1. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    Female Author, Male Character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by PlotDeviceManager, Sep 25, 2012.

    Hello, my name is Sam.

    I want to say first off that I am not trying to sound sexist; I just want to honestly understand.

    I am writing a romance. I thought I was doing just fine, being as realistic as I could and such. Then I came to the part where (Female Character) is leaving, fleeing for her life and (Male Character) shows up to lend a hand. It's that "talk" every romance seems to have; the "Okay, are you into me or not?" sort of talk.

    What I want to know is this. Writing (Female Character)'s dialouge is rough, but (Male Character) is giving me bald spots. Am I over thinking this? Does being a man mean he will respond and speak differently, even though they feel the same way about each other? I'm not saying he would turn her down or act more "masculine". I just want to know if being female gives me a disadvantage in writing this character. It feels stupid to ask, but I know it's important.

    I am not sure if this is important, but a little of (Male Character)'s background - Twenties, prince in exile (and very happy about it). He was trained from nearly birth to be an elite soldier. At age 7, his friend is attacked and killed (accidentally) by his cousins, who he in turn kills (on purpose). At 20 he is married, but his younger brother and wife are discovered trying to murder the king and it is (Male Character)'s duty to kill them. Instead, he makes a deal to smuggle them out of the country in exchange for his service as a assassin, which he quickly decides he likes much, much better than being royalty.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A female author will find female characters easier to manage, as a male author will find a male character easier, at least at first. That assumes the author knows himself or herself, which is at least somewhat necessary for any writer.

    Having said that, I'll now assert that the differences between genders is less than the differences between randomly selected individuals. Gender stereotypes have very little connection with reality. Don't search too hard for profound differences.
     
  3. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I'm a guy and I used to be a little apprehensive about writing female characters, particularly since I always liked having a main male and female protagonist in my stories (there's a thread or two I made a while back about this). I still am, but I think it's better I just write the story first, and then later I can show other people (especially girls) how they feel about the way the female character(s) I have think and speak and so forth. You can do the same, I think - just write the story first, and then let some guys read it when they edit it for you or something, and ask them how they feel about the male character(s)' behavior. I have heard that sometimes it's easy to figure out if a male author is writing a female character, or vice versa, but I'm a bit skeptical about that now. Frankly, it doesn't matter, I think. Again, just write it all out first, and then show some guys and ask for their opinion. You could even just write a good excerpt and then show it to them, while also asking them for suggestions on how to make the male character sound more like a guy.

    EDIT: And Cogito is right. Stereotypes are only so much. Everybody has so many differences and gender (along with all the baggage that comes with it) is only one part of it - so that's why I say just write it without worrying too much. If the people who review and edit your stuff say your male characters really don't sound like guys, then maybe there's a problem, but even then, that's fine.
     
  4. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    A year or so ago, Helen Simonson wrote a wonderful novel entitled "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand". It's an excellent example of a woman writing from a male POV.

    As an exercise, I once wrote my autobiography as if I had been born female. I found it very illuminating.
     
  5. Orion113
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    Orion113 New Member

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    For me, gender differences are inserted when the character is created, before he or she ever sets foot on the page. I somewhat agree with what Cogito said, that gender differences are minor compared to individual differences, with the caveat that I believe gender can engender other character traits.

    For instance, try replacing the prince with a princess in the back-story you gave. Being female, would she have been trained as a soldier the same way royal boys are? Would her emotions have been such that she would so eagerly kill her cousins?

    Even in the embryonic stage it becomes a simple choice of enforcing or rejecting stereotypes. The stereotypical male is more hot-headed than an equivalent female, but there do exist many men who are cooler and more collected. Both of these extremes can be interesting as characters.

    It sounds to me like you have already made him who he is, and being a man is part of that, don't view it as a separate issue. If you have already written about him in your story, then you already know who he is, and you don't need to do anything differently than you have so far. :)
     
  6. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's a matter of knowing the character, regardless of gender. Having said that, I'm female, but writing female characters... I think I'm writing them as 'people', and then been told they don't act or sound 'female' - whatever that is. So I write them when needed, but I never feel as comfortable writing them as I do the guys. More a matter of second guessing myself, I think.
     
