17 March 2014

Getting Into A Man’s Mind…with Alissa Baxter

As a writer, I must admit that I’ve always been more comfortable creating female characters than delving into the minds of the male characters in my books. This is because, as a woman, I find it easy to create realistic female characters. However, getting inside the mind of a man is a completely different story.

Of course men and women are human beings before anything else, and human nature is well… human nature. However men and women also have many differences, and recently I’ve been reading a number of books about these differences. One such tome is Dr. Marianne J. Legato’s Why Men Never Remember & Women Never Forget where she writes about the nature and importance of the differences between men and women and how we really are wired differently physically, emotionally and mentally.

This means, as a writer, I need to ensure that my male characters think and act like men! I don’t struggle to write about a male character’s actions, as it’s easy to observe and describe those from an objective point of view. But I do hesitate when I’m about to write a male character’s innermost thoughts down on paper. I’ve asked my father, brother and an assortment of male friends in the past to read my manuscripts in order to let me know whether I’ve created realistic thoughts for my male characters.

Writers as a breed are interested in what motivates people - their thoughts and feelings, and how they process their experiences, and being able to capture this in authentic detail in a novel, I would say, is the aim of most fiction writers.

Overthinking such things can lead to stilted attempts at creating characters of the opposite sex, however, so sometimes it’s best to take a risk, rely on instinct, and trust that if what you’re writing makes sense to you as a novelist, it’ll strike a chord with your readers as well.

In my latest novel, The Blog Affair, my main female character sets up a blog in an attempt to analyse the shortfalls of men that she calls “serial datists”. Here is an extract from her blog:

PENELOPE’S PANTRY
…A PLACE FOR YOU TO POINT OUT YOUR VIEW

Serial Datism

The first time I ever met a serial datist, I was nineteen years old. At that age, I wasn’t capable of recognising the warning signs of this particular species of the human male. Needless to say, I got burned. Badly.

Serial datism is a concept I’ve been pondering recently. And it’s something I hope to examine in this blog. Any comments from readers are welcome, therefore, as I attempt to shed light on a variety of the dating male that has me completely bemused.

The best way to do this, I’ve decided, is to debate in an open forum—where I, and any other participants in the discussion, can flick on the switch, in a manner of speaking, and illuminate the matter.

I attract serial datists, and so it is perfectly fitting that I should introduce this topic into cyber space. But this doesn’t mean I’m an expert at identifying them. You see, the tricky thing about serial datists is that they aren’t easily defined.

They come in many shapes and sizes and forms, and they may even mutate! They can start off in one form and end up in quite another shape and size within a small space of time. And therein lies their danger.

Okay—to introduce myself. I’m Penelope (well, that’s one of my names) and this blog is called Penelope’s Pantry, because like Penelope from ancient Greek mythology, I’ve had loads of suitors in my life.

And the pantry part? Well, a pantry is a dark storeroom, and this is where I hope to stockpile my thoughts and feelings and emotions. On neatly stacked shelves, of course. I’m a fanatically neat person, and like things to be tidy.

So let’s start at the very beginning (my ordered mind demands this) with a definition of a serial datist: He is a male who, like a bee, goes from one woman to the next, landing on each female blossom for a short period of time. When he leaves, he stings them.

But unfortunately, unlike a bee, a serial datist doesn’t die after he stings. He goes on to sting again and again, and the only way to kill him is to swat him, or stomp on him with your heel. Or leave out a bowl of sugared water in which he can drown. But, on second thoughts, I think the latter technique is for ants....

Be that as it may, before anyone starts wondering whether I’m a convicted killer, I hasten to assure you I am not. I’ve certainly felt a strong desire to stomp on the various bees that have entered my life, but fortunately for these creatures, the thought of killing causes me to break out in hives. 

Therefore, it is only a fantasy I have indulged in from time to time.

Now that we’ve cleared up the fact that I’m not a murderer, I would like to point out that the bee who delivers his nasty stings is the real killer in the scenario. Why? Well, it’s obvious. He kills your feelings, and leaves your emotions bleeding to death. Some more pedantic readers out there might point out that bee stings don’t cause you to bleed. So what—I’m using it in a figurative sense.

But, and here I’m not being figurative at all, bees can make you swell up. Besides the fact that their stings can cause you to comfort-eat, it is possible to develop a life-threatening allergy to them. And I’m afraid that’s what’s happened to me. I am allergic to serial datists AKA bees AKA Emotionally Unavailable Men.

But I’m jumping ahead of myself. That is simply one of the categories of serial datists. According to my calculations, there are at least four others.

Allow me to list them:
1) The afore-mentioned Emotionally Unavailable Male
2) The Wannabe Player
3) The Commitment-Phobe
4) The Bad Boy
5) The Misogynist (before he finds a woman to control)

I will be examining each category in more detail later. But in the meantime—any comments from readers on what I’ve already expounded are most welcome.

Posted by Penelope on Tuesday, July 8 at 08:32 p.m

BLURB:

Twenty-something, white, South African Emma Bradshaw has a pattern of falling for unsuitable men and starts a blog about these so-called “serial datists”. Her search for new beginnings takes her to Cape Town, where she gets a job working for sexy author, Nick Reynolds. Romance with her boss is a no-no, but slowly, Nick works his way around her defenses. Trust him, or not, especially with her awful track record with men?

When an anonymous male reader of the blog challenges her on her ideas about the male species, Emma realises she must confront her past and find her true self before she can move forward...and love can blossom again in her future.


AUTHOR BIO:

Alissa Baxter was born in South Africa, and grew up with her nose in a book on a poultry and cattle farm. After school and university, where she majored in Political Science and French, she published her first novel, The Dashing Debutante. Alissa travelled to London, England, and did an odd assortment of jobs while researching her second novel, Lord Fenmore’s Wager, which she wrote after she moved back to South Africa and settled in Durban. Alissa then relocated to Cape Town where she wrote her third novel, Send and Receive, before moving to Johannesburg, where she currently lives with her husband and two sons.



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