The Male Point of View

Kevin Tipple, on his wonderful Kevin’s Corner website, which includes mystery and crime fiction-related news, a blog, and book reviews, included the following guest post from me last Sunday. It covers an issue people often ask me about. Check him out!

Thank you, Kevin, for your willingness to host a blog essay related to my new mystery/thriller Architect of Courage. In it, protagonist Archer Landis is a successful Manhattan architect whose orderly life falls into disarray when the woman he loves is murdered. That’s just the beginning of a summer of disastrous events that befall him, which put him and everyone around him in danger. Events that, ultimately, he has to try to sort out.

I’m pleased with the reader response, and one question people often ask is, what was it like to write a book from the male point-of-view? First, I never considered having a woman protagonist for this story, so I had a male firmly in mind from the get-go. I took into account that he is a successful businessman and a lot of the story’s action takes place in his office, not at home. His role as the leader of a prominent architectural firm is essential to who he is, and fits his “let’s get on with it” personality. You see this in his interactions with his staff, helping them move forward through a variety of difficulties.

In thinking about this post for you, Kevin, I realized that, in fact, most of the principal characters in this novel are men: Landis’s two principal associates, his lawyer, the police detectives, his right-hand when situations become dangerous. Many conversations occur among these characters, and in them, especially, I worked on the gender issue. Women (at least women of my generation) were socialized to express themselves tentatively, “It’s just a suggestion, but would you like a roast beef sandwich? Or, maybe . . . something else?” whereas a man would say, “Let’s have a roast beef sandwich” and be done with it. Of course I’m exaggerating. (See how I did that? Tried to get you to go along with my example by using the “of course.”)

I reviewed all the dialog numerous times to make sure the “weasel-words”—the things you say to minimize importance or weaken a statement—were removed, except in instances where the speaker was genuinely unsure. I don’t know, what do you think? (See?) A document search found every instance of the word “need,” which I usually replaced with “want.” There’s a subtle difference between “I need you to finish that floor plan” and “I want you to finish.” Once you go on the hunt for weasel-words, they’re everywhere!

By excising that fluff from the men’s conversation, the women’s voices became more distinctive. Yes, there are women in Architect of Courage! One character readers single out is Landis’s receptionist/assistant Deshondra. She’s young and a practitioner of upspeak? You know what I mean? It makes sense that her conversation would be kind of (there I go again) a counterpoint for the men’s because of her youth, inexperience, and gender.

All this focus on how Landis expresses himself provides a window into the more fundamental issues of how he thinks, analyzes problems, and reacts to situations. Even though he doesn’t talk about feelings a lot, his behavior reveals what’s going on inside.

I have a second novel that includes chapters in alternating points of view, female (my protagonist) and male (a police detective). Compared to Archer Landis, I find the female protagonist harder to write. There’s too much “me” in there. She’s not me; I need her to bring her own self to the project. What I want to avoid is a book in which the main character seems to be the author projecting, what I call wish fulfillment literature. Action heroes are prone to this.

Thank you again, Kevin, and I hope your audience members who read Architect of Courage will enjoy it!

Have you read Architect of Courage yet? Order a copy here and check out that male point of view!

Where Do Writers’ Ideas Come From? Why an Architect – Take 2

The protagonist of my novel, Architect of Courage (AofC), scheduled for publication June 4, has lived in my head so long, it’s hard to remember when he wasn’t with me. Or, for that matter, where he came from. I wrote a version of this post 18 months ago, but now that the book’s publication date is nearing, it’s time for an update.

One aspect of the choice, is that I didn’t want the story to be about a cop or a p.i., or a former CIA officer–I wanted an everyman. The kind of “ordinary” person who lands in extraordinary circumstances. How such a person deals with trauma and fear is and carries on despite them is of great interest to me. A person whose world is literally “upside down.”

n AofC, Archer Landis recalls a childhood doing a lot of what I had to do, tromping around housing developments, being disappointed in what was on offer. So he created his own design for “the perfect house,” which his parents had built and lived in the rest of their lives. He has this sketch framed in his office, and as the story proceeds, his feelings about it and what it represents change markedly.

In college I lurked around the studios in the architecture school, fascinated by the students’ model buildings and the smell of sharpened pencils, rubber cement, clay. A scene in the novel has Landis ruminating on that kind of by-hand work versus today’s 3-D printing. Decades later, I’m still a rubber cement kind of gal.

Landis is confronted with people who are his symbolic opposite. He wants to build; they want to destroy. Their destructiveness affects him directly, personally and professionally, and threatens his family, his business, his life.

To write about Landis, I had to try to see the world through his eyes, an architect’s eyes—the things he notices, how he approaches relationships, the way he circles back to the touchstone of his calling. Straightedges and French curves and stone samples. Also, quite a lot of the story takes place at his office—interactions with staff, police visits, coping. While I tried hard, I had to make sure the world I’d created rang true, and I asked a prominent architect to read an advance copy. Ralph Hawkins, FAIA, Chairman Emeritus of HKS, Inc., one of the nation’s largest architectural firms read it and, thankfully, not only survived the experience without tearing out his hair, but gave it a nice blurb too!

Photo: Elmgreen & Dragset, The Hive, 2020, stainless steel, aluminum, polycarbonate, LED lights, and lacquer, commissioned by Empire State Development in partnership with Public Art Fund for Moynihan Train Hall, Photo: Nicholas Knight, courtesy Empire State Development and Public Art Fund, NY. See it!