Monday, 9 September 2013

Gender Writing ~ a question

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What makes for a good male or female character in a written piece? How do you write a believable female as a male writer, or a believable male as a female writer?

In the past I have been told my female characters were not 'believable' and somewhat stereotyped. As a member of the 49% of the world's population I found that disheartening and frustrating.

Having spent nearly all my life interacting with members of the opposite sex I assumed - obviously ignorantly - that I knew how to create a believable female character, and not a Mary Sue, as has been hinted at in the past.

So, how do YOU achieve this marvel of character creation? I'd be extremely happy to read your experiences and 'secrets' on this dynamic of character writing.

As a closing thought, I recently read a snippet of a romance story. Now romance is all good and well, but here I must grumble about something 'comsetic'; a descriptor of a male possessing a 'rock hard flat stomach'.
Now no problem there, if the guy is posing for a body building competition or in a boxing ring absorbing gut punches, but the reality of the human physiology is no muscle or groups of muscles can ever be 'rock hard' in a situation where the person concerned isn't straining and contracting like they are trying to pass a water melon.

Muscles can feel firm, yes. Firm AND defined, yes. But not rock hard in a relaxed situation such as foreplay (penis not included, but that's considered an organ and not a muscle, even though it has several muscular components), unless as I have stated, the person concerned is tensing like a loon.


Deborah Walker said...

Ah this sounds pretty familiar. This is a recurring thing in writing at all levels.

I don't do anything special gender wise. I don't think men are like 'this' and write the story. The characters just come out. (hmmm not very helpful)

My women characters veer towards the kick-ass sides of things. I mean they're always having adventures and stuff, being space captains etc, or spies. Is that believable?

I wrote a story in a shared universe, and one of the premises was that women were the stay at home type. I didn't like that, so I made my tank driving crew all female. The story got accepted -- yay!

Maria Zannini said...

I don't think I've ever had a problem writing about the opposite sex, most likely because I tend to write my characters as people first, and gender second.

While it's true that men and women will react to a conflict differently, it's not necessarily based on gender. Hubby and I react the same way when a dog is sick, but he'll try to immediately "fix" the problem, while I look for the underlying reason of why it occurred.

The only thing I deliberately do when writing in gender is to have my male characters use less words. Men are generally more succinct--especially when it comes to sex. :)

Mark K said...

Another story accepted, now why does that not surprise me ;)

Personally, I feel it is easier for a female writer to write a good male character than it is for a male writer to write a good female character, but then, I'm only speaking from my own perspective.

The mindset of the two genders is different in so many ways, yet very similar, and I think that is where the danger lies, in getting them mixed up.

I feel though, that which ever way you go with characters, especially female, it is hard not to be cited as using a cliche or stereo type. Possibly a case of 'damned if you do, damned if you don't'?

Mark K said...

lol... Maria, so very, very true. I think men work on the basis of direct information only, whereas females seem to prefer the detailed version of events and how things came to pass.

As for the sex angle? Well, I'd possibly have to disagree to a certain extent. Depending on the situation, the setting, the mood, the emotion and those involved, I think men can be very invested in the slow boil aspect of sex.

Everything has a time and a place, and its own rhythm and pace, including sex and how it unfolds.

Deborah Walker said...

Feedback is great. But it's great to only take feedback that rings true to you.

If you think you're writing good female characters, then you probably are.

I hear this a lot. Even in best selling works. It's good to keep an eye on it, but to be quite honest most of the time I think it's just something people say.