View Full Version : Gender Confusion?

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

Pages : [1] 2

July 27th, 2005, 12:26 AM
No, not what you were thinking.

I was reading a book the other day (Name withheld) and noticed the men in this story were...well...wrong. It was hard to quantify what exactly was the problem, but the reactions these guys had just didn't fit, and at the risk of being un-PC, they were acting like a woman who didn't know a lot about men would expect them to act. (I think I could be digging myself into a corner.)
I've found this a few times, actually, I think it's worse when it's the women in the story acting all wrong. (What was the quote: "In your pathetic little dreams..."?)

I write using both male and female characters, and I am comfortable with either (someone would tell me if I was really messing up, right?). I'm really not sure how I differentiate between them, but I'm sure they aren't interchangable, most of the time. So, if you're still reading; when you write, how do you make sure your men and men and your women are women, and not the obverse?


July 27th, 2005, 02:08 AM
To be honest I find writing my own sex hardest. I think that stems from "too much" knowledge ;)

What writing boils down to is creating a pattern of behaviour for a character that a reader can accept as believable (or can identify with) for a character of that gender. One thing a writer must remember no real person is ďall maleĒ or ďall femaleĒ both can and do act in ways similar to each other. This can be the affect of upbringing, social pressure, religion, customs, culture etcÖ.

In the end you can worry things to the bone and never write a thing.

July 27th, 2005, 06:36 AM
I use the proper articles... ;)

Actually, I don't know. I just write them.


An interesting aside: I've just read River of Gods by Ian McDonald. So has my sister. The book contains a character (actually a new gender; they're re-designed to have no gender at all). The article used is "Yt". I kept thinking of yt as male. It was terribly hard to remind myself that this is not a man.

Now, you could come up with the theory that Ian McDonald subconsciously wrote a man. But, interestingly my sister kept thinking of yt as a woman.

See, the differences are as much in our head as they are on the page. Actually, I have the suspicion that if you think too much about gender clichť's when writing, that's when you mess up.

There's biology. There's social expectations. That what all characters have to face one way or the other. And that differs from gender to gender.

Hmmm... interesting experiment. Take one of your stories and "flip the switch"; all men are now women and all women are now men. What would be different? *thinks*

Hereford Eye
July 27th, 2005, 11:16 AM
Thanks B5, it's a favorite topic:
Knowing full well I'm repeating myself, The Ill-Made Mute demonstrates the problem in all its glory. Postulating a person who lives in the midst of a vibrant society and makes it to puberty without realizing she is a she - wiithout any magic subterfuge involved - jolted me right out of the story. Women are different from men and vice versa. They are not interchangeable in their reactions no matter what topic you choose to address. A woman cannot and will not interpret a given circumstance as a man does.
Both sides can understand the other, that's not the issue. We can understand how and why people from both sexes react, but that does not change that they do react differently. And authors either write reflecting that difference or they lose me.

July 27th, 2005, 11:41 AM
Gotta agree. Men and women are different, and in many cases they react differently. That's not to say there isn't some blending of their reactions... Let's face it, guys can do girly things and vice versa. No metro jokes ;)
The point here is that they CAN have the same reactions, and I have to disagree with anyone who says they can't. You are telling me that a tomboy can't be more "manly" than a frail little "bookworm" of a guy? You are wrong. I know plenty of girls who can be girly, but then we go out to the field and they become just one of the guys (and then there are those of course who can't turn it off and are just guys all the time).

As long as you write the characters as PEOPLE though it doesn't seem to make a difference to me, because like I said, you can really act any way you please, but when you start trying to stereotype someone as being that gender that's when it stands out as being fake.

If you have a guy who makes messes and expects women to clean them up, is unable to form an emotional connection with anyone, uses sex purely for pleasure, enjoys working on his car, likes to sit around on the couch and watch the football game, etc and you just keep piling on stereotypes, it's not going to sound right at all (unless you make us aware that he is teh head of "No Ma'am," currently works as a mechanic, and was a football player until he got laid off for an injury, but what are the odds of that?).
Trying to hard makes people fake. That's really all there is to it as I see it.

July 27th, 2005, 02:35 PM
Actually, my current WIP contains my first major female character. One of the things I've been trying to remain aware of is how she would think differently then my male characters. Although she is a warrior (perhaps the ultimate 'tom boy' stereotype), she's still feminine on certain levels. Furthermore, I think women solve problems differently from men. Obviously, this can be applied to any two people, but the general route towards a solution a man takes (ergh smash!) is different from what a woman may do. This is especially true for physical activity, such as fighting. In my martial arts classes, the gals went about it a whole different way then the fellas. Being effective was more dependent on proper technique and resilience than brute strength and bulk (my forte). Even the way women react emotionally differs from men (and Iím not saying overreacting, Iím just saying different). Combined with the fact that Iím amazed and flabbergasted by the women in my life every day, Iím being very careful how I write this character.

July 27th, 2005, 02:40 PM
But then to counter that, there are plenty of guys who are just as (if not more) emotional than women...
Like you said, this can't be applied to everyone. There might be a male trend towards "smash and kill" but taking Bruce Lee as an example, some people rely much more heavily on finesse. Does this really make them womanly?

July 27th, 2005, 03:46 PM
But then to counter that, there are plenty of guys who are just as (if not more) emotional than women...
Like you said, this can't be applied to everyone. There might be a male trend towards "smash and kill" but taking Bruce Lee as an example, some people rely much more heavily on finesse. Does this really make them womanly?
Oddly enough, one of the origin myths for Wing Chun (the martial art which was the root for Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do), was that it was developed by a nun from the Shaolin temple. And Wing Chun relies on alot of finesse and proper technique to work in the first place, as opposed to the harder martial arts (like many styles of karate), which are geared more to power and strength. Of course,this is not to say that a man can't have finesse, and a woman can't have raw power. But as I write action scenes, I'm trying to show the difference in fighting styles between my female protag and her male counterparts, not that any are 'martial artists' in the modern sense. Rather, I think this keeps her more in character and consistent.

Gary Wassner
July 27th, 2005, 04:02 PM
I think that Holbrook said it perfectly well in the first post.

Stereotypes are clearly differentiated. When it comes to the true divisions between male and female, the lines do blur and can blur. I also think it's more interesting when they are not so clear. We all have a little bit of both yin and yang in us, male and female, so why is it always necessary for the male characters to be macho and the female ones to be frail? The opposite is just as stereotypical in fantasy, but a blend of the two might be nice.

My characters are often compassionate, and the men can be just as gentle and sensitive as the women, while the women can often be as hard and as practical as the men.

Again, what Hereford said rings true. They have to be believable.

July 27th, 2005, 07:03 PM
Believable to whom? You're never going to get it perfect for everybody. In fact, I've read some male authors who do their women better than their guys and vice versa.

There are two things I keep in mind in dealing with a character:

1) Both women and men hold certain beliefs about the other which effect how they view and analyze each other.

2) Any trait I can put in a guy, I can put in a woman, so the question is which traits do I want in each character.

Sometimes I'll read something and a particular detail will strike me as off gender-wise, but usually in relation to the character as portrayed. The exception is sex scenes. I do notice that guys tend to write sex scenes in a similar pattern, but then again, there were male writers doing romances so you can't include everybody.