Saturday, July 30, 2011

Women Are So Perceptive

As I have said elsewhere, I didn’t write “The Reluctant” with an audience in mind.  I wrote the book to experience what it was like to write a book.  There are many authors I admire and that have provided me with hour upon hour of enjoyment.  I just wanted to see what they went through.

I don’t think I would have done it any other way, but there are consequences to not giving the audience exactly what they want.  Tom Crayder’s character is one of those consequences.

Tom is a typical guy.  As a reviewer recently said, he thinks about women and food…a lot.  That’s true, he does.  So does every man that I know.  Tom also wants to be more than he is, wants to provide for his family, wants some excitement in his life, and has his own view of right and wrong.  So does every man that I know.

Like a bachelor’s bathroom, a glimpse inside the head of a “typical” man is not for the faint of heart!  It’s messy in there.  It’s conflicted. 

Immediately after I hit the “publish” button on the book, I thought, “What will women think of Tom?”  I was confident that many men would read Tom and identify with him but I am waiting for the hate mail from some of those men:  “Splitter!  You’re giving away all of our secrets!”

To those men I would say that women figured us out a long time ago.  I am gratified, and relieved, that women are receiving Tom Crayder well.  They recognize him.  They appreciate the glimpse inside his head.  They understand that he really is a good guy, sometimes despite his shortcomings.

Had I considered my audience, I may have chosen to make Tom more heroic, more evolved even.  In other words, he may not have been as real.  He may not have had room to grow as a person (fictitious though he may be).

We suspend a certain amount of belief when we read fiction.  Fiction requires some abnormal situations.  What we won’t suspend, as readers, is our knowledge of human behavior.  We want our favorite characters to be larger than life, but we also want to be able to know them and, more importantly, believe them.

One of my favorite actors was John Wayne.  Yeah, he was tough, he could kick some ass, but all of his better characters had flaws.  All of the good ones had a weakness or a vulnerability.  They drank too much, they had a physical ailment, or they felt a compulsion to do the right thing even if it was to their own detriment.  Those flaws made the character real.

Wayne was often called the prototypical American male.  I don’t know about that.  What I do know is that when he had a good script, his larger than life characters were somehow believable to the audience.  Gender didn't matter, he was appreciated by nearly everyone.

That’s what I wanted for Tom Crayder even though he is no John Wayne.  He is supposed to be the common man…maybe just a little more.  He might do the unexpected, maybe even the heroic a time or two, but his flaws are what allow the reader (hopefully) to believe he is real.



  1. Tom might not be like a lot of guys that women read about but he is the most real. He is probably one of the most genuine male characters i have read. I can see why women may not like him but they all warm to him. I think they might all begin to realize that every guy we all have in our lives is like him. I think maybe women are a bit startled when faced with such an hineat portrayal of a man. You could have "evolved" him more but it would have been to the detriment of the story. I think you characterized him well.

  2. I think Tom is great just as he is. He's not on his best behaviour trying to impress the potential female readership with how "evolved" he is, and nor should he be! I've read books by male authors before where the male lead characters have been painfully politically correct and right-on in their every thought and action, and I think Tom is far more believable than they are.

  3. I love Tom's believability! I agree with Cambria, the story just would not have been the same (as good) if he had been any different.
    I think perhaps a lot of YA authors might learn something from Tom. If a middle aged man can't behave, what makes us think these hormonal teenagers are going to be so level-headed and selfless?
    I think keeping the characters real can help the reader form a stronger bond with the story, leading to a much more meaningful reading experience.