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Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 01:08 AM
As a male, I have some trouble making credible women characters in my fiction. I was given the advice to write a woman like you'd write a man. Was this good advice? Does it make sense?

jannawrites
07-29-2008, 01:13 AM
I would only worry about if it your main character is a woman, because then you'd likely have to perfect certain personality traits and nuances. Otherwise, just write it how you feel it.

quickWit
07-29-2008, 01:23 AM
As a male, I have some trouble making credible women characters in my fiction. I was given the advice to write a woman like you'd write a man. Was this good advice? Does it make sense?

I don't know about you, but none of the women I know are anything like the guys I know. They don't look, talk, think or, most importantly, act/react the same as guys.

I have a feeling were I to read a story in which a woman behaved exactly as a guy I'd find myself wondering A) Why the author chose to make the guy a gal and B) Why he couldn't bother to even attempt to write a realistic characterization of a woman. Don't get me wrong, I have a hard time writing for characters of the fairer sex as well, but to me that's part of the challenge and joy of writing - to explore those things about which you are unfamiliar. Why deprive yourself and your readers of that experience by taking a shortcut?

Just my opinion, of course, but I think if you've got faith in your ability to write you should trust yourself to write a woman as a woman, not some pale reflection of a man with breasts.

Best of luck. :)

Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 01:26 AM
I don't know about you, but none of the women I know are anything like the guys I know. They don't look, talk, think or, most importantly, act/react the same as guys.

I have a feeling were I to read a story in which a woman behaved exactly as a guy I'd find myself wondering A) Why the author chose to make the guy a gal and B) Why he couldn't bother to even attempt to write a realistic characterization of a woman. Don't get me wrong, I have a hard time writing for characters of the fairer sex as well, but to me that's part of the challenge and joy of writing - to explore those things about which you are unfamiliar. Why deprive yourself and your readers of that experience by taking a shortcut?

Just my opinion, of course, but I think if you've got faith in your ability to write you should trust yourself to write a woman as a woman, not some pale reflection of a man with breasts.

Best of luck. :)

So I take it you disagree. :Soapbox: jk

quickWit
07-29-2008, 01:30 AM
So I take it you disagree. :Soapbox: jk

A bit. :D

Mr Flibble
07-29-2008, 01:37 AM
Possibly the advice giver was saying : make them as fully realised as you would a character of your own sex.

So not just a pair of boobs and some legs. She should have as much detail in her as the males you write. In the same way I try and make my guys not just walking libidos :) They react differently to a female character ( I hope) but for their own valid reasons.

Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 01:38 AM
Possibly the advice giver was merely saying : make them as fully realised as you would a character of your own sex.

So not just a pair of boobs and some legs. She should have as much detail in her as the males you write. In teh same way I try and make my guys not just walking libidos :)

Well put. I think that's exactly what the advisor was driving at. Thanks for revising and articulating.

dgiharris
07-29-2008, 01:41 AM
Not that I'm an expert, but try getting into the female psyche. Watch lots of Oprah and the view. Watch some chick flicks and movies with strong (and weak) female characters.

When you do all of this, try to get into the heads of the characters. After that, discuss these movies and insights with some female friends who will be candid in explaining to you all the 'whys'.

Just remember. You don't have to agree with it, you just have to understand it.

Mel...

citymouse
07-29-2008, 01:44 AM
Pick some you know; your mother, sister, teacher or a woman you admire.

My mother had the maternal instincts of a guppy. They eat their young.
My sister is an only child and my teachers were nuns (nuf said).

Still, I when I came to write my first novel it was the gentle, motherly housekeeper who, in my opinion, came away as the most likable / nobel character.
C

Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 01:49 AM
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.

smoothseas
07-29-2008, 01:49 AM
Ask us ladies some questions.

I'm sure more than one of us can provide some feedback.

I'm willing to help....


pm me, if need be

Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 01:53 AM
Ask us ladies some questions.

I'm sure more than one of us can provide some feedback.

I'm willing to help....


pm me, if need be

I'm just swimming in the stew for now. I've been working on a book I began last semester, and I'm considering making it my creative piece for my thesis. I have several women characters who are integral to the plot. I feel that I could go much deeper with them. If I can think of anything specific I will be sure to mention it. Just stewing for now, though. Thanks for putting the offer on the table.

^Graff
07-29-2008, 02:01 AM
This question only poses a substantial dilemma if you presuppose an essential difference between people of different genders.

People of any gender are exactly alike in all the ways that matter to you as a fiction writer: they form relationships, they hurt, they hurt others, they are loved, they love others, they speak languages and communicate themselves intelligently, they have an immense inner world of reasons and excuses and stories that explain the things they say and do. Fully realize that, and they'll be fully realized characters, of whatever gender.

Don't get caught up thinking you can't write a character because zir body is different from yours.

Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 02:03 AM
This question only poses a substantial dilemma if you presuppose an essential difference between people of different genders.

People of any gender are exactly alike in all the ways that matter to you as a fiction writer: they form relationships, they hurt, they hurt others, they are loved, they love others, they speak languages and communicate themselves intelligently, they have an immense inner world of reasons and excuses and stories that explain the things they say and do. Fully realize that, and they'll be fully realized characters, of whatever gender.

Don't get caught up thinking you can't write a character because zir body is different from yours.

That's awesome and so true, ^Graff. Thanks.

geardrops
07-29-2008, 02:07 AM
As a male, I have some trouble making credible women characters in my fiction. I was given the advice to write a woman like you'd write a man. Was this good advice? Does it make sense?

This is a double-edged sword.

Some folk might get potentially offended at either (a) the writer's inability to stretch themselves to writing a distinctly female character or (b) the writer's subtle implication that women should be like men.

However, I see this differently.

Women can be irrational. So can men. Women can be emotional. So can men. Women can be nurturing, compassionate, attentive, sensitive. And so can men.

Men can be strong. So can women. Men can be logical. So can women. Men can be warriors, champions, leaders, loud, brash, obnoxious, irritating, rude, crude, sexist. And so can women.

There is certainly a difference between writing the two. People treat women differently than men. They are raised differently, with different social forces, different expectations, different goals.

But when it comes down to it, women and men are people, and you can have men just as hysterical and frivolous as a stereotypical woman and women just as brass-tacks as a stereotypical man.

In a story I'm working on, I was debating between making a certain character male or female; I decided, due to the energy of the role and the energy I needed between this character another, that it should be male. The character didn't have a "feminine" energy about it, and I had to stay true to the story on that one.

So, in the end, write women like you would write men: like a well-rounded, fully fleshed out character, rich and complex.

Doc
07-29-2008, 02:11 AM
The most common criticism of Hemingway is that his women characters are no more than sticks, flat on the page. In spite of this, Hemingway made quite a splash in the literary world, didn't he.

Hillary
07-29-2008, 02:12 AM
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.Arthur Golden comes to mind for me. He wrote (in first-person) Memoirs of a Geisha.

JoNightshade
07-29-2008, 02:15 AM
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.

Yes. Orson Scott Card. This guy is so into the female mind it scares me. How does he KNOW that crap? ;) (I think all of his female characters are great, but if you want to get right to the meat, pick up Rebekah or another of his 'women of the old testement' series.)

Incidentally, I'm female and I hate Oprah, the View, and chick flicks. I hate sentimentality. I hate all the "emotional" stuff that is attributed to women. Yes, we are in general more in touch with our emotions and we "get" emotional situations, but that doesn't necessarily mean they rule us.

So... yeah, don't assume we're all the same. Just like guys aren't all the same.

Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 02:16 AM
The most common criticism of Hemingway is that his women characters are no more than sticks, flat on the page. In spite of this, Hemingway made quite a splash in the literary world, didn't he.

I would agree that Hemingway had lots of trouble making women rounded, but I think one of his most memorable characters was Lady Brett Ashley in The Sun Also Rises.

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 02:16 AM
This question only poses a substantial dilemma if you presuppose an essential difference between people of different genders.

People of any gender are exactly alike in all the ways that matter to you as a fiction writer: they form relationships, they hurt, they hurt others, they are loved, they love others, they speak languages and communicate themselves intelligently, they have an immense inner world of reasons and excuses and stories that explain the things they say and do. Fully realize that, and they'll be fully realized characters, of whatever gender.

