One of the workshops I especially enjoyed during the 2008 Romance Slam Jam was Harlequin Kimani author Wayne Jordan's Keep Your Hero from Sounding Like a Heroine: Writing Believable Male Characters.
Wayne shared several tips to remember when differentiating male and female dialogue.
1. Women use more words to express themselves than men.
2. Women rely more on their feelings - both emotional and sensory - in their communication and reactions. Ask yourself, what does she feel in the physical sense as well as how does she feel in the emotional sense?
3. Men rely more on their visual perceptions. Ask yourself, what does this character see? And remember, he's more inclined to believe what he can see.
4. Women express themselves with emotion; men are more physically demonstrative.
One movie that illustrates this communication difference very well is Speed starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. I've watched that movie several times in part to study the way the writers used dialogue to enhance characterization. Have you ever seen it?
Sandra Bullock's character is very nurturing. When the danger of the moment is over, the first words out of her mouth are, "Is everyone OK?" She puts others before herself.
Keanu Reeves' character is an impulsive, action-oriented person. Words aren't important to him. Dialogue is an afterthought. When one of the male civilians asks him if what they're about to do will work, Keanu just stares at him.
Of course, this type of exchange is easier in film. It's not as though we can have our heroine share her deepest, darkest fears with the hero and have the hero's response be a blank page. The way I try to work around this is by having an especially alpha male character speak with the least amount of words possible.
What have you observed about the difference in the way men and women speak? And how do you show this difference in your writing?
Next week, I hope to tell you about either Donna Hill's promotion workshop or Kayla Perrin's plotting workshop.