The Art of Mirriam Neal

//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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