1. Thank you all for your patience with our technical errors. We think we've fixed it, but please do report anything that's not working right, by posting on the 'minor bugs' thread in Support and Feedback, which can be found here.
    Dismiss Notice
  1. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,229
    Likes Received:
    5,714
    Location:
    On the Road.

    Distinguishing books' style by gender

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Lifeline, Dec 23, 2017.

    The last year I've noticed that I mostly can tell the gender of the author of a romance novel by his/her word choices, the way s/he describes things during the narrative. Are you able to do this, too?

    Do you want to know the gender of the author? Does it deter from the way you enjoy a novel, or do novels written by a specific gender generally give you a warm glow?

    To be clear, I've never bought a book based on gender of the author, and I'll never base my purchases on this however-screwed-up preference either. But when I'm immersed in the narrative I notice these little hints and I wish I didn't.
    I started taking note because the gender word-usage/description intruded on my enjoyment of some books—which wasn't a good thing. And now I can't help seeing these little hints everywhere.

    I know this post is a huge generalisation. No two books are alike, and I apologise in advance to any authors who might feel offended. I've not put this thread into the 'Genre' subforum, because I've only read romance novels during the last year (apart from non-fiction) so I don't know if this is a genre-thing or not.
     
    Iain Sparrow and CoyoteKing like this.
  2. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2015
    Messages:
    2,398
    Likes Received:
    2,023
    Could you expand a bit on what kind of word choices you mean exactly? I mean; are we talking about men trying to write women badly? Or more just men writing women in a subtly different way to women writing women?
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  3. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    10,854
    Likes Received:
    11,676
    Are you sure you actually know the gender of the authors? A lot of romance novelists write under pseudonyms, and it's not at all rare for authors to use pen names with a different gender than their own.

    But, assuming you've gotten past that - what are the tells you've noticed?
     
  4. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    700
    Likes Received:
    1,422
    Location:
    Kennel
    IMO: If you can't tell, it doesn't matter.

    Honestly, I can only tell (the author's gender) when the writing is bad. When the writing is good-- I can't tell.
     
    izzybot, Lifeline and LostThePlot like this.
  5. Mink

    Mink Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2017
    Messages:
    633
    Likes Received:
    838
    I can't presume to know the gender of an author because gender is such a hard thing to pinpoint even in people you know personally. It also doesn't necessarily dictate writing voice. I can only guess on the author's sex (and possible gender) based off of their non-writing interactions and what they've said.
     
    Lifeline and CoyoteKing like this.
  6. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2015
    Messages:
    2,398
    Likes Received:
    2,023
    That's pretty much always been my feeling too. If the writing is bad then I think you can see a lot more of the author in how they describe things. But when writing is good it's just the characters or the voice of the narrator describing things. I can certainly say I've read romance where I could tell this was a guy writing for himself instead of for the (mostly female) audience and thus put emphasis in the wrong place or just gets weirdly fixated on telling us how gorgeous the female lead is. But again, I think that's just bad writing.
     
    Lifeline and CoyoteKing like this.
  7. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,229
    Likes Received:
    5,714
    Location:
    On the Road.
    Both good points, thank all of you who answered.

    I can only go off the name on the cover so I am basing this call on the gender there. Might be that the author writes under a different gender, and I've noticed a few books where the public photo of the author is female but the writing crosses over into 'male style' (please excuse the crude word choice; I don't know how to say it otherwise). This might mean what @LostThePlot and @CoyoteKing pointed out, that good writing just doesn't tell.

    Female author names (I'll not presume to put a gender to a real person hiding behind) indicate: Very descriptive prose which sometimes crosses over into flowery, detailed and repeated focus on the characters mind, eyes, hands.
    Male author names are more apt to write with a more balanced focus on the whole body. They are more abbreviated, more focused, more directed. More blunt, whatever goes on. Does that make sense? It's just a feeling that I have :confused:
     
  8. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2015
    Messages:
    2,398
    Likes Received:
    2,023
    I can't say I've personally noticed this. And to think to my own writing; I'm a bit of both. I like to look at characters eyes and in their heads regardless, but when describing the rest of a love interest then I'll describe what the character finds attractive in them so that could be anything. I'm very minimal in terms of description but the only times I'm really blunt is for emotional whiplash effect; to snap the mood over into something else. But then again I'd be writing under an androgynous pen name so... :p

    ETA -

    Just as a thought; is the potential difference here once between first and third person? Just as a first person narrator in my books I don't have a lot of room to do anything except look at what the character looks at, describe what is important to them, etc. In third person there's definitely more scope for the authors voice to come through.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  9. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2017
    Messages:
    4,890
    Likes Received:
    8,757
    This is an awful thing to say in a writer's forum, but more often than not I couldn't even tell you the author's name. I'm focused on the book itself, not the person who wrote it. That's why using a pen name doesn't bother me.

    Occasionally I can tell the gender of an author if it's a guy writing a female character. The thing I'm much more accurate about is being able to tell if the author is British.
     
  10. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,229
    Likes Received:
    5,714
    Location:
    On the Road.
    Yeah, I noticed that in 3rd.

    That's how it's supposed to be :p.
     
