Ulp, Tuesday sneaked up on me again! Ornery critter, it just lies in wait and pounces when I’m buried under galleys and revisions and proposals and the weather is really too lovely to be indoors.
Since, by now, I assume our regular readers really don’t expect a scholarly treatise from me, I won’t disappoint today. <G> I’ll just blather the topic currently on my mind, which again happens to be an article in the Romance Writers Report: “Creating Dynamic Characters Through Authentic Dialogue” by Beth Morrow.
I read the article a few days ago so only the basics are nagging at the back of my mind. If memory serves me (and it seldom does), her essential premise was that men and women approach life differently, think differently, and thus, speak differently. I don’t disagree, but I will take exception to the generality of saying that men don’t use flowery words but speak only in terms of goals and actions. That might work for romance alpha heroes, but (1) not all men are alphas, and (2) I resent confining romance with still another limitation on the characters we create.
Since I write historicals, it’s easier for me to call upon historical figures as proof for my objections. Consider, if you will, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Lord Byron, Tolstoy… the list could go on forever. Are these men who spoke only in terms of goals and actions? Was all their speech blunt and to the point? If so, where did all those words they wrote come from? Did they only think in inventive, philosophical, and moral circles and just grunted aloud? I don’t think so.
I haven’t had time to research the study to which the article referred, but I have to assume that percentages were involved. It’s doubtful that any study has ever had 100% results on any topic anyone ever questioned. Maybe 55% of the men in the study spoke directly, but that leaves 45% of the population quite willing to articulate feelings and thoughts and philosophize over possibilities. Let’s face it, through history, women did not have the power to invent the church, our government, or technology. Men had to think and puzzle and talk and philosophize to develop the world we live in today. I don’t think that was entirely accomplished by direct commands.
Certainly, if I want to write a military hero, I might give him a “voice” that commands and orders. That would be perfectly in character with reader expectations. But I do not want to be told that ALL military heroes are blunt Neanderthals who point and grunt. If I choose to write about a soldier at Waterloo who goes home to write poetry and woos his heroine with flowery flattery, I don’t want to be told he’s not masculine!
Obviously, I have a problem with being told what to do. My teachers often remarked upon this. But I fear that the “dumbing down” of literature comes from our current marketing attempts to find the widest audience by generalizing our characters and stories to the narrowest reader expectations. And contrarian that I am, the more I’m told how my characters should think and speak, the farther out on a limb I’m going to go to prove the genre wrong.
Does everyone out there want to read about alpha males who order people about but get their comeuppance in the end? Has this caricature become so ingrained in romance that readers can’t enjoy any deeper characterization? Am I alone out here on the end of this limb?