Don't get caught up thinking you can't write a character because zir body is different from yours.

This is good advice. I do think there are "masculine" and "feminine" types, as far as thought/behavior patterns go, and there's a bell curve/sliding scale, but I've never put down a book because "a woman would never think/do that." You have to create a believable character and if you achieve that, readers will believe that her actions and thoughts are hers--they won't stop to ponder, "Would a woman really think that?"

Reading some quality, character-driven womens' fiction might be in order, in addition to the other suggestions upthread.

Lusty_Goat
07-29-2008, 02:17 AM
Yes. Orson Scott Card. This guy is so into the female mind it scares me. How does he KNOW that crap? ;) (I think all of his female characters are great, but if you want to get right to the meat, pick up Rebekah or another of his 'women of the old testement' series.)

Incidentally, I'm female and I hate Oprah, the View, and chick flicks. I hate sentimentality. I hate all the "emotional" stuff that is attributed to women. Yes, we are in general more in touch with our emotions and we "get" emotional situations, but that doesn't necessarily mean they rule us.

So... yeah, don't assume we're all the same. Just like guys aren't all the same.

My lord! You took the words out of my mouth about Oprah, the View, etc...

veinglory
07-29-2008, 02:21 AM
You write a woman not so much 'like a man' as 'like a person'. Women are people, men are people--therefore much of what a man is is not specific to being a man. In fact it would be pretty hard to find psychological quality that really is gender specific.

kuwisdelu
07-29-2008, 02:36 AM
Possibly the advice giver was saying : make them as fully realised as you would a character of your own sex.

So not just a pair of boobs and some legs. She should have as much detail in her as the males you write. In the same way I try and make my guys not just walking libidos :) They react differently to a female character ( I hope) but for their own valid reasons.

I suspect this as the intent of the advice, too, in which case I would definitely agree. Don't think so much of "writing a female character," as much as "writing a character." Imagine your women as fully 3-dimensional and lifelike as your men. Think of their history, their loves, their desires. There will certainly be some subtle differences in reactions, and sometimes motivations, in women (in general), but as long as your know your character, the realism will come through in the writing, whether male or female.

Incidentally, I'm female and I hate Oprah, the View, and chick flicks. I hate sentimentality. I hate all the "emotional" stuff that is attributed to women. Yes, we are in general more in touch with our emotions and we "get" emotional situations, but that doesn't necessarily mean they rule us.

Yes, remember that trying to hard to "write a good female character," can often lead not to writing a good female character, but to writing a female stereotype. If you went through a novel and simply chose to develop your character along the lines of "most women would do this in this situation" for each and every decision that comes along, you won't have a realistic female character. You'd just have a cardboard stereotype.

I know women that hate emotions and can't empathize with anyone. And I know men who want nothing more than to "talk about it" and start crying at any hint of sentimentality. There are differences between the sexes, but they're very often overshadowed by the differences between individuals.

I suspect 99% of the time, if a reader reads something and cries out "no man would ever do this!" or "no woman would ever do this!" the problem is not, in fact, that no man or women would ever think that way, but rather that the action/thought process just isn't realistic for this particular character, no matter the gender. If it's in-character for a female character to do one thing, even though "no woman would ever do that!" then it will be realistic for that character to do that. I know plenty of women who do things "no women would ever do." ;)

Take, for example, the characters JD and Jordan from Scrubs. If you ignore the characters and their personality, and only look at individual actions, I'm sure you could come up with tons of things that seem out-of-character for their sex. But when you consider what they're like as characters--their pasts, their personalities, etc.--it becomes perfectly realistic.

^Graff
07-29-2008, 02:44 AM
I do think there are "masculine" and "feminine" types, as far as thought/behavior patterns go, and there's a bell curve/sliding scale, but I've never put down a book because "a woman would never think/do that."

This is true, but we can't act as though this is a quality inherent in gender. As Dempsey pointed out, there are significant social pressures exerted on women to behave and think in certain ways. And insofar as those pressures are unique to women, it will shape the essence of any female characters one might pen.

But, as I said, that's not a quality of gender; it's a quality of social experiences and pressures. So if you create a fantasy world from scratch, where the discrimination, exploitation, and victimization of women which occurs in our culture are non-existent, you don't have to include those aspects of a woman's character that arise from those pressures. If you're setting something in a relatively modern urban environment, whose basic context mirrors that of early 21st century America, then you would be remiss if you failed to include those realities which are unique (erm, not really, but you know what I mean) to this culture, unless you can properly explain why your character is not subject to those pressures.

In short: think of realistic reasons for your characters' beliefs, thoughts, habits, and personality traits. It's just easier that way.

Mr Flibble
07-29-2008, 02:50 AM
Men can be warriors, champions, leaders, loud, brash, obnoxious, irritating, rude, crude, sexist. And so can women.

I hadn't realised we'd met :)

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 02:52 AM
This is true, but we can't act as though this is a quality inherent in gender. As Dempsey pointed out, there are significant social pressures exerted on women to behave and think in certain ways. And insofar as those pressures are unique to women, it will shape the essence of any female characters one might pen.

But, as I said, that's not a quality of gender; it's a quality of social experiences and pressures. So if you create a fantasy world from scratch, where the discrimination, exploitation, and victimization of women which occurs in our culture are non-existent, you don't have to include those aspects of a woman's character that arise from those pressures. If you're setting something in a relatively modern urban environment, whose basic context mirrors that of early 21st century America, then you would be remiss if you failed to include those realities which are unique (erm, not really, but you know what I mean) to this culture, unless you can properly explain why your character is not subject to those pressures.

In short: think of realistic reasons for your characters' beliefs, thoughts, habits, and personality traits. It's just easier that way.

Well, yea. And it's important to keep in mind that we're not entirely sure how much of gender (behavior) is social and how much is genetic. We're a few decades past thinking gender can be taught (David Reimer's story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer) offers an interesting perspective on gender). But we're a few decades past thinking gender is a combination of either ABC roles or XYZ roles, too.

Which is why you have to be true to a character, not an archetype, ultimately.

Toothpaste
07-29-2008, 02:52 AM
Remember too that in the end there are more differences between person and person, than there is between men and women. We are so unique as individuals, so complex. No two people are alike.

mab
07-29-2008, 03:22 AM
If you haven't, you must read Michel Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White. Not only is it a complete masterpiece, but Faber portrays women's thoughts and feelings with such realism and understanding I was completely blown away. I mean, when I picked that book up I was thinking, 'Hmm, male writer...main character is teenaged prostitute 'Sugar' in C19th London...this is going to be terrible, terrible porn, isn't it?' I was so wrong. He doesn't shirk from describing the realities of her life, but doesn't do so salaciously, or make her into a stereotype. Rather, he portrays her as a quirky, flawed, intelligent and totally believable human being. All the other characters are equally rounded regardless of age or gender. I wish I knew quite how he did it, if you figure out his secret, let me know!

Melenka
07-29-2008, 03:32 AM
The most common criticism of Hemingway is that his women characters are no more than sticks, flat on the page.

There is fervent disagreement on this. Of course, it's academia, so there's fervent disagreements on everything, including gender narratives.

I agree with those above who say that writing a fully-realized character is more important than trying to shoehorn a character to fit gender norms, especially as those change rapidly (though not rapidly enough for my taste) and differ widely.

Where you could run into trouble is if you plan to describe experiences unique to women - menstruation, childbirth, mammograms, etc. In that case, I would ask different women of your close aquaintance if they are willing to talk about their experiences, after which you can decide if you want to go in that direction. I frequently run things by my husband and ask if guys would hesitate to do this or that and, if so, why. It can be enlightening.

IceCreamEmpress
07-29-2008, 03:45 AM
Imagine your female characters as people who are as varied and complex as the women and girls you know in your real life.

Brian Moore is one male writer who writes vivid, believable female characters, particularly in I Am Mary Dunne and Judith Hearne. J. M. Coetzee's protagonist in Age of Iron is pitch-perfect.

