Friday, March 9, 2012

Boys Don’t Cry?

The new Asylum Tales series has brought me a great combination of new revelations and challenges.  It’s a new world, a new adventure, and a new storyteller.  What’s more, this storyteller is a guy.  Not being a guy myself, that brought its own interesting challenges as I attempted to create a voice that would be believable.  The mental processes of a man are distinctly different from that of a woman.  They think different, feel differently, and react to those thoughts and emotions differently.

For the most part, it has been a great joy writing from the point of view of a guy.  It has definitely felt more freeing, both in terms of the language that I use as well as how he processes situations.  He seems bogged down less with emotional weight than Mira (from the Dark Days series), but there is more to that situation than a difference in gender.

However, I’ve recently hit a small snag as something unexpected happened in the book that I’m working on.  I didn’t think much about it when it happened, but retrospect is a dangerous thing.  I now find myself looking back at that scene, wondering if I should tweak it.

Without giving too much away, it’s an emotionally charged scene between my main character, Gage, and a woman.  Not only does Gage lay out his feelings before this female, but a single tear slips through his control.  The feelings that he spills out don’t bother me.  I was only surprised that it happened at this point in the book.  It’s the tear that draws my concern.

We all know that men cry.  At some point, we’ve all seen it so let’s throw aside that old belief that men don’t cry.  Men cry when a child is born and they cry when a loved one dies.  And some even cry when their favorite team loses.  I think part of the problem for me is that in Hollywood, men don’t cry.  Big, strong, kick-ass men never cry in movies.  If Sylvester Stallone suddenly broke down in tears when the woman he loved got killed, we’d think less of him.  We’d rather see him pick up the biggest gun he could find and kill the guy who killed his love.  That’s what we’ve come to accept and expect.

Now Gage is no Sylvester Stallone.  I don’t want him to be.  But the precedent in our entertainment has already been set.  If we drill down even further, we find that we can accept tears when someone dies, but what if someone is just leaving?  The girlfriend is leaving, breaking up with the boyfriend?  Could you accept his tears of pain and loss?  In a drama, maybe.  In an action, no.

I am probably over-thinking this single tear, but it brings up an interesting dilemma.  There is much that we can accept in real life when faced with it that we don’t want to see in our entertainment.  I don’t know yet whether Gage will keep his tear, but it is something that I’m going to be turning over for a while as I finish this book. 


Anonymous said...

I think there is no right time in a book for a man (or a woman) to cry. I think the right moment depends on 1) the personality of the character, 2) the situation 3) the current emotional status of the guy and the power the other person has over him.
For example: My husband never cried when our son was born but he cried a lot during the time he had burn out syndrom. That does not mean that the birth was less important than him being sick but it means he was more prepared to deal with one situation than with the other.
If you think that was the right moment for the tear to come out, then you were most probably right.

robynC said...

i love it. i love to see a strong, ass-kicking, kill-anything-that-threatens-what's-his man, break down emotionally. It gives me a chance to connect with him, on an emotional level(and we all like to daydream about comforting our heros, right?) if you're uncomfortable with the tear, maybe tweak it to a shinning/glistening in his eyes? implied emotion instead of an actual display? Not knowing what the situation is, exactly, i can't say keep it, or lose it, but i love to see that capability of emotion/vulnerability in my heros. - not to the point where they're boo-hooing about anything and everything, that'd just make me want to punch them - but a little emotion makes them more accessible to me, as a reader.
Good Luck!

Carrie said...

It's hard to know if the tear works without reading the book, but I tend to agree with Robyn. It's refreshing to see a tough man cry. I say if it feels right for the character, then go with it. Hollywood is different from books, anyways. People do all kinds of things in books that they would never to in the movies.

midnightblooms said...

Harry Dresden cries. He also grabs his staff and blasting rod and blows things up.

Response not only is individual BUT it depends on the circumstances, the stress the character is under already, the emotional impact of the event (whether they were expecting it or it came out of the blue), and lots of other factors.

Would he grab a big-ass gun and kill things? Would he cry? Would he punch a hole in a wall? Would he sit there numbly too overwhelmed to really emote properly? Your character might do (or have done) all or any of these things. You want to figure out what he would do at that moment.

I think readers are OK with tough guys crying. I also think Hollywood should give the public more credit and their characters more depth. :)