  7. Kat Hawthorne
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    Kat Hawthorne Member

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    I am a female author, and I write almost exclusively from the male POV. Why..? Good question. I don't know.

    Male characters are not so different than female ones, in that they have a goal, and they need to attain it. It will be your individual character's personality that dictates how his language should be. If you've mapped your character's personality well, gender really means nothing. All you need to know is how any one character would react to the situation you've thrown at them. How many more ways can I rephrase exactly the same point..?

    Forget about gender, know the individual character, and that should make it a little easier for you.
     
  8. Luna13
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    Luna13 Active Member

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    I have the same problem - I have never once been able to write a male character. I always end up doing females.

    Have you read "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green? It is an excellent example of somebody writiting a character of a different gender. He does a very convincing job portraying a girl.
     
  9. Still Life
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    Still Life Active Member

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    Don't sweat it. The majority of your audience will be female anyway. If you're more in-tune with your feminine side and that rubs off on your male character, then that's okay too. I can't tell you how many times we get those "Oh, my god, I would sooo melt if he said that to me" moments, when in reality the guys in our lives would never, ever say such things. But we crave it all the same. Feed our escapism desires. Write his dialogue as you see fit. :)
     
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  10. W. E. Burrough
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    W. E. Burrough Member

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    At first, I had a hell of a time getting in my female characters' heads, but after a few months working with them, figuring them out as I would any real person, I think I've nailed it - at least, I hope. Truth be told, now, female characters are more fun for me to write. I guess my advice to you is to get out of your comfort zone and don't go back until you've gotten used to the discomfort, until you own it. I think if you do that, being a girl and on the outside looking in, getting a better view of the male gender box, you could quite possibly write guy characters better than a number of actual guys.
     
  11. Mark_Archibald
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    Mark_Archibald Active Member

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    On this question alone, sometimes I think guys really want to ask a girl on a date, but they read the complete opposite because they don't want to be turned down and look stupid.
     
  12. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    Hi

    I recently read "A Secret Kept" by Tatiana de Rosnay. She is a female author whose main character is male. Unfortunatley I found the charater too feminine. Learning is that its not easy - even for established writers like Tatiana de Rosnay.
     
  13. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    Oh, wow. That's a great idea. I really think I might try that sometime. Thanks!
     
  14. AlexinDelhi
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    AlexinDelhi Member

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    I see lot of people coming up with questions do I sound racist or sexist (as in this case) if I say this or that in my story. I think your story is your world. It is nobody's business what you write and why you write it. Focus on the story not on the people, not on what will they say or think about you. If writers start thinking like this, if they make such issues their overriding concern no story will ever be produced. Finish the story first, review it. If you feel you are going over top, find out ways how you can balance it. For example, I am writing a story right now and it shows one of the characters belonging to a particular community in a very poor light. The forum where I wish to publish story has some people from that community and I know they will raise the stink. So, what I do? I finish the story, review it. I balance it by developing a positive character of his mother! I will keep in mind that this balancing act doesn't affect my story, if it does I will find some other way out, if that doesn't work, I will let the story go in its original form-whether they like it or not!
     
  15. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I also thought of another suggestion that I myself use a lot (maybe too much): use your male friends as a guideline. I tend to use my female friends as a guideline for writing my female characters if they have similar personalities. For example, I might have a friend who is very blunt and harsh in her speech, and I have a character who is similarly rather snarky and matter-of-fact; or I have a friend who is very shy and quiet, and I have a character who is also pretty quiet; so I like to ask myself, "When I have my character doing or saying X, is that how my friend would herself do X?" or, perhaps, "My character is in situation Y. What would this friend of mine do in situation Y?" Technically it doesn't really do much - again, characters are character, and well-written ones are well-written no matter what - but it does help me get a sense of how a girl would act like, if I can see my female friends doing it.
     
