The Male / Female Friendship

03a93992827bf5b99c1a8d41e46b3e7bAs I make my immersion into writing again, I’ve begun rereading some of my old novels.  I reread Volition Agent because it is a short novel and I wanted to get back into it.  But then I read Dissolution of Peace with the hope to get the sequel out later this year.  I also got to thinking about Broken Trust.

Now, I mention these novels for more than just a quick plug for myself, but also because I happened to notice a theme here.  All three of those novels, though less so in Volition Agent, show the Male / Female Friendship.  And not just a casual friendship, but a close bond often becoming best friends.

And since June 8th was National Best Friend Day, and I have a female best friend, I thought this was a great topic to discuss.

I think this theme is largely because of my own life experiences.  I find myself getting a long with females more than males.  I have some good male friends, but, of my closest friends over the years, most of them have been female.

But it is funny how in real life the Male / Female friendship is so complicated.  You have to deal with jealous significant others, rumors, and a level of social stigma that imply the friendship isn’t possible.  As a straight male, I’ve had this issue many times over and it has even kept me from ever having a good friendship.

The thing is, there is no reason a man and a woman can’t be friends.  Society has this absolutely wrong and it drives me nuts.  I could go on a long rant about this but I won’t because I want to stick with the writing part of this.  (Besides, I am fairly sure many will see the rant behind the topic.)

So here are some of my tips, both from real life and from writing, on how to have successful coed friendship in your novel.

Attraction is Okay

It is absolutely okay to have a level of attraction there.  It is natural to develop a bond with someone and get a little attraction involved too.  Attraction is normal and personally I do think all of my female friends are attractive women.  Remember attraction isn’t just physical appearance either.

In Dissolution of Peace, Janice’s first impression of Mike is that he isn’t that good looking of a man.  After developing a very close friendship with him, her perception of his appearance changes.  They have a friendship forged in their protection of each other and as that trust grows she just begins to see him differently.

The point here is that attraction comes in a variety of forms and it is normal and possible to find a friend of the opposite sex attractive and not “make the moves” on them.

Banter and Flirting are not the same thing

My wife often teases me that I flirt an awful lot.  But my banter with my friends is often mistaken by outside eyes as flirting.  And maybe by the very technical of definitions it could be seen that way.  But I don’t think of it as the same thing.

When you develop a friendship bond with another male, to give each other shit it is perfectly normal and acceptable.  The exact same words can be said to a female friend and society says, “ohhhh they want to hook up.”

Again, the point is that there is no reason your male and female friendship can’t exchange banter.  You shouldn’t have to second guess your words with true friends and neither should your character.

Compliments are Okay

This one is insane to me.  I tell my male friend, “That shirt looks sharp.” And it is just a compliment.  But I tell a female friend that those jeans are amazing and next thing you know the rumors start up.  Why has society done this?

Compliments to your friends shouldn’t be awkward and they should be part of any healthy relationship.  Not just compliments on appearance either.  Compliments on hard work, success, a new significant other, or anything about their life should be included.

Friends hang out

If two friends go get a slice of pizza and see a movie, it is hanging out.  But a male/female friendship is treated different.  These two decide they want to go to a movie, and now it might be date.  That shouldn’t be the case at all.

While I think it is great for friends to hang out with the significant others involved too, there isn’t any reason a friend should have to include them all the time.  It is okay for a male and female friend to go and hang out alone.  It is not a date.

Jealousy

Jealousy is a real emotion.  I am jealous often and easily.  It doesn’t mean anything more than that I feel left out or not as important.  I recognize that.

My wife is very supporting of my having female friends, she even claims to not be jealous. And while I know very well that my wife trusts me and doesn’t get jealous near as easy as I do, I know she is human and thus gets jealous from time to time.

I am not just talking about the jealous significant other, though, in my experience, that has been the most damaging to friendships I’ve had.  There is also jealousy between the friends. It is okay to be a bit jealous that your friend has dedicated their time to something other than you.

Jealousy can be just a fleeting thought or a raging storm.  But it is a part of any healthy friendship.  It is how far the jealousy goes that really matters.  Jealousy can by a nasty catalyst for disaster, so the line is fine.

In Dissolution of Peace, Serenity finds herself a bit jealous of Janice and Mike’s friendship.  This isn’t because she is worried Janice with steal Mike, but because Mike and Serenity have to hide their relationship while Janice and he are able to hang out in the “open” and more often.

Imagination

I put this at the end for a couple of reasons, but one of those is the fact that it is probably the most awkward of the dynamics of a male and female friendship.  But also, our imagination is often one of the things we keep secret the most.  But I don’t do that because it isn’t healthy for any relationship.

