1. Artemus19
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    Artemus19 Member

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    How different are Males and Females in first person?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Artemus19, Apr 21, 2015.

    So my current story focuses on a main female character, and after doing some research of my own I've come to the conclusion that there is in fact a difference in how the characters react to stimuli of the story. My burning question, in fact, two questions, is first: Do Male and Female talk differently in First Person? And is there a way to establish the gender without actually stating it bluntly or saying a character's name?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    There are lots of ways to reveal gender indirectly. You can describe clothes or hair or some action like doing one's nails or drinking with the boys. It depends on your character.

    As for different voices, it takes work to give each character a voice that fits them. You just have to try it and get feedback. I try to get feedback from guys on my male character voices and actions. The men in my critique group often point out things a guy would do differently than I've written my characters.
     
  3. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you tried watching the current series of The Island - with Bear Grylls? With 14 men on one island, and 14 women on another island, the different ways in which the groups manage to be incompetent might give you some guidance.
     
  4. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In general, I don't think they talk differently. However, there's a high chance they might notice different things. Some gender stereotyping, to an extent, can be useful in fiction, else it comes across as "unrealistic", unless the very atypical behaviour is a distinct part of that character's personality. Some might argue certain kinds of gender stereotypes should be used in fiction.

    I find that when I write girls, I project myself a lot more onto the character, since I'm a woman. When I write men, I'm projecting what I'd find attractive in a man. It seems that this works, because no one has ever complained about whether my men sound like men or women sound like women. I predominantly write male MCs and so far have had very positive reception for my them from various beta readers (both male and female). There are likely better ways, but anyway, my way works so it's all good lol.

    And yeah there're multiple ways of revealing gender - but if you mean whether gender can be revealed solely through voice, then I don't think so. Just think of this forum - can you really, accurately guess which of us are male and which of us are female without us telling you outright or giving a really obvious hint? I know I've been referred to as "he" multiple times on the forum, and I'm sure I've done that to other members lol!
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Mckk has it right. There have been times where I didn't know whether the poster was either male or female and wrote 'he/she' just to cover all my bases. :p

    I'm usually blunt when revealing the gender of my main character (either through name, or he/she is referred to by pronouns) because I don't really want to resort to gender stereotyping (Helen put on her makeup, Rodger put down his 150 IB dumbbells) to show that my character is a man/woman. For all I know, Rodger's the one putting on makeup and Helen's the one with the weights. That may be what they would prefer.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's more important to know your individual character really well than to know any general gender roles. Even without looking at nature/nurture issues, "typical" behaviour is generally seen as two bell curves with a lot of overlap in the middle bulge. So your character could be an outlier at either end of their gender's bell curve, or they could be one of the many globbed into that big middle bulge where behaviours really aren't that distinct.

    That said, you can establish gender through whatever indirect means fit your character. Clothes, make-up, behaviour with others, peeing standing up or sitting down...
     
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  7. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I took a uni course about pragmatics and discourse where we looked at different ways women and men express themselves, e.g. the vocabulary they use. Certain word choices might lend your character a more gendered tone. I guess there are some words you don't often hear men use, like [tongue-in-cheek] mauve, knitting patterns, and lovely [/tongue-in-cheek] but which would appear more frequently in a woman's speech. But these word choices aren't dependent on the speakers' genitalia, it's their background, upbringing, occupation, education, surrounding society and social circles, region etc that will have an effect on her narrative voice.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    An observation I've made: If you don't tell your reader your protagonist's gender right away, the reader is likely to make a stereotype-based assumption. My protagonist is female and the story starts with her out in the wilderness alone, checking on her traps. She is trapping for food. Most readers assumed she was male until I noted her gender, and a couple people missed the single reference to her gender and went on thinking she was male further into the story. In my case, if it were a male, I wouldn't need to make that clear. But being a female doing something not expected of a female, it's more important for me to indicate gender.

    I do agree with @Link the Writer, gender is not always apparent from what a forum member writes. That does suggest our language alone may not reveal gender. But that's on a forum. In our writing there is a lot more than what is being said for the reader to get cues from.
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Regarding the "mauve" specifically, there was a study done once that proved that men don't see as many colors as women. Not because women have better eyesight, but because women know more names for colors than men. For example, show a blue color swatch to a man, and he'd likely call it blue. Show it to a woman, and she's more likely to call it royal blue or navy or cerulean (my favorite color as a child :p).

