How to Write from a Guy’s POV

How to Write from a Guy's POV | Writing from the opposite gender can be hard, but here's some great advice for #writing from a guy's point of view if you're a girl. We definitely need more male protagonists in YA, but as a lot of writers are women it can be challenging to write from a guy’s point of view. But ladies, I promise it’s not as scary as it seems!

I thought writing from the opposite gender is an important topic to cover, so I’ll be doing it in two parts–one for male POV, and one for female POV.

Today we’re going to explore how to write from a guy’s point of view if you’re a girl. Obviously I have no idea what it’s like to be inside a guy’s head, so I asked my friend Brett to help me out! (Check out his awesome blog here).

He was kind enough to answer my questions with some really awesome insights into a guy’s mind that you ladies will find helpful (and maybe even surprising) in your writing. So I’ll shut up now and let you get to the good stuff 😉

body language bonusWhat goes on in a guy’s head? 

BRETT: The same things that go through most people’s heads. Responsibilities, deadlines, family, life. Sometimes, there’s just–nothing.

What do you think are some of the differences between how guys/girls think? How we approach a problem? A dangerous situation?

BRETT: In general, I believe girls are more likely to think empathetically (I’ll avoid using the word ’emotionally’ because of the bad connotations). Guys are (generally) more pragmatic–for every problem, there is a solution, but often the consequences don’t matter as much as simply solving the issue to begin with.

It’s generally true that girls approach a problem more logically–they can often see ways around a problem or solutions that guys just simply missed. Exactly how, I’ll never know. I think most guys just try the direct, brute-force way first.

With regards to a dangerous situation, I think all guys would like to assume they’d be the first to act bravely. Whether it’s a by-product of Hollywood’s era of stereotypical action guys, I think most men/guys would look for a physical way to end conflict–the quickest, most direct method you can imagine.

Depending on a guy’s natural physique–a big buff guy versus a smaller guy–it might be a direct de-escalation using physical contact, or via using an environmental object: anything blunt, heavy, or sharp.

How do guys deal with their feelings, especially anger and sadness? When should guy characters cry?

BRETT: Most guys like to imagine they don’t have those things called ‘feelings.’ It’s assumed that men should just bury their emotions and move on–this differs with personality traits, but the ‘push it deep down’ approach works 90% of the time. The remaining 10% of the time, it’s bottled up until it eventually bursts.

Guy characters should cry, but it takes a lot to push a guy to such an emotional breakdown–particularly one that isn’t anger. That’s the difference. You push a guy, he’ll get angry; you break a guy, he’ll cry.

So think out of the box here–you can’t just tear something away, that will only elicit a physical reaction (see above), whereas crippling a guy with something psychologically damaging will bring out the tears.

Men are different, but not complete robots. Losing a loved one will always make someone cry, but guys usually hold back their emotions as long as possible.

Do guys really think about sex all the time? How do they see girls? How much should we stress how guys notice girls?

BRETT: To the first question–don’t believe everything you read in Cosmo magazine. Men don’t obsess about sex, and if they do, they’re not the type of guy you want to hang out with.

To the second question–guys always notice girls. In the same way that guys always notice every threatening-looking guy in a room, or the same way they notice if there’s a television.

The second look–the double-take–that’s the big one. The first look doesn’t count, that’s instinctual. The second look means we’re interested, or at least, willing to double-check.

As for girls noticing guys…most girls immediately get the wrong impression, that a guy looking at them is instantly in love. He might be attracted to you, he might also think you’re out of his league.

Don’t forget that one–as a guy, the general rule of thumb is, “Unless you know otherwise, she’s taken.” To that extent, guys can look at girls, imagine what it might be like with her in a relationship, but then tell themselves a dozen reasons that wouldn’t work.

And again, speaking for almost all guys out there–please, girls take the first step. It’s very hard for us to gauge reactions and emotions, and subtle hints are almost entirely lost on us. Let us know if you have a boyfriend, let us know if you like us. Most guys don’t like the ‘chase’–please, just be upfront.

How do guys interact with other guys vs. girls?

BRETT: Guy conversations generally involve the least amount of words possible. Most guys only have two or three things in common with each other–sport, work, music, games, food; outside of that, there’s very little to talk about. Gossip is off the table–no guy has ever wanted to talk about ‘what happened last weekend’ unless it involved one of the five prescribed categories.

