Man Brain

Gorgeous eyes. A captivating smile. Carved muscles. Sounds like the perfect hero in a romantic novel, right? What about adding some boxes? No, I said boxes, not boxers—this is clean romance. 😉

Long ago I heard the idea that a woman’s brain is like spaghetti and a man’s brain is made of boxes. Females analyze, quickly rabbit trail, read into things, are perceptive, intuitive, make connections, plan ahead, and all at once with a healthy dose of passion and emotion. Males process. One. Box. At. A. Time.

However, the boxes make the man, because he has one labeled “Protect her” and another “Win her” and one called “Care for her.” Way in the corner there’s a dusty little box labeled “Surprise her with something nice for her birthday.” You usually have to remind him about that box.

I’ve gotten comments from friends on how it must be difficult to write from a male perspective. How does a spaghetti brain sculpt an appealing and realistic hero? Here are a few practices that’ve helped me:

  •  Tighten dialogue and internal thoughts. Whatever I’ve written in my first draft, I cut it in half. Then I omit fluffy, flowery words.
  •   Critiques are my best friend. I’ve gotten a fair share of comments from other writers: Would a guy really say/think this?
  •   Pay attention to real conversation between guys.

  •   Browse social media. The kids I taught in Sunday school—they’re now on Instagram. Instead of dwelling on how old I feel, I’ll highlight what a great resource this is.
  •   Consider how he experiences the world. Does he smell the designer candle burning on the mantle, or will his nose be drawn to whatever’s cooking in the kitchen?
  •   Consider what the hero notices about the heroine…not what she wants him to notice.

  •   Watch The Bachelorette. I should be embarrassed by this, but how can you not enjoy a bunch of dudes fighting over one girl? The manly competition and logic (or lack thereof) always intrigues me.
  •   When in doubt, ask my husband—he’s honest to a fault and a genius story builder.

Continuing my meet cute from last month’s post, here is an example of storytelling from the dude’s point of view.


Marcus slid his innebandy stick across the gym floor. The ball shot forward, sailed toward the goalpost and ricocheted off with a clang. A girl entered the side door in time to duck. The American came. Did she see him miss the goal? Not that it mattered. Nobody here to impress.

The opposing team chased down the ball, sticks clattering against the tile. She walked the edge of the gym, watching the game. The moment she’d entered the cafeteria in her hoodie and jogging shoes he’d pegged her for American.

A teammate yelled his name. The ball flew his direction but was intercepted before he could react. He needed to focus. But she still looked lost, like she had at lunch earlier that day. And when she’d followed him back to the dorm. Maybe he should take a break, give someone else a turn. He jogged to the sidelines and handed his stick to a classmate. When he glanced her direction, she smiled.

“Hey.” She walked toward him.

“Tjena. You going to play?”

“I’m not feeling great.” Her nose wrinkled. “Jetlag is kicking me.”

“It’s a very Swedish game.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

“I used to play street hockey in school.”

“You played on an innebandy team?”

“No, just third grade recess.” She grinned up at him.

“That does not count.”

“It totally counts. I was awesome at it too.”

So American. Thought they were the best in the world. Poor girl was up for a rough time in Sweden. Good thing he’d warned her.

A grin lit her face again. “Actually, the boys hated it when I played.”

“Because you were so awesome?”

“No, when I hit the ball, I’d swing my stick up in the air like a baseball bat. I may have smacked a few kids in the head.” She giggled. He tried to ignore the musical way it sounded. He should get back in the game.

She tilted her head to the side, her curls bouncing along for the ride. “Why does everyone keep shouting royal butt?”


“Just then, it sounded like that girl yelled royal butt.” She pointed across the gym.

“Bra jobbut. It means good job.” He repeated the Swedish again, enunciating slowly.

“Bra…your…butt?” Her eyes narrowed.

“Means good job.”

She threw her head back and laughed loud enough to be heard in Stockholm. “Bra is good.”

“That’s what I told you earlier today.” He shrugged.

“I thought you were so weird.”

“You are weird,” he said, trying to subdue his smile.


When I prepared to recount our meet cute, I asked my husband about his first impressions, hoping to hear a detailed account of what he thought, how he felt, the conversations he remembered. His answer:

“You looked hot in the blue jacket.”

“The puffy one that made me feel fat?”


Huh. Man brain—one box at a time.

What do you think about spaghetti versus boxes? What is your favorite aspect of a hero in a romantic novel?


