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Can opposite genders create well-written, same-sex fiction?

  1. Yes.

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  2. No.

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  1. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    Opposite sexes writing same-sex romance fiction

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ziggy., Aug 4, 2016.

    I know the title is a mouthful but this is something I've wondered for a while and like to discuss. I recently decided to read Her Name In The Sky, one of my new favourites. It's a same-sex romance novel, set in Louisana and is centered around two girls who live in a large, religious area but can't help the feelings they have for each other. I can hear a choir of groans--hurr durr, the man likes that lesbian erotica--but it's not so. I put character at the forefront and plot in the back and really enjoy well-written characters. However, I noticed that decent lesbian fiction is few and far between erotica and really good character-based literature like Her Name In The Sky.

    I also noticed that lesbian fiction seems to have females as the pre-dominant demographic, but I've always wonder: Could a man create a great story about two loves of the same sex? Could a woman portray two males falling the love in the same way? I've had this discussion before and I seem to get a simple "No. Women know women so men shouldn't write stories about lesbians because 1) they sexualize too much 2) they get women wrong completely.

    I guess I'm asking other people if it's a weird subject, and if it's possible? Just a little thing to discuss.
     
  2. izzybot
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    izzybot Human Disaster Contributor

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    I can tell you there's a pretty sizeable market of women who write m/m fiction, so certainly it is done. Not sure about men writing f/f. I'm sure they're out there somewhere?

    Frankly though, there are plenty of male writers who are atrocious at writing women, and I wouldn't be keen on seeing them write f/f at all. But there are bad apples in the women-writing-m/m group as well - if a dude can actually write women realistically he can probably handle f/f (assuming he's not also a homophobe, obviously).

    I'd only be leery of a straight person writing same-sex romance if a big part of the story revolves around coming out or internalized shame, etc. But that's done as well, I can't stop anyone.
     
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  3. Vagrant Tale
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    Vagrant Tale Active Member

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    Nope, whoever told you that is dead wrong. Humans are all unique, and anyone who generalizes that all women are a certain way or will like the same things is delusional. You are obviously quite prepared and equipped to do this task, seeing as you are already aware of the pitfalls.

    The only difference really is focus. As long as you aren't a drooling adolescent boy, you can certainly write lesbian romances. What adjusts it to female tastes is how you focus the attention. There's a complex relationship unfolding, and while people will tell you that the typical male will focus on one aspect of it, they'll also say women generally focus on another aspect. You just have to focus on the specific aspects of your audience, same as any other book.

    If you are writing good characters first and lesbians second, it shouldn't ever be an issue. As long as the characters aren't defined by their orientation (or any one aspect of their personality for that matter) then it doesn't matter what gender it is. What's important is how much can the character be related too.

    So as long as you make well written characters who are relatable, they can be lesbians, gay, hermaphrodites, gods, waffles, etc. It doesn't matter. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn't know what they are talking about. Just because they are too shallow and unimaginative to relate to the opposite sex doesn't have any bearing on you.
     
  4. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    I've always been more interested in the development of the characters, their feelings, and their emotion. I've never really enjoyed creating lucid, heavy-sex scenes. That sort of detracts from the idea of creating a valid story. I want to write stories about characters, not sex.
     
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  5. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I am a woman and I exclusively write m/m romance. In my experience, there are a lot of us out there.
     
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  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah, m/m romance, readers and writers, is dominated by women, mostly straight. This has been shifting a bit lately, I'd say (anecdotal impression only, no real data) but still lots of women.

    I know at least one man who writes f/f, but it's not a very big market to begin with, so there may be less room for newcomers who aren't dead-on in their characterization.
     
  7. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    I guess I'll have to do bucketloads of research beforehand if I ever want to create something worthwhile with it as a genre.
     
  8. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Did not realize that the m/m romance in my Doctor Who story made me (an asexual-aromantic man) unusual in that specific regard.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know more about the published m/m, and nothing about the Dr. Who fandom, but my impression is that fandom in general is pretty female-dominated - does that not sound right to you?
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Or bucketloads of imagining - I'm not sure which is more important!
     
