Adding this to the Writing Library…
Men Need More Stuff
When it comes to writing, everything is fodder, particularly the study of people, their habits, likes and dislikes, their behavior and dispositions. So I’ve been doing a little informal study of men. I am a woman who writes men in every project, therefore it is necessary to figure them out. Well, to try to figure them out. There’s a lot of talk about men never understanding women, but I’ll tell you, women understanding men is equally difficult. It takes patience, effort and energy, and a real determination to understand to make sense of them.
It’s not that men aren’t sensible or logical; they are. It’s just that their means of getting to what they deem sensible and logical are different than a woman’s means. We’re wired differently, and one way it really shows up is in our thought processes.
Woman talk through things to figure them out. Men figure them out then talk.
So a woman who goes to a man to talk through a problem needs to understand that the man doesn’t see it as a chat so she can figure out the challenge on her own. Men see it that she’s stuck in the figuring out stage and looking to him for a solution. This makes for conflict that’s not much fun in real life, but since conflict is the spine upon which novels rest, it makes great conflict in a novel.
To be less obscure and more specific, let’s look at hunting, for example.
While some women are into it, it’s a male-dominated activity. For that reason, I thought it would be a good one to study in-depth. My first observation was the amount of effort and energy men put into hunting. The second was that a man who grumbles about getting up early for anything else, gladly rolls out of bed at o’dark thirty to go hunting. It’s one time when the snooze button doesn’t get pushed.
But the most interesting observation was my conclusion that for all the talk of women and how much stuff they require, men need more. Tons more. That’s neither good nor bad, mind you, only an observation. Let’s stick with the hunting example.
First, they need a place to hunt. A lease , often with a group of other men. A reservation land that permits hunting. The property of a friend, friend of a friend, or distant relative who invites them to hunt that land. There are tons of protocols that must be followed. Strict rules, and pity the man who breaks them. The bonding around the campfire quickly turns on those who dare to stray.
Then there are the hunting licenses. In or out of state, private property or public lands, the appropriate licenses must be obtained and the rule book accompanying said license must be committed to memory. The darling man who can’t remember where he left the flashlight, his car keys, or any piece of paperwork, can quote by paragraph and page the rules of the hunt for his lease or hunting property. (I’m speculating here, but I’d say the reason is interest. If deeply interested, men have an amazing talent to commit things to memory. If not intensely interested… not so much. Women too are that way. The two often just find different things intensely interesting.)
Then comes the hunting equipment. Before the season, there’s corn for the feeders, blinds or shooting houses, and cutting trails and paths through the bush to prepare the land for hunting. There’s the camouflaging of blinds, climbing stands, game cameras and other necessary permanent or semi-permanent fixtures to prepare and check. Like what? Well, for one, the straps on the climbing stands that attach the stand to the tree must be replaced each season—squirrels and raccoons are prone to eating through them. Or bears. That’s paramount to safety. The last thing anyone wants is a hunter’s stand collapsing and the hunter taking a great fall due to a faulty strap. The point is, much is required. Lots and lots of physical labor is called for in this pre-season positioning of essential equipment.
Then there’s the other essential equipment. Let’s start with snake boots, camo clothing—both lightweight in case of a warm season, and heavyweight in case of a cold one. This goes from undergarments to clothes to jackets to little things like lanyards and hearing protection and likely includes several hunter’s orange safety items (so other hunters don’t confuse this hunter with game and take a random shot at him). Everything from belt to caps, socks, shirts and pants are involved. And that’s just the clothing items and doesn’t include the survivor gear (compass, flashlight, matches, duct tape, rope and of course bandages and first aid items). And that doesn’t include things like hand warmers, heated socks and a multitude of other incidentals. (Hey, incidentals can be essential, too. Think about it. It’s twenty degrees and you’re out in it all day. Do you think those hand warmers are a fluff item or essential? I don’t hunt, but I’ll vote essential every time on that. Any item that keeps said hunter from getting sick makes that item essential..) I freely admit that’s not totally selfless. A) men are not the easiest of patients and B) I am not the easiest of nurses. Get the needed equipment to stay well. ATip: men explain this to your spouse in the benefits to her, and you’re far less apt to hear flack about those incidental purchases…
Well, we’ve got the land, the license the safety items and incidental items. But do you realize that before a hunter puts on the first stitch of clothing, he must wash those special hunting clothes with unscented soap and then shower himself with unscented soap. (Women, if you want to start a domestic war, add Downey or some other fabric softener in this laundry. Be prepared for serious fallout.)