  16. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    After all the suggestions, I feel a lot better about where my (Male Character) is going. I felt like he might be too laid back, but it is sort of working with his big flaw which is his temper. Maybe that doesn't make sense in short, but it does in long hand. Thanks to everyone for their suggestions. I'm really glad I sign up for this forum.
     
  17. Vworp
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    Vworp Member

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    This is something which can end up biting you.

    I showed the manuscript for my novel to a female friend, and she pointed out that a female character in it would never do what I had written her doing. It's not that any female character wouldn't do it, but this particular one wouldn't, and it was because she is a particularly feminine woman. In other words, I didn't have sufficient understanding of femininity to realise that certain behaviour would be anathema to the character. My friend said that the character worked well, and was consistent, except for this one thing she did which (to a female reader) leapt out as incongruous.

    So I would echo other people's advice: show this to your male friends and ask if they think a man would behave like that. I disagree with certain other people here: there are fundamental differences between the sexes, and often a big mistake one sex make is to assume the other thinks as they do. Anyone can envisage the difference between a cool-headed man and a hot-headed man; the differences between a hot-headed man and a hot-headed woman are much more subtle, and perhaps need pointing out from somebody of the right gender.
     
  18. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    I'd agree with Vworp, you probably need to run your dialogue and plot past some male friends. But always remember this one thing - we (men) lie. (Note that I'm not saying women don't, I'm just saying that when it comes to courtship we absolutely do).

    So assume that when a man says you look lovely, he's really saying, I want to bed you. Assume that everything he says when it comes to impressing a woman, is also a lie (or an extreme contortion of the truth). And assume that most men are terrified of rejection, and from that fear comes a whole lot of lies, everything from pretending not to be interested to dumping the woman before she dumps you (even if she's not going to).

    I don't know that women truly get the difference. Courtship is all about the hunt traditionally, and the view is that men hunt and women are hunted. And I know that a lot of people are going to say this is sexist and stereotyped, which it is. But that doesn't make it wrong. And as a modicum of evidence for the view lets take a hypothetical. A woman walks into a bar equally stocked with straight men and women. She tells everyone she wants to have sex with anyone. End result - after the fist fights etc, she has sex almost every time. A man does the same thing, it almost never happens.

    And because women know that they are the ones desired, their self esteem doesn't hang on a knife edge. If a man doesn't seem to desire them they know others do. For a man if a woman doesn't desire him, too often it's complete devastation. If a man cheats on a woman the woman is often strong enough to forgive him even through the hurt. Reverse the situation and men get completely angry and jealous and underneath it all, hurt. Too often they cannot forgive it.

    So for your male MC ask yourself this. How is his self esteem in the situation? If the woman gives signs that she wants something more than just friendship, and it's obvious to him, he will advance. He will seem bold and confident. If she seems cold or distant he'll likely not. He might make subtle (for men) suggestions, but if he gets nothing back he probably will not risk the rejection, and feign disinterest or even actual dislike.

    Its sexist and stereotyped I know. But for a lot of men it's also the way it is.

    Hope that helps.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Eh... _attractive_ women are desired. Plain women are invisible to the point of nonexistence, as are women beyond a certain age, whereas my perception is that plain men and middle-aged men do exist. I'm not sure exactly what conclusion I draw from this, but it does say to me that the situation isn't as simple as you depict.
     
  20. ranjit23das
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    ranjit23das Member

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    I am not sure the last threads are helping - lot of sterotyping going on here. A friend of mine (not me honest) had his girlfriend cheat on him and he managed to forgive her and equally a female colleague of mine went a little crazy when she found out her boyfriend had been cheating on her and never forgave him.


    Going back to the original question, a female writer - Sam - has asked if being female will make it hard for her to write in a male voice. Lots of good suggestions given about bouncing off the passage with male colleagues.
     
  21. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi ChickenFreak,

    You're right its not simple, and not everyone will fit nicely into the slot. It's a generalisation. But I think it still works well. Lets face it when was the last time you saw an attractive man walk into a bar in a short (equivalent of a skirt etc) and have loads of women come up and offer to buy him drinks? And I think it works equally well for plain and middle aged men and women. Where it falls down is in old age where men die younger, and so the surviving males get a lot more attention.

