Think Alpha. Now tell me which sentence works for this Alpha scenario. Two men are arguing. Things heat up.
The man took a swing at him, and Brody shrank from his touch.
The man took a swing at him, and Brody dodged the blow.
When I’m not writing, I’m editing. Well…actually…I do a heck of a lot more editing than I do writing. I have two loves in this wild and crazy world of publishing. I guess as long as it’s about words and how to string them together in order to create a story of love and romance (and sexy stuff, lol), I’m just plain hooked!
I’m senior editor with Passion In Print Press, the mainstream erotic romance imprint of MLR Press owned by author-publisher, Laura Baumbach. I love every second of my job. But there are times in which I have to step back and think. I’m sure all of you keep hearing that editing is subjective. Well, it is. One editor’s opinion may very well differ from another’s. And there are times when an editor simply has
to take a chance too. It’s those moments that give me sleepless nights.
One thing I’m hearing a lot about these days is male POV. It used to be that romance books were written all in female POV. Not so anymore. Giving both sides of the love story has become a mainstay of the genre. But! Let’s face it. The vast majority of romance writers are women. And women don’t always get male POV right. And that’s what I want to talk about today.
Which sentence did you choose above? If you chose sentence number two, you’d be correct. Let’s examine why. First of all, I said “think Alpha”. So we’re talking about a big old strong-willed-chest-beating dude. Lol Well, not really—although he can be, of course. But you know what an Alpha is. And an Alpha would never “shrink” from anything or anyone, would he?
“…and Brody shrank from his touch.” Key words to look at are “shrank” and “touch”. In this instance, a fight scene, those words are a bit too soft to use in connection with an Alpha. The word “dodged” rather than “shrank” fits with an Alpha—and you just know he dodged the blow just to deliver one to the bad guy, don’t ya? Now let’s take it a step further. Look at the words “shrink” and “touch”. Whether you are writing in male POV or female POV in this particular case truly does not matter. Immediately, you’re probably thinking that in female POV that a woman may very well think of her Alpha as “shrinking from his touch.” After all, she’s a woman and would think like a woman, wouldn’t she? Yes, to a degree. But even in her POV if she says the word “shrink”, she is basically painting her man yellow. Yep, she is. And if she uses the word “touch” it softens the sentence. So in this case—her POV and a fight scene—the author should use stronger words or it affects the way a reader sees the hero.
You might be thinking about Beta heroes at this point too. Okay, let’s take a look at Betas. Betas are supposedly the imperfect heroes with Alphas being the perfect heroes. Well…maybe not. But more about that in a bit. When dealing with narrative or dialogue for a Beta, you have to make some changes. The Beta’s personality traits are different—they might not be physically the same as an Alpha either.
So, which one of those sentences fits a Beta? Before you decide, think about the circumstances of this fight scene. And think about this too: Just because you are writing a Beta hero, it doesn’t mean he isn’t strong and capable of defending himself or his woman. And this is where it gets tricky. Is the heroine watching this fight scene? Does he have a good reason to back down? Which is exactly what “shrinking” would mean. These questions are why I lose sleep over edits sometimes. It’s where all that subjectivity comes into play.
So I weigh everything and make myself crazy. Here’s what I’d do as an editor: If the fight scene is from the male beta’s POV and the heroine is nowhere around, I’d probably think it was okay to use “shrank from his touch.” I mean, hell, Betas are smart. Who wants to fight? I’d honestly prefer NOT to use “shrank from his touch” but I do have authors who would want to use that phrasing and insist that their hero is NO hero--or that they don't want their hero acting "all Alpha". And in essence, he really is a hero--Beta or Alpha. If he has a good reason for backing down, it does make sense. Backing down in front of the heroine also makes sense if he has a good reason to as well. She may not know that reason too. Which could make for some nice layering of relationship angst within the story. But think again. Would a Beta allow his ass to get kicked while his woman is watching? And he most certainly WOULD NOT “shrink from his touch” if he was defending his woman, now would he? I don’t care if he DOES cry when he has an orgasm, he’s not going to let his woman get hurt! Betas are heroes who rise to the occasion. Against all odds, they save the day with their quiet, unassuming, non-Alpha ways. So be careful. Dig deep. Think about the scenario you’ve painted and think about the psychological and physical characteristics you’ve given your Beta.
Are you sufficiently confused yet? No? Okay then let me try again. LOL
Gammas. WTF is a Gamma? That’s the new hero. Alphas are supposedly perfect—pushy, take charge, stubborn, physical. Betas are supposedly imperfect—sensitive, kind, caring, never pushy or stubborn. Gammas are supposedly a combination of the two. Apparently they can beat their chest while cooking a gourmet meal. And in erotic romance, I guess that translates into giving you a foot massage while spanking your butt!
So which of those two sentences is right for a Gamma? Hell if I know. LOL C’mon…I’m an editor—not the all-knowing, all-seeing high priestess of romance. LOL Again, dig deep. Check your scenario. Check the personality you’ve given your hero. Make sure that you’re not letting him say or do something that he would never say or do. That’s what I’ll do when I’m reading your story. AND lose lots of sleep…zzzzzzzzz.