For talking with girls…it varies heavily on personality. Some guys are very shy around girls, some guys are full of confidence and swagger. Down the middle line, there’s people like me who just try to be amicable and get a laugh out of you, whether you’re a guy or a girl.

Depending on whether the guy thinks the girl may or may not like him affects how they approach the conversation. It’s not usual for guys to have platonic friendships with girls–either they’re hoping something might happen, or they’re so deep in the friendzone that they now consider you ‘one of the guys’ (which isn’t necessarily a compliment).

Tips for male dialogue?

BRETT: To the point. Guys have something to say, and they’ll say it. Conversations typically are on a topic that’s probably not all that important, until it eventually dies down when nobody has anything left to say.

If two guys disagree on something–watch out. Most guys are pretty hot-headed, and you can expect some flaring tensions and arguments over decisions or directions. Everyone has an opinion, and theirs is better than yours.

What about body language, gestures, mannerisms etc.?

BRETT: Almost all guys are defensive all the time. Lots of crossed arms, lots of small head-nods in agreement. Friendly guys will go for the back-slap or hair-ruffle (though ruffling is a bit demeaning, it’s the older-brother-little-brother gesture).

With girls, it’s far more awkward. Maybe some casual, testing-the-water touches. Otherwise, guys are typically quite self-conscious around girls, more so than most YA novels would have you believe.

Any gender stereotypes to avoid?

BRETT: All men are buff, awesome dudes who know how to fix cars and fight people. Also, avoid the ‘awesome hunk with giant muscles who’s also super funny and smart.’ Sure there are some smart people who are fit, but you don’t get everything in life.

All guys don’t know how to fix cars or jimmy locks. Create a character who isn’t absolutely perfect–everyone has flaws. Try for realistic guys who have actual weaknesses. 

Any misconceptions to avoid?

BRETT: The misconception that guys are oblivious to girls’ feelings. We understand, we just don’t know what to do about it.

Also avoid the ‘skinny dudes are awkward nerds.’ I’m pretty lightweight, but not a nerd. Believe it or not, girls can fall in love with a guy who isn’t Fabio. Endlessly reading novels about the super-awesome-muscles-guy who gets the gorgeous girl gets old fast, and doesn’t represent the real world’s concept of love–which is far more than just big muscles and square jaws.

Any tips for balancing the physical and internal aspects of a guy character? I feel like there’s a danger of making him all physical with no emotion.

BRETT: Same as above, really. Balance is the key–big buff guys aren’t completely oblivious, they just don’t know how to respond; on the other side, non-physical guys can be smart and perceptive.

And guys are complex–we have feelings, emotions, pasts that we bury and don’t talk about. Try opening a guy up, explore him. Why is he big and buff? Is it because his father was a footballer and pressured his son into becoming a quarterback? Does the guy regret slacking off on his education to pursue that physical image?

And the skinny guy–what’s his past been? Bullied, had his self-esteem cut because the world tells him that only strong, awesome guys get the girls? Does he harbor resentment towards those people?

Have you ever read any books with male characters by women authors that were poor representations? i.e. What NOT to do?

BRETT: Almost (emphasis on almost) every YA novel written by a female author portrays the ‘perfect guy’ with the rippling muscles, chiseled jaw, moody eyes, and gentle touch.

Fiction isn’t meant to be a complete fantasy–it should be realistic, and not create dreamboat characters who can do no wrong, who have no flaws physically or mentally.

If you want a balanced guy character, read YA’s written by MALE authors, who know this better. Think Thomas or Newt from The Maze Runner–lean, determined, equal parts brave and afraid. Think Connor from Unwind–strong, good-looking but blinded by his own goals, and occasionally insensitive.

There are two ‘good’ examples from a female author–Peeta from The Hunger Games comes to mind. Although Gale is portrayed as the standard, awesome-buff guy, Peeta is..not. He has core strength, but he’s just a baker’s son, never actively shows us any specific attributes indicating he’s a hunk. He’s just a guy who mistakenly loves a girl out of his league. A rather perfect character for me.