Okay, so now the hunter and his clothes are clean and unscented. He gears up and strange things are stuffed in pockets and attached to his belt. Parachute cord and such. Now he gets to the woods, where he promptly smears his face with camo grease and some douse various parts of themselves with deer urine. (I know. That one blew me away, too. I thought, why go to all that trouble to get unscented and then to do this? Admittedly, I wondered too why they didn’t just have the dog hike a leg, but that’s the practical talking.) I’m sure there’s a logical reason a man wants to tromp the woods smelling like urine. I’m sure there is. It must attract other game or something. That would make man-sense. (I can hear the women muttering, “As long as he doesn’t try that at home on me and expect it to work…”) I confess, this is one of those little logic gaps. It makes total sense to my man and no sense to me. If I were a deer, I’d take Downey over urine every time, and that’s that. But I digress…
So he’s in the woods all decked out in camo and deer urine and greasepaint. Now he needs more stuff. A knife, a gun, a bow (if it’s archery season), a black powder gun and muzzle loader, if it’s that season). Well, actually, the hunter needs a couple guns. One for deer, one for aggressive wild pigs and another for snakes or perhaps a bear. (Personally, I’d opt for a cannon on the snakes, and since bears can run forty miles per hour… Oh, yeah. Essential.)
I’m sure I’ve neglected to mention a dozen items hunters need. But this surely is enough to prove men need more stuff. All of this is before the hunter gets a whiff of a deer or pig or whatever else he’s hunting. There’s quite a list of additional essentials needed in that stage, too.
So I look at all this and figure the pig he’ll have made into sausage is going to come in at about $300 per pound. Maybe a little less, maybe a little more. But the cost is only one factor.
Men do need more stuff, and some of the stuff they need isn’t measured in dollars. It’s measured in contentment. Getting out and tromping through the woods for men who love it works wonders for their attitudes and helps them clear their heads. They actually enjoy playing dress up in their camo. I get that. I like my dress up stuff, too.
And I have to say, after frank discussions with other women, I’ve discovered that they want their men who enjoy hunting to go to the woods. They need for them to go to the woods. And when they do, the women in their lives reap the benefits of them having gone. Maybe those benefits are meat for the table. But they’re just as apt to be a de-stressed guy in a mellow mood.
I don’t know. When you think back to the days of the cavemen, men were the gatherers, the hunters. It’s in their genes. And I’m good with that. It makes sense to the woman and the writer in me. The closest I want to get to the woods or to hunting is walking through the meat department at the grocery store, and that’s a fact. Okay, so I freely admit that when my hunter kills a deer, I mourn it. To me, all deer are Bambi. Porky the Pig doesn’t raise the same sentiments in me. Blame it on Disney—and if you bag the Easter bunny, don’t tell me. I really, really don’t want to know.
So maybe what this in-depth study of mine proves (at least, to me) is that women aren’t so easy to understand or logical or sensible, either. I guess that puts us in the good company of men. I see that as an asset. If I were the gatherer, we’d be living on vitamins or something.
The difference in the way we process things, in our thought patterns are interesting, and as writers, we need to make the effort necessary to have men think and act and conduct themselves in a way that’s natural to them. Same for women. I encourage you to do your own in-depth observing and take notes.
I wonder if you’ll end up the same place I did. For years, I’ve been listening to men talk about women and all their stuff. How much stuff we need. Well, the fact is, we don’t have a thing on men. In fact, I think men need more stuff than women do.
Doubt it? Well, how many men do you know who hunt but don’t fish? Fishing has a whole different long list of essential and incidental equipment. Think about that—and keep observing so that you keep your men and women true to themselves in your books. Respecting them is required. When you fail to, you insult both the person you intended to portray and the one you actually did. No small thing, that.
© 2014, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest releases are: Duplicity (military romantic thriller,) Torn Loyalties (inspirational romantic suspense), Legend of the Mist (time-travel romantic suspense), One Way to Write a Novel (nonfiction). She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact. www.vickihinze.com.