And about that perfect Alpha and imperfect Beta? Looks to me like Alpha just got knocked off his pedestal. I mean a foot massage and a spanking? A gourmet meal and he can beat his chest? What could be more perfect? Heck…perfection is in the eye of the one who loves ya! Just make sure the hero you paint is consistent in his actions and reactions.
So what got me on my POV soapbox today? I read an article about two or three weeks ago in which I agreed with the author on some points but disagreed with her on others, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I also have an author friend who was recently “called out” by a reviewer on some of her “dialogue”. The reviewer thinking it didn’t fit. Hmmmm… I didn’t agree with the reviewer.
About that article. In the post, the author pointed out that males, IN POV, would NEVER go on and on about hair color or the way a woman dresses. And to some degree she’s right. Would a man really look at a woman’s eyes and think of them as “azure blue”? Or would he think of them as “two perfect sapphires”? Her hair as “sun-kissed brown”? Would a man, IN POV, think of a woman’s dress as being “silver lame with a bateau neckline”? Would he actually say the words “Belgian lace”? No, I don’t think he would. So I agree with the writer—somewhat.
But there is something she didn’t stop to consider. While a man would not go over the top and describe a lot of detail, not come up with obscure colors and descriptions that most men would never think of, at the same time, we must consider our target audience. Who reads what we write? Women. That’s who.
So is it sufficient for a male, IN POV, to simply say, “her dress was silver”? Sufficient to say, “brown hair”? C’mon… let’s get real here. Women don’t want to read that. I DON’T. Give the gals some oomph! So what do I suggest? The words need to sound like a man but at the same time not be too flowery or involve details that a man would probably not know about (Belgian lace) or think of.
As a writer, here’s what I do, and as an editor, what I’d suggest you do:
First, think about the woman reading your book. Your readers want to know what that dress looks like. But they don’t want the male to sound totally unreal. Finding a happy medium is not always easy but CAN be done. Okay, the dress is silver lamé with a bateau neckline. But the vast majority of men don’t know the difference between bateau and T-shirt. And lamé? Hells bells, it’s all denim to them. LOL
So try breaking down those fancy names for color or fabric, those fancy words for style and see it through the guy’s POV—whether he’s Alpha, Beta, OR Gamma. How about this?
Women were always late. Brody checked his watch for probably the tenth time. Where was she? He glanced toward the ballroom’s entrance, executing the perfect double-take. In the doorway stood the most beautiful woman—his woman. And what a woman she was too. The silver dress she wore hugged all her gorgeous curves and wrapped around her just the way he wanted to mold his body to hers. Only the tips of her shoulders and the enticing curve of her collarbone were exposed, hinting at what lay beneath. Even in the room’s soft lighting, he could see her nipples hardening, pushing against the thin, shiny material.
Her blue eyes stared at him, conveying a message he’d rather not decipher right here in front of everyone. If he did, she’d be out of that flimsy dress in nothing flat, backed up against a wall, and screaming his name. As she brushed her fingers through her dark brown hair, the candlelight changing the brown to gold and red, he shifted, uncomfortable with the erection straining the front of his pants. God how he wanted to take her! And their audience could go to Hell.
You be the judge. Did I give the reader a description that was all male? Can you see a man thinking these things? Do the words silver, thin, shiny, and flimsy give the reader an idea of the type of fabric without saying silver lamé? (Maybe not exactly, but how’d I do?)How about that bateau neckline? Did I break that down in terms a man would think of? Does the reader understand that the dress is not low-cut and shows exactly what a man would see? And those eyes of hers…is there any doubt they are blue and that they are sinfully blue? Who cares if they are azure, lol, but is the message that man wants to see, is seeing, getting across to the reader? What about the hair description—that was tricky and I’m not really happy with it. lol
But overall, did I give the reader what they wanted? Keeping in mind, of course, that my target audience is female. Did I achieve the goal of making the words sound male and at the same time satisfy the curiosity over what that dress and woman look like?
Getting male POV right is incredibly hard to do. I think we all know that. But if you simply take a step back, think about just WHO your hero is, how he would act and react, think about the fact that just as women don’t know all the “male language”, lol, the boys don’t know ours either…AND in addition, remember your target audience and what they truly want…well…you’ll be okay.
Hey!!!! It’s time to announce the Blog Makeover Contest Winner sponsored by Natalie Dae. Don’t forget to stop by Ellora’s Cave http://www.jasminejade.com/m-613-natalie-dae.aspx and check out Natalie’s books. You’ll be glad you did. I know for a fact the woman was born to write romance. And HOT romance at that!
So who’s the lucky winner….drum roll if you please…
CONGRATULATIONS NICOLE ZOLTACK!
And in case you’re wondering, Nat will be running this contest again sometime in the very near future. So if you didn’t win this time, you just might the next time! Keep checking back for updates as to when.
Thanks for visiting with me today. I’ll be back next Monday with more mischief. And I already know what I’m blogging about too. And I hope you like the subject matter. *wink*