Pup
07-29-2008, 03:46 AM
It's funny, I had a comment last night that relates to this. Long story short, I'm male, my MC is male, but there's a minor female character, let's say Jane Smith, who I pictured as transsexual but not "out." She's married, but hangs out with her husband with the guys at a mostly-guy bar, talks about "guy things" with them, chews tobacco, dresses unfemininely without actually passing for a man. Some of the other characters comment how she doesn't act like a woman.

Time passes, and the MC knows Jane Smith has a good opportunity to leave her no-good husband and move away. So one day a man shows up at the MC's door, who looks a lot like Jane Smith. The MC first thinks it's her brother that he never met, then stares a bit more, notices the man's higher-than-usual voice, and asks, "Jane Smith?"

The man grins, says no, "John Smith," and, obviously in a good mood, says he's found a new job in another town and will be leaving but thanks the MC for his prior help and promises to pay him back for some assistance he gave Jane Smith, and leaves.

My female beta reader said, "What the heck? Who was that?"

I said, "Don't you get it? It's Jane Smith. She's going to live as a man now, which is what she always wanted."

My beta said, "But she never acted masculine before."

I said, "But didn't you notice..." and pointed out the clues.

My beta said, "But some women like to talk about guy things, and hang out with guys, and aren't really girly-looking, and..."

She was right. Every single attribute of Jane Smith could fit a woman who was perfectly content with her gender.

I said to my beta, "You know [a mutual acquaintance]? Picture her like that."

My beta said, "Ohhh!" and got it. But she didn't get that picture going forward, because she assumed that Jane Smith, like most people, was content with her gender. So she pictured Jane Smith doing those things like a woman in a woman's body. While I pictured Jane Smith doing them like a man in a woman's body.

Now I'm trying to rewrite to make the reader's picture of Jane Smith clearer, even though her part is minor so there's not a lot of time to do it in.

But I guess my point is, since women can do and think almost anything, if the reader knows a character is female, there's apparently a strong bias for the reader to picture her as a woman who's doing those things, even if they're not stereotypically feminine.

kuwisdelu
07-29-2008, 03:46 AM
Where you could run into trouble is if you plan to describe experiences unique to women - menstruation, childbirth, mammograms, etc. In that case, I would ask different women of your close aquaintance if they are willing to talk about their experiences, after which you can decide if you want to go in that direction. I frequently run things by my husband and ask if guys would hesitate to do this or that and, if so, why. It can be enlightening.

Definitely. It's always good to run an opposite-sex character by someone else of that sex. It doesn't matter how three-dimensional and developed your character is, if you write As her newborn passed through the birth canal and emerged into the cold, hard world, Muriel screamed at the pain, which felt just like tearing off a band-aid really, really slowly it's still going to be very, very wrong.

shannonmac
07-29-2008, 03:48 AM
does your female character remind you of any females you know?
do you know any females? (hehe jk)
if she does, I'd just take my cues from the person who reminds you the most of her, get in her head, think how she would react/act to things.
good luck! :)

Shweta
07-29-2008, 03:52 AM
Yes. Orson Scott Card. This guy is so into the female mind it scares me. How does he KNOW that crap? ;) (I think all of his female characters are great, but if you want to get right to the meat, pick up Rebekah or another of his 'women of the old testement' series.)
Hm. I wasn't hugely impessed with his female characters, but that might be a function of which books I read before I got totally sick of 'em.

I'd vote for Steve Brust, Peter S. Beagle, and Lloyd Alexander on plausible girls/women, but. But. You don't have to learn from the men who write good women. You can learn from the women who write good women too. It's all words on a page.

Incidentally, I'm female and I hate Oprah, the View, and chick flicks. I hate sentimentality. I hate all the "emotional" stuff that is attributed to women. Yes, we are in general more in touch with our emotions and we "get" emotional situations, but that doesn't necessarily mean they rule us.
Thank you.
Senitmentality and melodrama is not what I'm about either.
:rant: she emotes melodramatically.


:D

Well, yea. And it's important to keep in mind that we're not entirely sure how much of gender (behavior) is social and how much is genetic. We're a few decades past thinking gender can be taught (David Reimer's story (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer) offers an interesting perspective on gender). But we're a few decades past thinking gender is a combination of either ABC roles or XYZ roles, too.
Right, the way I'd say it is that gender can't be taught but gender roles most certainly can. Enculturation is going to be the biggest thing determining what women and men are "supposed" to be in a novel; individuals will vary, but that's the expectation they'll vary from.

It drives me up the wall when characters in a world that is clearly not modern America assume modern American gender roles.

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 04:03 AM
Right, the way I'd say it is that gender can't be taught but gender roles most certainly can. Enculturation is going to be the biggest thing determining what women and men are "supposed" to be in a novel; individuals will vary, but that's the expectation they'll vary from.

It drives me up the wall when characters in a world that is clearly not modern America assume modern American gender roles.

Definitely. My psychology class this past year was a mess; the textbook was from 1977 (the edition and physical books we used, not the first edition) and the teacher was pedantic but uninspired and uninformed. That whole swamp of a sex and gender unit really messed me up, man.

The "woman ahead of her time" archetype is just plain overdone. She seems to sell well, but unless she's based on a historical person, she tends to bore me. When the heroine is wearing pants by the end of the novel, ca 1870, I breathe a sad sigh. I'd rather read about someone who is realistically confined to the roles of their time, and the perhaps less obvious tension that results, than another headstrong woman ahead of her times (wild red hair and violet eyes optional).

JoNightshade
07-29-2008, 04:22 AM
She's married, but hangs out with her husband with the guys at a mostly-guy bar, talks about "guy things" with them, chews tobacco, dresses unfemininely without actually passing for a man. Some of the other characters comment how she doesn't act like a woman.

Time passes, and the MC knows Jane Smith has a good opportunity to leave her no-good husband and move away. So one day a man shows up at the MC's door, who looks a lot like Jane Smith. The MC first thinks it's her brother that he never met, then stares a bit more, notices the man's higher-than-usual voice, and asks, "Jane Smith?"

The man grins, says no, "John Smith,"

:ROFL:Oh crap, does this mean I'll be having a sex change sometime in the next decade?!

My female beta reader said, "What the heck? Who was that?"

I said, "Don't you get it? It's Jane Smith. She's going to live as a man now, which is what she always wanted."

My beta said, "But she never acted masculine before."

I said, "But didn't you notice..." and pointed out the clues.

My beta said, "But some women like to talk about guy things, and hang out with guys, and aren't really girly-looking, and..."

She was right. Every single attribute of Jane Smith could fit a woman who was perfectly content with her gender.

Oh whew, you had me scared for a minute. ;)

Melenka
07-29-2008, 04:36 AM
The other thing that struck me as being particularly useful is long observation. I spent years living with or alongside groups of men. Coming from a family where the women outnumbered the men drastically, listening to and talking with men with whom I had no intimate relationship was a learning experience, especially once they became comfortable enough to stop performing manhood around me and settled into being who they were. Watching body language, movement, patterns of interaction - especially in heirarchical situations - added another layer. And these observations changed depending on the group, its history and dynamic, etc.

I swear if I wasn't intent on being a writer, I would go back to school for cultural anthropology. There's no money it that, either! :)

JoNightshade
07-29-2008, 04:47 AM
Interesting anecdote about male/female differences:

I run a Dungeons and Dragons group, all male except for me. Recently, they gained a level, which requires one to change certain statistics based on a rule book. We had just changed from edition 3.5 to 4, so everyone was unfamiliar with the new methods.

Now, if this had been me and a group of girls, I am 100% certain the scenario would have gone as follows: The most knowledgable girl would have opened up the (single) book and said "Okay, item one - here's how we do it. Everyone got it? Okay, item two." etc. etc.

These guys, on the other hand... the first guy to arrive in the evening snatched up the book and began to level his character. Another couple of guys arrived and simply sat around, waiting for guy #1 to finish. When he was done, did guy #2 and #3 share? No, guy #2 took the book. Not only that, but we have one totally clueless guy. He sat there for literally an hour with no clue what to do, just staring into space. Unwilling to ask anyone else-- and none of the other guys said anything like "Hey, you want some help?"

