Chick lit 101 for male writers – Nic Tatano
By Nic Tatano
Okay, since most of you probably rolled your eyes at that headline, let’s get some stuff out of the way first. I’m very much a regular guy. I have a man cave with a pool table. I like movies in which things explode. Jack Bauer is my hero. I can spend hours watching sports. I do the macho thing (grip it and rip it) when swinging a golf club. ♥
All of that just gets me in the mood to write a romance. I know, I’m a paradox. Guys who write romance are a novelty. I mean, we’re not supposed to have the sentimental chromosome. And we’re really not supposed to understand women to a degree that we can write from a female point of view. I’ll admit that it’s easier for women to understand men than vice versa because the male of the species is not exactly complicated. Let’s use a stereo system as an analogy. Emotionally, guys have an on-off switch. That’s basically it. Women are much more complex, like graphic equalizers of emotion, with eighty-seven possible settings that guys may or may not (usually not) understand. It’s those infinite number of possibilities that fascinate us. Treat a woman right, you get beautiful music. Treat her badly, and Frankie Valli can sound like Barry White. Okay, time to share some tips for the rest of the class. How can a guy write romance and get inside a female character’s head?
It helps to work in a female-dominated profession, as I have in television news. Women in newsrooms are not shy about talking sex or relationships, and I’ve heard plenty. If, for instance, you work as a longshoreman you’re probably not gonna hear a lot of girl talk. Teacher? Now you’re on the right track. And guys, here’s a wild concept … you have to actually listen to women instead of giving them the “Yes, Dear” bobblehead.
If you’ve been the “shoulder to cry on” guy, you can write romance. I was always the guy doing laundry on Saturday night when I’d get a knock on the apartment door and find my gorgeous teary-eyed neighbor bawling and needing a hug because she’d been dumped. Then she’d inevitably speak the words every man longs to hear, “Why can’t I ever find a nice guy like you?” while her mascara was running onto my shirt. This was always followed by the second most popular soul-crushing statement, “You’ll make someone a great husband.”
Your personal life situation should have you surrounded with women. Me? Raised by a single mom who taught art in our basement and had a house full of women three nights a week. I, of course, would be on my bedroom floor next to the heating vent listening to juicy stuff that sounded like a Jacqueline Susann novel. (And I read a lot of those as a kid.) I’m also married to a woman with sisters and no brothers. The sisters all have daughters and no sons. Family gatherings are basically me and what my wife refers to as “the estrogen brigade.”
You have to be a romantic at heart. Did you buy your wife a new vacuum cleaner for her birthday? Do you think that will make her all misty-eyed and sentimental and want to ravish you? Get with the program. Buy her some bling, write a sweet note in a card, light some candles, throw some rose petals on the bed. (Then YOU vacuum the rug the next day.)
Don’t even try to write a sex scene. Remember that on-off switch we have? If you don’t understand the basic concept that a woman wants to be treated as an equal but still appreciates a guy who holds the door for her, you’ve got no shot.
Finally, read romance. Hey, don’t give me that look! You wanna know what women want to read, you gotta do some research.
Nic Tatano spent fifteen years as a television news reporter and anchor. But he believes fiction is a lot more fun, since you don’t have to deal with those pesky things known as facts. Nic still works as a freelance network field producer and lives on on the Gulf Coast. His latest novel, Twitter Girl, is out next month.