Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Depiction Part 19 - Depicting The Married Hunk With Children

Part 19
Depicting The Married Hunk With Children
Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Previous parts in the Depiction Series are indexed here:

Knowing what your readership sees and understands from Headlines is vitally important to evoking a visual response without actually describing with irrelevant detail.

For example, a paragraph telling the reader the color hair and eyes, height, weight, choice in clothes, educational background - etc of the Character does nothing to draw a reader into the story.  Such detail, all lumped together into one paragraph leaves the reader confused, perhaps bored.  There is no reason a reader should memorize all those details about this character -- then wade through memorizing more such details about another character.

Reciting statistics about a character is not describing and it is not portraying.

Instead, to depict a character, the writer must evoke a likeness from something the reader feels is familiar -- then inject a single, stark but very memorable detail that is incongruous.  Two details, half a sentence at most, depict the character.

So let's Depict the Married Hunk -- who has a wife and children.

When we say "Hunk" we generally mean a very masculine, very attractive, perhaps buffed up -- young, strong, healthy, very probably with an attitude, very likely the attitude needs some work, most likely by a woman worth her salt.

Usually, the term Hunk does not apply to a happily married man raising a bunch of girls to be women.  Hunks are pre-domestication, usually.

But this is 2016 -- almost 2017 -- and many revolutionary changes are in store as a new generation steps up into adulthood.

"Adulting" has become a term because our society has kept the newest generation from growing up -- lots of forces from all directions configure young lives into lives of dependency -- and the expectation that parents will come to the rescue.  We have boomerang children -- off to college, back home to wait to find a job.

Once employed (or married off to someone who is employed) that generation encounters all the complications of performing Adult tasks -- banking, saving, stretching a dollar, dropping today's plans to go solve another person's problems, finding an apartment, making mistakes and having to live with the results.

In the pioneering days of the 1700's and 1800's in the USA, 14 year old boys were pretty much considered adults - carrying guns, hunting, fishing, building and repairing shelter, knowing nobody was going to come to their aid if they screwed up.

Today, we have men in their thirties who haven't gone through that Finger In The Dike, I'm The Only One Who Can Do This, realization stage.

That transition to self-reliance is the primary psychological dynamic in Science Fiction Adventure -- the genre is about the transition in self-image from child to adulthood.

Science Fiction blends well with Romance because the core essence of that transition, the real meaning of Adulting, is the establishment of a life-long, permanent, full of obligations, you can't get out of it, it is up to you, RELATIONSHIP.

Today's world does not regard Marriage as a "you can't get out of it" (thus adult) obligation.  Marriage is now conditional, and either party can just bail and forget it, go on to another spouse.

So if a Character fails to domesticate the Hunk she married, she walks.

But what about the children?

Don't forget the 1800's were famous for the Shotgun Wedding (still a favorite type of Romance Novel - often with reasons other than pregnancy).

So a Hunk, as long as he's still attractive, can always walk out of a marriage.

This creates wonderful conflict for Romance novels.

What is the higher calling -- what is the stronger moral position - which character's thinking depicts them as admirable, someone to emulate?

Is ti staying married to raise the children no matter how incompatible the couple has become?

Is marriage about Romance?  Does Romance -- falling in love, being deliriously happy, believing the world will cradle you in luxury all your life without effort -- have anything to do with Love?

Does Romance = Love?

Is Romance a necessary pre-condition to Love?

Does "I Love You" mean something different during Romance than during Life?

What does Adulting mean with respect to Relationships?

Do you choose a man because of his good looks, strength, prowess?

Does a woman even need a man?

These issues are the core themes of Romance, and to work them into Science Fiction, you need to study how your modern reader is seeing the world.

Here is an article published in July 2016 that describes a study on Testosterone correlated financial risk taking.

The truth behind testosterone: why men risk it all

Testosterone is what we blame for irrational aggression, for two men fighting just to show off in front of a woman they both want -- or sometimes just to win.

This article is about the addiction to WINNING -- in this case, winning at stock trading, but the statistical correlation reveals how judgement is warped by winning or by losing.

The testosterone study also reveals why the defeated, if repeatedly defeated, knuckles under and does not even try to compete again.

In other words, the fight to win establishes the pecking order among humans, just as in a wolf pack -- which could be why werewolf romance is so popular.

The science of wolf behavior applied to humans makes werewolf romance into Science Fiction Romance.

