What Makes us Tick?

One great challenge in writing is character development – especially when a character is not of the writer’s gender. SCWW meetings provide the benefit of critique from both genders, a litmus test for whether or not characters are true-to-gender.

Understanding what makes men and women tick is integral to realistic character development. There are human behavior references aplenty. Amy Blunt, who writes young adult/magical realism novels, shares the following two: Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge, which describes “the mystery of a woman’s soul”, and Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge, which examines the inner workings of men. And, yes, the latter is more than one page long.

Being male, I feel qualified to comment on the veracity of Wild at Heart. And, being male, I ask our XX-chromosome readership their opinion of the main points made in Captivating.

Wild at Heart states that men need “a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue”. I believe most men would, without hesitation, agree with the first two drivers. The third motivator, I would rephrase as “an innocent to rescue”, as “beauty” overstates the importance of appearance to most men. Most men are more interested in rescuing an innocent, thus gaining redemption and a life-partner, than that the rescued one be physically beautiful.

The most important Wild at Heart take-away for male character development is that a man can neither view nor respect himself as a man unless he has been “blessed” by another respected male, a role usually filled by the man’s father. Without this acknowledgement, a male cannot believe he is a real man. This is true. And it is cross-cultural. And it is the root of much pain in men and subsequent pain-generating behavior (such as bullying). As you develop a male character, bear in mind his relationship to his father or father figure. It is crucial to his behavior and motivation.

Captivating states that every woman longs to, “be romanced, play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty”. My male instincts tell me this and more are true. Yet I still cannot decipher female motivation.

So I ask you, ladies, for the sake of character development, what makes you tick?

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2 Responses to What Makes us Tick?

  1. Kia says:

    What an interesting and thought provoking blog, Will.

    I don’t know how to answer your question. I almost think that I would have to drill deeper into the phrasing Stasi uses in Captivating to properly decide that for me. I don’t know that any two women (and that should probably say “people”) will answer this in the same way. That is to say, I don’t know that we would be speaking about the same things even if we are using the same words. As you differentiate between “beauty” and an “innocent” for men, I would differentiate “play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure” from “being part of a great adventure”. The former, to me, indicates a passive role in someone else’s story, while the latter indicates active participation having a story of ones own. Maybe it’s just me, but I like being part of the adventure, not cheering on someone else who’s having one.

    Further I would interpret “unveil beauty” as finding the truth. But that delves into much more that comments should contain, in my opinion.

    Again, wonderful blog and what a terrific addition to our on-going conversation on this blog site.

    Well done!!

  2. Angela Kubinec says:

    I thought for some time about your trinity of fundamental characteristics, and also reflected on Kia’s statement “I don’t know that we would be speaking about the same things even if we are using the same words.”

    So, what I am about to say may mean exactly what the two of you have already expressed. I don’t know.

    “Be romanced”, yes.

    I would adjust the second idea to “play an irreplaceable role in someone’s life” as some of us are quite introverted and a great adventure sounds dreadful. Of course, we can say that life itself is a great adventure, I suppose – so no real change there.

    With respect to beauty, I think we all want to discover our own unique form of it, as some of us may not be inclined to be deeply philosophical about truth or beauty or anything else.

    I have a dear friend who can always tell when I am not giving him the whole story about something. His response is always, “You lie like a girl.” A lot of what makes people tick is simple self-interest.

    Glad to read your very thoughtful piece and grateful for a chance to participate.

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