Before I begin this second of a three part series, I want to offer in advance both an advisory warning and an apology. The content is going to be more sexual than usual, and ergo my remarks. Please know, I don’t ever intentionally offend, but I do, occasionally and deliberately, write for shock value. And I’m afraid what I view as humorous does also sometimes cross “that line.” (I’ll just blame it on my military brat background, too.) So with my mea culpas offered, and the first component of S.M.A.R.T. (S—speech) covered in my last post, let’s move on to M and A.
In novel writing, M—motivation—is the reason for a protagonist’s or antagonist’s abcs (actions, behavior, character). To create a credible fictional character, an author must (should) create credible motivation. Moreover, motivation can totally effect a reader’s opinion of that character. For example: a guy serving time for killing an eighteen-year-old high school football star . . . not much sympathy from ya, right? What If I told you he killed the sick scum that raped his 2-year-old daughter to death? WHOLE DIFFERENT OPINION, right?
Now let’s relate motivation to the reason behind men’s (and women’s) actions, desires and needs. Two words: natural instinct. Ladies, I hate to break it to you—but the primordial hard-wiring that went into homo sapiens eons ago is there to stay, despite 400,000 years of evolution (give or take). Thus, the best way to discuss motivation is to view it through Caveman Ken’s or Cavewoman Barbie’s eyes. Remember the scenario from the last post? Ken was out there ALONE, tracking and hunting. Barbie was caveside IN A GROUP with the other women and children. In order to survive, Ken needed to develop one very basic instinct—fight or flight. Barbie’s need was far less flee, fight or die, given her safety in numbers situation. Evolutionary psychologists have termed the survival instinct she developed “tend and befriend.” (BTW, I am in no way attempting to pass myself as any kind of expert!) The other basic instinct both sexes needed, in order for their kind to survive, was the instinct to procreate.
These 2 instincts were (and are) an integral and defining force behind each sex’s motivation. We’ll start with the need to breed. EVERYTHING that motivated Caveman Ken was about obtaining the top cock slot— BECAUSE WHOEVER HELD IT WAS THE ONE THE FEMALE WOULD CHOOSE TO MATE WITH. The top cock slot meant power; and power meant the top cock slot. They went hand in hand (no pun intended.) Until the concept of “royal blood” came along to change the game, power was held by the biggest, baddest badass who could take it and KEEP it. Ding! Let the competition for hierarchy begin! Of course you can’t knock off your completion without knocking off your competition. Which leads us to the natural AND NECESSARY violence, aggression, and lack of empathy which have defined men since time immemorial. Think about it. Lack of empathy makes it a whole lot easier to kill your enemy. Or your competition.
Barbie, on the other hand, was unmotivated by a need for either hierarchy or power. Her need was to perpetuate the community, which resulted in evolutionary programming that was the very opposite of the male’s violence, aggression and lack of empathy. This is all very simplified of course, but it’s true. And Caveman Ken and Cavewoman Barbie live on.
A study was done using boy scouts and girl scouts. Each troop was given the task of exploring a maze. The boys, motivated by pure male and very natural instinct, established a chain of command and a clear-cut leader. The girls did the female communal group thing, working together and functioning as a whole, no chain of command, no leader. They “shared” in the task. Speaking of sharing, men find it way less easy to do than women. It goes against their nature. Think about the animal kingdom, and its supposed king: one lion with his pride of lionesses (who do all the work, BTW!) Now let’s look at one of history’s best known human kings: King Solomon. According to the Bible, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. (Now I ask you, who was doing the sharing?) It all has to do with procreation, of course. Whether we are talking about lions or Biblical kings or today’s male—the instinct remains. Today it’s just more about his getting off than his getting offspring. Sex. HUGE motivator for men! (Yes. I know I am shocking you with this revelation!) For women . . . not exactly and not so much. Ever hear the expression “Men give love for sex, but women give sex for love”? (For jewelry and vacations and designer bags, too. Ladies, let’s be honest. I can’t be the ONLY wife who gave her husband a blowjob ‘cause she had her eye on a pair of Jimmy Choos . . .) (Wow! From girl scouts to blowjobs—in one paragraph! That’s got to be one of the most aberrant correlations of all time!)
Women give sex for survival, too. And I’m not just talking about the world’s oldest profession. Tying in with that “sharing” thing mentioned above, here’s a true example from not so ancient history. More women survived the Nazi concentration camps than men. Why? The women worked together, huddled together for warmth, as natural tenders they tended to one another. They traded sex for food—then shared it with the group. The men? Here’s a shocker–they traded food for sex. Of course nowadays men are still willing to risk their lives for sex—their political lives. David Petraeus, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton, anyone?
I once attended a sexual harassment workshop. One of the facilitator’s contentions was that most men don’t knowingly cross sexual boundaries. Everything in life is compartmentalized in the brain for processing. Unfortunately, men have only 3 compartments—boxes, if you will. Work, sports, sex. It’s all the boxes they have. Period. Ergo, when some random woman smiles at him on the street, he asks himself: “Work? Sports? Nope. Nope. F**k! She wants me!” Women on the other hand, not only have a zillion boxes in which to compartmentalize–cubbyholes, pigeonholes, slots and slits to file sh*t—they’ll even create a new one if they need to! As a result, unlimited storage space means unlimited sh*t stored. In the last post I likened this to “ammunition” for a fight. True story . . . (and I can’t be the only one who has done this, too!) . . . I had a guy I was seeing try to deny he EVER gave me a reason to think we were getting serious. Wrong choices of words, boo! I not only recited the conversation verbatim, I supplied a time-stamped weather report, the menu, a location map and stage direction: We were outside, standing next to my car in the driveway, it was dark, the security light had just gone out, we were smoking an after dinner cigarette, I’d ordered in lasagna with a side of meatballs and sausage, it was chilly so you put your arm around me . . . you said, “Do you want to meet my daughter? She needs to know who you are.” Yep, compartments . . .
