Ask a male author about your male character traits or thoughts.

Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Big guys do cry, April 24, 2012

Big boys do cry. April 24, 2012

My critique group is led (when she’s in good health) by a published author, ex-English professor. Her comments work better than heat-seeking missiles. She has often said to us, “I want to see more emotion in this scene.” I often thought, I thought I did that. We call her admonition, McFeelings.

If you listened to one of her stories, you’d be taken on a whirlwind of thought by the heroine, which resembles the confused state of Blanch in a Streetcar Named Desire. You’d feel like your emotions were taking all the rides at Six-flags at once.

Finally, boiling over with frustration (an emotion), I looked up emotion in Webster’s College Dictionary:

1.       An effective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, etc. is experienced, as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.

2.       It goes on to mention (almost as an afterthought) hate and love and how emotion is a strong agitation of feelings.

I guess Webster’s use of strong is where Webster and I part company. IMO, anything that is not thought out, born of logic, or instinctual is an emotion. Sometimes emotions serve survival, if not of the individual then of others.

Remember the iceberg rule. Guys think more and say less, which, we discovered is a useful tool in designing interior monologue. I.e., guys may cry less because they have to fight some unseen foe, be ready to protect the cave, and couldn’t be physically diminished for even a moment. Weakness = crying = a loss of concentration = death for him and his tribe.

There was always the guy who painted his favorite mastodon on the cave wall and cried over the beauty of his creation. I’m an artist. I usually cry (or almost) over your beautiful words and hummingbirds who land on my red shirt or the line, “here’s looking at you, kid.”

Emotions can be held in, but they’re still there.
I’d like to expand the dictionary’s etc. I’m sure there are more:
Desire (part instinct).
Hiding feelings to appear strong
Being aloof
Being a pain in the ass
And many more

I disagree with Webster about ‘strong’ and our critique group leader about how to write emotion. But, any critique she gives serves improves my writing.

From a guy’s POV, consider that if he’s not talking much, his emotions are bottled up and would take longer to dissipate than a heroine’s emotions when she talks or lets them out which could release the tension more quickly.

I'll be away next week. See you May 6-8.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mr. Nice Guy, April 17th 21012

I think world famous author Linda Thomas-Sundstrom is moonlighting as a muse. I hired her part-time because, busy, she writes one intriguing novel or novella after another and besides the spirit of Audrey Hepburn has been helping me for years. I want to thank Linda for sending me the link to this story. Alas, I was so weary judging a writing contest, getting a dental implant replanted, and doing the IRS proud. I had no time for the blog. If only they made taxes simpler, I'd have more time to make more money and they'd get more taxes!

Well, writing heroes can be like that. The author can be choked by TOO many rules. If you truly have a compelling story scratching at yourt tummy like the alien, sorry, you got to get that out of there. Do it....And sell it. In court, they talk about precedents. Here's one:

Devan Sipher Defies Publishing Sexism with a Romantic Comedy about A Nice Guy
"The Wedding Beat," a new novel by New York Times wedding writer Devan Sipher, encountered one big bump in its road into print: the publishing industry doesn't think much of female readers.
An engaging and entertaining romantic comedy, "The Wedding Beat" is narrated by a man, Gavin Greene, who falls for a woman he meets at a party and spends the rest of the book trying to find and win her. That was a problem for numerous agents and editors. Sipher was told that it is women who read romantic comedies and that they do not want male main characters. "It was pointed out numerous times that men don't write women's fiction, and women's fiction doesn't have male protagonists," he recalls.
Not only is Gavin male, he is a nice guy, and in the eyes of the literary professionals this made matters even worse. Sipher was told, in essence, that the male romantic interest must be a jerk. "There is a history (going back to Jane Austen) of the male romantic lead being distant, unattainable and/or loutish. But due to the love of a good woman, he changes and becomes a better person (or only loutish to others)," Sipher acknowledges. "As far as the male character goes, the more strong and silent the better."
He was told repeatedly about women's self-destructive taste in fantasy lovers: "Supposedly, women don't want to read about sensitive romantic men. They want to read about sensitive romantic women, and the cads they fall for."
Insulting as it is, this is in fact the formula the publishing industry follows. Romantic comedies tend to feature women as the main characters – one prominent example is "Bridget Jones's Diary" by Helen Fielding; other successes include "I Heart New York" by Lindsey Kelk and "Call Me Irresistible" by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. And the men that the fictional women entangle with in romantic comedies do things that, in real life, would prompt a well-adjusted woman to run for a taxi and change her phone number.
Sipher points to Nick Hornby's books as an example, and he's right: if I got involved with Will Freeman of Hornby's "About A Boy" and discovered that he had lied about having a child so he could attend single-parent groups to pick up women, I would get uninvolved very fast.
Sipher is challenging the insulting dogma that this formula is the only one that interests women by publishing a book about a sensitive romantic man. "Wedding Beat's" hero, Gavin, is a nice guy, and so is Sipher. A self-described romantic, he looks like a sweetheart, with a magnetic smile and ebullient manner. It's hard to imagine him writing a first-person book about a jerk, and apparently he couldn't – he persevered with Gavin's story despite the discouragement. Doing so not only produced a great read, it also improved Sipher's own love life. "I think writing the book actually made me better at relationships. I think I was a healthier dater, I dated healthier people, and I think I treated them better. I think I'm in touch with everybody I dated while I was writing the book."
Sipher has covered more than 1,000 weddings for The New York Times, and turned down even more couples who wanted him to write about their nuptials. He has a theory about why so many people want to publicize their weddings: to hold themselves publicly accountable for their new and voluntary obligation.
Sipher takes a social evolutionary view of marriage. "It is a touchstone of our society, a touchstone of our culture going back at least a couple thousand years, and the whole point of marriage is that it's a very public act."
He believes that marriage originated to protect communities from having to take responsibility for the care of "bastard children," holding their fathers responsible instead. Marriage, Sipher says, "does keep the peace [and] does keep the order that is important [in] a society."
His perspective makes marriage seem like the perfect subject for newspaper coverage. Marriage "is a declaration in front of society. It's in the public sphere, because we're going to hold you responsible in public."
But since "people don't like obligations," we now look at marriage as "an uplifting thing, a sanctified thing, because it is beautiful," he believes.
That seems like a remarkably romantic view for someone who has covered over 1,000 weddings – it would be understandable if his job had turned him into a cynic. Yet he has only one cynical thing to say on the subject, and that's his advice to engaged couples: "Elope." Failing that, he urges people planning their weddings to keep sight of the big picture – their lifetime together--and not "let the details of the wedding be what's important."
For those who want their nuptials written up in the newspaper of record, the secret is to be interesting. Sipher is drawn to stories that "stick out" and that readers will be interested in. Having a story that is different is more important than being charming or forthcoming; he doesn't mind if his subjects are difficult to interview: "I take it as a challenge."
Sipher has spent up to 100 hours covering a single wedding, and never less than 40. "There's a lot of time and energy invested in doing that." So challenging or not, "I have to believe these are people I will enjoy doing that with."
Buy this book and show publishing professionals that women have broader tastes and more self-esteem than they think we do. You can get a preview of the book at Sipher's readings: currently scheduled are one in New York City at Barnes & Noble, 2289 Broadway, on April 19 at 7 p.m., and another in Los Angeles at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, on May 1 at 7 p.m.

Male POV notes: A book I wrote 3 years ago, the first and not in chronological order, of 2.5 books so far, which share many of the same characters (series?), had a physics professor caste into the top secret world (a fish out of water). He coped, he saved the damsel in destress who in turn saved him, but he was very much true to his character, a nice guy, maybe a little geeky, but a total hunk (when God hands out talents he tends to go overboard. Don't ask me. Ask Him or Her.) So far no takers (actually I gave up). However my half done book I hope will sell through some agent and the other two will bring up the rear.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Being too lovely, April 9, 2012

Written by Colleen Curry on April 3rd, 2012:

Going through life as a "tall, slim, blonde" woman is harder than it looks, according to British columnist Samantha Brick, who has become the focus of criticism and ridicule for writing that her life as a beautiful woman has been especially difficult.

Brick, 41, published a column in the Daily Mail on Tuesday entitled, "'There are downsides to looking this pretty': Why women hate me for being beautiful."

