But Would a Guy Really Say That?

tag graphicI was reading a forum thread discussing the differences between men and women, and how they’re more than just physical. A woman’s psyche is very different than a man’s. It got me thinking about a challenge I face as a romance writer–writing a male character’s dialog. I’m always having to stop and ask myself, would a guy really say that?

Back in the 90s I read, Men Are from Mars Women Are from Venus, and while I can’t recall all the details from the book, I remember it talked extensively about how men are more analytical, and women are more emotional. This doesn’t mean one sex is superior to the other. It simply means that we think differently, so I’ve modeled my male characters accordingly. The female characters will talk openly about their relationships, while the men are more prone to retreat to their man caves. Jeremy, from The Reunion, and The Journey is particularly known to do this. The challenge for me is when I have to have a male character discuss his relationship. I am, after all, writing romance. The main focus of the story is interpersonal relationships, and do men really talk about things like this?

One way I’ve handled it by having a male character confide in a female character. In The Deception, Steve, a supporting character, talks to his fiancee about his concerns over Alex’s relationship with Carrie.

* * *

“Is something wrong, Steve?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“What is it?”

“Alex and Carrie. C’mon, you saw it. They’ve become much too emotionally attached to one another.”

“They go way back,” she reminded him.

“No, there’s more to it than that. He’s fallen for her. Hard. Really, really hard.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“In itself, no. They’re two of my favorite people and under normal circumstances I’d be happy for both of them, but their situation isn’t normal. He’s representing her in a civil case and he’s losing his objectivity.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes,” he replied, matter-of-factly. “A few days ago I walked into Alex’s office. He’d just happened to have gotten off the phone with our old buddy, Scott Andrews. Apparently Scott had made some crack about his prior involvement with Carrie and Alex went into a screaming rage. I’ve never known him to ever do anything like that before. It was like listening to a jealous lover. That’s what has me worried.”

“How so?”

“Alex has always been unflappable. That’s why he has such a good track record. He stays calm and collected, just like a lion stalking its prey, while he waits patiently for the other side to make a mistake, and then he goes for the kill. He’s always been able to do that because he never allows himself to become emotionally wrapped up. But now he’s crossed that line, and even though it appears to be an open and shut case, this time he could, very easily, be the one who makes a mistake. If that happens, he could lose, and this is the one case, Allie, the one case that he can’t afford to lose.”

“Damn,” she said. “You can’t let that happen, Steve. It could destroy both of them.”

“I know that, so I’m going to have to keep close watch on him and I’m going try to persuade him to bring Reggie on board.”

* * *

Steve, being a guy, of course has a solution to the problem. Later, after things have gone “too far,” he and Alex have a serious talk.

* * *

Steve looked up when he heard the sound of someone tapping at his door.

“Hey, Alex. What’s up?”

“I need to talk to you about something.”

“Of course. Come on in.”

Alex stepped inside, closed the door behind him, and pulled up a chair. He let out a sigh as he sat down.

“Are you all right, Alex? You look pretty serious.”

“I’m afraid your boy wonder has turned himself into boy blunder.”

Steve looked closer at Alex’s face. “You’ve slept with her, haven’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Well now, that explains the happy glow.”

“Oh very funny.” There was a hint of sarcasm in Alex’s voice.

“Well, buddy, I can’t say I’m surprised. I saw this coming the day we all drove up to Flagstaff for her mother’s funeral. So, you know what happens next, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I do. I’ll have to recuse myself from her case.”

“It’s for the best for everyone involved, Alex. Even if you hadn’t taken it to that level, I’ve been concerned about your objectivity ever since the day you flipped out after speaking to Scott Andrews on the phone. That’s not like you. You never lose your cool. If something like that had happened in a courtroom—”

“It’ll never see the inside of a courtroom, Steve. Louise doesn’t have a case. She never did.”

“I know she doesn’t. Hopefully you’re right and it’ll never make it to court. However, our immediate concern is the here and now, which means we need to talk to Reggie.”

Before Alex could respond, Steve picked up his phone and dialed Reggie’s extension. As soon as she answered Steve asked her to come to his office. A minute later they heard a knock at the door. Steve opened it and she stepped inside, bringing a folder with her.

* * *

This time, since the conversation is between two men, I let them get to the point, as quickly as possible, and they then discuss a solution. Had this scene been between two female characters more time would have been spent discussing their feelings.