------------quote from THE TRUTH BEHIND TESTOSTERONE----------
The results were published in a 2008 report in the

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Coates found that, on days when traders made an above-average profit, their testosterone levels went up.

Most surprisingly, the testosterone levels in the morning predicted how much money the traders would make that day: high levels forecast high earnings. At the same time, the traders' cortisol was unaffected by how much money they lost. Rather, cortisol levels were sensitive to the volatility in the market, which is a measure of risk and uncertainty. "Cortisol is likely, therefore, to rise in a market crash and, by increasing risk aversion, to exaggerate the market's downward movement," the report states. "Testosterone, on the other hand, is likely to rise in a bubble and, by increasing risk-taking, to exaggerate the market's upward movement. These steroid feedback loops may help to explain why people caught up in bubbles and crashes often find it difficult to make rational choices."

Coates first learned of steroid feedback loops during his regular visits to Rockefeller University. The testosterone feedback loop is known as the winner effect. The winner effect had been observed in nature for many different species, from cichlid fish to rhesus monkeys, and its physiology is well understood. When two animals square off in anticipation of a fight, they experience a rise in testosterone levels. This self-doping mechanism prepares the animal for competition, increasing the blood's capacity to carry oxygen, quickening the speed of reactions, and, via its effect on the brain, increasing fearlessness and appetite for risk.

In the aftermath, winners can emerge with a tenfold increase in the amount of testosterone circulating in their bodies, whereas losers' testosterone levels can be suppressed by the same order of magnitude.

...This doping effect can sometimes last for months. Nature primes winners to keep winning and losers to keep losing.

----------end quote-----------

This finding could explain why the business world is configured like a football game.

So where do women fit in the business world?

Here is another quote from that article on Testosterone.

Women produce, on average, about ten per cent of the amount of testosterone that men generate. According to Coates, they may therefore be less prone to excessive risks driven by the winner effect; their stress response may also be less sensitive to risk-taking failures.

During the dotcom boom, it always surprised Coates that the women traders seemed to be relatively immune to the euphoria that engulfed most male traders at the time.

Women seemed to know that a storm was coming. When it comes to the financial markets, Coates says, men are more hormonal than women. Male physiology makes men more attuned to high-frequency risk-taking. "Our latest studies suggest that women are not more risk averse than men," says Coates. "They merely prefer to have more time and information before they take risks."

This doesn't imply smaller profits – quite the opposite, in fact.

Studies of gender differences in investment behaviour consistently show that, in the long term, female investors consistently outperform their male counterparts. This is not, Coates stresses, an endorsement of one sex over another. "It's not that one group is better than the other," says Coates. "They're different. It's just that by diversifying the biology of the trading floor you would counterbalance the extreme tendencies."

---------end quote---------

Women have some testosterone - but not so much as to impair judgement.  And women have a different way of assessing risk.

I saw another study, which I can't locate right now, which indicated that a man's testosterone levels go DOWN after being married, and DOWN again once children come into the picture.

In other words, being married, literally tames the wild animal in the man.

This could be one reason the "arranged marriage" social norm dominated for so many centuries -- and the reason it persists today in some religious communities that prize the level headed, measured, approach to risk taking.  Untamed men would risk offending God without a second thought -- according to that study on testosterone and the stock market.

Consider that Hunk who is the flashpoint of most Romance novels -- a woman spots a man in a crowd, and just knows that gorgeous hunk has to be hers.

What is it that makes a man a Hunk?

Mostly testosterone -- it builds muscle, is responsible for "secondary sexual characteristics" such as hair, and in a winner testosterone causes the man to move with confidence, to exude power and pride.

A female response to the hunt for a mate is to look for a male who will protect and raise her children  -- to bring home the bacon as it were.  A female response is to be attracted to a winner, thus a male with high testosterone levels.

But the objective of marriage is to tame that beast, to lower his testosterone levels.

Your readers live in a social order that is in transition.  Thus Romance novels have long been exploring how women find such testosterone driven men irresistible, and Lust must inevitably lead to sex -- there is just no way to resist that force.

In the 1950's, after women had gone to work during WWII and gotten a taste of independence, of adulting, there was a social argument about women continuing to work -- which culminated 20 years later in the feminist movement, and equal pay for equal work.

Your current readership, for the most part, is made up of people born in the 1990's and raised by two working parents, with a good percentage raised by single parents.

