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Writing Female Characters as a Male Writer

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Old 03-25-2011, 01:15 PM
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Default Writing Female Characters as a Male Writer


Hello all.

As a male writer, one thing I've always been reserved about is writing female characters. I've heard that male authors tend to write female characters in certain "unrealistic" ways, so it's supposed to be pretty easy to figure whether a female character was written by a male writer or not.

This has become especially troubling to me now that one of my main stories will be done from the first person POV of the main female protagonist, as opposed to the previous first person POV of the main male protagonist. It's also something that's made me worry since a lot of my important female characters, with a few exceptions, tend to be independent and strong-willed women, thus making them more easily susceptible to more "masculine" behaviors and traits, and I feel sometimes as if I'm just putting males into female bodies for these characters.

I've heard, for instance, however true it may or may not be, that women tend to speak more indirectly than men, or that women tend to unconsciously use different vocabulary or sentence structures then men in the same situations. So what kind of things do male writers tend to miss or do 'wrong' when it comes to writing female characters? Are there certain speaking styles, ways to approaching relationships, etc. etc., concerning females that male writers should be aware of in order to present things more realistically?


Thank you in advance,

cybrxkhan

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Old 03-25-2011, 04:44 PM
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I really wouldn't know. I haven't really noticed this, and while I'm physically female, I seem to write guys much more realistically than I write women.

I saw someone on the Nano forums point out that a male writer (I don't remember what their name was) who wrote things that were wrong from a physical point of view. (Certain body parts males don't have, that work differently than most guys expect.) So, I'd check about how physical stuff works, which can be embarrassing but probably won't be very necessary for most stories.

I do think that there is some difference mentally, overall, between the sexes. But there's also a lot of overlap. When you throw in all the other ways that two people can differ, I think the difference between any given guy and any given girl will be small. I'm probably more similar to most of my guy friends who play video games or watch action movies than any girls I know who aren't interested in those things. I think the big thing as far as sex goes is how OTHER people treat them, and how they react to that. I'd be different as a guy, but probably more because people wouldn't expect me to be cute and delicate than because I was male.

So focus on you characters as characters. What are they into? Who do they hang out with? Are they quiet and reserved or loud and outgoing?
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Old 03-26-2011, 02:56 AM
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My characters are a mixture of ages, and genders, and I normally write in first person.
In fact, with the exception of Dela Eden, my main characters are generally male, but I am female myself. I seem to find it easier. And as a woman, I can say that I have a few masculine traits anyway. Some of us do act quite determined, free, and completely independently.
So, it depends, but don't worry if your character seems a bit strong. Women can be strong too
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Old 03-26-2011, 06:20 AM
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For men who want to learn how to write female characters, I'd suggest they start by reading everything ever written by Margaret Atwood.
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Old 03-26-2011, 06:55 AM
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We're confusing to write from the point of view of, guys. I confuse myself.
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Old 03-26-2011, 07:02 AM
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No, no Margaret Atwood. She is scary. She eats babies. I was on the same subway train with her once, and she got horribly offended when I looked in her direction to figure out if it really was her. Read Charles de Lint.

Anyway, the bottom line is that, for the most part, there are few differences that are true at all times. Yes, you do need to make sure you understand the physical differences. Other than that, you just need to treat your character as an individual.
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Old 03-26-2011, 07:51 AM
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Why not try the character clinics here on Writer's Beat?

Pull yourself together a female character, cite your reasons for developing her before you drop into role and hopefully the questions you are thrown will help you shape her.
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Old 03-26-2011, 09:34 AM
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James Tiptree Jr wrote science fiction for more than a decade before revealing that he was actually Alice Bradley Sheldon. "He" was an acclaimed writer, and some critics even remarked that "only a man" could have written what James did.

We're all just people. Unless you're going for gross generalizations, the difference between man/woman is slight.

Stay away from extreme stereotypes and you're good.
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Old 03-26-2011, 10:26 AM
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Thank you very much for the suggestions and advice!

I don't have much of a problem developing my characters, male or female, per se - actually sometimes I feel like I focus way too much at developing my characters at the expense of just writing the damn story. I'm just worried that writing as a, well, male, I might be missing out on some things or that I might be unconsciously putting in male biases or something.
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Old 03-26-2011, 10:38 AM
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That's where relaxing and treating the character as an individual comes in.
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Old 03-26-2011, 12:31 PM
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Yup, what Rei said. Women don't think alike. You can certainly write about a woman who speaks very assertively and directly (and they're often the most interesting women to read about).
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Old 03-26-2011, 12:35 PM
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Yeah, I guess I'm just overanalyzing things again. I really don't have much a problem with developing characters. In fact it's probably the funnest part of writing for me, and perhaps maybe I'm just taking it a bit too far here and assuming in a kind of paranoid and perfectionist way that everything just has to be right or something. *shrugs*

Thanks again everybody for the advice.
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Old 03-28-2011, 08:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Rei View Post
No, no Margaret Atwood. She is scary. She eats babies.

I know it's not adding a single thing to this conversation, but I felt like this incredibly funny remark just got completely brushed over, and so I had to say:

Bahahahahahahahahah!!!

Ahem....

Hahahahahahah!

That is all.
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Old 04-11-2011, 12:37 PM
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I am a young woman of eighteen, and I cannot for the life of me write from the point of view of a woman. Typically they come off head-strong as well, but I don't think that's naturally a "masculine" trait. Just like a male character, the idea is to make them well-rounded. Not every man is big and strong, and even he's feeling something he might not want to talk about.
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