Beth Olsson, in a pen cap, is all about Jesus, her Viking, and their two adorable babies. If you know what it means when she says her childhood heroes were Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables, and Jo March, then you get it! All kidding aside, they’re still her heroes. Beth started creating stories as early as she can remember, staying awake well after bedtime dreaming up daring characters and precarious situations. As a writer of contemporary romance, with a dash of suspense, she believes the best stories weave the raw beauty of real life with unbelievable adventures.

A proud resident of Kansas City, Missouri, Beth enjoys world travel, genealogy, and sitting around the dinner table for hours, talking about both. The best souvenir she ever brought home was a husband from Sweden. Like any good writer, she has a love affair with chocolate and coffee, but it’s a lifeblood connection with Jesus Christ that keeps the words flowing and heart beating. At the tender age of fourteen, on a tile floor in Costa Rica, she surrendered all to the one she calls Lord. Through life’s twists and turns she’s thankful for this steadfast foundation every day!


By |2018-04-06T14:39:45+00:00April 6th, 2018|Beth Olsson|10 Comments

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  1. Barbara Ellin Fox April 6, 2018 at 5:36 pm - Reply

    This post made me laugh from start to finish. Yes. Boxes. And not very many boxes. And each one has to be neatly closed and packed away before a new one is open. The contents must NEVER touch.

    Sometimes you can tell how a man thinks by looking in his closet. Clothes color coordinated to their hangers? Shirts not touching?

    But I must say the spaghetti label had to come from a man, someone jealous of the female ability to multi-task. I prefer to think of an intricate connection of vibrant wiring that keeps us fully charged.

    I figured anyone with your understanding of the male brain must have grown up with a slew of brothers. Now I find out it comes from teaching Sunday school and instagram! Haha.

    Keep up the good work, Beth. I can’t wait to hear from you again.

    • Beth Olsson April 6, 2018 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      “And each one has to be neatly closed and packed away before a new one is open. The contents must NEVER touch.” LOL! So true 🙂 But you’re right, the spaghetti/boxes idea did come from a man. I MUCH prefer “an intricate connection of vibrant wiring that keeps us fully charged.” That’s brilliant!
      And no, no brothers. Marcus keeps my writing real…for better or worse, haha.

  2. Meridee Welsh April 6, 2018 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    I LOVE true stories. Keep them coming! You’re doing a great job.

    • Beth Olsson April 6, 2018 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much!! I LOVE that you read 🙂

  3. Lara Hitchcock April 6, 2018 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    That’s hilarious. You had me laughing out loud. One of the things that caught me was this: “Good thing he’d warned her.” I so misjudged his intentions in that first post. 😉 Loved the pictures scattered throughout. And that last part was so funny:

    “You looked hot in the blue jacket.”

    “The puffy one that made me feel fat?”


    Love it 🙂

    • Beth Olsson April 6, 2018 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Lara 😀 It’s always the highlight of my day when I hear I made you laugh! And yes, I still misjudge a lot of what comes out of his mouth 😛

  4. Austin Ryan April 7, 2018 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    My absolute favorite part was this:

    “You looked hot in the blue jacket.”

    “The puffy one that made me feel fat?”


    It’s the lack of that kind of profoundness that makes so many romance heroes seem not-man-like. I think you’re spot on with your reduce words- remove flowery formula 🙂 I usually do the same things as you, eavesdrop (sorry, I mean research) and read social media posts, or think about whether or not the men in my life would be caught saying (or thinking) something like that.

    The spaghetti thing definitely sounds like a comment from a person without a female brain. I second Barbara Ellin Fox’s definition.
    “An intricate connection of vibrant wiring that keeps us fully charged” totally trumps “spaghetti” (which sounds messy and floppy and weird) 🙂

    What a great post, Beth! Please keep them coming!

    • Beth Olsson April 8, 2018 at 1:25 am - Reply

      Thank you, Austin!
      Yes, Barbara’s the queen of amazing lines. Her definition is perfect!
      It’s funny how just the practice of questioning: Would a guy say/think this? –changes my wording most of the time. I guess I come by the female brain honestly 😉

  5. Karin Beery April 7, 2018 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    The jacket story reminds me of a conversation with my husband. I told him I was having a fat day and needed him to tell me something about my appearance.

    Him: You looked hot the other day when we were outside working.
    Me: When I was in a hoodie and jeans?
    Him: Yeah, that one! You looked great.

    Go figure 🙂

    • Beth Olsson April 8, 2018 at 1:19 am - Reply

      X) I love it! The way they think always throws me for a loop. Keeps a girl on her toes when it comes to writing, huh?

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