Monday, February 21, 2011
What Makes the Man in Your Story
So I came across a study performed by a group of university psychology professors. In the study they "proved what car-dealers have boasted for generations. The car one drives is key when it comes to turning a woman's head." But is it that simple? Could my protagonist land the leading lady because he drives a two hundred thousand dollar car?
The university team showed women pictures of the same man sitting in two cars - a silver Bentley Continental and a battered Ford Fiesta.
The women, who were aged between 21 to 40, picked the man sitting in the Bentley ahead of the same man in the Ford. The researchers say the men tested in the same way are not impressed by whatever car a woman drives because they judge purely on her face and figure.
The article got me to thinking about how readers, if not given all of the information, can jump to conclusion and why it is the responsibility of us, the writers, to really know and understand our characters. Take the above study for example. What is it about the men that made them attractive to the women of the study? Was it really just the car they were in? Or is there more to the story that we, the reader, should understand?
I raised this topic at a recent dinner party (it sounds much more elegant and high brow when I call it a dinner party when in reality it was a few of the neighbors over for burgers)and was fascinated by what I learned. I was able to get deeper inside the female mind and learn more about this phenomenon. To finally get real answers to how the short, doughy bald guy was able to land the leggy, beautiful blond.
You see, when women see a man in an expensive car there is something that comes along with it that is what attracts women to them. Yes, the car will get the women to look but why? In a woman's mind they see drive and ambition. A man driving the expensive car more than likely worked hard for it and that is what's attractive to women. And also, there is security. Women more often than not associate money with security and not always shopping. Women are not as visually stimulated as men are and therefor do not need the eye candy men so desire. They want a man with drive and confidence. That's what's sexy to them. Believe me. You introduce a woman to an attractive man who drives a Porsche but has the personality of a car wreck and the ambition of sidewalk slug and see how long it lasts. Don't get me wrong. The car will get the womans attention but not keep it.
And so I thought about how to bring this to my writing and challenged myself. Can I make a character desirable to women without making him six two with perfect hair and a movie star smile? Can I put together someone who has the traits that truly make him the affection of all women?
This is a challenge all writers face. Understanding the psychology of people and developing characters that draw people in and make them more real. Focus on the short doughy mans ambition, his drive, his passion for success and you'll have a character that women are attracted to and men envy. Show us and don't tell us what makes him attractive to women. It's easy to come up with a handsome leading man who has the world at his finger tips but challenge yourself to paint a picture using human traits. And give him a few flaws! People empathize more readily with a strong protagonist with realistic flaws.
However, as much as I hate to admit it, the women in my story for the most part drive nice cars. But they have pretty faces and big boobs.