Writing Men: Solitude

Return of a feature! It’s been a while since we’ve done this so it’s only natural that we stop for a minute and glance back at where we’ve been. In addition to introducing the subject we’ve looked at five basic components of male thought: Objectivity, Axioms, Compartments, Testing and Sacrifice. It’s time to examine some ways these thought patterns are typically applied.

As a reminder, the whole point of this exercise is to investigate who the male character is and how he should be written. (This reminder is as much for me as anyone, I feel I’ve been straying from this purpose recently.) Now that we’ve done a bunch of posts on how men think and what I feel are the biggest defining masculine traits, and how they express themselves, it’s time to take a look at how those thought patterns might result in uniquely male actions and what that might mean for your story.

Men seem to seek and value alone time much more than women. In fact, they’re masters of being alone even with other people – we’ll just sit around with each other and tinker with stuff or read books or do whatever with no need to talk to one another about what we’re doing or why. Some people think this is some sort of animalistic urge, the need of the hunter-gatherer to be back in his natural state. As a non-hunter-gatherer I tend to disagree with this outlook and instead attribute it to the natural outgrowth of the five male psychological principles we’ve discussed already.

So how do we know when a man might want solitude, and what would the purposes of a character seeking solitude be? There are some reasons here but keep in mind that this list is by no means comprehensive. Solitude is usually a man’s default first reaction to an unexpected situation. The male tendency to compartmentalization works best if he starts of fully compartmentalized, which means being alone among other things.

In a more practical sense this means male characters might seek solitude because:

  1. They’ve been dealt a setback. In particular this gives the man a chance to look over what went wrong and analyze the axioms applied, to see if a wrong paradigm was used, test the skills used, to see if the man needs to improve himself or something else before trying again, or determine if he must toss something out in order to achieve his goals and, if so, whether he’s willing to make that sacrifice.
  2. They are formulating a new objective or axiom. These two things are foundational to the man’s understanding of the world and must be examined from every possible angle in the best way the man knows how. This usually means while the man is alone. Incidentally, this is also why men tend to be so stubborn about things – men have personally examined every aspect of their core goals and maxims and thus have become very personally invested in them. It’s a great leadership quality and, at the same time, a pitfall when the man is working with bad objectives or axioms.
  3. The man needs to unpack. This has nothing to do with introvert/extrovert tendencies. Men simply don’t process experiences as well when there are other people around – that’s a situation where you’re creating experiences, not sorting them. Social activities tend to be their own compartment, separate from the other activities that take up the majority of the day. Most men need some alone time to knock everything into proper shape, file it and be ready to move on.

Men tend to view the tendency to solitude in a positive light, but it’s important to keep in mind that, just like the patterns of male thought, the actions male thought inspires are not inherently positive or negative. Rather, they are situational. Sometimes withdrawing from other people will cause more problems than sorting out what you did wrong will solve. Part of creating a well-developed character is showing them acting as their character dictates and growing from it. Most actions have positive and negative consequences and seeking solitude is no exception. When your story call for a man to go off on his own be sure he has a good reason for it, at least in his own eyes. But don’t be afraid to hand him some consequences for that decision either.

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