Creating Characters: Tapping Into The Male Psyche

Today I’m sharing a portion of Ronie Kendig’s fascinating piece on creating believable male characters, a topic I’ve spoken and written about before, as two of the three characters that drive the narrative of my literary mystery (The Angry Woman Suite) are male, and I am not … so, whether you’re Wally Lamb and writing from the female point of view (She’s Come Undone), or as I and Ronie Kendig (Dead Reckoning/link below) have done, from a male perspective, how the heck do you do that and get it right? Here are Ronie’s thoughts:

“Writing is a literary expression of who we are, what we feel and how we think. It would be correct to say that in order to write the male POV accurately , one must understand the way men think (I hear many ladies snickering right now). That line of thought led me to the Gender Genie and/or Gender Guesser, an online program that analyzes chunks of writing to determine the author’s gender. The algorithm used is based off a study done between Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University, Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, which found indicators within documents that were distinctively male and distinctively female.

The point is, while generalizations about males and females are often exaggerated, they are based in truth—there are differences in the way men and women talk and think. Writers have the great task of translating the known differences into plausible, compelling fiction and characters. To do that, we refer back to the science. And remember, these are generalizations.

  • Men provide answers that assume the receiver has no knowledge of the topic/object being discussed. In other words, they talk and act to provide INFORMATION.
  • Men tend to state demands (“Give me an iced tea.”) rather than preferences (“I’d like a Diet Coke, please.”) the way a woman would.
  • Men usually do not answer all questions or respond to everything said
  • Men are one-box thinkers. They say what they mean and focus on one topic. Typically, there’s no reading between the lines.
  • While men internalize their thoughts, they are generally not thinking about feelings. Paragraphs of internal diatribe on feelings do not belong in a man’s POV (or at least not heavily).
  • Men are not verbose. They take the shortest possible route through a discussion; unlike ladies who can cover ten topics with one conversation, (we’re just talented that way!).
  • While a man might notice a woman’s curves (just keeping it real), they aren’t likely to notice what the woman is wearing (“Hey, is that a new Kate Spade dress?”).
  • At a dinner party, the men are more prone to chat up friends, but women will have stronger radars, noticing not just who is there, but relational aspects (Why is John sitting so close to Sue?) because women are about INVOLVEMENT, connecting, relationships.
  • Use appropriate verbs. Men do not giggle. They chuckle. They guffaw (a strange word in and of itself).”

 

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Ronie Kendig grew up an Army brat. She married a veteran, and together their lives are never dull with four children and two dogs–a Golden Retriever and a Maltese Menace. Ronie’s degree in psychology has helped her pen novels of intense, raw characters. Since launching onto the publishing scene, Ronie’s Rapid-Fire Fiction has hit the CBA Bestseller List, won the prestigious Christy Award, named to 2012 Bestselling Fiction by Christianbook.com, finaled in numerous contests and reader awards, including ACFW Carol Awards, RWA’s Faith, Hope, & Love’s Inspirational Readers’ Choice Awards, Christian Retailing’s Readers’ Choice Awards, INSPY Award, The Christian Manifesto Lime Awards, and FamilyFiction’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Ronie’s titles include her debut title and spy thriller–DEAD RECKONING–the Discarded Heroes series (NIGHTSHADE, DIGITALIS, WOLFSBANE, FIRETHORN), the A Breed Apart series (TRINITY:MILITARYWAR DOG, TALON:COMBAT TRACKING TEAM, BEOWULF: EXPLOSIVES DETECTION DOG) and the upcoming (2014) The Quiet Professionals (RAPTOR 6, HAWK, FALCON). Ronie’s writings are also in the 7 Hours direct-to-digital novella collection (WHOLE PIECES), Central Park Rendezvous novella collection (DREAM A LITTLE DREAM), and the Denali Dreams novella collection (DARING HEIGHTS, TAKING FLIGHT). Ronie can be found at http://www.roniekendig.com, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction), Twitter (@roniekendig

 

 

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The Next Big Thing

I’ve been a MIA blogger of late (bad life got in the way; the kind that makes everything besides breathing almost impossible), BUT THEN fellow author Kerry Dwyer tagged me for The Next Big Thing, and here I am, breathing and typing at the same time, mind you (and who was it who sneered I’m genetically incapable of more than one task at a time? Thwack! Take that!).

The Next Best Thing is about authors helping authors, and its premise is simple: Authors answer questions about their current works-in-progress. But before I answer mine, more about the intrepid author who tagged me: Kerry Dwyer:

Kerry Dwyer is a British ex-pat living in France and author of Ramblings in Ireland, an engaging read about, well, rambling about Ireland and the musings it inspired.
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15821729-ramblings-in-ireland
Her current work-in-progress is titled The Book Exchange.
Now my questions and answers:

What is the working title of your next book?

