a grain of salt if you like; but as a guy, I do not like reading certain words in romance novels.
Because of that, as an author, you will never read certain words in my books, including: balls, pussy, her sex (when referring to female anatomy), dick, cum, cunt, and there are probably a few others. Why? Because they’re low-class vernacular. Move into a little purple prose if you like, but when I read certain words in a romantic scene and the event reads like a vulgar scene from a low-class porn movie, I’m done.
I’m not saying don’t use low-class vernacular when and where appropriate, but don’t drag your story into the gutter with low-class verbiage when it doesn’t need to be there.
3b. Limit your use of the expletives.
Just because you’re writing to a male audience doesn’t mean guys like reading expletives. The fact is most men, real men anyway, don’t use expletives as often as you might think. Vulgar low-class men do, a lot. But your readers are likely not vulgar low-class men, now are they?
If you’re trying to make your story more “macho” or appealing to men by dropping the word “fuck” (or any derivative of it) within the first page or two of your book, you are totally misunderstanding the male mind.
Want to really appeal to men? Write about what men like: sports (I hate sports personally, but that’s just me. Lots of guys cannot stand sports and find it boring.), business, cars and fast road bikes, tech, sex (of course), construction, and physical things like weight lifting, running, or martial arts, even boxing. Again, you run the risk of turning off a certain segment of guys if you are too focused on the details of the sport, but you get the idea.
When I see a female author drop a vulgarity or unnecessary expletive on the first page, my first thought is that you don’t know your audience.
4. Men have more than a 3-word vocabulary during sex. Really, we do.
The last few novels I’ve read were like the men lost all of their ability to communicate during sex. “Oh, baby / man” is followed by “you’re so hot” is followed by “grunting” is followed by someone finding religion.
I cannot remember the last time (meaning ever) I “growled” and “grunted” the phrase “OH GOD!” during sex while clenching my teeth. I mean, I may have, I just don’t remember. What I do remember is being intimate, there was sweet conversation, not a lot, obviously, but I distinctly remember using more than say, six words during the event.
If your personal vocabulary is limited to only a handful of words during sex, then, well, I’m sorry. I like to compliment my lover; show them my enthusiasm. I’m not saying the people in your stories should be doing a TED Talk during intimacy, but let’s show a little more Humanity here than just a couple of gorillas going at it.
I love reading and writing romance. Any romance–gay, straight, threesomes, what have you. (I don’t consider BDSM romance, but that’s just me.) I find male romance the most intriguing because, well, I’m male. I wish more men wrote male romance. In any event, ladies, I hope I’ve offered at least some insights into the heart and mind of the male gender. We’re not all low-life Neanderthals, just like women are not all damsels in distress who need rescuing.
If you know of any really good male romance novels, let me know! I’d love to read some good ones!
All the best,