And J.K. Rowling of course did an outstanding job with Ron Weasley. Harry…not so much. But Ron proved that even the most awkward, bumbling guy can grow, can become a sports star, can get the girl, without having the ‘hero’ swoop in and steal the show.

And on a final note–please, please, please write a CHARACTER first. Write a human being with goals, desires, secrets, resentment, and happiness. Write a PERSON that the reader can empathize with. Readers want to be entertained, and they want the character to achieve their goal; whether they’re a guy or a girl, it doesn’t matter.

Want to Learn More?

Wow–thanks, Brett!!! So there you have it ladies! Hopefully this valuable insight will help you create awesome male characters and make you more confident about writing from their POV. Want some more insight? I’ve created a FREE guide to male vs. female body language to help you get even deeper into your character. You can get the guide, plus access to all my free worksheets, via the button below!

 body language bonus

Do you have male characters in your story? What challenges have you found in writing them?

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53 thoughts on “How to Write from a Guy’s POV

  1. This is a fantastically well written article, and I’m so glad you actually interviewed a guy rather than just giving your own opinions (definitely made it seem more realistic). This post was super helpful so thank you!

  2. Hi Kaitlin! This post came up really nicely, I’m glad I could help!

    I’ll be looking forward to reading the Girls POV later this week!

    Thanks for having me over as your guest!

      1. Thank you! Great advice you leave here. I’ll certainly try out your advice when I write from a male’s POV! I started doing it a while ago, but I’m not sure how successful I was.

        1. I doubt myself too when writing from a guy’s POV. A good way to find out how realistic your character is, is to have a guy read your work. He’ll immediately spot anything that’s off 😉

          1. Nice idea! lol if I get it typed up, do you think your friend brent would be happy to read it? idk, just wondering.

  3. Even though I’m already a guy writing a guy’s POV, this was a pretty useful guide. Especially since now I know exactly what I’m getting right. 🙂 And even what I’m getting wrong, despite the fact that my guys aren’t exactly normal.

    Can’t wait to see your post on how to write a girl’s POV – because while I’m being told I’m doing a good job there, I bet I’m making lots of mistakes anyway.

  4. This was great. I actually did a post on my blog not long ago with a similar theme: “How to write for the opposite gender.” I grew up with five older brothers, who were my closest friends. But despite that I am still a girl, so I want to be sure that the male characters I write are as true to form as they can be. I’m actually releasing a YA Fantasy series this year, and the narrative is taken from the point of view of a teen male, who has a tense relationship with his younger brother. It was great to read this interview and make sure that I’m representing my characters as best I can, with the male reader in view! Great stuff and thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much, I’m glad you enjoyed it! It is tricky writing the opposite gender and it can take a lot of practice to get comfortable. And it’s never a bad idea to have a guy read your book to check that you aren’t totally off base!

  5. To create dimensional characters that are consistent and not restricted to social constructs of gender, I’d recommend reading about personality types, such as MBTI. Part of the problem with our society’s gender roles is that they do not account for the vast range of diversity within humanity (aside from assigning it to gendered generalizations), so you have things like ‘unfeminine women’ and ‘feminine men’ instead of an acknowledgment that most of our differences do not in fact stem from sex. More women are ‘Feelers,’ yes, but that does men–especially male Feelers–a disservice by labeling emotions as belonging to a female realm (and logic and stoicness as a male’s); it is not a gender divide, but a personality one.

    -From a (cis)woman who has “the brain of a man.” ;P

    1. I agree, society does assign genders specific characteristics and makes things very black and white. But things are really more grey because people are so different. It really does depend more upon your personality than your gender, but society does have a huge influence on how we perceive gender.

  6. My goodness, this is very helpful. I have three brothers, so I have the basic understanding of how males work and think in my life, but I think seeing it written down pinpoints a lot of the things I know in my head but have a hard time figuring out in words.
    Thank you, Kaitlin, for doing this post, and thank you, Mr. Brett, for answering the questions! This is going to help me soo much as I tackle a new book… that involves five brothers and their younger sister. So a lot of male interaction in that one.
    I’m glad to have stumbled across this on pinterest. Again, thank you so much!

    1. I’m so glad you found it helpful! Brett was so awesome to help me out with this 🙂 I know what you mean, I think writing it out or seeing it written out helps to analyze it more and make it sink in. I wish you the best with your writing, and thanks for stopping by!