A Woman of Commitment

Where did the idea come from for the book?

It came about via a murder that occurred in my hometown a few years back. Actually, just the actual site of the murder—a water’s edge—inspired the premise. I moved the time frame back to mid-century. The point of view is a veterinarian’s (Annie), twenty years after the murder, and the conflict is her long-held suspicion that the wrong person was convicted of her best friend’s murder. And, yes, of course there’s intrigue and suspense, a love story and all the rest.

The opening paragraph reads:

“The summer morning of 1963 that my boyfriend Benny Radisch told me he’d fallen in love with someone else was the same day that seventeen-year-old Katie Plowright’s body was found in a shallow grave near the river’s shoreline.”

What genre does your book fall under?

Pretty much the same as my novel, The Angry Woman Suite. Psychological mystery (minus the historical tag this time—I think).

What actors would you choose to play the part of you characters in a movie rendition?

This is a funny one (to me), considering I’m still “shaping” these characters (and will be all the way to the end). Hmmmm, I have no clue … but I’m seeing Silver Linings Playbook this next week, so I pick Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper!

How long did it take to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’ll let you know when I finish.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Oh dear, I’m not very good at comparisons to other writers! Let’s go with this: I hope it will be compared (favorably!) to The Angry Woman Suite, how’s that?

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Other than the aforementioned real-life murder, my inspiration for almost everything has been DDF, my husband (who passed last year). He was the most remarkable person. Unduplicatable (and, yes, I know that’s not a word … yet). He was brilliant and had verve (love that word), and to be around him was to feel can-do, too. But this second novel has been meant, from its start many months ago, for my sister who passed last month.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Other than unsolved murder? And love gone oh-so-wrong? And characters who aren’t what they seem?

Well, for all you dog lovers, there’s a dog in it….

As part of The Next Best Thing, I’m to tag five other authors, and they are:

Paulette Mahurin, amazing human being, friend, and award-winning author of The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14061559-the-persecution-of-mildred-dunlap

Leonore Skomal, author of Bluff /http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15852327-bluff
Excellent read!

Leslie A. Gordon, author of the must-read, Cheer: A Novel http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15822672-cheer

Sean Keefer, attorney and award-winning author of The Trust (and back cover blurb provider for The Angry Woman Suite) http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10316920-the-trust

Martha Rodriguez, author of the children’s book, A Reel Cool Summer http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/12062453-a-reel-cool-summer
and fellow member of RABMAD (Read a book, Make a difference), a group of authors who give back.

happydog

New Beginnings

Um … is there such a thing as old beginnings? I always wonder about things like that, like when I see “Live band” advertised (or live anything) … as opposed to what? Dead band? Or, “fresh fruit” on the menu, as opposed to—well, you get my drift….  

At any rate, The Angry Woman Suite (award-winning psychological mystery)has a new beginning: a new cover and a new back cover text, and two whole pages of awesome editorial reviews added to it (and, yes, I’m showing it off here)—and check out this too, just for today: http://fire.kindlenationdaily.com/2012/11/10/check-out-todays-kfknd-book-of-the-day-on-your-kindle-fire-the-angry-woman-suite-by-lee-fullbright/

It’s a whole new edition, soon to hit distribution, and here is that very cool new cover (larger) by amazing artist, Laurie Fuller. It so captures the “Hitchcockian” vibe of The Angry Woman Suite:

The new back cover is still in development, layout-wise, but here’s a first peek at the new text:

new back cover text

And that’s it for today’s new beginning … hope you’re having a good weekend (how many times d’you think I used the word new in this post? And I write?

Sheesh….

The Summer of Berg

I’m in an Elizabeth Berg state of mind.

I recently finished my third Elizabeth Berg novel of the summer (okay, it’s almost November, I get it. I’m having trouble letting go of summer; I have trouble letting go of things, period), all given to me by the same friend. Now, if I’ve ever read anything Elizabeth Berg-ish before this past summer, I don’t remember—and you’d think I would, she’s quite prolific. I looked at Berg’s list of titles this morning, but nothing set off bells (though I wouldn’t set any great store by this).

I often think things are given to us, or arrive, or are placed in our path when they can serve or enlighten or comfort us most. When we are ready.

Without realizing, I’d been ready for the summer of Berg. 

The title of this latest Berg foray is Home Safe, and the blurb on the front cover, by Booklist, reads, “Berg is a tender and enchanting storyteller … A keen and funny observer, she is the poet of kindness.”