In the 1950's there was a lingering stigma on children of a divorced couple, even after remarriage.  It was hushed.  Not spoken of.  Playmates of such deprived children were not told of the parental history.

The 1960's are famous for changing that attitude.

Check this out by reading some ebooks written during these different epochs -- the contemporary settings depict their era accurately, and the historical Romance written during say the 1960's distort history in a different way that novels written today.

The same effect is visible in Science Fiction.  Read Robert A Heinlein of the 1940's and 1950's if you can get through the sexism, and you will learn something major about how to craft a novel for your current audience.

So we come to a study of modern readerships and how to target that readership.

Here is an item that appeared also in July 2016, written by Jill Filipovic is a journalist and lawyer who is working on a book about female pleasure and politics in America.


This article is about Donald Trump and came out during the Republican Convention.

Read that article on Testosterone and Winning -- and you'll understand Trump's "win-win-win we don't win anymore" chant.  He's been a winner and the article explains why men like that get addicted to winning rather than settling issues in a more sensible way that doesn't create losers.

The point of winning is to create losers, to alter the body chemistry and brain chemistry of other people.

So we have a generation (younger than Trump) who aren't as enamored by the necessity to create losers in order to "live happily ever after."  While at the same time, that younger generation regards marriage as temporary, a situation that can be shirked off despite children, rather than as a sacred responsibility you can never get out of in this life.  (think Historical Romance, Victorian era was when you saw this attitude begin to change under the surface, but not in public.)

Today's generation of young men (many of whom have not gone through the shock of Adulting), are just as testosterone addicted as the elder generations, and young women see just as many Hunks among them.

Marriages do happen -- perhaps regarded as permanent, regardless of difficulties, --- and young men do get tamed and have children who tame them even more.

So we are raising a new generation of young women torn in two apparently mutually exclusive directions -- these are your primary readership -- women whose fathers demand they found successful (winning) careers, and whose husbands expect (but likely won't say out loud because men don't talk about emotion) a stay-at-home-mom for their kids.

Here's a quote from the NY Times article:

This female empowerment narrative — of the daughter, not the wife — is one Americans are more ready to accept. A man who says he’s never changed a diaper and is on his third marriage to a former model may appeal to a resentful male minority, but will look unfamiliar and unappealing in much of the country. A successful child, though — that’s relatable and desirable. When men have daughters, their attitudes shift and they begin to adhere less stringently to traditional gender roles; no similar effect happens to mothers of girls. Fathers of daughters are also more likely to support reproductive rights than men who don’t have girls.

Men have often given their female offspring more opportunities than their female partners, perhaps seeing their children as extensions of themselves. Even today, many men find themselves newly appalled at sexism after having a girl, a reaction apparently not stoked by being born of a woman, married to a woman or simply seeing women as human. In our reluctantly feminist America, one question this election poses is whether we’ve evolved enough to value women as individuals instead of assessing them relationally, as an attractive wife supporting her husband or as a high-achieving daughter reflecting a flattering light back on her parents.
---------end quote----------

Remember that Conflict is the essence of story, and both the Internal Conflict and the External Conflict are derived from the Theme.

What you think and/or feel about a topic has a Theme at the core of it.

What do you have to say about the mutually exclusive demands placed on today's young women?  Are they really mutually exclusive? Do women have to limit themselves to careers that either pay enough to hire child-care (CEO level pay), or not have children, or have stay-at-home-husbands, or adopt a profession that can be done at home with kids pulling on your elbows.

When pondering the career options of the college age woman who is your Main Character, consider she's been reading articles such as the following:


And sometimes some women just don't recover at all because of un-diagnosed injuries incurred during birthing -- broken pubic or pelvis bone, torn pelvic floor muscles, the list is long and mostly neglected by OB's.


This kind of thing is going through her mind as her friends tuck her into her Bridal Gown for that long walk down the aisle.

This is your readership's view of the world.  Use that knowledge to convince them that there is a solution -- there does exist an attainable Happily Ever After, but it is not guaranteed.  There is risk involved.

We'll discuss risk assessment in more depth as we go on.  "Risk" is the foundation of the element in a novel called 'THE STAKES' -- the stakes are what the main character stands to lose if things don't work as intended.  But 'THE STAKES' are also what that character has to gain if things do go as intended.

Risk/Reward calculations are, in the male of our species, testosterone driven.

So are Romance Novels - right?

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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