First is the dream realm.  Why we are so scared to share that we dreamed about someone of the opposite sex is beyond me. We are hardly in control of our dreams but we somehow feel responsible for them.

The most awkward can be the sexual dreams simply because this is your friend and now you’ve imagined them in a sexual scenario.  I always tell my wife all my dreams, even these, and she seems appreciative of the fact that I can share these with her.  I’ve never shared these dreams with the friend I was dreaming about.

This is because of two society stigmas. Sex is not to be talked about and then the female male friendship is taboo.  I have one friend I do tell when she is in my dreams regardless of the content.  She doesn’t seem to mind, in fact I think I could tell her anything and maybe that’s why we are close friends.

In fact she told me that she read that sexual dreams about someone means you want to get to know them better.  Don’t know if that is true, but sexual dreams are normal and often have little to do with sex.

Next is the day dream.  I think this normal too.   The imagination running wild thinking of what life might be like if you dated your friend.  I’ve more than once commented to a friend that, “If we dated you’d drive me crazy because…”  This is often in response to helping them with a relationship problem, but it does reflect that I’ve given it some thought.

When you are close to someone, I feel it is normal to let the mind wander to thoughts of people in different roles in your life.  Life without someone, with someone in a different way, getting closer to someone one, and so on.  When I met my newest friend, I often had day dreams about what my life would be life if we’d become close friends.  Now, I can’t imagine life without this person.

There are scenes in both Volition Agent and Dissolution of Peace where characters think about if they would be able to date their friend.  They don’t act on those thoughts, but they are there.

Real Life Inspiration

The bottom line, when writing any relationship it is important to draw from your own life experiences.  Mine tell me that the male and female platonic relationship is very possible and in my fictional worlds it is even seen a little bit as normal.  Because I see it as normal and acceptable. Society has made it something it isn’t.

The truth is, that I didn’t even notice this theme in my writing until I reread some of my work.  It just came out to the paper because that is what I know.

I hope you got some value from this post to apply to your own writing, but in the end write what works for your story.

Happy writing.

 

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Don’t Read Your Own Work After Publishing It

IMG_20130406_142102_592That is what I was told when I started writing.  Never, ever, ever read your work once it has been published.  Just don’t do it.  If you do, you will open a rift in time and space that even The Doctor won’t be able to stop.  Children will weep in the streets, entire cities will be lost, and Trump will be elected President of the United States.

It is another one of those “cardinal sins” of writing that seems to have just caught on and stuck.  The reasons are endless, but when you really get down to it, I am not sure what the point of this law of scribes is all about.

Perhaps it is the worry that you will cringe at your prior work and never write again.  The whole, I am the worst writer in the world and I need to stop.  Or maybe it has to do with the endless revision cycle that many writers can get into.  I’ve warned of this in the past.

Maybe it has to do with the look forward, not back, ideology.  This idea the progress only happens if you look to the future.  But if you don’t know your past, what is the point of the future?

That’s why I am of the mentality that reading your past work is actually a really good idea.  I promise the children will be fine, there will be no rifts in time, and no cities will crumble as a result of you reading your past published stories.  I am also pretty sure that Trump and reading have never been related.

Let me explain why it works for me.  I think you will see that, like most rules of writing, individual preference is really key.

One:

It helps me to find my muse again.  I have a terrible time with my muse.  She, like the writer she inspires, likes to travel.  The problem is she never takes me with her and never returns without me having to hunt her down.

Sure, she calls every now and again but she never seems to return until I start reading my work.  It is like she stops and goes, wait we wrote that shit.  We are pretty bad ass, lets do this shit.

Two:

It reminds me.  I have a terrible memory.  I need the reminder of what my characters were doing and what exactly I edited out before.  You see, when I write a story the story sticks.  And I forget that I cut our a scene, or that I changed a character’s gender.

My novels live in my head.  The world is continuing to go on well after I stopped writing the story, and when I go to write the sequel I don’t always remember where I stopped.

Three:

It builds my confidence.  This is especially true when I read my short stories.  I always go back to the publication that published them and read them again.

It reminds me that I am good enough to be published.  That someone else read my story and loved it enough to put into their publication.  It lets me know that I can do this, that it is worth the time out of my day to write something.  A lot like reading my reviews, I find it a reminder that other do want to read what I put to paper.

Four:

If I won’t even read my novels, why should anyone else? I know that is really silly sounding, but I believe it.  If a novel I wrote isn’t worth the time for me to read, and reread, then why would others read it once.

I suppose this comes from my leadership mentality.  I’ve worked as a leader in my day job for so long and I’ve always believed that I shouldn’t expect my staff to do anything I wouldn’t do.  And I guess the same goes for my readers. I wouldn’t expect them to read anything I wouldn’t read.