All three of the Berg novels I’ve read are about loss of a spouse; or more specifically, a way of life, a state of being; in a way, a slice of identity—or, another way of putting it, a loss of “home” in the metaphorical sense—that safe place—we all know what our safe place is (hopefully), whether it be that lost spouse, or friend, or our dog, where we’re so completely known and accepted and valued, all pretenses and defenses and drama and airs checked at the door, please, only authenticity wanted and allowed here. That’s it, that’s the safe place. That’s home.   

Berg’s books are not sad books. Her characters are not tedious. They are interesting, human and real, and Booklist is right: Berg is the poet of kindness. An incisive poet of kindness, to be more exact. She is not sappy or pithy, and she doesn’t hurry healing along. Doesn’t even tell you that healing is on the guest list. But she invites this unnamed thing in, in the guise of opportunity and new challenge (and, yes, even risk), and she sits it down, makes it feel at home. She wants it to stay a while, get to know it, not fight or challenge it, and so she sets up a conducive environment for it, surrounding herself and her characters with the right (healthy) people, and humor and gentle insight and compassion. No lectures are allowed. Only windbags lecture, anyway (something Berg’s probably already written about).

There are no easy answers in Berg’s books; no homegrown recipe for healing, no pie-in-the-sky how-to manual—but there’s unlimited acceptance and there is the unspoken awareness that we are all, at one time or another, feeling our way home, safe.   

And there is comfort in that; in that we’re in this life together. And we’re in it to mend (and, yes, we can mend); to rebuild, to keep moving, to thrive, not by burying loss and hurt or nurturing it, or distracting it by inciting drama, but by inviting healing in (and by showing all dismissive, lecturing, moralizing, whiny, self-aggrandizing know-it-all loser windbags the door—okay, those were my words, not Berg’s).

I typed up the following passage from Home Safe, and put it on the fridge:

“She sits down and puts her hand to her chest and rocks. Thinks of all she has lost and will lose. All she has had and will have. It seems to her that life is like gathering berries in an apron with a hole. Why do we keep on? Because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive. We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead.”    

Love this.

Dancing on Broken Glass: A Review

Dancing on Broken Glass is book club majesty, a novel readers can chew on and then talk up one side and down another, like a good, thought-provoking episode of The Big C (for those who don’t know Showtime’s stellar series, The Big C, it’s about a woman with cancer—brilliantly portrayed by Laura Linney—who finally, and hysterically, begins living with gusto after getting her terminal diagnosis). 

Dancing on Broken Glass (so put your combat boots on) by the very capable author, Ka Hancock (a psychiatric nurse in her non-writing life), is like that in a way—and yet it’s not. First off, it’s not hysterically funny, and there’s no suspense or mystery, and it’s overlong. About a marriage between a bi-polar man (Mickey) and a woman (Lucy) with a long history of breast cancer in her family, it’s not even a little bit funny. Still, I started the book falling in love, even knowing the premise couldn’t possibly end well (yet hoping otherwise), because I was enamored with Lucy’s voice. Hancock’s set-ups and characterizations are flawless. I loved Lucy’s grit, gusto, and her commitment. I wanted to hang with her. I wanted a good life for her.         

But here’s where the many lovers of this soap opera will begin wanting to throw their e-readers at me:

After Mickey’s first psychotic break (cringingly rendered by Hancock), before his marriage to Lucy, I wanted to hustle Lucy aside and say, “Sweetie, don’t do it! Run! If you marry Mickey, your entire life, the breadth and the scope of it, will be defined by this illness. Broken glass is nothing! Your life will be about picking your way through land mines!”

Of course, Lucy didn’t listen to me. The young never do.   

I commend Hancock for wanting to show mental illness as something that can be dealt with instead of run away from—I’d like to think we can face down all the monsters living under our beds. And I agree with the premise that mental illness shouldn’t be stepped around.

Unless psychotic states are involved—and then step lively and out the front door.

Despite the argument that real committed love is often messy, were I Lucy, I’d have had to love Mickey from afar, for my sanity. Saturday night dates maybe, but only IF Mickey’s meds were humming along. Because psychotic breaks can make “regular messy” look like Christmas in Paris.

It’s for this reason I wish Hancock had depicted Mickey’s bi-polar disorder as less severe, so we’d have had the opportunity to learn how this currently almost-ubiquitous diagnosis is successfully managed.

But see why Dancing on Broken Glass is ideal book club fodder? I’m still yakking it up.

Image credit: kostrez / 123RF Stock Photo

Our Year of Blogging

This month marks the one-year anniversary for Rooms of Our Own, the webbed site of three “rooms” housing me (writer) at LeeFullbight.com, and photographer Geri Wilson in her own “room”—and right now we have a vacancy (interested parties can contact lfullbright@prodigy.net for a room of your own, “almost” ready for move-in and, naturally, no rent here in Blogland. Our only requirement, if you can even call it that—we’re pretty loosey-goosey, and our “rooms” are autonomous—is that you have a passion you want to write about and know where spell check is, and that you attempt a blog post every couple weeks—or more!—and, yes, I know I just said “autonomous,” but we live in the same “triplex,” a click away, and gotta keep the ‘hood up).     

So when Geri and I started this blog, we were so neophyte-ish we didn’t know about brevity (I still have trouble with this; I’m used to a big canvas!), or what we might look like a year down the road. I had a novel to introduce (The Angry Woman Suite, which wasn’t even out then), and uber-photographer Geri Wilson had a line of greeting cards (featuring her amazing photography) to debut. 

Where are we now, a year later, and what do we think of blogging in general?

Well, Geri is just returned from a photography expedition to Bryce Canyon, so expect those photographs to go up in her room anytime now—I’ve had a preview and they are awesome.   

And The Angry Woman Suite (Goodreads link here:   http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13555924-the-angry-woman-suite) is now the 2012 Discovery Award winner for Literary Fiction.         

(One thing, though is unchanged: Baby Rae and I still dance to Gregory Page every night.)

I have another novel in the works, but I also have an idea for something else (based on the truism that we can only talk about our stuff so much and so long without risking emptying a room and/or triggering our own gag reflex—both pathetic)—and it’s this:  

I want to write about other writers, and about other books in particular—btw, I just started Dancing on Broken Glass last night, and I think it’s going to be love.      

So, I will begin reviewing occasionally, starting with Dancing on Broken Glass (next post).

However, reviewing isn’t a permanent thing (what is?). I don’t read as many novels when I’m actually writing one, for two reasons: It’s too easy to subconsciously pick up another writer’s voice, and reading is passive (as in I’d get lazy and never finish my own work). But, until I pick up my own manuscript again (a few more months), I’m enjoying reading novels again!  

As for blogging itself, I do think it’s kept my brain limber, plus I’ve discovered I am totally capable of shorter sentences and paragraphs (and shorter posts!!)—however, I don’t think blogging has yet revealed how funny I am (and yes, I am funny in real life—everybody knows).

Writing Mountains

Crime writer Patricia Cornwell (of the best-selling Scarpetta series) said in a recent interview that writing is hard work; that “it isn’t just sitting around fantasizing, or having a drink with somebody and talking about how cool it would be if you write a story. It’s work.”(italics mine, because of course I agree)

Cornwell also said, “And research isn’t easy. But if you’re going to have a character who’s a musician, you should learn everything about that you possibly can.”

As an aside, The Angry Woman Suite (see sidebar), does have a musician; a pivotal character—and guess what? I don’t play an instrument or even sing (at least you wouldn’t want me to), and I don’t remember how to read music … everything this character (Francis) does in the way of music was researched.

But what really, really struck me about the Cornwell interview is when she said this:

“You don’t become a writer—you are one. And if you really are a writer, it’s like telling a songbird to shut up—you can’t … (and) you have to be willing to be bad at something to be good at it.”

So this is what I thought (and not for the first time): What kind of person is willing to really suck at something and feel like a total failure, and yet still get up in the morning and go back to her or his personal challenge?

A freakin’ masochist, that’s what.

My brother is a self-described non-athlete. He also just summited Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. He said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done. The first time he tried climbing Whitney, he lost part of his gear. Back down the mountain he went, crestfallen. The following year he tried Whitney again, but his hiking partner got altitude sickness, so back down the mountain he went with his partner, because that’s the kind of guy my brother is.  

This year, like the two years before, he trained for months, hiking and climbing in San Diego’s backcountry, and the Sierras. He and his partner agreed that if one became ill, the other would continue to the top.

Why’d my brother keep plugging away at this mountain?

Because that mountain was calling for my brother’s personal best, and my brother heeded the call.   

It’s the call that goes out to each of us; to all athletes, professional or aspiring, and to all writers, seasoned or fledgling. You name the job or challenge, the call’s there. It’s the call that makes every morning a promise, and each day an opportunity to go a little farther and a little higher than the day before.

Patricia Cornwell also said this (about being sucky before you’re proficient):

“You are going to trip over your own feet … (and) you will never be good at writing the first time you try, any more than Nadal hit a tennis ball the way he does now the first time he picked up a racket…. The only way you get better is to just do it all the time. And if this is the inevitability of how you express yourself, you’re still going to get up after failures.”

And you will climb mountains.

PS The Angry Woman Suite is currently on a blog book tour, and it’s going very well– I love bloggers! And Emlyn Chand over at Novel Publicity. Check out GoodReads for new reviews each day….

Image credit: kamchatka / 123RF Stock Photo