By Chris Redding (Guest Blogger)
Today I want to talk about how men communicate. You can use it when writing your male characters.
Communication is about independence and intimacy.
Men tend to focus on independence. They give orders and tell people what to do. Women crave intimacy. For instance. a man will make plans without consulting his wife. (Not all men, of course.) He will see no reason to “ask permission” of his wife. He actually views it that way. He would see it as not being able to act independently of her. He sees at as being the underling if he has to ask permission. Even though is isn't really asking permission, but consulting the wife about her plans. (Which is how she would see it.)
Here you can add conflict. The hero makes a unilateral decision be it about a social event or in the heat of running from the bad guys. He doesn’t see why he needs to clear it with the heroine. Of course she wants to be in on the decision-making process so we have conflict between the two. He doesn’t understand why she needs to be part of making the decision.
It is the same mindset when men go out and spend money. They don't feel they need to “ask permission.” My husband once bought a car without any input from me. He was going through a rough time and I think he needed to assert his independence not so much from me, but from his job. I didn't make a big deal about it, but the next time he bought I car I mentioned it. And of course he had no idea that I would feel that way. Until I told him.
Intimacy says we're close and connected. Women bond with each other, especially through talking. In feeling connected, two women feel symmetry. They are equals.
Independence is connected to status. Men like independence and their lives are about status. So status and independence are asymmetrical. Both people in a contest cannot have the upper hand.
Imagine someone other than the hero interested in the heroine. There would be an automatic competition between the two men. Conflict! Not huge conflict, but enough to show another side of your hero.
In ancient societies, men protected women. It is still in their biology to do that. There aren't man-eating animals that women face on a daily basis so they do it other ways. (Quick story: In a bar recently with a mixed group, someone else we knew asked one of the guys in the group to help her get this guy off of her. Now he doesn’t even like her, but she was clearly scared of this other guy hanging on her. So my friend asked the guy to leave. Twice, nicely. The guy, of course, gave him a hard time, and they almost came to blows. My friend was willing to protect this woman merely because she was a woman.)
A mother naturally protects her children. But when a woman extends her protection to a man he bristles at it. He sees himself as a lower rank, a child. Since I was a kid in the age before widespread seat belt use, if my father had to brake suddenly he would put his hand out to protect whoever was in the front passenger seat. I developed the same habit driving.
Fast forward a few years. I begin delivering pizza and using a seat belt on a regular basis. I'm driving with my boyfriend (the one who convinced me to wear a seat belt.) and I have to break suddenly. My arm goes out. He thought that was the most ridiculous thing. He made fun of me for it for awhile. Looking back, it wasn't about me. It was about him feeling as if I'd lowered him in the hierarchy of our relationship.
Along Came Pauly by Chris Redding
A contemporary romance about a dog that brings two people together who don’t want to be. She’s a vegetarian veterinarian who needs cash for a no-kill shelter. He’s the heir to a hot dog fortune who must give away money before he gains his inheritance. Sounds like a perfect match. It isn’t.
The emotion filled him with a sense of purpose. He had a name and a face. Now he could find the address. With Jeeves’ help.
Paul Vincenzo’s butler peered over his half-glasses. He sat at the giant island in the giant kitchen. “That’s the third time this week.”
Paul undid his bowtie, dropped it on the kitchen counter, and then pulled out his cufflinks. Jeeves just didn’t understand.
Paul thought back to the way her hair glowed under the chandelier. As if the heavens had shone a light just on her. He couldn’t have stopped looking at her even if he’d gone blind. “No, really. I met the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen."
Jeeves put down his newspaper to sip from a glass of white wine. “I’ll bite. Who is she? A Greek heiress slumming it in New Jersey? No? A starlet on sabbatical.”
Paul shook his head. He understood the butler’s reluctance to believe him. Women had always been a salad bar to him. He’d wanted to taste them all, but this time it was different. Daria was different.
“Jeeves, I’m serious. Her name is Daria Jacks.” He’d liked the feel of her name in his mouth. Daria. He rolled it over in his mind. Daria. What an interesting name.
“And what does this fine specimen of a woman do?”
Jeeves’ question brought him back to reality. Not many people at the ball had even known her name, let alone where she’d come from. Like Cinderella, she’d lost her shoe. “I think she’s a doctor. Maybe a vet.”
“You think?” Jeeves lifted his paper back up to read.
“I didn’t actually get to talk to her.”
Paul had been a panther stalking his prey all night. She’d been seated well across the room. Her date hadn’t led her onto the dance floor, giving Paul a chance to cut in.
Her elusiveness had made the chase even more exciting.
Jeeves frowned. “How do you know you’re in love with her?”
“There was something…” he paused to find the right word, “familiar about her.”
As if he’d known her all of his life. Or maybe in another life. Not that he was deep or metaphysical. He just knew there’d been a connection, a meeting of the minds. Their psyches had bonded.
He strolled to the fridge to pour himself some wine.
Jeeves wasn’t buying it, but Paul didn’t care. He had to meet Daria. As sure as he’d take his next breath.
Chris Redding lives in New Jersey with her husband, two kids and various animals. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. When she isn’t writing, she works part time for a local winery.
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This post is an excerpt from her workshop "Show Up Naked: Writing the Male POV".