It may be four simple reasons, but they are the reasons why I will read what I write even after it has been published.  I don’t feel like my worlds have to die as soon as I put them to paper.

There really are not any rules for writing, your method is your own.  Feel free to break a few of them every now and then.  You just might find that you’re better for it.

I Hate Valentine’s Day

The-best-top-desktop-roses-wallpapers-hd-rose-wallpaper-10-close-up-red-roseI know it may come as a shocker that a SciFi geek, such as myself, might have an issue with a holiday about love (oh, I’ll get to that).  But I absolutely loathe Valentine’s Day.  I am not so sure when it started, but I think it came about after college.  Perhaps I can blame my ex for that (I kid, so relax people).  Every February comes around and I have deal with this crap again.  Normally I would just rant to my wife about it, she’d say, “Yes, hon” and then I’d go buy her something anyway.  But I have a blog now, so that means I can rant to you this year.

First of all, I do have fond memories of Valentine’s day as a child.  So I don’t ruin it for my kids.  After all, there was parties at school.  A bag full of Valentine’s Cards.  I remember going through every Valentine in the box to find the right one, that said all the right things, to the cutest girl of the class.  Of course she didn’t notice, the cute girls rarely notice us SciFi guys.  But it was fun.  Plus, I have an addiction to those candy hearts with the little sayings on them.  I don’t know why, because they really are the candy corn of Valentine’s Day.  But I do love them.

As I got a bit older, and realized that I was alone for Valentine’s day, I began to fester a bit of deep hatred for it.  You see, in junior high and my first two years of high school, I was fairly certain I would be alone for the rest of my life.  You know, in that typical preteen drama fashion.  Then I met a great woman that I dated for three years.  So, of course, for those three years I thought Valentine’s Day was great.  Then she broke my heart (she is still a great person), and I got all “I’ll never love again” on myself.

When I met my wife and started dating her, I realized pretty quick that there was something important about a lasting relationship.  You have to show that person you care all the time.  Randomly, I try to do something nice for my wife.  I’ll buy her something special for dinner.  I’ll pick her up a candy bar.  I’ll get her a little trinket.  I do these all year round to show my wife I care.  I don’t need one day a year to do it.  And I think that was when the true commercialism (and my cynicism) of the holiday kicked in.

Screw this damned holiday.  That is what I have to say.  I like to think that one of the reasons my little candy bar on a random Tuesday means so much to my wife, is because it was unexpected.  There was no societal obligation to buy her something to profess my love to her.  I just did it.  I don’t need a heart shaped box of chocolates to show my wife I care, a Snickers bar does the trick.  My wife doesn’t need flowers, she just wants a Coke.

I can hear some of you getting ready to argue with me here.  I hear you saying, “But just because you participate in Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean you have to stop the little things.”  Well, hold on.  There is more to this hatred that just the commercialism.

The logic of it is flawed too.  What is so special about February 14th anyway?  To borrow from Lewis Black’s bit, it is the height of flu season.  And why do we need to worry about love now.  I am fairly certain that spring, or summer, would be a nicer time to celebrate my love.

Not let me dig a little bit deeper on this.  Get a little personal.  I am not a handsome man, and now I am a fat man on top of it.  Nothing reminds me more, about how few people have ever found me attractive, as this holiday does.  Even now, approaching ten years married, this holiday reminds me of a deep scar to my self esteem that will likely never go away.  I’ve had two women ever find me attractive, and I sometimes wonder if they really do.  And of course now that I am married, no woman will ever tell me I am good looking.  They just won’t, because I am not.

Anyway, self loathing aside, this holiday is a reminder for guys like me (single or taken) that we are not what society has deemed an attractive person.  And it isn’t just men.  Women too, if not more so, are put to this gauntlet of self image issues.  And Valentine’s Day plays right into that.  It is complete bull shit.  And then there are all these self doubts that pop up from this holiday.  For what?  So they can sell a few greeting cards?

You know why Valentine’s Day is a success?  Dirt bags.  These dirt bags that treat their significant other like shit all year round.  But once a year they take them out to a nice place, get them gifts, and treat them like they should have been treated all year.  That’s why all these roadside stands pop up.  They aren’t for the people like me.  They are for the douche bag who is coming home from work and goes, “Oh fuck its Valentine’s Day.” And buys the biggest stuffed bear, a huge box of chocolates, and a bunch of balloons and shows up to the house with a last minute reservation at Applebees.

So I say we go back to having a big party with your friends.  You give them all valentines.  And the hell with this damn holiday.

Disclaimer: I did send my wife I nice card, some chocolate, and a stuffed dog. I may hate the holiday, but I’m not stupid.