    But that's the only input I have on the matter. lol
     
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  10. Artemus19
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    Artemus19 Member

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    Hmm... I see you're right about the voice part. Quite frankly I would have never thought of it that way had you not brought it up. One thing I've been considering is the voice in first person... because to me it almost seems like the character is self centered because they're noticing more about their gender.. make sense? So like, say for instance my character is taking a shower, and she makes note of a body part that renders her a girl. Would that be a dumb way to do it, or an easier, less harmful way? What's everyone's thoughts on this? (Also, thank all of you for your responses ^__^)
     
  11. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I actually also get the feeling a character is self-centered if they note things especially about their appearance, although it does depend on how it's done. If you're wondering if a woman would make a note of her gender in a shower, ask yourself if you do. If you do, if that's normal to you, then I guess a woman could too.

    What you do notice as a woman is guys checking you out, like she's having lunch in a cafeteria and some guy or guys keep glancing in her direction or if she walks through the cafeteria, some actually stare like they've never seen a human being before. This might be a fairly strong indicator to your reader she's a girl. Plus, this way you can show she's something of a looker without having to write "I brush my long, copper hair until it shines as if polished. My blouse accentuates my voluptuous curves, and while my skirt is short, it doesn't look cheap on my petite body like it would on some long-legged skinny girl." I find that kind of writing somewhat fan-ficcy and it kind of makes the character seem self-centered. Even though in real life we do think about ourselves quite a bit, except perhaps in more depreciating terms "Oh shit, look at that Shakira-level root growth! And my jeans aren't exactly doing what the commercial promised. Curve-accentuating? I guess they photoshopped the sausage skin out. Oh well, what the hell, it's not like anyone's gonna give a shit..."
     
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  12. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    This happened to me with some film scripts: When I said that I'm male, I was told my female characters were underdeveloped and cliche but my male characters were complex and intriguing. When I used a female pseudonym for the same work, the female characters were deep and interesting but the male characters were cliche and weak.

    Go figure.

    So now I use initials.
     
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  13. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    If there's another reason for your character to be in the shower, sure, you could point it out then. But putting her in the shower for no other reason than to establish gender? I don't think it's a good use of the limited space in your MS.
     
  14. ladybird
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    ladybird Contributing Member

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    It's not so much how they speak it's what they say. Writing in the first person you could always include thoughts. Now men most definitely are wired differently to women. Women say one thing when they mean another and men just tend to say what they think.
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nope. That's not true.

    (that was me, a woman, just saying what I think)

    Generalizations (especially those of dubious accuracy) have no place in characterization. We should write individuals, not stereotypes.
     
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  16. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think drawing attention to body parts in the shower is a very good way of doing it. How often do you look down and go, "Ooh I have a penis!" :crazy: Likewise, yes, I have breasts - and? I've had them since I was 11, 12 years old! It's not something I'm gonna notice. Now, the time when I did start thinking about my breasts a lot was after I tried to get pregnant - they grew larger, as does happen when you're pregnant. So I kept looking down at them and thinking, "Are they larger than before? I'm sure they are! Am I pregnant?"

    So yeah - I'm just saying, you're not gonna notice your own body much unless there's reason to notice it. Say, when I dress up for a date, for a formal family dinner etc.

    However, it should be easy enough to reveal your character's gender anyway because she'll interact with other characters, right?
     
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  17. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a woman and I say what's on my mind. In fact, I get major pissed off when someone doesn't that then leads to drama cus I'm like, "Well why didn't you just say so?"

    My husband, on the other hand, is the one who never expresses himself. It comes from the intention of trying to oblige because he's nice, but sometimes he ends up pushing himself too far and then he gets grumpy. I've learnt to read the signs these days so it doesn't happen often.

    But actually, one of my most common complaints against him is this: "I'm not telepathic and you can't expect me to be!"

    So yeah, I can safely say - your generalisation is false :bigcool:
     
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  18. lustrousonion
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    lustrousonion Contributing Member

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    Saying all women/men do XYZ is like believing your Cosmo horoscope: it might sometimes be true, but it doesn't give insight into anything at all.
     
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  19. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    @BayView is exactly right. You're writing a person, not a statistical distribution. You just need to worry about being true to your character and not true to some generalized concept of character. You write male and female characters the same, first or third person, which is that you write them according to the traits you've established for them as a writer, which can fall anywhere along a spectrum of human traits, male or female.
     
  20. ladybird
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    ladybird Contributing Member

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    I hate to disagree with you Mckk, but women tend to be the more devious of the species. Haven't you ever been in a situation where you have thought one thing and said another because you want to effect the end result? I know I have :)
     
  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    So women are Machiavellian!

    But.. Machiavelli was a man... I'm so confused...
     
  22. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Obviously, she was transgendered, but in those days they didn't really understand that.
     
  23. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Alternative explanation: Machiavelli is remembered precisely because men tend, by nature, to be honest and forthright, and therefore he stood out as an exception :D
     
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  24. ladybird
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    ladybird Contributing Member

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    there you go :)
     
  25. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    And men don't do that, of course?
     
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