I don’t know if this is how men really talk to one another behind closed doors or not. But if what I’m told by male friends, and by the John Gray book, is true, then I’m probably close. So far I’ve not heard any complaints from male readers.

MM

 

Killing Characters Off

Photo by Fotolia.com

From time to time every novel writer has to deal with the (sometimes) unpleasant task of killing a character. It’s just one of those things that happens. Killing someone isn’t easy. (Well, at least some of the time,) but the only time I do it is when it’s necessary to enhance the plot.

This first time I killed someone off was when I wrote The Reunion. I must confess, it was a cathartic experience. Jason Matthews, Gillian’s ex husband, was one of the villains in the story. Interestingly enough, he was modeled after my real-life ex. Funny how these things happen. So poor Jason, (she writes tongue and cheek), meets an untimely end, and Gillian hears the story of his demise from a police detective. Did I mention that writing it was very cathartic? Afterwards I discussed it with several other lady authors. Many of them had also killed off their ex spouses–in the literary sense, of course. The lesson here, gentlemen, is if your wife or your girlfriend is an author, be nice to her. Your literary counterpart’s life may depend on it.

 I killed off another villain in The Deception. There were three villains in this story, two of whom were women. I killed one of the women, near the end of the story. Most of the plot had revolved around her conflict with Carrie, the leading lady. In the end, Carrie won battle, however this particular woman soon found a way to get even. Yes, I could have saved it for a possible sequel, but in this case the second conflict was directly related to the first, making a sequel redundant. So, rather than have the storyline repeat itself, I killed the character off, thus ending the conflict once and for all. Besides, she had it coming. I also thought about killing Scott, the deceptive male villain who inspired the title, but this character had children, and I didn’t want to orphan them. Scott would instead end up seriously injured. He too had it coming. However, unlike Jason in The Reunion, none of the villains in The Deception were inspired by anyone I know in real life.

In my soon-to-be released novel, The Journey, I killed a supporting character from The Reunion. This time around the character wasn’t a villain. She was a character I honestly liked and I tried to come up with a way for her to survive, but when I did the story just wasn’t as strong. Her death was an intricate part of the plot. It happens early in the novel, but she still manages to maintain a presence in the rest of the story when other characters reminisce about her, or when they describe the dreams they have about her. Like The Deception, The Journey also has three villains, one male, two female, but this time around I didn’t kill any of them. After all, I don’t want to become too predictable.

MM

The Journey Cover Illustration

Journey Cover KindleKudos to Wes Lowe. Once again he’s created a beautiful cover illustration for my next novel, The Journey.

Wes and I go way back. He started doing my cover illustrations back in 2007, when I was writing my Luke and Jenny novels,  (under the name Gayle Martin.) I found Wes by happenstance when I was working on the second book in the series. The illustrator who did the first book cover was not available. My publisher had hired him, but this time around she didn’t have anyone else to refer me to, so I was left scrambling. Granted, I have a degree in fine art, but it had been years since I’d picked up a paintbrush. At least I knew what to look for and I could speak the lingo, so I began my search. The first illustrator I contacted wasn’t available either, but I soon found Wes. Not only was he available, I liked the tone of his emails. He was warm and he had a positive attitude. The illustration he created for me didn’t just meet my expectations; it exceeded them. Wes turned out to be a much better artist than the gentleman who did my first cover. Thus began a beautiful friendship. Our next project would be creating a new cover illustration for the first book.

 Wes also did the cover illustrations for The Reunion and The Deception. Okay, I’ll admit it. I dropped the ball on the earlier Reunion cover. I had this idea of using a photo of two red carnations. Red carnations were a theme throughout the book, so I thought they could be a metaphor for the two leading characters. Unfortunately, as every artist knows, sometimes things that look great in our minds don’t always look so hot once they’re on paper. And even though a number of readers had complemented me on the cover, in my mind it simply didn’t work the way I’d envisioned. I went back to Wes, and once again, he nailed it.

This latest illustration has an interesting twist. The other night I posted it on Facebook, and a number of people began commenting that the young lady looked a lot like me. They all thought it was really cool. Oddly enough, Wes and I have never met in person, although he’s probably seen my head shots on my websites. I just assumed he had used one of them as a model, but it turns out he didn’t. Must be one of those interesting coincidences. Or maybe it’s just the Universe reaffirming that I’ve found the right illustrator.

MM