Main Character Problem-Solving Style
Just the other day I had another real world experience dealing with Mental Sex that I wanted to share. For the new readers out there, the Mental Sex of a character describes the sort of base operating system from which that character engages the world. It’s a trait that is hardwired and, as I’ll point out, filters out the world around a character without them even knowing it.
Last weekend, in an effort to escape the blistering hot sun, my wife and I headed to the Topanga Mall in Southern California. We had decided, as we often do in the late afternoon, to hit up the Coffee Bean for some sugary inspiration.
Having placed ourselves in front of the huge neon monolith of a map, we began to scan for it.
Each store had a number next to it. The Coffee Bean was 2122 I believe, and I began to search madly for it.
My wife found it first, There it is.
I was astounded. How had she found it so fast?
“It’s up here,” she replied, sensing my confusion. “With all the other yellow ones.”
Apparently the map had colors on it as well.
I was floored. I swear I did not see the stores organized by colors at all. It was the strangest sensation to see something that was there all along. How could I possibly have missed it? At once, I realized I had become the victim of my own Preconscious mind and smiled, knowing I had material for a new and unique article.
Now, I’m not the complete expert on the Preconscious but I do know that it creates a different experience for the Male mind than it does for the Female mind. As far as I understand, it is an evolutionary thing that developed over the years; a filter that was put in place to aid in the survival of the species.
The Male mind is a Space-based Operating System. It filters information linearly. It focuses on goals and requirements and sees one thing leading to another. It’s why I only saw numbers on the map.
The Female mind is a Time-based Operating System. It filters information holistically. It focuses on fulfillment and conditions and can see the connections between things. It’s why my wife saw the colors on the map first. Of course, eventually she had to know the exact number—but her first instinct was to look how the colors of one section related to the next.
I’m not color blind, but I do have a blind spot when it comes to color.
This happened to me once before, and I thought for sure I had written about it here, but for some reason I can’t find it.
Again, it was a situation with my wife (Apparently we’re of two different minds!) where we were trying to figure out how many people were over for a Sunday brunch we had. In my head, I preceded to go around the table and count one by one, all the guests that were there. Before I could finish my wife answered, “Six couples, and your cousin.”“
Couples?! Who said anything about couples? There were 13 people at the brunch.
My wife’s filter naturally focused her attention on the relationships between people. How funny was it that she said my cousin instead of plus 1? She was still thinking of how that extra person related to me.
I, of course, only saw each person individually and, without even thinking, worked my way step by step around the table.
So how can this help you write a great story?
Blind spots are a great area of exploration when it comes to character development. You can find great material for your story by playing up the negative consequences that occur when someone filters incoming information before they’ve even had a chance to think about it. You can also use it as a source of strength. Think of a writer or an artist who is able to so focus on the goal in front of them that they are able to shut out every distraction (or person) around them.
I imagine every character could have their own Mental Sex, but it is the Mental Sex of your Main Character that is the most important. It’s an important decision to make as it will set up the specific order in which your acts appear and determine how the Main Character and Impact Character Throughlines1 connect with the Overall Story (through their respective Unique Abilities and Critical Flaws). In addition, it also has an impact on what kind of audiences will be drawn to your story.
This is not a black and white/male or female/all or nothing concept. The Preconscious is only one fourth of the mind. As mentioned before, it is only the filter at the very base of a mind. You also have your memories, and your ego, and your own thoughts that influence and determine the decisions you make in life.
And it has nothing to do with gender.
While it is true that for most cases the Preconscious mind matches up with the gender, contrasting the two can result in some fantastic stories. You only need to look toward Aliens, The Sixth Sense, and Moulin Rouge! for some fine examples of this.