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Thread: A derail with an abundance of misunderstanding regarding sex, gender, and culture

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    A derail with an abundance of misunderstanding regarding sex, gender, and culture

    I have my wife read selected chapters here and there as I write the first draft. It's always to see if I get the female pov and verbal cadence correct. When she's done I ask her, what was the female character thinking / feeling? Often my male character doesn't know all the motives/meaning etc behind the female character's words and actions (he's just observing).

    IMO female authors who write a male MC almost always get it wrong, or don't go deep enough to see motivations etc. My wife tells me that male authors that write female character are just as bad.

  2. #2
    permanently suctioned to Buz's leg Putputt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I have my wife read selected chapters here and there as I write the first draft. It's always to see if I get the female pov and verbal cadence correct. When she's done I ask her, what was the female character thinking / feeling? Often my male character doesn't know all the motives/meaning etc behind the female character's words and actions (he's just observing).

    IMO female authors who write a male MC almost always get it wrong, or don't go deep enough to see motivations etc. My wife tells me that male authors that write female character are just as bad.
    Look, dude, unless you're writing something like: "Susan pauses on the way out, as she always does, in front of the mirror, taking time to take in her very female looks. Namely her boobs. The swell of them, the roundness, the pertness. She weighs them in her hands, then stops to consider her uterus. Very uterus-y. She's about to sashay out the door (her vagina makes it impossible to walk without sashaying) when aforementioned uterus starts to cramp. Oh no. PMS has struck! Mascara-tinged tears flow down her cheeks. How will she EVER get through the day??" you are probably fine. But I guess we should all be grateful that you can rely on the opinion of one individual to tell you how the other half of the world's population think and feel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    For a first book, I think it's important to write by yourself and finish almost in isolation. Opinions will vary!
    Personally, I'm very glad I finished my first novel on my own too.

    Subsequent novels have been brainstormed and sent in chunks to various beta readers, but as a general rule, I don't subject my readers to the entire first draft. I write quickly and sloppily, so my first drafts are usually a huge mess, complete with gaping plot holes and grammatical and spelling errors (English isn't my first language). But I have beta-read other people's first drafts which are so much more polished than my third or fourth draft, so meh, I guess I don't really have anything against it.
    Last edited by Putputt; 01-03-2018 at 05:46 PM.
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  3. #3
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harlequin View Post
    For a first book, I think it's important to write by yourself and finish almost in isolation. Opinions will vary!

    But after the first book all the rules are a bit different. You will find in indie communities that the first draft IS the book, more or less, in a number of cases; it gets written, sent to editor, sent to proofreader, sent out the door.

    I edit extensively as a I go, but increasingly find that after a couple of overall (start to finish) passes I'm happy for my critiquers to start looking at stuff. Like you I use my partner for the roughest and most polished drafts; he is required to read everything twice ;-)


    Nota bene, I refuse to cede that I must write men badly. Not going to debate it, but I can't let it lie without comment, either.
    I'll gladly cede that there must be some female authors that do a good job with male characters, but I've not encountered them. In my opinion Anne Rice, Ursula LeGuin, and Sara King (the only female authors I can think of off the top of my head) are all pretty bad. This is not important enough to argue about though, as I've enjoyed books by all the authors I mentioned.

  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Putputt View Post
    Look, dude, unless you're writing something like: "Susan pauses on the way out, as she always does, in front of the mirror, taking time to take in her very female looks. Namely her boobs. The swell of them, the roundness, the pertness. She weighs them in her hands, then stops to consider her uterus. Very uterus-y. She's about to sashay out the door (her vagina makes it impossible to walk without sashaying) when aforementioned uterus starts to cramp. Oh no. PMS has struck! Mascara-tinged tears flow down her cheeks. How will she EVER get through the day??" you are probably fine. But I guess we should all be grateful that you can rely on the opinion of one individual to tell you how the other half of the world's population think and feel.

    [...]
    Sorry if my opinion offended you. I would never write anything as sexist as that.

    What I ask my wife is to look at is the subtext: facial expression with specific verbiage used. Is my female character likely to be thinking what I believe? Where does she think a conversation is going?
    Flip the sexes, and those same things are what I find fault with in female authors.

  5. #5
    ....... Harlequin's Avatar
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    It *is* important enough to argue about... but that doesn't mean we should do so on this particular thread. Besides, if you were capable of being convinced, you would already share my opinion; this is true for the vast majority of disagreements. It comes down to overarchign perspective which is nearly impossible to shift.

    For me, it just goes into the same category as the guy on the SF board who felt women are incapable of writing violence well; the same baseline premises are at play in both arguments.

    People differ. As individuals, and as cultures. I don't buy into men being more or less uniformly different to women. I don't think it's good science, I don't think it's good psychology. The concept of masculinity means different things depending on when/where you're from, nevermind what it might mean to 'you' specifically.

    It's also highly unlikely to be relevant as a pov in a number of SFF settings because, even assuming your characters are human, even assuming we're culturally uniform... societies evolve and aesthetics change. Are the males presented in 'Son of Man' good representations of masculinity? The book is written by a man, so presumably it meets your ground level criterion, but the 'humans' in it bear little resemblance to the modern variety.
    Last edited by Harlequin; 01-04-2018 at 01:54 AM.
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  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW Raindrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I'll gladly cede that there must be some female authors that do a good job with male characters, but I've not encountered them. In my opinion Anne Rice, Ursula LeGuin, and Sara King (the only female authors I can think of off the top of my head) are all pretty bad. This is not important enough to argue about though, as I've enjoyed books by all the authors I mentioned.
    I'm really struggling to come up with a polite answer. So I'll just say this: I firmly disagree. It's also *important*. Why do you think so many female authors have traditionally adopted male or gender-neutral pseudonyms (and still do nowadays, actually)? We can write about hard science, and we can write fight scenes, and we can write blokes, too. And vice-versa.
    If I could put all my typos together, I'd have enough material for a trilogy.

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    practical experience, FTW Twick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I'll gladly cede that there must be some female authors that do a good job with male characters, but I've not encountered them. In my opinion Anne Rice, Ursula LeGuin, and Sara King (the only female authors I can think of off the top of my head) are all pretty bad. This is not important enough to argue about though, as I've enjoyed books by all the authors I mentioned.
    If you want to write female characters, maybe you should, you know, actually read a few more female authors? You might be surprised that women characters actually act like human beings more than Women, Those Strange and Magical Creatures.

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    I think this has been derailed and should be moved to a new thread.
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    Friendly Neighborhood Mustelidae The Otter's Avatar
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    I think knowing the author's gender tends to influence how people perceive the characters as well. And authors tend to be aware of this. I've heard of cases of male romance authors using female pen names, for instance, because of the perception that men don't/can't write romance. And there are a lot of female authors who use gender neutral pen names to broaden their potential audience.

    I mean, there's nothing wrong with getting an opinion from a trusted beta reader who also happens to be the gender/race/sexual orientation/whatever of the character you're writing; there are cases where seeking out additional perspectives on those grounds can be warranted (which is why "sensitivity readers" are a thing). But I'd say there's no shortage of male authors who write excellent female characters, and vice versa.

    Regarding the original question...I might show bits and pieces of my first drafts to people to get a general flavor for how people react to the concepts and characters, but I generally don't show anyone the entire book until I've done extensive revisions.
    Last edited by The Otter; 01-04-2018 at 02:15 AM.
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  10. #10
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    IMO female authors who write a male MC almost always get it wrong, or don't go deep enough to see motivations etc.
    Well, bless your heart.

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    Unclear. Unfunny. Delete. Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    Sorry if my opinion offended you. I would never write anything as sexist as that.

    What I ask my wife is to look at is the subtext: facial expression with specific verbiage used. Is my female character likely to be thinking what I believe? Where does she think a conversation is going?
    Flip the sexes, and those same things are what I find fault with in female authors.

    Maybe nothing as overtly sexist, but judging all members of a group by the behaviour of a single member of that group is pretty --ist.


  12. #12
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helix View Post
    Maybe nothing as overtly sexist, but judging all members of a group by the behaviour of a single member of that group is pretty --ist.
    I didn't say anything about judging. I ask my wife for input based on her perspective as a woman.

  13. #13
    please distract me mccardey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I didn't say anything about judging. I ask my wife for input based on her perspective as a woman.
    Um -

    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    IMO female authors who write a male MC almost always get it wrong, or don't go deep enough to see motivations etc. .

  14. #14
    Unclear. Unfunny. Delete. Helix's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I have my wife read selected chapters here and there as I write the first draft. It's always to see if I get the female pov and verbal cadence correct. When she's done I ask her, what was the female character thinking / feeling? Often my male character doesn't know all the motives/meaning etc behind the female character's words and actions (he's just observing).

    IMO female authors who write a male MC almost always get it wrong, or don't go deep enough to see motivations etc. My wife tells me that male authors that write female character are just as bad.
    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I'll gladly cede that there must be some female authors that do a good job with male characters, but I've not encountered them. In my opinion Anne Rice, Ursula LeGuin, and Sara King (the only female authors I can think of off the top of my head) are all pretty bad. This is not important enough to argue about though, as I've enjoyed books by all the authors I mentioned.
    Quote Originally Posted by indianroads View Post
    I didn't say anything about judging. I ask my wife for input based on her perspective as a woman.
    Sure thing.


  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW indianroads's Avatar
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    Ok - first, I never pick a book to read based on the gender of the author. If the plot sounds interesting, I read it. End of story.

    Also, getting perspective from my wife seems like a good idea to me - it isn't that I can't write female roles, it's that I feel it's a weakness, based not only on my beliefs about myself, but in what I perceive from female authors writing male POV that I've read - I have no idea if males ever get the female POV right, but my wife says they usually don't.

    I think that getting input from one woman is better than getting none.

    With that, I'm done with this thread. Have a nice day.

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