Yes, as the DM, I could have faciliated this. But I was way too fascinated with the whole dynamic - I just had to sit and watch for the sake of seeing what would happen. Afterwards, I pointed this out to my husband and asked why nobody helped Mr. Clueless. "Well," he said, "I didn't want to insult his intelligence by implying he didn't know what was going on." When I mentioned how, if I were doing it, I'd lead everyone through the process at once, he had no explanantion for why they didn't, other than it "seemed wrong." ?!

kuwisdelu
07-29-2008, 04:53 AM
Yes, as the DM, I could have faciliated this. But I was way too fascinated with the whole dynamic - I just had to sit and watch for the sake of seeing what would happen. Afterwards, I pointed this out to my husband and asked why nobody helped Mr. Clueless. "Well," he said, "I didn't want to insult his intelligence by implying he didn't know what was going on." When I mentioned how, if I were doing it, I'd lead everyone through the process at once, he had no explanantion for why they didn't, other than it "seemed wrong." ?!

But working through it together would suggest we aren't masculine enough to figure it out on our own manly selves!

mab
07-29-2008, 04:58 AM
That reminds me of some TV show where they compared a group of little boys with a group of little girls. When the little girl group was given a toy, they would look at it together and each take a turn holding it. When the little boys got it, the most aggressive boys fought over it whilst the less aggressive ones were pushed out of the group to sulk about not getting a go.

Nature or nurture?

IceCreamEmpress
07-29-2008, 05:00 AM
That reminds me of some TV show where they compared a group of little boys with a group of little girls. When the little girl group was given a toy, they would look at it together and each take a turn holding it. When the little boys got it, the most aggressive boys fought over it whilst the less aggressive ones were pushed out of the group to sulk about not getting a go.

Nature or nurture?


We will never know, because we'll never have an "un-nurtured" control group.

IceCreamEmpress
07-29-2008, 05:02 AM
I'd rather read about someone who is realistically confined to the roles of their time

I bet you wouldn't. The only novels that people still read from the past are the ones with women who challenged the roles of their time.

If you read some of the Victorian "Angel in the House" novels, you'd be pleading for Jane Eyre just to wash away the taste.

kuwisdelu
07-29-2008, 05:08 AM
I bet you wouldn't. The only novels that people still read from the past are the ones with women who challenged the roles of their time.

If you read some of the Victorian "Angel in the House" novels, you'd be pleading for Jane Eyre just to wash away the taste.

I suspect Danger Jane was saying a more realistic, subtle internal conflict of a woman struggling to express herself in a world that shuns such things can often be a much more interesting read than one in which the self-assured heroine flaunts her forward-thinking differences in your face. And if that's what she meant, I agree. Certainly a heroine who challenges nothing is boring, but some authors (mostly modern, IMO) simply take it too far.

Shweta
07-29-2008, 05:12 AM
That reminds me of some TV show where they compared a group of little boys with a group of little girls. When the little girl group was given a toy, they would look at it together and each take a turn holding it. When the little boys got it, the most aggressive boys fought over it whilst the less aggressive ones were pushed out of the group to sulk about not getting a go.

By the age when they can stand around in a group, they're pretty enculturated.

Other studies on quite young infants (crawling, maybe early toddling age), where they told adults that boy babies were girls and vice versa, show that the adults are subtly pushing kids to gender-appropriate behavior and toys, and the kids aren't the ones doing it, they're just learning it.

The biologists I know pretty much laugh at the nature/nurture thing at this point because it's obvious on every level that development is genetics interacting with the environment.

I bet you wouldn't. The only novels that people still read from the past are the ones with women who challenged the roles of their time.

Hm. How about... characters who challenge their roles in a way that implies the author is at least aware of how those roles constrained them and why?

mab
07-29-2008, 05:19 AM
I'm a shy, quiet sort of girl. In books, films, TV, many female characters are 'ballsy' or 'mouthy' or 'gutsy' or what have you, sometimes I wonder where the shy, quiet women are. Maybe we're too boring? Or is it that shy=passive=bad old gender roles?

I also hate it when men are portrayed as bumbling buffoons, for instance in cleaning product commercials....so simple a man could do it. UGH. somehow that patronises the female customer as well.

Keyan
07-29-2008, 05:21 AM
You have to create a believable character and if you achieve that, readers will believe that her actions and thoughts are hers--they won't stop to ponder, "Would a woman really think that?"


Right. The point shouldn't be would a woman really think like that, but would Mary or Jen or whoever think like that? And the answer should be so Yes that the reader doesn't have to ask.

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 05:27 AM
We will never know, because we'll never have an "un-nurtured" control group.

Nope. But the very unusual case of David Reimer, as well as those transexuals who from an early age not only feel that they are in the wrong body, but also gravitate towards things of the opposite gender, like clothes and toys. Is this chemical, or are children just very perceptive in determining what trappings go with their gender?

It's fascinating, for sure.

geardrops
07-29-2008, 05:29 AM
I'm a shy, quiet sort of girl. In books, films, TV, many female characters are 'ballsy' or 'mouthy' or 'gutsy' or what have you, sometimes I wonder where the shy, quiet women are. Maybe we're too boring? Or is it that shy=passive=bad old gender roles?

I think the problem may also be shy=passive=character who doesn't do a damn thing and gets acted on and is boring to see.

I'm not saying shy people do nothing and let the world act on them. It's just that a shy but active character is a bit harder to write.

maxmordon
07-29-2008, 05:32 AM
Amazingly, nobody has quoted As Good As it Gets:

Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.

A Lesbian once suggested me to do that when I was having problems to write women and entered into a Lesbian chat one night. So far what works to me is basing that character in a woman I know

Keyan
07-29-2008, 05:34 AM
Interesting anecdote about male/female differences:

I run a Dungeons and Dragons group, all male except for me. Recently, they gained a level, which requires one to change certain statistics based on a rule book. We had just changed from edition 3.5 to 4, so everyone was unfamiliar with the new methods.

Now, if this had been me and a group of girls, I am 100% certain the scenario would have gone as follows: The most knowledgable girl would have opened up the (single) book and said "Okay, item one - here's how we do it. Everyone got it? Okay, item two." etc. etc.

These guys, on the other hand... the first guy to arrive in the evening snatched up the book and began to level his character. Another couple of guys arrived and simply sat around, waiting for guy #1 to finish. When he was done, did guy #2 and #3 share? No, guy #2 took the book. Not only that, but we have one totally clueless guy. He sat there for literally an hour with no clue what to do, just staring into space. Unwilling to ask anyone else-- and none of the other guys said anything like "Hey, you want some help?"

Yes, as the DM, I could have faciliated this. But I was way too fascinated with the whole dynamic - I just had to sit and watch for the sake of seeing what would happen. Afterwards, I pointed this out to my husband and asked why nobody helped Mr. Clueless. "Well," he said, "I didn't want to insult his intelligence by implying he didn't know what was going on." When I mentioned how, if I were doing it, I'd lead everyone through the process at once, he had no explanantion for why they didn't, other than it "seemed wrong." ?!

Interesting. Perhaps it was the all-male group thingy?

I once worked in a mixed group, maybe 2/3 male. We were all learning new things. There was the interesting "Question in the air" dynamic. If you didn't know something, you just asked, "How do you do this?" or "Anyone know how to..."

And someone would usually jump on it. Sometimes it would become a discussion involving several members of the group. Great for learning, a bit distracting for working. At the time, it was optimal.

But it didn't seem the guys had any problem asking. It was a pretty cosmopolitan group though: Brits, Indians, Americans, Singaporeans, can't recall if there were other nationals as well.

mab
07-29-2008, 05:38 AM
It's just that a shy but active character is a bit harder to write.

That's true actually. And I wouldn't want to write a total wet blanket!

On topic, I'm wavering between nature/nurture here actually. Sometimes the differences seem too great to be just nurture, for example men usually have far better spatial awareness...whilst women usually know all the synonyms for a word... I bet there are loads of exceptions to these stereotypes but there is truth in them....I guess I have to agree with Shweta, its genetics AND environment. Making it pretty skilful to write about someone with different biology and upbringing...

Queen of Swords
07-29-2008, 05:40 AM
I'm a shy, quiet sort of girl. In books, films, TV, many female characters are 'ballsy' or 'mouthy' or 'gutsy' or what have you, sometimes I wonder where the shy, quiet women are. Maybe we're too boring? Or is it that shy=passive=bad old gender roles?

I like Melanie in Gone with the Wind, and she's shy, quiet and self-effacing. But part of the reason why she's so great a character is that she's a perfect foil for Scarlett. And the book probably wouldn't have been so popular if Melanie had been the protagonist.

But I know what you mean. A woman who was shy and quiet but also an intriguing, active character would be interesting to read. I just don't know how that could be done.

Melanie Nilles
07-29-2008, 05:44 AM
By the age when they can stand around in a group, they're pretty enculturated.

Other studies on quite young infants (crawling, maybe early toddling age), where they told adults that boy babies were girls and vice versa, show that the adults are subtly pushing kids to gender-appropriate behavior and toys, and the kids aren't the ones doing it, they're just learning it.

OMG! I just had an incident arise last week in my daycare that really demonstrated the differences. OK. One 4.5 year old boy with two girls the same age and a 2.5 year old as playmates. (The rest are all 1.5 or younger.) I see the subleties all the time. By this age there is a definite difference in how boys and girls behave. The boy is definitely more physical with his emotions than the girls. The girls will talk and whine but he'll lash out physically. Nature or nurture, I can't say, but that's what I see. I had to cut his superhero cartoons out because he was getting violent from watching the violence, even though it's cartoons and good guys and bad guys are clear. He still wanted to play hero and act like his favorite hero, but in his mind, while his victim did nothing, she was an imaginary bad guy and had done something, so he had to act. NOT a good situation. The girls aren't affected by the cartoon violence. A little research explained that this is exactly what has been observed with boys and girls and any form of violence in the media. There is definitely some hardwiring there.

My point is that we definitely see a difference in how men and women behave already as young children, which gives us a hint of how they view the world around them. (Btw, Schweta, you're right that it has a lot to do with genetics interacting with environments.) Boys tend to be more physical than girls, who tend to use words to resolve conflicts. It could have something to do with the fact that girl infants/toddlers are hardwired to respond to language and advance in those skills before boys, while baby boys usually advance in their physical development sooner than girls (crawling/walking earlier than girls, etc.) And girls/women are notorious for mind games and office politics. I always liked working with men in office settings better than other women, because while the men liked to joke and tease and just have a good laugh, the women interpreted everything as a threat and whispered and conspired. I'm so glad I do daycare now and don't have to deal with that.

This discussion has come up before, btw.

In the end, just write the character as you see them. Don't worry about the differences, but be aware of them. It's part of the planning. Know your characters. That's most important. It's not nature or nurture, but your characters' personality traits that you should always consider.

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 05:50 AM
I suspect Danger Jane was saying a more realistic, subtle internal conflict of a woman struggling to express herself in a world that shuns such things can often be a much more interesting read than one in which the self-assured heroine flaunts her forward-thinking differences in your face. And if that's what she meant, I agree. Certainly a heroine who challenges nothing is boring, but some authors (mostly modern, IMO) simply take it too far.

This was precisely what I meant. I may be weird in that I often prefer subtler conflicts. I like when a heroine has something constantly grating against her, but rather than seeing her overturn everything no matter the cost...I want to see a culturally realistic ending. Not every suppressed woman changes the world--if she did, the world would be much different now. Some of them simply worked with the cards they were dealt. It's this process that fascinates me, and I can relate very well to it. I suspect many people feel the same, or else I'm just an oddball. :D

And my two protagonists in my current story are a mother and daughter struggling against a society that gives women and foreigners next to no rights--and they're both. Then again, the myths I took them from dictate the themes. Then again, SOMETHING about these myths spoke to me, right?

mab
07-29-2008, 05:54 AM
I like Melanie in Gone with the Wind, and she's shy, quiet and self-effacing. But part of the reason why she's so great a character is that she's a perfect foil for Scarlett. And the book probably wouldn't have been so popular if Melanie had been the protagonist.

But I know what you mean. A woman who was shy and quiet but also an intriguing, active character would be interesting to read. I just don't know how that could be done.

Most of the shy characters I've read are in older books and tend to be wet blankets....like Beth in Little Women....(I quite liked her, but she was a foil to Jo and Amy and it would have been dull without the other sisters) it would be good to see a 'shy but strong' woman who could carry it.

I like your username- Queen of Swords, from what little I know isn't she supposed to be logical yet feminine, would make an interesting character in a novel. What about a 'Queen of Cups' type character? Quiet but with hidden passions. I'm sure its been done, can't think of an example right now. OK, I'm rambling now, think its time for me to sleep! :e2yawn: night all!

Shweta
07-29-2008, 05:56 AM
The boy is definitely more physical with his emotions than the girls. The girls will talk and whine but he'll lash out physically.

Baby girls are told not to hit and stopped from it. Baby boys are told not to cry and given less sympathy when they do. This is as young as 4-5 months, if I remember the studies right. And the baby girls (who the adults thought were boys) take up bashing things together quite happily when encouraged to, and the baby boys take up playing with dolls quite happily.

A lot of it is enculturation.

I'm not aware of any studies that show a significant gender-based difference in language development. Girls are encouraged to talk more, however, and boys to run around and play more.

maxmordon
07-29-2008, 06:03 AM
Isn't Queen of Swords just another card on the Spanish card games? (Swords, Golds, Cups, Clubs)

kuwisdelu
07-29-2008, 06:04 AM
Most of the shy characters I've read are in older books and tend to be wet blankets....like Beth in Little Women....(I quite liked her, but she was a foil to Jo and Amy and it would have been dull without the other sisters) it would be good to see a 'shy but strong' woman who could carry it.

You are both forgetting... The original wet blanket hero was a man! Prince Hamlet spent most of his play sitting around thinking about whether or not to do anything. :D

I like your username- Queen of Swords, from what little I know isn't she supposed to be logical yet feminine, would make an interesting character in a novel.

Speaking of logical yet feminine, you've just opened up the opportunity for me to talk about one of my favorite shows. When creating the characters of Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, X-Files creator Chris Carter decided to take the typical male/female roles (an intuitive, instinctual believer vs. a logical, skeptical scientist) and turn them on their heads. And thus the greatest FBI agents, ever, were born.

maxmordon
07-29-2008, 06:06 AM
Anyway, my sister (she is three) barely behaves as an usual girl. She doesn't resolve with talking but with fighting instead although she can trick you (or at least try) quite easily. I think this is because she grew up playing with mostly boys, specially my godson who is seven

C.bronco
07-29-2008, 06:08 AM
I don't know about you, but none of the women I know are anything like the guys I know. They don't look, talk, think or, most importantly, act/react the same as guys.

I have a feeling were I to read a story in which a woman behaved exactly as a guy I'd find myself wondering A) Why the author chose to make the guy a gal and B) Why he couldn't bother to even attempt to write a realistic characterization of a woman. Don't get me wrong, I have a hard time writing for characters of the fairer sex as well, but to me that's part of the challenge and joy of writing - to explore those things about which you are unfamiliar. Why deprive yourself and your readers of that experience by taking a shortcut?

Just my opinion, of course, but I think if you've got faith in your ability to write you should trust yourself to write a woman as a woman, not some pale reflection of a man with breasts.

Best of luck. :)
Sorry Squicky. I thought we were separated at birth!

mab
07-29-2008, 06:09 AM
Isn't Queen of Swords just another card on the Spanish card games? (Swords, Golds, Cups, Clubs)

Her avatar is QofCups from Rider Waite Smith tarot, which can be used for games, or divination, (or any number of things!). In divination this court card may represent a feminine character who is more logical and astute than the more emotional and intuitive Queen of Cups...

not everyone believes in such things, but I like it.

Kuwisdecu, I like what you said about Scully, She is an example of Queen of Swords. Mulder might be...Knight of Cups, perhaps. Anyway, enough of my tarot babbling.

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 06:14 AM
Baby girls are told not to hit and stopped from it. Baby boys are told not to cry and given less sympathy when they do. This is as young as 4-5 months, if I remember the studies right. And the baby girls (who the adults thought were boys) take up bashing things together quite happily when encouraged to, and the baby boys take up playing with dolls quite happily.

A lot of it is enculturation.

I'm not aware of any studies that show a significant gender-based difference in language development. Girls are encouraged to talk more, however, and boys to run around and play more.

Yep. I've been working at a babysitting room at a gym this summer, and it just reinforces my experiences with young kids in general. The young boys, maybe under three and before they really start talking, will pick up a doll and walk around with it, put it in the back of the truck they're pushing around, whatever. They seem to have lost interest around the age of three, however, but girls will happily play with trucks and action figures long past that age. I was one of those seven-year-old girls building elaborate houses out of Legos for her Barbies to play in.

Boys seem to mostly take less energy from ages 3-6, because they don't want to chat with me. They want me to hold the Batman action figure while Buzz Lightyear runs over Zurg with a truck. But the girls that age want to chat, they want to help me, they want to pick up the toddlers that are totally content til that point...it's very tiring. Then they hit 6 or 7 and they become helpful/quiet/able to notice that there are 17 other little kids throwing Matchbox cars at each other.

Of course, this is in a room full of 5-25 kids where there's almost no way for them to hurt themselves. At home...kids are plain tiring. Also, disclaimer, plenty of kids are exceptions to to these patterns. My summer job has just given me an interesting perspective on kids and gender roles, I guess. Plus there's enough dead time for me to contemplate kids and gender roles while on the clock.

C.bronco
07-29-2008, 06:20 AM
Little boys like things with wheels and motors. I think it's biological. I'm so glad that I have a boy. His toys are so much more fun than girl's toys.
He doesn't like violence, however, unless it's a watered-down, "rated E for everyone" video game version. Spidey and Batman are non-entities in my house. Lightning McQueen and Scooby are a big deal here, however.

jillbrenna
07-29-2008, 06:26 AM
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.

Wally Lamb. DEFINITELY read "She's come undone". I had to keep turning to the guy's bio to make sure it was REALLY a guy writing this book. He hits the nail on the head for writing as a woman (first person, female narrator telling, basically, her coming of age story from about age 13 - 30. Imagine how hard THAT would be as a man!!) :)

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 06:27 AM
Little boys like things with wheels and motors. I think it's biological. I'm so glad that I have a boy. His toys are so much more fun than girl's toys.
He doesn't like violence, however, unless it's a watered-down, "rated E for everyone" video game version. Spidey and Batman are non-entities in my house. Lightning McQueen and Scooby are a big deal here, however.

Boys' toys and movies are way more fun than girls', I think. Somehow I can deal with twin four-year-old cousins opening the door of the moving car as long as I don't have to watch Barbie Swan Lake. Ever. Again.

Oh wait, they were the ones that watched that.

But they do reeeally love trucks.

It's a weird combination of a jerky, macho dad and a "if they aren't beating each other up, so what if it's a Barbie movie" mom.

Shweta
07-29-2008, 06:33 AM
Boys' toys are way more fun and interesting.
Boys' books used to be too.
Lucky me, I had a big brother.

He's 2 1/2 years older than me. Strangely enough my reading age was always 2 1/2 years older than my chronological age... wonder why :D

Quossum
07-29-2008, 06:47 AM
While the "woman challenging cultural mores" thing is all well and good, I hope the pendulum doesn't keep on swinging so far that "girl stuff" keeps on getting denigrated.

I've read a lot of recent YA lit where the female MC is "cool" because she expresses her disdain for such "girly" activities as needlepoint and would rather be outside playing with the boys. What's wrong with liking needlepoint? What's wrong with liking pink ponies, for that matter? If we're going to be okay with little girls liking cars and action figures, we should also be okay with them liking baby dolls and horses.

Two--make that three--recent posters declared that "boy toys are more fun." *sigh* I think it's tougher being a girly girl than a tomboy these days. :tongue

(It goes without saying that boys should feel comfortable liking "girl stuff," too, but I haven't read many books about a boy being "cool" because he expresses disdain for sports and would prefer to knit. The book that came closest to getting it right without making a big ol' deal of the gender roles was the Series of Unfortunate Events, where the girl was the tinkerer and the boy the reader. Oh, and the littlest sister was the biter.)

--Q

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 06:50 AM
Boys' toys are way more fun and interesting.
Boys' books used to be too.
Lucky me, I had a big brother.

He's 2 1/2 years older than me. Strangely enough my reading age was always 2 1/2 years older than my chronological age... wonder why :D

Haha. And I just remembered--for the longest time, I preferred "boy stuff", "boy and his fun pet seal" books, Legos, video games, while the girls I wanted to be friends with exclusively played with Barbie and watched Blue's Clues. I pretended Blue's Clues wasn't boring as hell to have a table at lunch :D (Barbie was always welcome in my elaborate little-kid games, but I didn't invite people to my house to do her exercise videos...)

One day I hit puberty, became an emotional wreck of a teenage girl, and--gasp--read GIRL BOOKS. Lots and lots of GIRL BOOKS.

Shweta
07-29-2008, 07:06 AM
Two--make that three--recent posters declared that "boy toys are more fun." *sigh* I think it's tougher being a girly girl than a tomboy these days. :tongue
Honestly, I think boy toys were always more fun because I'm a tinkerer, not because I'm non-girly. The toys with moving parts and things you put together mostly went to my brother. Most of the lego did. I got lego house while he got lego space, too, and you could just make so many different spaceships. The chemistry set and the electronics set went to him too. I got barbies.

I mean really, what do you do with barbies once you've dressed them and undressed them and braided their hair and pulled their heads off and put one head on another body and squished their faces in?

That's what I mean by more fun. More things you could do with the boy toys. Girl toys seem designed to be moved around gently by a sweet little girl sitting on the floor in hre frock. Now, I was fond of playing girly make believe games for a long time and er, okay, I write. I still am. But the toys? Meh. I wanted something to do.

kuwisdelu
07-29-2008, 07:10 AM
I've read a lot of recent YA lit where the female MC is "cool" because she expresses her disdain for such "girly" activities as needlepoint and would rather be outside playing with the boys. What's wrong with liking needlepoint? What's wrong with liking pink ponies, for that matter? If we're going to be okay with little girls liking cars and action figures, we should also be okay with them liking baby dolls and horses.

Well I have a Japanese friend (male) who brings his knitting everywhere he goes... Unless being bisexual counts, I wouldn't consider him a girly man.

Quossum
07-29-2008, 07:21 AM
Girl toys seem designed to be moved around gently by a sweet little girl sitting on the floor in hre frock. Now, I was fond of playing girly make believe games for a long time and er, okay, I write. I still am. But the toys? Meh. I wanted something to do.

LOL. I played by saying stories about a toy, complete with narration. Imagine a little girl sitting on a swing for hours and hours holding a plastic lion in her hand, her lips constantly moving as she stares into space. I was saying, "Leo paced through the forest, his mind full of rage at the thought of the Animal Council's rejection. 'Spurn me, will they?' he growled," et cetera.

And they all said I was crazy. :poke:

Well I have a Japanese friend (male) who brings his knitting everywhere he goes... Unless being bisexual counts, I wouldn't consider him a girly man.

Exactly! He's not! He's a human being who likes knitting. I was trying to make the point that, in books and to an extent in real life, it seems to be more acceptable to be a girl who likes "boy stuff" than a girl who likes "girl stuff," whereas boys liking "girl stuff" doesn't get them as much coolness cred. Because it sounds like "girl stuff" is somehow inherently not as cool as "boy stuff" on some level.

I say both stuffs are cool for either gender.

--Q

Danger Jane
07-29-2008, 07:23 AM
Honestly, I think boy toys were always more fun because I'm a tinkerer, not because I'm non-girly. The toys with moving parts and things you put together mostly went to my brother. Most of the lego did. I got lego house while he got lego space, too, and you could just make so many different spaceships. The chemistry set and the electronics set went to him too. I got barbies.

I mean really, what do you do with barbies once you've dressed them and undressed them and braided their hair and pulled their heads off and put one head on another body and squished their faces in?

That's what I mean by more fun. More things you could do with the boy toys. Girl toys seem designed to be moved around gently by a sweet little girl sitting on the floor in hre frock. Now, I was fond of playing girly make believe games for a long time and er, okay, I write. I still am. But the toys? Meh. I wanted something to do.

