You’ve all heard the concept — woman and men are different. To anyone who’s ever been in a relationship, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise, right? But so often, writers fail to recognize this difference when they are crafting the dialogue for their characters.
This difference is one of the reasons that Catherine has the final say on all the female voices in our books, and Donald rules what the men say. After all, who has a better insight into the psyche of the gender than one of their own? As you may know from reading other articles about us, this a-man-wouldn’t-say-that concept is one of the things that began our co-authoring fiction journey after Catherine gave Donald a romance novel to read. He liked the book, but hated the way the men responded and said, “We could write it better.”
This male-female difference was brought home to Catherine even more one day last week when she was sitting in McDonalds having breakfast after the doctor’s office messed up her appointment date. While killing a 2 ½ hour time gap between her non-existent doctor’s appointment (they’d scheduled it for March instead of February) and her hair appointment (just around the corner from the doctor’s office), she had the uninterrupted opportunity to eavesdrop, which all writers should do occasionally—eavesdrop that is, not mess up doctor appointments.
On this particular morning, Catherine had the pleasure of listening to the over-sixty-five breakfast crowd at Micky D’s. She nursed her cup of coffee to the last drop, and even pretended there was more in the cup when the gossip got particularly juicy.
Here’s what she discovered.
Women talk about:
- Dysfunctional family members
- Family gossip
- What’s happening in their lives
- Where they’ve been shopping
- What they bought while they were shopping
- How much what they bought cost
- Other women they know and how dysfunctional their families are, and they named names. No indirect references here. They wanted each other to know exactly who they were gossiping about.
Men talk about:
- NFL scores
- How much NFL players make
- What needs fixing
- How much it costs to fix it
- They even strike up conversations with other males they don’t know, wearing workmen’s clothing, and ask if they are plumbers, because they’ve got a toilet that leaks and they could use a good plumber.
- If men reference family, they say my daughter, my wife, my son. Not once did Catherine hear a man mention the names of his family, except for the 93 year-old fellow wearing a blue ski cap that make him look like a gnarly gnome, who introduced his son to someone he knew who dropped in for a cup of coffee. Gotta use names for introductions, after all.
Before you say, “Wait! My characters aren’t over sixty-five,” realize that what we talk about after puberty (where most of our romance stories take place, unless you’re writing YA) doesn’t change much as we age. In puberty, we’re all hormonally driven, and sex and school and how horrible life is with our overbearing parents is on the top of most conversations during those years. But when we mature, conversations take a turn and you see what is really important to each gender. How we say what we say, what we mean to say, and what’s on the top of our conversation lists are very different for men and women once we pass that magic age driven purely by hormones.
Men and women are different in oh, so many ways. Shouldn’t that difference be reflected in our books? Take a look through your dialogue without the identifying tags. Can you tell if a man or woman is saying the words? If not, consider spending a few hours at the local McDonalds and listen to the patrons chatting. You’ll soon discover the difference between the Mars male and the Venus female.