    Shenanigator likes this.
  11. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    1,411
    Likes Received:
    1,722
    A few years back, on another writer's forum, somebody posted a link to a website that would supposedly analyze a writing sample and tell you whether the author was male or female. For grins, I submitted two short samples (each about a page and a half) for analysis. One came back "probably female" and the other "probably male." I don't know what algorithms they were using, although word choice must have figured heavily in it. (IIRC, comments from other writers on that thread suggest that men and women use different color descriptions, and women use words with an emotional context more frequently, etc.)
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    5,939
    Likes Received:
    10,724
    Location:
    The great white north.
    I was told that if I wanted to break into romance it would be a hard sell using a manly name and if I was really serious about wanting to write romance that I should use a feminine pseudonym.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  13. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,440
    Likes Received:
    2,083
    Location:
    New York
    There are several male romance writers that have massive followings. A lot of women love when there's a male author for romance. In fact, I considered using a male pseudonym for this reason.
     
  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    5,939
    Likes Received:
    10,724
    Location:
    The great white north.
    I'm shook.
     
    Lifeline and Trish like this.
  15. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,440
    Likes Received:
    2,083
    Location:
    New York
    Good thing or bad thing?
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  16. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    5,939
    Likes Received:
    10,724
    Location:
    The great white north.
    Depends on how well the story of a neglected flower of a woman is taught to love again by a caring tender, yet possibly dangerous, dark stranger sells. As written by Burly McManjunk.
     
    123456789, KaTrian, Lifeline and 4 others like this.
  17. Trish

    Trish Damned if I do and damned if I don't Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,440
    Likes Received:
    2,083
    Location:
    New York
    Probably pretty well. Many women appear to want to see what the guy is thinking. When those things are written by a male author they feel that it gives them more realistic insight into the mind of a man. It carries more weight, I guess, and the grittier style of many male authors combined with that makes some women drool. The pen name could use some work though ;)
     
  18. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,605
    Likes Received:
    1,680
    There might be some differences in the most common ways men and women are interested in people vs. things, or in their attitudes towards violence, and that can come out in the writing because of what interests the author.

    But my favorite author is a woman, and I don't think she has much of a tell. Her male characters and points of view seem genuinely masculine, while her females seem genuine to me. Like people above said, better writers can probably overcome this.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  19. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2017
    Messages:
    700
    Likes Received:
    1,422
    Location:
    Kennel
    I think I found my new pen name.
     
    Lifeline and Trish like this.
  20. LostThePlot

    LostThePlot Naysmith Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2015
    Messages:
    2,398
    Likes Received:
    2,023
    I'll have you know the McManjunk's are a well respected family who defend their name with vigour :p
     
    Lifeline, Shenanigator and CoyoteKing like this.
  21. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    7,547
    Likes Received:
    10,212
    Location:
    London, UK
    I think this is probably just confirmation bias. I don't have official stats but most of the romance authors I know use pseudonyms, including me, Bay, and Laurin. Not sure about @Trish?

    Having said that, there's one novel with a female MC where I could really tell it was written by a man (Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden). I'm not sure I could pinpoint why, even having read it dozens of times, but a big part of it was the way she talks about sex, especially losing her virginity. Still love the book, though.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  22. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2017
    Messages:
    5,939
    Likes Received:
    10,724
    Location:
    The great white north.
    It's been a while since I've read this, but as I remember, the sex scenes in this were kind of... icky. Not even counting the supposed to be gross sex with the drooly bull dog faced guy it seemed to me to be just somewhat more kinda gross than sex usually is. I played it off that the writer was trying to come at it from a cultural aspect, so I didn't really even think it could have been a gender thing. Still a good book, though.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  23. Tenderiser

    Tenderiser Not a man or BayView

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    7,547
    Likes Received:
    10,212
    Location:
    London, UK
    Most of them were indeed icky, not least because they were largely non-consensual. It was more the way Sayuri was so dispassionate about them, and didn't seem to think of them as particularly unpleasant experiences (except for the scene with the Baron, who masturbated rather than raped her). I could definitely make an argument for that being deliberate on the author's part, but I do get the impression he hadn't really considered the psychology of a 15-year-old girl losing her virginity to a creepy 60-year-old guy she'd barely met.
     
    Lifeline likes this.
  24. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2016
    Messages:
    2,448
    Likes Received:
    3,948
    I don't think it's as common as it used to be, but there have been some m/m authors who used male pseudonyms so their readers would have the impression they were reading a book written by a gay man, who presumably would be writing from the perspective of personal experience. In the case of Josh Lanyon, the author publicly claimed that they were a gay man when in fact the author was a straight woman.
     
    Lifeline, Trish and John Calligan like this.
  25. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    1,605
    Likes Received:
    1,680
    That's so bold. I can't imagine that goes over well for the people who care.

    I read "The Gravity Between Us" earlier this year, and I have to admit I'd be disappointed if I found out a straight man wrote it.

    "The Sword of Achilles" is a great book about a pair of gay men, written by a woman. Everyone seems to love it, but she didn't hide who she was.

    It's not that I care that the author is this or that. It more that I get a feeling of expectation that I'm learning something about the thoughts and feelings of the author - either what they believe or what they lived through. Maybe that's not fair.

    The book I'm working on now has a romantic subplot (which is fairly close to the front) about two women wanting to be together. I've done some homework to try to make what I'm writing sound authentic, but I won't know how I've done until I send it to some readers. I've thought about using a pen name for it but on some level, the idea of it bothers me.
     
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2017
    Lifeline likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice