//a girl’s guide to bromance

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Who doesn’t love a good bromance? Two guys with an intimate, platonic relationship sharing banter and life experiences – it’s my favorite relationship to write, and it’s usually the relationship I’m best at writing. (It’s probably just a cycle – it’s my favorite to write, therefore I write it more, therefore I have more practice.) From Aragorn and Legolas to Bucky and Steve, entertainment is full of endearing, gripping ‘bromances.’ But how do you write a good bromance? In this day and age, how do you write two characters of the same sex in an intimate, platonic relationship without everyone viewing them as something more? Well – you can’t.

If people will take David and Jonathan as gay, they will take any intimate, platonic pairing you give them as gay if they want to. In fact, if anyone ever ships two of your same-sex characters, you might as well take it as a compliment – congratulations! You wrote such a good, intimate, platonic friendship that people don’t know what to do with it, since Western culture has lost that aspect of friendship.

A NOTE BEFORE I CONTINUE: I have a brother and many male friends, so when it comes to guys, I’ve never had much trouble writing them. If you’ve never had a brother or male friends, this will be harder for you, but hopefully I’ll provide a little help.

HOWEVER. (Yes, this area of writing has many howevers.) There are badly-written bromances, and I’m here to help you avoid falling into some of the major pitfalls.

GUYS ARE NOT GIRLS.

Sure, it’s obvious, but hear me out – when girls first start writing bromances, chances are high they have no idea how to sound like a guy. It doesn’t matter how many guys they know or how many guys they’ve read about, when a girl starts to write her first bromances, those guys will sound like girls. This is where things get awkward. Two guys who sound like girls won’t feel like a bromance – they’ll feel like a romance, even if they never do anything strictly romantic. You don’t need to make out with someone for romantic undertones to slip through.

To avoid writing guys who sound like girls, there are a few things you can do. Some people have the ability to watch people interact and then boom, they’ve got it. (For instance, I’m much better at writing guys than girls, and I get told so on a regular basis. Why? I haven’t the slightest idea.) If you don’t have the ability to translate what you see to the page, then you can

  • have a guy read an example of your writing and critique it. MAKE HIM UNDERSTAND YOU WANT CRITIQUE, because if a guy is willing to read your writing, chances are he’s a very polite person and won’t want to hurt your feelings. You need to have your feelings hurt as a writer. If you get negative critique, it’s going to happen, and you need it to develop. You absolutely cannot have the cavalier ‘I don’t need critique because I only write for X reason’ attitude if you want to improve.
  • double-think everything your male characters say and do until it becomes a habit. (Yeah, it’s work, but all good things require work.) You do not want your male character to sound like you if you’re a girl. Where you might squeal or whine, a guy might chuckle or grind his teeth. As a general rule, guys are less demonstrative with their emotions, and prefer to take the physical route. Even outgoing guys who are talkative and give hugs freely will react to things differently than a girl. For example: A guy isn’t going to say ‘EEEEK’ in a serious situation. I’ve seen many examples of this particular travesty, and it makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a pencil.
  • pay attention to guys. No, not with googly eyes, but with authorial eyes. Watch how they behave and interact, how they talk, their mannerisms and gestures and expressions. I often like to choose models for my fictional characters, because it gives me a foundation to work from. If I know the model’s mannerisms, voice inflection, and expressions, I can write them with no problem, and I don’t need to stress about whether I’m ‘getting it right.’
  • pay attention to well-written fictional bromances. I already mentioned Steve and Bucky and Aragorn and Legolas, but here are a few of my other favorites:

– Dustfinger and Mo (The Inkworld trilogy by Cornelia Funke)

– Lewis and Tegid (The Albion trilogy by Stephen Lawhead)

– practically everyone in the Silmarillion (Tolkien)

– Hellboy and Abe (the Hellboy movies)

– any male relationship in any Korean drama ever

– Darcy and Bingley (Pride and Prejudice)

– Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock (Gotham)

– Miles and Monroe (Revolution)

– Dean and Cas (Supernatural. Sorry, Destiel shippers, but it is actually a bromance. Not a romance.)