Brick bemoaned having to go through life as a beautiful woman, constantly receiving free champagne and wine from suitors, flirting with male bosses, and angering female friends and co-workers with her looks.

"While I'm no Elle Macpherson," Brick wrote, "I'm tall, slim, blonde and, so I'm often told, a good-looking woman. I know how lucky I am. But there are downsides to being pretty, the main one being that other women hate me for no other reason than my lovely looks."

Written by me, April 2012:

I wondered if I could reverse the polarity on what I think of as an April (the whole month) fools joke.

"'There are downsides to looking this handsome': Why men hate me for being handsome."

Mr. Herman Hunk bemoaned having to go through life as a handsome man, constantly receiving free beer and pizza from suitors, flirting with female bosses, and angering male friends and co-workers with his looks.

"While I'm no George Clooney," Herman Hunk wrote, "I'm tall, built, blonde and, so I'm often told, a good-looking man. I know how lucky I am. But there are downsides to being handsome, the main one being that other men hate me for no other reason than my stunning looks."

He went on to say husbands hide their wives or grit their teeth when he tries to seduce them.

This has got to be a tough life.

On a slightly different subject, but one not meriting a full blog. I believe a criteria often missed in romance casting calls is a predeliction by some men to choose a body type that is either equal or one step down for them. By step down, I mean ecto/meso/mesomorph, i.e. thin-boned, medium-boned, heavy-boned. I bring this up because it can be used as a writing tool. For instance, a ballerina could be paired with a swimmer instead of the center of a football team (although the thought of it is humorous), etc.

I don’t know if this is the same for the ladies. How hunky is hunky or chunky or bearish. Anybody want to chime in on this or the scourge of being too pretty or handsome.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Romance with a smile - 4/3/2012


Romantic comedies: Why are most of the Hollywood writers of romantic comedies men? And why are most of the romance novels with lighthearted moments or the entire story, women.

In Hollywood the dialogue has to do the work of displaying emotion and in a tidy 100 page package. I have had difficulty in the past in displaying emotion (interior monologue) on the pages of the novels I wrote because as a screen writer in a previous life I wrote dialogue to carry the story. It took joining RWA and its chapter in San Diego for me to more fully realize interior monologue enriches the story by showing more than the character's reaction to what's happening around them. Help me out here. Am I slowing down the story by investing in back story or motivation more heavily? The art form of writing romance says no.

So, once upon a time, there was Harlequin Flipside with Mary Leo and others. These were labeled romantic comedies. The HF line disappeared but the writing didn't. This type of book is sold now and can be identified by the blurb on the back cover: light-hearted, romp, comic moments, zany characters, you'll laugh. In fact most authors are writing comedic or ironic scenes into their seroius drama.

There is the Greek definition of comedy and tragedy. Since romances all have happily ever after endings, they may have been born of tragedy but in the end they are comedies.

So for now, unless you're writing for Hollywood, don't label your project a romantic comedy, just use the code words.

But why are men writing RC for Hollywood and women writing R for novels. It may come down to pacing.

I'll use myself as an example. I wrote a romantic comedy novel called Double Happiness about identical twins who might end up with each other's fiancees. My critique group laughed their way through it. I can't get it sold (although I'm not trying too hard anymore). An editor critiqued it by saying my pace was too quick (I didn't have enough interior monologue). I had invested in dialogue too Heavily (my remark)!!!

So its pacing and nothing more?! In order to sell my romantic comedy I'll have to increase the interior monolgue and slow down the pace. This goes against my gut feeling for this particular comedy. For me, there is an alternative (to ruining the story). I could indie-publish. In the mean time I write romantic suspense (with light-hearted moments) which requires much more interior monologue.

In general, women want to explore the heart more deeply on the pages of the novels they write. I have a romantic heart. I love, therefore I am.

Every romance is a comedy, it's just the variable pacing of each and every scene which marks you as a comedic genius.

There's no reason why women can't write romantic comedies for Hollywood or guys romances as novels. They just have to emerse themselves in mastering the art and art form.

In my opinion, to be a true artist in script or novel you have to enjoy your characters with every word, sentence, paragraph, scene, and story you write.