Whether they’re alpha males leading the pack or lone-wolf types, we love our bad-boys. And they come in all modes: riding motorcycles, captaining a pirate ship, or a duke at the helm of a secret society.
Throw in a dash of humor, and you’ve got me. I love to read them as much as I love to write them. The irony is I’m not a funny person. So, it’s a test of skill…a serious-natured woman writing a man of quick wit.
And just to make things interesting, I don’t plan my characters. They come to me. When they do, I run with it. This was especially true of secondary characters, Juliette Sauveterre and Lord Marcus. Both were rich, colorful personalities in The Lady Meets Her Match [Midnight Meetings series, book 2].
When it came time for book 3, the big question was Whose story would be told? Juliette Sauveterre was a foreign creature to me, a femme-fatale who wants all eyes on her (especially the men).
Then there was Lord Marcus: too handsome for his own good, a heavy drinker, sharp-humored, and always at odds with his older brother. Interesting, but not the stuff of heroes. Yet, Lord Marcus won.
How does a woman get in the head of a wastrel?
My favorite “cheat-sheet” is that I live with three men. Being out-numbered is a blessing in disguise. I watch how they react, listen carefully to word choices, speech cadence, and subtle differences in sense of humor. Most people know men speak about half the words per day that women speak. But, men also use more imperatives/commands than women (i.e. “Give me that book.” or “Come here.”). I keep these things in mind when I write men.
Real life inspiration helps—a la Tom Hiddleston. In interviews, he’s gentlemanly and humor comes naturally to him.
Another “cheat-sheet” in my arsenal was a past series of seminars on men. When my boys were young, I signed up for weekend seminars on men, love, marriage, etc. This stemmed from my desire to be the best wife and mom I could be. I grew up in a household of four females and a military dad (in other words, gone a lot). Talk about living in a totally different dynamic!
Men are cut from the same mold when it comes to certain aspects. Personalities, talents, and drives are special to each person, but certain fundamental needs remain.
Six universal lessons I learned about men:
1) Men need to feel appreciated by the women in their lives
2) Men need to be our protectors
3) Men need to feel like they provide for us (like they can “win” with us)
4) Men need a woman’s vitality
5) Men have single-focused brains
6) Certain male needs do a 180 degree change when they reach middle age
It took a long time to get to know Lord Marcus. I had to go deep into character to unearth his humor, his backstory, all the things that made him tick. The journey was intriguing. It was necessary to know him. Each male character I write must be individual. Nor do I want to effeminize a man (let the hero be the hero). This last point came to light during editing Lord Marcus, the hero in The Lord Meets His Lady [Midnight Meetings series, book 3]. I’ll close with an anecdote about the book.
Edit notes had come for the manuscript. Reading them, I was struck by the editor’s effusive, dramatic style. I later learned that she is involved with theater production with a passion for the 18th century. Much of her insight was spot on. Sometimes not. One place it didn’t work was a sex scene in Lord Marcus’s point of view.
My paraphrase of the scene…
Foreplay started slow and deliberate which soon turned white-hot and frantic. A frenzied Lord Marcus was fully dressed, his placket open. Genevieve was on the bed beneath him. He was half an inch from penetration. [Insert editor’s note: “I’d like to know more of his emotions for her right now.”]
I laughed hard. Remember #5 from above?
The male mind does not wax on about feelings during delirious sex! It doesn’t matter if he’s the tenderest beta or a snarky bad-boy. Men have one-track minds at heightened, sexual moments. Anything else in a book is a womanized version of a man.
So, here’s to provocative heroes. May they continue to be the men we love.
An excerpt of The Lord Meets His Lady by Gina Conkle
(the scene lead up)
Miss Genevieve Turner is a woman with a past. She’s making a go as housekeeper in a cottage far from London, but Lord Bowles knows her secrets. He’s shown up at her place of employment with a surprising proposition…