This was it for me, too. Barbies were just another piece of my make-believe games, and luckily, even though I have no brothers, my parents were fine with me using Legos and playing Nintendo. I might not have liked dresses (I think that was OCD, though...) but I did like pink matching sweatsuits with puppies.

The Otter
07-29-2008, 07:50 AM
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.

Gregory Maguire.

Elphaba is one of my favorite characters ever. All the female characters in that book are pretty awesome, really.

Shweta
07-29-2008, 07:53 AM
I played most of my make-believe games without character props, I think.

I agree that we have a problem when we assume that boy stuff = cool by definition. But at least when I was a kid, the toys reinforced gender roles. So the girl stuff was prettier and more delicate, while the boy stuff gave you more to do, was harder to break, and was more versatile. (I also loved knitting, though I sucked at it, and loved helping in the kitchen and garden. It's the hands-on part that mattered.)

Similarly, if you wanted to run around and climb trees and get muddy, boy clothes were so much better than dresses.

Do we see many fictional characters of any gender who like both? The pretty and the functional fun?

kuwisdelu
07-29-2008, 08:12 AM
The pretty and the functional fun?

Anyone who buys Apple products?

I have a gorgeous PRS guitar that's great at what it does...

Our curtains are elegant and... actually they don't keep out the sun.

Lava lamps!! Pretty, light-giving, and gender neutral.

My girlfriend was a perfect tomboy as a little girl, but the one feminine indulgence she's had to this day is beautiful dresses. Yeah, she climbed trees and played in the dirt in them. (Still does...) Her grandmother was not happy.

Fictional characters? I suppose Marla Singer always had a dress on, too... Well, except when it was off.

;)

Shweta
07-29-2008, 08:16 AM
Er, I meant a character more like your girlfriend. Who loves climbing trees and wearing pretty dresses, tyvm, just not at the same time...

IceCreamEmpress
07-29-2008, 08:17 AM
But I know what you mean. A woman who was shy and quiet but also an intriguing, active character would be interesting to read. I just don't know how that could be done.

Jane Eyre. There you are. Or Lucy Snowe in Villette. The Brontes were really the poets of the shy woman.

Then there's Anne Elliot in Persuasion.


I like when a heroine has something constantly grating against her, but rather than seeing her overturn everything no matter the cost...I want to see a culturally realistic ending.

I missed your point, I guess. I thought you were looking for historical novels with female characters who were comfortable with the social constraints placed on them. Having read a lot of Victorian novels with Victorian female characters who just looooved being the Angel in the House, I have to say those are incredibly boring.

Of course, I wouldn't want to read a novel with male characters who were comfortable with the social constraints placed on them, either...

Shweta
07-29-2008, 08:19 AM
Jane Eyre. There you are.
Or for the science fictionally inclined, Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn. Which is Jane Eyre... IN SPACE!

It's weirdly awesome :D

IceCreamEmpress
07-29-2008, 08:23 AM
Another great shy heroine is Antonia White's Clara (called "Nanda" in the first book, but she's the same person throughout) of her books Frost in May, The Lost Traveller, The Sugar House, and Beyond the Glass.

Wolvel
07-29-2008, 08:49 AM
I build personalities not male or females. What do I mean, all my characters have roles to play. Some are love intrests of the MC, but they are fleshed out characters not just body parts.

Example in my copleted work there is a love triangle of sorts with my male MC and two females. One is from an old fashioned European family and is both shy and modest, while the other is a free spirit. Both women act feminine but their parts as well.

The end result is to make a 3d character with a history and substance. Then worry if they have male or female body parts.

And for another example in a wip my MC is a female. She has her probelms but from a female view of sorts. I don't use sappy movies or the view to build my female characters. I look in the real world, and I figure out their personality traits then suit them to fit the sex of the character.

Teena
07-29-2008, 09:06 AM
I agree with citymouse...surely you know women? date women? work with women? are related to women? Use your experiences with them to create your characters. I disagree that women and men are the same because they have the same wants, needs, etc. In addition to the physical differences, and equally important, women and men inherently think and react differently.

I also offer to be a sounding-board if you need some female point of view. You will learn only superficial, stereotypical aspects of women if you just watch Oprah or chick flicks. However, if that's what your character is like, then there's the quick way. ;) Good luck!

gypsyscarlett
07-29-2008, 09:27 AM
Not that I'm an expert, but try getting into the female psyche. Watch lots of Oprah and the view. Watch some chick flicks and movies with strong (and weak) female characters.

When you do all of this, try to get into the heads of the characters. After that, discuss these movies and insights with some female friends who will be candid in explaining to you all the 'whys'.

Just remember. You don't have to agree with it, you just have to understand it.

Mel...

Eek! Sorry- but in no way does Oprah, The View, or Chic Flicks (the horror!) speak for me.

I do agree with getting into the heads of your character, of course.

Don't think of your character as a woman. If you do- you'll probably end up writing a stereotype. Forget gender for a moment. Make a list of characteristics you want this person to have. Good and bad and in between. Once you have a three-dimensional character- you can add in the boobs. ;)

edit: ah...should've read all the prior posts before responding. Wolvel expressed it perfectly.

gypsyscarlett
07-29-2008, 09:42 AM
I like Melanie in Gone with the Wind, and she's shy, quiet and self-effacing. But part of the reason why she's so great a character is that she's a perfect foil for Scarlett. And the book probably wouldn't have been so popular if Melanie had been the protagonist.

But I know what you mean. A woman who was shy and quiet but also an intriguing, active character would be interesting to read. I just don't know how that could be done.

It is challenging. But I'm trying. One of my main characters is shy with a quiet inner strength. The key I'm working on is to make sure she is always noticing and reacting to things around her. She doesn't sit around being passive. Still waters run deep and all that...

Queen of Swords
07-29-2008, 12:50 PM
I like your username- Queen of Swords, from what little I know isn't she supposed to be logical yet feminine, would make an interesting character in a novel.

Thanks! I chose the name six years ago for the reason you mentioned - the Queen of Swords represents a woman who's sharp, analytical and independent. At the same time, though, she fits into the context of the cards. She can be tough and intelligent while wearing long dresses and a crown designed with butterflies.

maxmordon
07-29-2008, 01:17 PM
http://http://www.freewebs.com/grekomagia/Baraja_esp.jpg


I am reading Doña Bárbara, a Venezuelan novel written in 1920's considered the Magna Opus of Venezuelan literature.

In the novel there are two female characters that are total opposites. In one side, Marisela, who starts out has a poor hillbilly girl raised by an alcoholic father in a shack in middle of nowhere; but she is saved by Santos Luzardo (the protagonist and one of the most boring characters I have ever read since he is too perfect)


The other female character is Doña Bárbara, a strong landlady and cowgirl who doesn't only she can ride, cheat, kill, manipulate, hunt or manage cattle as good as any other cowboy but even better; not just considered an equal but superior that all the men of the region. Everyone is affraid of her.

The whole novel is the conflict between Santos Luzardo (a lawyer from the city who has inherit the crumblesome family hacienda and represents the civilization) and Doña Bárbara (raised by pirates, raped by the men she trusted becoming a bitter woman who seeking wealth in a land of ruthless savage men). It's quite interesting if you can stand some values dissonance (Santos and Marisela are cousins and about 15 years old of diference and end up married at the end) and if you can a stand a novel where even the background characters are more interesting than the protagonist

Jill
07-29-2008, 02:11 PM
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.

Try reading Khaled Hosseini's latest book: A Thousand Splendid Suns and tell me he hasn't got his female characters right. Or Ian McEwan's, Atonement. I'm sure there are loads more examples of authors writing the opposite sex authentically.

I mean, I've never been an IRA gunrunner but I'm writing one into my WIP, or a wife abuser ... he's there too. If we confined our writing to what and who we know and understand, it would be very narrow and boring.

One of a writer's best tools is the ability to observe. Get out there and look, listen, smell, feel ... and use what you discover.

Shweta
07-29-2008, 02:15 PM
Ooh, an Ian. That reminds me. Ian McDonald's King of Morning, Queen of Day. Love those female characters, all distinct and interesting.

J C Coy
07-29-2008, 04:44 PM
Incidentally, I'm female and I hate Oprah, the View, and chick flicks.

