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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dick & Jane


We writers are a versatile bunch when it comes to writing POV's from both genders. I struggled to write a male POV, but my readers tell me I'm pretty good at it. The writing is more succinct.

Why?

In my experience, men tend not to overanalyze. They don't talk like girls talk. Women like to talk things over, rehash the event, imagine different outcomes, blah, blah, blah. Sometimes this works well in real life, but not on the page.

Example:

Dick: Vroom, vroom! (Plays with car.) Crash! Kerplowy!

Jane: Barbie is the meanest girl. (Playing with three dolls: two Disney princesses talking about Barbie.) She's as mean as Medusa. Medusa has snakes for hair and she turns people into stone, but a warrior cuts off her head. She can't have a prince at the ball. She should go back to dancing.

(Okay, that last one was actually a conversation my daughter had with her dolls today. She's three.)


Now, I know that men can write women quite well. I don't know their secret, but I do know my favorite book on earth is Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Of course, that's all from the POV of Sayuri, a Japanese geisha. It's exquisite.

But...

I hesitate to buy a book from a female POV written by a man.

Hear me out!

I can think of three books off the top of my head where the female protagonist read like a male (but I'll be polite and not ream them here). One novel featured three POV's- two men and one woman- but they all read the same, identical voices and all nonstop sex. And this was in historical fiction!

Blecch.

When I start thinking, "There's no way a woman would do that," there's a problem. It's the same when you're watching a sappy romance in the theatre and think, "A guy would never act like that, no matter how much he loved the girl." That may be how women want guys to act, but that's not reality.

It all comes back to believability. So when I write men I have to ask myself if a guy would really do what I've written. I've nixed several scenes that were too mushy because they didn't fit. It made for a stronger character.

What about you? Are there any books or movies you read that stretched the genders a bit too much? Have you struggled to write the opposite gender's POV?

14 comments:

J. L. Jackson said...

Honestly, I will be anxious to see how my betas react to my male characters. I have read some male authors that I adored as well as some that just lacked that great female perspective.

VICTORIA SAAVEDRA said...

I've read a novel where the man is mushy and lovable and it is convincing. There are some men out there who are like that, and some women who do 'act' like a man.

I think it all comes down to staying true to the character and being consistent with their personality.

The Alliterative Allomorph said...

Hmm, great post! I don't think I have trouble with it, mainly because I have never had any MAIN characters that are male. My current WIP has a male point of view in it but it doesn't crop up as often as the female one. I hope I'm doing ok!

If you want to read a good female POV by a male author, get 'A long way down', by Nick Hornby. :o)

Nicole MacDonald said...

...your daughter said that and she's ony 3?? Wow.. ;p But i know what you mean, I'm hoping mine is believable but that's also part of what I'm watching for in this re-write :)

Piedmont Writer said...

Interesting post today as I've just written a very intense scene from my male POV. I'll have to take another look at it. Thanks Stephanie.

Jemi Fraser said...

If I didn't have a hubby, son & tons of male students I don't know if I'd be brave enough to write from the male pov. Men and women do think and act differently. Being able to watch the nuances in real life makes it easier to write them for me :)

Amalia T. said...

Now I kind of want to send you my romantic suspense novel to see if I pass muster in the woman writing male characters category :)

I usually don't pay much attention to it, actually. I pick up books that look interesting as far as story goes and don't really look at the author at all until it's over. I guess I've just been lucky so far!! :)

Paul Greci said...

Interesting post, Stephanie. When I'm writing, I try to focus more on what that particular character would do, say, or think, as opposed to what a male or female would do. Thanks for a thought provoking post!

Medeia Sharif said...

Great post. Amongst friends and acquaintances, I've had people complain to me about an unbelievable character who's the opposite gender of the writer. We definitely have to pay attention to the nuances of the sexes.

I loved Memoirs of a Geisha. I also felt the same about She's Come Undone by Wally Lamb, and I also recall reading female MC's by Stephen King who were believable.

Aubrie said...

Yup I've struggled. My mom says all of my guy characters are whiny wimps. I've tried to be better about it, but my husband still catches me from time to time and says, "A guy would never say that!"

ann foxlee said...

I love writing male POV's, and yep, I have to do the same thing-- write out a scene, ask myself if a guy would actually do/say that, then nix a bunch of stuff that sounds like what a girl wants a guy to say.
As I progress in a story it gets a bit easier... probably because once I have enough of a character's personality established, I know how that character would react, regardless of sex.

but yah, I still have to always be on the lookout for girl-behavior in my guys, lol!

Just Another Sarah said...

I'm generally nervous about my male characters, especially if I'm going from their viewpoint. I'm just not sure I write them well enough! So I totally understand.

Great post!

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