    As for the prince in the OP, the question is, what's his self esteem like? Because that's going to be central to how much he's going to risk in a personal engagement. Now I seem to recall that one well known prince had a pick up line - Hi I'm so and so and I'm a prince - not sure if that's true or tabloid. But the point is that his self esteem is obviously quite high if he'd risk a line like that. So obviously he's been successful. So for the character if he's been successful with women in his life then he's more likely to risk it. If he hasn't then it becomes unlikely, and the more overt signals he'll need to encourage him.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  22. robertpri007
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    robertpri007 Member

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    Female characters have always been an important aspect of my projects, and I struggled with feminine dialog. Wife and I were insatiable readers from both genders, and after more frustration on my part, we invented this little game. I would open a book to pages with lots of female dialog and test the wife. She could determine the writers' gender probably 80-90% of the time.

    I was astounded by her accuracy because my results were around 50-60%, or not much better than just flipping a coin.

    I believe women are far more tuned to these subtleties. In time, I got better at it, and my own projects improved. Of course, while she was reading my drafts, wife would sigh, "A woman would not say it that way." Much discussion followed.

    I think you do need the other gender to give it the once over, especially for dialog.
     
  23. TheTrain
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    TheTrain Member

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    Well, I for one have trouble writing the female side of things. Of course, I have an agenda with my writing; I try to make the genders equal. My attempts usually fail though, and in one case I was told by a woman that one of my female characters seemed more sl*tty than anything. U_U She was supposed to be my strongest female character too; in the story, men are supposed to actually fear her. What struck me as odd is that I was trying to make this particular character superior, especially to men, but the lady that critiqued it must have preferred women to inferior instead. :/ So yeah, that really confused me; a strong woman doesn't appeal to women?
     
  24. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Instead of questioning your critic and basically dismissing her objection as "well clearly she just prefers women to be inferior instead", you should look hard at your character and question WHY your critic felt this way. There's always a reason, and whether or not you agree is irrelevant. Someone thought this, someone else will too, so what will you do to make the message clearer, rather than just outright ignore something you disagree with or don't wanna hear.

    Btw, coming across as being superior to men will make her come across as arrogant, not necessarily "equal" - someone can be gentle and humble and still act in such a way that instils admiration and respect and be treated as an equal. Superiority is not strength. And it also sounds reeeeally cliche and definitely not good for equality AT ALL.

    Perhaps watch the sci-fi drama Firefly - in it there're 4 very strong female characters, and they're all extremely different. Inara is beautiful, sexual and quiet, and yet you respect her and she's strong and tough emotionally, mature, intelligent. Kaylee is an engineer, and though ditzy and clueless and just plain cute sometimes, she has a spirit that's hard to crush - another face of strength. Zoe is a soldier, a married woman, and is not afraid to fight either verbally or physically and often confronts her captain on his mistakes. Lastly River, a slightly insane genius girl is quirky and fiery and just beautiful in a very unique way.

    None of these women are "superior" to any of the men around them, but they're all strong, respectable, admirable and beautiful. THAT's equality.
     
  25. PlotDeviceManager
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    PlotDeviceManager Member

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    You guys are all awesome for your suggestions. After reading these posts, I feel alot more confident about {Male Character}. Having a guy (my brother in fact) read over my dialogue has also helped me a sh*t ton. Also, I've realized that my {Male Character}'s culture is actually more of a defining factor than his gender.

    My brother said he liked that {Male Character}'s culture is very much against "lazy speech", as in he never uses contractions and hardly ever uses slang words. His education is a lot more important than gender too (my sister in law pointed this out), because while he is educated, its only the most base classical education. Most of his time was devoted to learning to fight and kill, so he's not a flowery, smooth talking type. But (concerning many of the posts here) he is also very confident, and therefore not afraid to speak his mind.

    I, unfortunately, have scrapped most of the scenes containing {Male Character} because the dialogue clanks like an old Chevy Luv. I'm currently rewriting several of them, and now I feel like the dialogue is so much more natural. Thank you all so much.

    You rule.

    Sam
     

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