So... yeah, don't assume we're all the same. Just like guys aren't all the same.
Same here. I'm also very good at keeping a lid on my emotions as far as what I let others see.

ideagirl
07-29-2008, 07:49 PM
As a male, I have some trouble making credible women characters in my fiction. I was given the advice to write a woman like you'd write a man. Was this good advice? Does it make sense?

No.

Do exercises: write sketches of various women you know. Then write a short story in which one of them, or a character based on one of them, is the main character. This is how you learn--start with real women; write sketches until you feel like you're getting the hang of it; then try your hand at something longer and more complex than a sketch (i.e., a story). If you need to, first try writing a real story--something that the woman really did; then move on to writing her in a fictional story.

Bubastes
07-29-2008, 07:56 PM
Originally Posted by Lusty_Goat
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.

Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone and Arthur Golden's Memoirs of a Geisha (overcoming both a gender hurdle and cultural hurdle) are two examples that come to mind.

tehuti88
07-29-2008, 09:34 PM
As a male, I have some trouble making credible women characters in my fiction. I was given the advice to write a woman like you'd write a man. Was this good advice? Does it make sense?

I would write that woman the way that woman should be written. If that woman should be written like a woman, then write her like a woman. If that woman should be written like a man, then write her like a man. If she should be written like neither, then write her like neither.

I know that isn't very helpful, but unless I'm looking to be funny or to illustrate a difference between the genders or to make some sort of gender-related point, I don't set out to write a female character like a woman, or a male character like a man; I just write them like themselves. :)

ajkjd01
07-30-2008, 12:21 AM
Are there women writers you would trust to read the specific scenes where you feel like you are having problems? Are there women you could bounce ideas off of? This ABSOLUTELY helped me to get a male reaction to several scenes in my book, where I was having trouble fleshing out the male characters. The guys really got into it, too, going on and on about WHY they would do X or Y. It was a load of fun, they all laughed at each other, and I got great insight on this.

The Otter
07-30-2008, 11:39 PM
I agree with citymouse...surely you know women? date women? work with women? are related to women? Use your experiences with them to create your characters. I disagree that women and men are the same because they have the same wants, needs, etc. In addition to the physical differences, and equally important, women and men inherently think and react differently.

I think the point that a lot of people have been trying to make, though, is that while there are average differences between men and women, there is no universal norm. No matter what the "rule" is, there will be individuals who don't fit. Everyone, to some degree, has both animus and anima in them. So if you try to write a character who is feminine or masculine in every aspect, you'll end up writing a stereotype.

maestrowork
07-31-2008, 12:16 AM
Don't you know any women? Mother, sisters, girlfriends, wives, co-workers, bosses, etc? Observe, pay attention, interview them, spend some time with them.

Also, chances are when people say "your character doesn't sound like any women I know" it's not because she's not stereotypically feminine. It's more likely that you're not catching the nuances, and you're not writing the character as true to them as you can. You're trying to "manufacture" a character who you think how a woman should think, feel, and act. If you only go by stereotypes, you're bound to fail or at least your characters would be flat and unauthentic.

Also, a lot of stereotypes -- while they may be true for many people, thus the stereotypes -- are culturally based. So pay attention the cultures, and like I said, observe and pay attention.

milhistbuff1
07-31-2008, 12:33 AM
Regarding the socializing, check out some of the education research on how both genders learn, some interesting differences there. For instance, men prefer competitive, women collaborative.

Susan Lanigan
07-31-2008, 12:48 AM
OK I've only got as far as page 1 and I'm already shaking my head.

There's an awful lot of "just treat your women characters like your men characters because women are people just like men" and not to focus on creating a female character. I disagree quite strongly with this. It won't do.

You cannot get away with neglecting the differences in male and female experience. For example, I had a male character desperate to take a slash at at a funeral - I asked my boyfriend how he would walk while trying to keep it in, because I wasn't sure. I'm not a man. I could have got it wrong. Male writers should also take this into account. Also I think it's a bit naive to brush away "all the patriarchy" that creates the differences in the first place - because the reader will carry their assumptions with them into whatever work of science fiction or fantasy it may be. We are not starting from ground zero.

I'm not saying it's not an eminently achievable aim, but attention has to be paid to establishing a plausible man, or a plausible woman - a task which is more difficult if you are the opposite sex, and are fighting stereotypes.

Namatu
07-31-2008, 12:56 AM
I agree with the suggestion to try exercises. Also pay attention to conversations between women and men. Note the differences and keep them in mind when writing your characters.

Knowing your character's personality and motivations will dictate a lot of their speech patterns and mannerisms, but here are a few things that might help if you find your male and female characters are sounding too much alike (and it's not in character).

** Warning: Vast generalizations about to be made**

Women tend to use more words in conversation. Men, less.
Women will more often say "I think" or "I know" or "maybe" (when making a suggestion).
Some women seek approval for what they say, be it a decision or a suggestion or what to wear to dinner. (Note, I did say "vast generalizations.")

Susan Lanigan
07-31-2008, 01:01 AM
Try reading Khaled Hosseini's latest book: A Thousand Splendid Suns and tell me he hasn't got his female characters right. Or Ian McEwan's, Atonement.

Atonement might have nailed it (I didn't read the book, just saw the film) but On Chesil Beach failed, as far as the female protagonist was concerned.

Medievalist
07-31-2008, 01:26 AM
Can anyone name me a published writer (male) who could write women accurately? Tom Robbins is the first to come to mind.

Shakespeare, actually.

Gar Haywood

Charles Stross

Robert B. Parker in what I've read

The Otter
07-31-2008, 02:15 AM
Women tend to use more words in conversation. Men, less.
Women will more often say "I think" or "I know" or "maybe" (when making a suggestion).
Some women seek approval for what they say, be it a decision or a suggestion or what to wear to dinner.

I don't think those statements are true even on a general level. Particularly the first one--I've known quite a few men who love to hear themselves talk, and quite a few women who are content to remain silent most of the time.

I know these are all common beliefs, and they often "ring true" for people because people tend to notice and remember things that fit their preconceived ideas. But many common beliefs are false. I think we, as writers, have to look beyond our assumptions. In other words, don't insert the words "maybe" and "I think" into your female character's dialogue simply because she's female.

I'll get off my soapbox now, because I don't want to get into a long-winded debate about gender politics. I'm just saying, if you're looking to write three-dimensional female characters, folk beliefs and common assumptions are not a good place to start.

Shweta
07-31-2008, 03:06 AM
Women tend to use more words in conversation. Men, less.

There were studies do ne in the 70s, repeated again in the 90s, recording mixed-group conversations.

What they found was that men tended to speak about 70% of the time, women about 30%. When this balance tipped closer to 50/50, both the men and the women felt that the women were talking too much.

The sense that women a lot comes from a deeply ingrained assumption that women should shut up and listen.

When you have same-gender groups, the studies show more interesting differences. Like, they gave to kids chairs, told them to take 'em into a room to sit on, and just talk. The girls almost all set the chairs down so they were facing each other, the boys so that they were sitting next to each other, staring off at the wall, while they spoke.

Deborah Tannen's books are a really useful source if you want to know about gender/power differences in speech patterns. The scholarship is good, and the texts are general-audience readable. And their generalizations are based on carefully collected data. So they're not prone to this sort of presupposition.

Clair Dickson
07-31-2008, 03:27 AM
*snicker* Everytime I read something about how women act, it's something I don't do. XD

But observing and asking can help a lot. I ask my hubby for somethings about men, but he's not the best manly source (love him, but the pants are firmly mine.) I also have a friend who's a more typical man.

Tendencies aside, figuring out a character's hopes, dreams, beliefs, motivations, fears, etc. is the most important thing. If you decide to give them a 'typical' trait, maybe think about why they do that (is it just because everyone else does?). Similarly, if they don't do what is typical (like a woman not carrying a purse) why don't they. (I don't carry a purse because I'd lose/leave/forget it. I'm not likely to lose/leave/forget my pants anywhere... ;-)

And I don't think the "write a female character like you're write male one" is supposed to be saying "write a man and put boobs on her." I think it means, give her the same attention to detail, make her as real as any other character. But that's just my interpretation.