Write Like a … Girl?

So in real life, I’m a teacher. And, well you know, a part-time comedian. (What can I say? I teach middle school. Humor = Survival.)

In September I added a high school creative writing class to my plate, this time as an elective. Seven students signed up—all guys.

My word, what a great group. They’re bright, motivated, and loaded with ideas. I get to play the part of the Published Author. They’re secretly a little thrilled that I’m sharing my writing strategies with them. We discuss story structure and such … and sometimes I show movies to make my points. (When I played the beginning of Star Wars, there was this collective gasp of happiness.)

So … they’ve turned in stories involving war, mayhem, and chases involving awesome sportscars. We’ve had bombings at the mall, laboratory explosions, sniper fire, and kidnappings. If there are parents, they die. (Sorry. Blame Disney.) What we haven’t had much of is Romance. Where the girl survived, that is.

Several weeks ago I changed things up. We discussed Chick Lit, the parameters of the modern Romance novel—including the one-month shelf life of a category romance, which was an eye-opener to them!—Harlequin’s subscription service, and Nicholas Sparks. And then I put the hammer down: a six-page Romance story was to be written by each of them.

“Not a thriller, war adventure, or mystery,” I told them. “A Romance. When you catch yourself straying into a favorite (male-oriented) genre—(dramatic pause)—repent!” Ha. I teach in a Christian school. They grinned.

They were also instructed to bend the rules of good writing. This means I want …

• Lots-o-melodrama
• Plenty of adjectives (A brawny, muscular arm. Voluptuous, kissable lips)
• Too many adverbs
• A couple of “Swifties” (just this once)
• That sweep-me-away title
• And a PG level rating (since I will be reading the stories aloud)

During today’s ten-minute freewriting session, pens were scratching. There was male-style giggling, too. No, better make that cackling!

“Entertain yourself first,” I remarked, ever the teacher.

Trevor looked up from the page. “Oh, I AM,” he said, with a wide grin. “I’m loving this! He just broke up with her, and she ran screaming from the room!”

Everybody laughed.

Well okay then. This should be something. I’ll keep you posted.

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18 thoughts on “Write Like a … Girl?

  1. Robin Helm

    When I taught high school, I found that my guys were wonderful writers. Very few ventured into romance, but they wrote very descriptive narratives and beautiful poems. I like delving into the creative masculine mind. They really surprised me.

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    1. Laura Hile

      P-p-poetry? You taught poetry, Robin? O, brave woman! O superior teacher! I’ve considered teaching a unit on poetry, but I back away. I’m the one who needs to be taught. Fiction is safer.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Hi, Joanna!

      The key to this assignment, I think, is that I’m pushing them to be over-the-top funny with their stories. Comedy gives a measure of protection. They become entertainers, not sincere novelists. You’ve read my work. I struggle to be “seriously” romantic myself.

      Yes, I do. Ha, I consulted several Harlequins before writing the first romantic kiss in Mercy’s Embrace. There’s no risk of overt sexuality in my writing! I’d be too busy cracking up! Well…and blushing from embarrassment.

      How do women write that stuff? Never mind!

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  2. stephanie

    I live in house FULL of men….both my boys are very creative….but can’t imagine them working on a romance…might surprise me …yet I think the end results would be hilarious….Please share when your young men are done…Am truly interested

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    1. Laura Hile

      I handed back their “Three Plot Ideas” assignment yesterday—in which they wrote backmatter as if for a book cover (enticing a reader to buy). Now I wish I hadn’t because some of them were hysterical! I’ll keep you posted, Stephanie! Because I live in a house full of men, too.

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  3. Robin Helm

    My “wedding night” chapter will be up in a couple of weeks, and I’m dreading it. At least it won’t be published yet, and I can change it if the response isn’t good. I could never be graphic either, but I don’t want little old ladies to faint.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Robin. Girl.

      You’ve got to give the Romance dogs a bone, you know? Love, not lust. Tastefully served up, with the door swinging closed at the right moment.

      I have my share of struggles, as you know. There’s no wedding night as yet — in Mercy’s Embrace, anyway—and even in the kissy scenes I tread warily, not wanting to go too much over the top.

      The horseback ride (in ME 2) was tossed in simply because I needed to give my longsuffering readers something to sigh over. (Little old ladies need a little fainting spell sometimes!) I rolled my eyes as I wrote, but readers loved it. And I learned a thing or two about the genre I’m writing in.

      Your Regency One-Shots were sweep-me-away wonderful. Show us how a wedding night should be done.

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    1. Laura Hile

      Yes, some of their ideas were quite unique. And others were rather heartless! Fiction allows us to have adventures we couldn’t pull off in real life. (For instance, Elizabeth Elliot is me … I’m not beautiful enough to get away with the stunts she pulls. I’m thinking that’s a good thing? For the members of my family?)

      Trevor, for example, was enthusiastic about his hero being a “Playah” (player) who falls in love at last. But first, he’s breaking hearts of babes! Something every guy wishes he could do.

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  4. Danielle

    I wonder if they would mind you posting their stories to your blog and then we can read them and even offer some opinions. Maybe we can encourage them to keep writing!

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  5. Jennifer G.

    I think a CONTEST in which the winner gets to guest blog and be a “published” author….I think teen guys might go for it. Humor helps so much. And I MUST say, thanks, ladies, for letting me use my imagination and have a slight fainting spell (although I only count as a little old lady to kindergarteners!). Robin, I anxiously await the wedding night story! PLEASE!!!!

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  6. Gwynnifer

    It would be terrific if your guys would be willing to have some excerpts posted on your blog. If they are having such fun with it, I sure would like to see it!

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  7. Laura Hile

    Hi Gywnnifer,

    We have class tomorrow, so we’ll see how they respond. I’m expecting they’ll like the idea. Trevor, who was quoted in the post, came up to tell me that he’s all finished (a day early, bless him—and it sounds like he’s done the entire story). I described what was going on here at the blog, and he became very excited about a contest.

    It’s surprising how much students will do for a Starbucks gift card! I figure I ought to offer something, you know? Authors gots to eat, after all. 🙂

    Stay tuned for details.

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  8. janashe

    again your post delights and enlightens. I dearly love reading what you and Susan have to say – ya’ll are both treasures! Keep it up!

    and I too would love to read what the guys came up with – most of the stories on fanfiction net are by high school or college students and some are quite good!

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  9. Laura Hile

    I’ll present it to them tomorrow during class. I’m thinking they’ll go for it! Thanks for your encouragement. I’m planning to read all the comments, too. 🙂

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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