The NaNoWriMo forums are a gift and a curse, and maybe a little more curse. Sometimes ya get writers giving writer-ly advice using bile-inducing grammar, punctuation, logic, and word choice. Sometimes the forums suck you into a vortex of internet confusion and only after hours of surfing until your eyeballs get sticky do you find the beautiful and rare occasions when a writer can ask a good question and get a great answer, and when writers in need find the inspiration they seek.

The stars aligned the other day… and I found a bit of both. I scrolled past “My Necromancer Needs a Motive” and laughed to myself when I clicked on “Male Character needs to be more manly.”

This is gonna be good.

Our writer in need started the thread off with, “So, I’m a girl. I’ve only lived with females (my mom and sisters). I’ve only every had girlfriends and any guy was too young to help. 

So I’m having a crazy hard time making my romantic interest manly. He’s 22, AA, and Christian. I just need help making his tone and mannerisms casual and masculine. I wouldn’t be having such a hard time if it was a romance, but the romantic aspect is subplot. I’m not actually quite sure how anyone can help, but any suggestions would be appreciated.

My brother walked in while I was clicking through the forums. When I read the heading of the thread aloud, he got a kick out of it and started adding suggestions to my idea of a response. It spiraled out of control rapidly.

This was the result, take what advice and humor from it that you will:

I just spoke with my brother. We are both writers.

Here are a few pieces of advice: cut his lines (seriously, most guys aren’t talkers – especially manly men). Probably around 50%.

Have him say, “Hmmm,” when you think he might say something that might sound touchy-feely. Less words.

Have women misunderstand his fewer words, debate the meaning, internalize, and freak out… if possible. The contrast helps accentuate the difference between men and women.

When he stands, he crosses his arms or puts his hands behind his back – depending on his personality. If he is not used to being around women often, give him small things like walking unintentionally fast while women wearing heels struggle to keep up. My brother actually did this once and I had to catch him by the arm and remind him that the women with him (who normally wore flats) were needing to watch their step and take it a little slower.

Give him a hobby. Fishing? Manly. If she comes with him, she might have to figure out that he doesn’t want to talk, but just enjoys the calm of the water and the silence of nature. Shooting? Manly. Doesn’t have to be a dead-shot, but writing him, legs braced, forearm muscles taught, while brass reigns down around his shoes, and he will sound manly. Hunting? Stalking around his back yard in store-bought camo looking for Bambi doesn’t sound manly. Shooting an elk at 200 yards while sniping from a sage-brush covered ridge and packing out the quarters on a horse he trained himself? MANLY AS ALL GET OUT. *fans self* Bonus points if you have him string up the quarters on a tractor and skin them himself. But a solid girl can help him out here, too (how do you think I know about these things? I helped skin that elk.).

Chivalry is an excellent way to exhibit manliness – just don’t go overboard or out of character. A pulled out chair here, a “Yes, ma’am.” there… oh, and if the woman he’s with is insulted, he doesn’t have to go into an all-out brawl. He can simply stand, offer her his hand, pay for the meal (which they haven’t finished), and leave – after informing the manager that he will not be returning due to the unsavory and uncouth company kept in said establishment. Or he could engage in a battle of wits.

Another way is utilizing his authority, other’s respect of him, and his personal history. I actually used this particular set of tools in a novel I’m currently wrapping up before I start in on NaNo come Nov. 1. Here’s the excerpt: “You’ll want half a dozen men with long guns or cross bows here,” Longshanks added, flicking his finger out to either side of where the main force would be, “as the bandits will be inclined to scatter once they realize you’ve cut off their retreat.” The man winced after he spoke as if inwardly berating himself for offering the advice without invitation. Edward scrutinized him; the man seemed underdressed compared to the officers around him. He wore plain clothes and not a single scrap of armor besides his falconer’s bracer. And yet there was something peculiar… Edward glanced around at the lieutenants. They seemed smaller next to Longshanks though none of them were actually shorter. Edward’s gaze returned to the tracker: Longshanks had double the confidence of any man standing at the table. It was not a blustering bravado but a silent fire burning from his every pore. Candlelight flickered over dozens of small scars on his knuckles and forearms. They couldn’t all be from a falcon’s talons.”

Come to find out, Longshanks is actually a widely-feared (and very manly) pirate captain, disguising himself to be able to move through the country unseen. He eventually teaches Edward how to fight better and gives him advice on women.

Lastly, and I suppose this could be counted as chivalry, don’t have him be afraid to get dirty. He stops by stranded car and helps the guy put a spare on – jeans dirty, t-shirt stained, and the wielding of a jack and wrench? Manly. Same goes for digging, plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, fighting, even a skilfully written chef-scene.

Aaaaaaaand homework:


Well, there you have it. The advice from a Nomadic Troglodyte on how to write a manly man. For whatever that’s worth. Feel free to add your two cents to the comments below. Remember: it’s how to write a manly man – not how to be a manly man. ;)

If you’re interested in the full conversation.