  7. What a great article! Love the honesty, and the dig down into the things we really needed to learn and think on.

  8. Wow! That was probebly the most helpful article about writing I’ve read in a long (looong) time. The idea to actually do it as an interview rather than write some basic rules that seem to fit – I have to say it was creative, original and incredible.
    I like to use both girl’s and guy’s POVs, so this was basically exactly what I needed. Very helpful indeed. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Thanks, I’m glad it was helpful for you 😀 When I first decided to do this post I knew I had to do it as an interview–no one understands guys better than a guy! I could’ve given some pointers but it was much much better hearing Brett’s perspective!

  9. This is a great article! I’m pinning it and will definitely come back to it for reference. My WIP has a brother-sister pair of MCs, and I hope to write equally from both their POVs. I know the girl character almost as well as I know myself (I’ve unintentionally based a lot of her off of me), but I’ve struggled with both knowing and writing the brother. This has helped incredibly. Thanks so much!

    1. Yay I’m so glad to hear it was helpful!!! 🙂 and good luck with your story, that’s awesome that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone and writing from a guy’s perspective!

    1. I’m glad you found it useful! And that’s awesome that you’re comfortable writing from a guy’s POV!

  10. This post is amazing! My main WIP is written half the time from a male perspective so this is very helpful! I agree that so many YA books are quite unrealistic with the male characters. It is somewhat frustrating for me when a good portion of my books are written with a male narrator, but this is a lifesaver! Thank you!

    1. Yay I’m so glad it’s useful for you!! 😀 and yes, I feel like a lot of YA just tends to portray males as the hot love interest, we need more stories where they’re the hero. I’m glad you’re braving writing from a guy’s POV!

      1. Thanks! 🙂 Writing from the male perspective is one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve done in my writing career this far. The work in progress I talked about? Now it’s becoming a five-book series, and, so far, I enjoy writing the guy’s POV more than the girls. (I love my ladies, but the guys are a breath of fresh air.) Perhaps it’s because I grew up with 90% boys, but it’s a wonderful feeling to step out of my comfort zone. Terrifying but wonderful.

  11. Awesome blog! I love everything about what you write on all of your articles. This one was super helpful as I am just beginning a YA story with a young male journalist. Thank you so much for inspiring me!

  12. this is great, thanks! I’m happy, because I usually spend a lot of time creating the characters and I’m happy to see that I’m almost there. I’m creating a guy, on my new story, that is okay, i think. He has past he doesn’t want to talk about, he has fears and cries when he’s break; he, sometimes, explodes (gets angry and wants to punch someone). He doesn’t cry when is punched, he gets angry. So thanks, you really helped me seeing what I was doing right and wrong with other characters I created some time ago. But I’m happy to see that have read George R R Martin’s books and Maze Runner help me a lot too. Thanks again, and thanks Brett!

  13. This is perfect! I have CPs always pushing me to get into the guy’s head more and tell what he’s *feeling* every minute. But they write romance and I writer horror. Guys don’t dwell on feelings – they act. They’re problem solvers. I want Brett for a CP/beta reader!! 🙂

    1. There’s definitely a bit of a shift when you write from a guy’s POV! You should still include feelings and reactions, but guys don’t reflect on and analyze them like girls do. You’re right, they tend to focus more on taking action and solving the problem. And I think Brett would be flattered if you asked 😉

  14. Hmm, it never really occurred to me that male characters would be difficult to write. I actually have trouble writing female characters – I think I have less affection for them and so I lack inspiration when trying to create them.

    Personally, I don’t believe writing a female character should be any different than writing a male character. We are all human beings. (Of course I’m coming at it from the point of view of someone who is agender.) But one thing I do want to suggest…

    When it comes to things like “guys won’t cry unless they’re pushed to the breaking point” (to summarize)… if you’re writing a fantasy, you might consider whether the society your male character lives in is similar to or different from our own. Sure, in OUR world boys and men are shamed for showing emotion and taught to hold back their tears. But in a created society, this isn’t necessarily so.

    Really, other than societal differences and pressures, males and females aren’t that different (at least imo) 🙂

    Now maybe I should read the article on how to write interesting girls… cause I do need help with that!

