I want to point out again that I’m dealing in generalities here, so what I say may not be true for every guy, every time. It may not even be true for the same guy, every time. But overall, these are some insights that may help you make your male characters more realistic. So here’s my male thinking checklist. First of all, guys think about most things as problems to be solved. This is one reason why guys get so upset when women come to us, crying about something, in search of sympathy. We don’t think about sympathy, we think about trying to fix it. It is especially frustrating when it’s something we can’t fix—that feeling of helplessness makes men even more defensive.
This can lead to conflict, and conflict is plot. This problem-solution mindset also lends to men being very goal-driven and thinking about things in a linear, cause/effect fashion. The title for this lesson came from one of the few things I argue with my fiancée about—directions. Route numbers and general directions are usually enough. My fiancée, on the other hand, likes to give me landmarks, what I should pass where, and what I will see if I’ve gone too far.
For example, “There will be a flower shop on the left and a bridal boutique on the right, and then there’s a gas station (it’s either an Exxon or a BP) about three point eight miles up on the left, and if you pass the bologna factory you’ve gone too far unless you want to go the back way, in which case you can just turn left there.” It ends up frustrating both of us, because I don’t need all of that extra detail and it actually confuses me – I keep thinking that I’ve gone too far, or that there are more turns than there actually are, because of all the landmarks I think any discussion of male thinking needs to cover how we think about women. I remember critiquing a romance in grad school where the author had a car mechanic describing the women who’d just brought her car in to one of his buddies in the back of the shop.
It was a nice scene, full of flowery descriptions and tender words of love. I know that romances are tricky, because the reason why people read them is for an escape from reality. Still, I think in this case the writer should have made it just a little more realistic. It is a delicate balancing act, though, because making the scene absolutely true-to-life would have lost most of her intended audience. When guys think about women, the woman’s physical attributes come first, then vivid adolescent fantasies of what might happen were the woman to give in to his overtures and experience the power of his love making. Later, he might think about her intelligence, or sense of humor, or how she would make him happy for the rest of his life. But this is never the first thought, and when describing her or talking to his friends about her, men very rarely get past the first two things and on to the latter musings. One way to balance reality with fiction is to show that the hero is acting differently this time. Here’s an example, using the setup above: Vince, our hero, is talking to Tommy about a recent customer at the garage where they work.
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