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  11. sahlmi
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    sahlmi Active Member

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    ^^^Imagination + common sense. And of course, the right drive, which the OP seems to have already.
     
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  12. Romana
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    Romana Member

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    The idea that men can't write female characters is based in sexism (and caused by sexism). It's a stereotype that, because men aren't socialized to recognize women on the same level they are on, they won't write female characters on the same level they write male ones (and there are male writers who fulfill this stereotype). And also because men are supposed to be some sex-crazed erotica beasts, I guess.
    As long as you are doing what other people said -- using your imagination and common sense and writing well -- then you can write any romance you want.
     
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  13. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    As with any subject, it all depends on the skill of the writer. I know nothing about firemen. But if I wanted to write a story about them, would do the research and find out what aspects needed to be expressed.
    I would also make sure I had people who understood the situation read the material because they may find glaring problems I never thought of.
    A few weeks ago, I read a short story written by a woman from the POV of a burly killer male. There was a scene when he noticed the minty sage smell of her perfume. Realistically, how many men would recognize the smell of sage in that situation?
    At the same time, in a chapter I had written, it was pointed out to me that a woman with red hair would never be wearing a fancy green outfit because green doesn't flatter red hair. Being a guy, the thought never crossed my mind.

    Do enough research & you should do fine with whatever topic or POV you want.
     
  14. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd actually say that green is a near-cliche colour of choice for redheads...

    Which I wouldn't have mentioned except that it supports my next point, which is to not assume that everyone in a group shares the same attitudes or are homogeneous in any ways beyond the defining features. (eg. maybe one redhead thinks she looks bad in green, but lots of redheads wear green all the time).

    ETA: OMG, there's actually a TV Trope about Redhead in Green - http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/RedheadInGreen
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2016
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  15. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I will say one thing as a straight woman writing m/m romance - for me it's important to strike a balance between making my sex scenes fairly erotic while not fetishizing gay men. I'm very lucky to have had a handful of gay guys read my early stories and offer constructive criticism, so those scenes now come off more as two men who are really into making each other feel good as opposed to having them perform for a mostly female audience.

    I think it would be especially important to be aware of the fetishization aspect when it comes to writing lesbian sex scenes, as there can definitely be a difference between f/f porn that's produced primarily for straight men to watch and what's more true to life. (Seriously, Google "real life lesbians react to lesbian porn". It's an eye opener.)

    But overall I think if you write your same-gendered couples as people first and then let any sex scenes evolve out of that while keeping them in character during the naughty bits, you have a pretty good chance of being both respectful and telling a good story.
     
  16. Laurin Kelly
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    Laurin Kelly Active Member

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    I was a redhead for a few years and green was totally my go-to color! Yellows and oranges though, not so much.
     
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  17. doggiedude
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    doggiedude Contributing Member

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    Actually, I'm such a guy, i can't keep these color things straight. I realized, green is the color they talked me into making it. I think the original color was described as a mustard yellow.
     
  18. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    Damn. People are complimenting me and telling me I've got the right attitude which is odd for me. To be honest, I've had countless arguments with, so it seems, people of a lesser calibre when it comes to sexes. "Men just can't adequately portray females." And I've always felt that's bum wrap. I think if I can apply emotion as opposed to lust, then it must be possible. I think what I'd worry about most people is when I create such a story, people will skim over it just because a man wrote it. "Hurr durr, a man writing Lesbian fiction--must be choc-a-bloc with cardboard characters and sex." I must be on some sort of right path. I just always wanted to create a solid story of a couple over time. Ups and downs, start to finish. It's nice to see people who see the potential as opposed to the drawbacks.
     