    1. That’s a really great point you made about societal expectations! Even if you’re not writing a fantasy world and you’re just writing about a different culture the expectations might be different. Thanks for pointing that out!

  15. I like this article. I think that ome of the reasons its hard for me to create a male character or write conversation between a girl and a boy its that in real life i’m super shy and i almost never talk to a boy, so i dont know how an actual conversation with a boy is. Aagh, being shy sucks
    sorry for the negativity

    1. You’re definitely not alone, Luciana! I was super shy as a teen and also had a hard time with male characters because I was terrified of talking to boys. I went from only hanging out with boys in middle school to having no male friends throughout high school. It wasn’t until college that I made more male friends and got comfortable around them. Guys aren’t all that scary though, they’re just as insecure as we are, and most of them are friendly and big goofballs 😉 Try hanging out in groups of girls and guys to start getting comfortable around them!

  16. I tend to lean toward female POV’s because its easier but I do have an upcoming story where I am daring to switch it up! I think I have a good start- the character I am focusing on is not a big guy, is often times fake (pretending to be brave and “cool” but can’t back it up) and he’s got issues he’s obviously trying to mask. But at heart, he’s a good guy. With luck, I am hoping it will be an urban fantasy men will be able to read without rolling their eyes. Humor is key here! XD

  17. I call BS on the “not gossip” thing. The rest of this article is interesting, but people need to know (if they don’t) that guys are huge gossipers. When I was serving on a ship, all I heard about was sailors talking about other sailors. They’ll do it. It passes the time. It keeps deployment interesting. Who got drunk, who’s in the brig, who got busted for a DUI, who got laid, how many times, who’s baby is it, etc.. Females are not forgiven for their own gossipy wants, but guys are guilty. They’re just not gonna be as butt-hurt about it when their own name pops up in the conversation. Females will take it to heart. Guys usually (USUALLY) won’t. Only the guys who complain about working even though they signed up for it. If you’re writing about a military guy, they WILL gossip. All guys are different, though.

  18. Hi

    Don’t know if I’m too late to the game here- love this article. Thanks for posting it.

    I was curious about Brett’s comment about Harry and Ron. Why does he think JK Rowling didn’t do a great job with Harry regarding a male POV? Was there something about Harry that didn’t ring true regarding a woman writing a male? I was especially curious since the Potter series had no gender divide regarding readership. It would seem that boys might have been put off from reading it if Harry didn’t seem genuinely ‘male,’ no?

  19. Glad I read this. My biggest problem is writing both genders with both diverse physical and mental personalities. My biggest trouble is describing a fight between toe 13ish boys. I’m trying to figure out how to write it and what sets of a physical altercation.

  20. Great article! I’m writing a male protagonist for my YA book and everything about him seemed so natural to me, so reading this and finding that I wasn’t off-base in writing him is a huge confidence booster.

  21. Honesty my best policy, reading this article made me see that the 2 stories I wrote with a male protagonist where good, but not great so now that I know what marks I didn’t mark I could do better.So,rhanks Brett & Kaitlin !

  22. Whilst reading this, I felt quite sad for all the perfect YA males I have read about, and I couldn’t wrap my head around how I could write a man that my readers will fall in love with if he couldn’t be like the male characters I fell in love with. Its a hard balance to strike.
    But mentioning Thomas from Maze Runner, and Connor from Unwind, characters so deeply close to my heart, was a very good way of demonstrating how to make a good, loveable male protagonist. 😉 Insightful article, thanks

  23. Since most of the novels I write are from the guy POV, I found this article very interesting. Thank you for taking the time to write it, and to interview a real guy. And I agree, more books need to be written from the guys point of view. I love reading that type of book, and have a hard time finding them.

  24. Here is how I write the gender I am not: I write the book from my own gender, then swap the gender of that character without changing their personality or behavior. I have been complimented on writing deep and realistic female characters – and all I did was write men and give them female names.

    Because the truth is: Men aren’t all like Brett describes them. I am not, and none of my male friends are. We talk about our feelings. We cry. We “emote” just as women do. Just as there is a wide variety of body height among men and women, there is a wide variety of personality among men and women, and every trait can be found in either gender equally.

    So if you want to write a believable male character, just start by writing a believalbe person. And then assign them whichever gender you think that character should have.

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