A final note about sex before we proceed to A. It’s ironic. The male thinks he’s dominating the female in the act—but we know sex is a woman’s ultimate weapon of control. My Biblical namesake? She seduced Holofernes, an Assyrian general laying siege to her city. After he fell asleep, (all weak as a kitten and satisfied, I’m guessing, though the Bible says he was drunk) Judith sliced off his head. As for me . . . I haven’t sliced off any heads, per se. But let’s be honest again. I can’t be the only woman who loves turning a big hard man into a moaning marshmallow. Now that’s power!
The treatment of action in fictional writing—i.e. how a male character acts (as opposed to how a female does)—entails both action (what he does) and simple stage direction (how he does it—in other words, body language.) It’s all a very subliminal message to the reader. But if you want your reader to see your protagonist as the hero, he had better act like one. Avoiding confrontation with a couple of thugs ain’t going to cut it—unless he’s been scarred by war and past deeds now regretted (Ah! Motivation!!!! See how it works?) I’m not going to touch on the obvious. Men are typically bigger, stronger, with more muscle mass. They are built physically for physical confrontation and the use of force. Watch a group of little boys at play—loud, boisterous, pushing, shoving (vying for that top slot)–compared to little girls, sitting with their dolls and tea parties. (And please! I’m speaking in the most general of terms. Exceptions apply, and non-gender specific proponents need not take me to task. But I raised 3 boys. And believe me, there were no tea parties.) That said, and for purposes here, (and because this is a topic too broad to cover in its entirety) I’m going to touch on only 2 aspects of action: body language and multi-tasking.
Body language is often unconscious, a natural instinct, though it can be studied and learned. It’s one of the ways men establish hierarchy—that pecking order among themselves (vying for that top cock slot). Essentially, it’s portraying strength and power by taking up physical space. The more he takes (up), the more dominant he is to other men, and to women as well. Take for example a behavior happening on the New York subways. Called “manspreading,” it occurs when a man widens his legs while sitting. Instead of parallel, his legs go out in a V-shape that occupies 2 and sometimes 3 seats. Is it just more comfortable—don’t want to squash the boys? Or is an assertion of power—or worse—sexual dominance? Or just a kinky sexual advance? Who knows. Here’s another example. Sit next to a man in the middle seat of an airplane as a women—and see who takes the shared armrest like it’s his freakin’ birthright! (Guess what? He believes it is, evolutionarily speaking.) Better yet, watch two men. I’ll guarantee you it’s almost always the physically bigger one. It will, however, always be the more dominant one. Once upon a time, physical size, strength and battle prowess meant power. And remember—until the concepts of “royal blood,” inherited power, inbreeding and primogeniture put imbeciles on thrones, the biggest badass was the king. And to quote Mel Brooks: “It’s good to be the King!” (Ask Solomon!) Today “bigger and stronger” don’t always qualify a man for the top slot. Today money equals power. My dad used to say it was the golden rule. “Them’s that got the gold gets to make the rules.”
As far as body language between the sexes . . . 5-18 inches is considered the “intimate” zone. Flirting entails encroaching upon this zone. It also entails behavior that will highlight and emphasize the sexual differences between the genders. For a woman it’s playing with her hair, exposing her neck thereby promising vulnerability, crossing and uncrossing her legs (I don’t need to tell you what that promises!) For the male—ONCE AGAIN ITS ABOUT PRESENTING HIMSELF AS THE BEST CANDIDATE WITH WHICH TO MATE, therefore it’s about gestures—conscious or not—that show strength and power, demonstrate control and convey dominance. If you are curious, lots of books have been written on the subject. Let’s move on to “multi-tasking.”
Multi-tasking is the ultimate female action. Period. We have 4x as many brain cells connecting the right and left sides of our brains. Ergo, we have more efficient access to both sides. This allows us to solve problems through multiple activities at the same time. Ta Da! Multi-tasking. I once saw a video tape of an experiment testing this. Men and women were given a list of office tasks to perform side by side, in duplicate conditions, with the clock ticking. Make coffee, photocopy 20 pages of a document, divide and staple them into 5 stacks, 4 pages each . . . you get the idea. I swear! It was hysterical to watch. This one guy stood there (with his head bobbing—like he’s counting—each time the light flashed), waiting for all 20 pages to be copied. In contrast, the woman hits the copy button, goes over and fills the coffee pot with water, sticks in a filter pack, pushes start, grabs a stapler and goes back to the photocopier. She grabs the stack already copied and divides them up, stapling as she goes. By the time the last page emerges, she needs only to grab it, put it on top of the last stack, staple. Voila! She’s done. And dude is only now removing his 20 pages from the tray . . . As he straightened confused, I knew. The resemblance was unmistakable. Clueless Clive’s cousin.
And I’m guessing there are millions more out there.
To be continued . . .