  19. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    A lot of women writing m/m, at least at the start of the sub-genre, used male or gender-neutral pseudonyms. There's still a fuss every six months or so when one of these "deceptions" is uncovered, but it's usually because the author has gone far beyond using a male pseudonym all the way to adopting a gay male persona. One notorious case had the author lecturing female authors on the best way to write sex scenes "from the male perspective," giving "his" experience with condom use in casual gay encounters, etc. Dishonest, obviously, but also disrespectful and appropriative. So, don't go that far... but gender-neutral name probably wouldn't hurt.

    In terms of men writing women - in my experience, men do tend to have more trouble writing compelling women than women have writing compelling men. That doesn't mean it's impossible for a man to do it well, just that too often, they don't.
     
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  20. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have faith in men; they can do a great job at writing a woman as long as they're good writers and observers of people. A character will be judged by an individual, based on their idea of gender and "gender rules." I know my hubby has piped up more than once about something non-sensical (to him) a female writer has done when they've tried to portray e.g. "a tough guy." I believe most readers are women so they will also be the loudest critics. This could've created an illusion of women being better at writing men.* Comes down to an individual, I wager.

    I used to think men tend to be hopeless at writing women, but I guess I just had a pretty narrow idea of what and how and who women are, and I was being a sexist too. My attitude started to change after I read Jay McInerney's The Story of My Life and Bret Easton Ellis' The Rules of Attraction. Maybe it was because I happened to relate particularly strongly to their aloof characters, maybe I actually have a male brain and in reality like 90 % of women would completely totally disagree with me. Anyway, I could provide a mile-long list of books by men starring an awesome heroine, but it would be a very subjective list.

    Can you write books about lesbians in a way lesbians will enjoy them as well? Hell yes.
    Will you be judged with the usual sexist prejudice? Most likely.
    Should you use a gender neutral nom de plume? It might help, so people won't have a knee-jerk reaction the moment they see Chasing the Magic Carpet by John Smith on their Amazon LGBTQ recommendations list.
    How can you do this "right"? Reading more books about lesbians by lesbians might help. Spend time with women. Put yourself into the character's shoes, understand how they came to be who they are, and you're off to a good start.

    *I had to ask a couple of gay men about the things they dislike in m/m fiction written by women so as to avoid a few pitfalls myself, even though chances are it's women who'll be more interested in the m/m couple and won't even notice these pitfalls.
     
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  21. Ziggy.
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    Ziggy. Member

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    At the risk of sounding like an entitled asshole. I think one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to writing women is other people's perceptions of what a woman is. I've never really looked at a person's gender and given them traits of what I'd consider would be a biased view towards that gender. Men can be as erratic as women. Women can be as strong, and if not stronger than any man--emotionally, psychologically, and more. I always assumed the key part of creating valid characters of the opposite sex was to show that while there is a divide in gender and our social norms, interactions, and psychologies--we are similar in many ways. I guess I have to look past the basic surface and really delve into the heart of what makes women strong, and more realistic in my male eyes.
     
  22. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree. Write the character, not the gender. Societal expectations influence the character, sure, but they're far from all there is.
     
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  23. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Best way to do this to my thinking: have enough characters of each gender that you can find a bunch of ways to make them different from each other.
    If Kyra Sylvan were my only female character, then she would be giving the impression in the story that all women are extremely focused on what other people want/need instead of themselves, extremely religious, and that their place in the world is to be tortured by the bad guys so the heroes save her to make themselves look good.

    If June Harper were my only female character, then she would be giving the impression in the story that all women are both raving sex junkies and bloodthirsty sadists with homicidal anger issues.

    If Colonel Leeson were my only female character, then she would be giving the impression in the story that all women feel that it's acceptable – even required – to torture people half to death (or all the way) "for their own good" because being tortured builds character.

    If Arachne were my only female character, then she would be giving the impression in the story that all women are less human than men.

    If "Beta" (who later starts calling herself "Kathryn") were my only female character, then she would be giving the impression in the story that all women should go into mechanical engineering.

    I have no idea :oops: I don't actually like reading Doctor Who fanfiction nearly as often as I like reading Frozen.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2016

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