1. AllThingsMagical
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    AllThingsMagical Member

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    Men writing Women

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by AllThingsMagical, Sep 8, 2011.

    I got into a discussion a couple of months ago with a friend who claimed men seem to have a problem writing women. The basis for this was that generally men don't understand women in the same way women understand men. So a woman could write a believable man but a man would have trouble writing anything other than a one dimensional stereotypical women. I initially thought this didn't seem quite right but then I started a book - written by a man - that's got pretty good reviews. There's one main woman whose character seems inconsistent and two female children who seem very stereotypically. One of them is the posh princess type and the other is the naughty, does her own thing kid. And now I can't seem to think of a counter-example.

    I was wondering firstly what people thought about this and secondly if they had any good examples of men writing descent female characters, as I'm sure they must exist. No offence meant to any male writers, it just seemed an interesting point.
     
  2. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    I was thoroughly amazed by Khaled Hosseini's depiction of female characters in A Thousand Splendid Suns. This proves to me that men can write good women.
     
  3. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I do think that in general women tend to write men better than men write women. But this has nothing to do with how one gender understands the other. In the past, the number of male writers was far greater than the number of women writers (and I think it still is), and a lot of those men writers wrote characters who were men. So we basically have hundreds of years of literature dominated by male characters. This fact, I think, has a lot to do with why women writers tend to pull off male characters so well.
     
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  4. CosmicHallux
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    CosmicHallux Senior Member

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    This is a good point thirdwind. ^ I agree with that.
     
  5. suddenly BANSHEES
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    suddenly BANSHEES Contributing Member

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    The Blue Girl by Charles de Lint was written from the perspective of two teenage girls, and I thought it was pretty well-written. (Also the only book I've ever read that switch first-person POV between three characters and wasn't at all confusing or silly)

    That's the only example I can think of off the top of my head, but there are plenty others out there, I'm sure. As people in other threads have pointed out, a character's gender shouldn't have a huge effect on how they are written - some effect, maybe, sure, but their overall personality should not be determined by their naughty bits. Maybe the author of the book you read got too hung up on the fact that his characters were women, and he needed to write women. I did the same thing when I first started writing male characters, to be honest. Not saying that's any excuse, but I can definitely relate.


    Thirdwind brings up a good point, too.
     
  6. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Men with insight can write women very well.

    I was reading A life by Guy de Maupassant earlier this year, and was amazed by the way he spoke from a woman's perspective. That particular
    work was written in 1883. He explores such issues such as first sexual encounters, childbirth (in detail), social attitudes and perceptions etc.

    So it can be done, and done well.
     
  7. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    For some reason I feel as if the expectation that women can write men well while men have to struggle at writing women is somehow linked to existing stereotypes that women are complicated cunning creatures that baffle those silly simple-minded men.

    Anyhow, I've been writing female characters for a long time, and the easiest way for me to get through any hurdles from this is to simply think about my female friends, and what they would do. More than not, I find that it doesn't exactly matter too much for most things. I mean, sure, it might matter when it comes to romance, but I don't think you need to think too hard about the difference between, say, a man eating a piece of bread and a woman doing a same.
     
  8. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    An author can only write the other gender based on their own experience. A more feminine bias in writing will appeal to a feminine audience as a more masculine bias will appeal to a masculine audience. Everyone experiences and understands their own gender and the other gender differently, therefore everyone prefers a different writing style.
     
  9. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I strongly disagree with that. I have read a lot of books with a female mc written by a male author. One of my favs is sidney sheldon, who is great in portraying women in a way that make them seem very real. I'm sure there are several other examples that i can't remember right now, because it's late and I'm tired.
    My advice for the OP is Sidney Sheldon, anyway. All of his Mc (as far as I can remember) are women.
    I think a talented male author often create a more vivid, real female character, as they skip the "sentimental" part and just focus on the human side of it, they treat them as humans, not women which makes a less stereotype character imo. their female characters seem more real because they act more than they think, which is a good start for a plausible character.

    Edit: I see now I must have misread your post, as I thought you were saying that men could only portray men and vice versa. My mistake, I'm sorry.
     
  10. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe there needs to be more books written by a male-female team. That worked especially well in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist with the girl character written by Rachel Cohn, the guy character by David Levithan. Each character's voice was completely credible.
     
  11. AllThingsMagical
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    AllThingsMagical Member

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    To Thirdwind -
    I think I may have missed the point here. Are you saying that because there are more 'examples' of male characters throughout literature it's easier for writers to mimic male characterisations and the reverse is true for female characters? So writer's copy other's characterisations? If so I'm not entirely sure I agree as in my experience every writer spends time working on their character's until they are truly their own, rather than mimicking another character. If not then I think I may just have confused myself. :)

    A few people seem to have said that the gender of a character shouldn't change the way a character acts but men and women are different and so they do behave differently. I mean stereotypically women are more emotional and there are things that would upset a women that a man would struggle to understand because he just wouldn't react to the same situation in the same way. I don't see how the gender of a character could fail to make a difference to their characterisation.

    I think Tesoro makes a good point in that a talented writer wouldn't be phased by gender difference with their character. So I guess this shouldn't really be an issue in a really good book.
     

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