– Roy Mustang and Maes Hughes (Fullmetal Alchemist)

– Xavier and Erik (X-Men)

– Obi-Wan and Anakin (Star Wars)

This is all I have time for today, but hopefully it’s a good starting point. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments! Also, during novel-writing months like NaNoWriMo and JuNoWriMo, most of my imagination and energy goes to writing a novel, not blogging. So if there’s something you want me to blog about, I’m currently open to suggestions!

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14 thoughts on “//a girl’s guide to bromance

  1. DON’T FORGET JOHN AND SHERLOCK, AND HOLMES AND WATSON. :D (Yes they are separate… XD) I’ve always been better at writing guys than girls too… Girls are so HARD to write. Ugh. -_- FAB POST! Bromances are so fantastic and I love a good brotherly “buddy-movie” story. :)

    Post ideas: a post about how awesome Captain America 3 was (YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!) and a followup on the Paper Crowns tour like I mentioned once. :D (Not to bug you… you just asked, so. XD)

    KEEP GOING ON JUNO YOU’RE DOING AMAZING. *cheers you on and hopes to find time to catch up on the story once life will stop strangling me* GO GO GO!

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  2. Okay, so I was scrolling down to comment and saw someone mention “Sherlock and Watson.” (Sometimes I think my eyes have retrained themselves to hunt out anything that reads “Sherlock” *cough*) That’s a good point. Sherlock and Watson are a bromance. Not a romance.

    Honestly, I kind of wish people would just say friendship? Is society wired to where we can’t even recognize a friendship anymore? We have to make it sound like ‘romance’? But that aside, I know what you mean when you are saying “bromance.”

    Excellent post! These are some very good tips. Nobody has told me if my male characters sound like girls and my work has been read by guys, so I’m hoping, it’s okay. XD But I’ve never point blank asked either. I do have a lot of brothers though and they obviously have guy friends (who visit over, a lot). I’m kinda used to a bunch of high school guys running around. I also listen to my brothers talk about their friends and how they talk and interact with each other. Which really helps.

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    1. It IS sad that we have to use the word ‘bromance’ to indicate what we mean. :/ It’s one of my favorite things about East-Asian culture. Guys can hold hands and hug and act like they actually care about each other, and it’s just how it is. It’s normal. I love that.

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  3. *claps ferociously* THANK YOU FOR THIS WONDERFUL POST. I am so frustrated with our warped society, and how two people of the same sex can’t even look at each other or hug without the world immediately shipping it as a romance. It’s sad, really. But yes, friendships are the best. Amen.

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  4. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your blog post because recently I’ve been thinking about the relationship between my two male friends in the story and I wanted to kind of create a bromance so thank you, it was helpful. :)

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  5. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Why has our culture been picking on males? I don’t understand. “Emotions and/or strong feelings should be felt by women only.” Is that the conclusion we’re arriving at? Most of the time, you don’t hear people saying, “Oh, those two girls are best friends? They must be lesbian.” When certain boys are growing up and they are a little more emotional than “normal” boys, and they aren’t interested in sports, and they may like pink and purple… Why isn’t that okay? Girls are always pushing for rights, which makes them, in a sense, more like men, but when boys want to be allowed to cry sometimes or act in plays instead of play football, that “must” make them transgender. That “must” mean that they think they’re girls. I read an article about a family who says the first indicator that their six year old son is transgender was when he grabbed his sister’s pink blanket when he was a few months old. I mean, really? Pink and purple are just colors. No one thinks a girl thinks she’s a boy if she likes blue and red. If she’s sporty and doesn’t like dresses, she’s just a Tom boy. I just… don’t understand our culture.

    On another note, have you ever seen the Mel Gibson movie “The Man Without a Face”? The relationship between Norstadt and McLeod is one of my favorite platonic male relationships; mostly because I am so angry at the injustice of the rumors people come to believe about these characters, and that the thought that McLeod was anything but his best friend had never crossed Norstadt’s mind. I think their relationship is beautiful, and I recommend this movie if you have never seen it.

    And these tips are awesome, Mirriam! Thanks for sharing. :)

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