On writing the opposite sex...

Published by: Squidge on 4th Apr 2018 | View all blogs by Squidge

We've had discussions on the cloud before about whether or not you can write convincingly as the opposite sex, so when this popped up on my facebook feed this morning, I had to share. 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2018/apr/03/male-authors-write-female-characters-twitter?CMP=fb_gu

Made me laugh, whilst also shaking my head despairingly...

 

 

Comments

46 Comments

  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 3 months ago
    Great responses! Another exercise for WB, perhaps? Write like a man thinks a woman would when describing a) her inner workings and b) her anatomy.
  • Sandra
    by Sandra 3 months ago
    Yes indeed. And more often than not you can immediately tell when a sex scene has been written by a man. Though, again, there are notable exceptions.
  • Mat
    by Mat 3 months ago
    Well, any fool can have a multiple vagina, it's not rocket science.
  • John Alty
    by John Alty 3 months ago
    Perhaps this could form the basis of an NHS test for deciding suitability for gender transformation. Write a 200 word essay in the voice of your chosen gender.
  • AlanRain
    by AlanRain 3 months ago
    Yes, it's funny, and further proof that women are simply better writers.
  • Mat
    by Mat 3 months ago
    dr1, porno

    A faint scratch below her navel revealed the beast's intentions, absolutely.

    Then a weight like a sack of turnips and that black tongue drooled in rotations around her nose and mouth. In the background the attractive shipping forecast reader passed Thames, he passed Lundy. She yearned for the inshore waters forecast, even a boat to Rockall. And like an orchestra of derelicts the beast retched into her earlobe and the ordeal was over until the next day with a d in the middle.

    She reached for her bedside vodka bottle, aunty vodka so very re-assuring, and on
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 3 months ago
    The whole twitter thread is worth seeking out. I was following it at the time and there’s lots more hilarious stuff. I had a go at writing a male character as one of these authors writes female characters. (It’s not based on me, sadly)

    ‘He hated those damn stupid pockets, spoiling the line of his tight, tight trousers as they skimmed the gentle curve of his hips. He was so jealous of women’s trousers, but the image in the mirror pleased him anyway. Should he dress to the left or the right, today? The left showed off his best side, but style was to the right this month. Ah well, the left. You’re only young once. Such a shame about his balls, which were a little too large to be fashionable.’
  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 3 months ago
    Love it, Daeds! :D
  • KazGinnane
    by KazGinnane 3 months ago
    lol Daeds!!
  • Janeshuff
    by Janeshuff 3 months ago
    Oh Brilliant Daeds!
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 3 months ago
    I think this is probably my new WIP
  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 3 months ago
    Well, when it's finished, I see three of us (at least) who want to read it :D
  • Purple witch
    by Purple witch 3 months ago
    The article made me grin but your slant on it Deads … made me really laugh Thank you .
  • Squidge
    by Squidge 3 months ago
    Nice one, Daeds!
  • TheWeyMan
    by TheWeyMan 3 months ago
    Is it easier to write from the opposite sex's perspective in third person?

    And to answer his question, I said exactly what a man with two penises would say when asked if he dresses to the left or to the right...
    'Yes.'

    But no, I don't know the answer...
  • Woolleybeans
    by Woolleybeans 3 months ago
    You mean that's not what men think as they dick dickily down the street, Daeds?
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 3 months ago
    ...as we wake to the bars of sunlight falling artfully over our sugar lumps.

    I was wondering about that, TWM. I’m not sure it would be easier to do in third person, at least not properly, as you have to be 100% in the character’s head at times whether first or third person. On the other hand, as you’re at that sort of level more in first person, there are flew places to hide so it’s maybe harder to sustain, but not to do overall.
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 3 months ago
    I wrote 80% or more of my previous effort from the POV of women. And as far as I can remember there was only one mention of breasts. And that was in a sex scene, and fairly by-the-way at that.

    Just saying.
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 3 months ago
    Richard, I suspect this is one if those things that if you’re questioning yourself, you’re probably doing OK. And I gather the tendency of certain authors to obsession with the foremost features of the female form is the target (satirised as ‘she breasted boobily into the hall and titted down the stairs’ etc). I was apparently not alone in finding the lack of self awareness in the author who sparked the debate at once hilarious and deeply dispiriting. How someone who can create a character who is basically an avatar of the male gaze so effectively as this guy, and then claim that he is ‘living proof’ that men can write in the female voice...well.... in all seriousness though, it occurred to me that this might make a good test for anyone writing a character of the opposite sex, or any gender different from the one they identify as - try taking the description and translating it in all detail as closely as possible to your own gender to see if it still sounds right. I’d be interested to try that with my own writing, not that I tend to do much in the way of physical description at all.
  • TheWeyMan
    by TheWeyMan 3 months ago
    A Twitter comment from my current favourite author (Mark Lawrence). He was was asked... 'how did you find writing female characters?' and he responded 'I didn't try to write female characters, I just wrote characters.'
    I think people try too hard to characterise the opposite sex and that's what leads to stereotyping and skewed voices. Write the character gender neutral and add in nuances later I reckon. This will depend on genre of course - Mark is a fantasy writer and his main character is an assassin raised by nuns :-)
  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 3 months ago
    An assassin raised by nuns? I may need to look at that.
  • Lizzielion
    by Lizzielion 3 months ago
    Good point TWM. I haven’t really given the gender of my characters much thought. I guess because they are all seen through the eyes of a woman, so her view of life -and men- colours everything.
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 3 months ago
    I know that book, I think it was based on Jillybean’s early life
  • Jillybean
    by Jillybean 3 months ago
    Haha. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence. I got an ARC of that last year and wrote a review on GR. Mr Lawrence quoted me on FB and his blog because I commented on how pitch perfect his depiction of a convent education was ( minus the nuns teaching us poisons and assassination techniques - at least on purpose) ;)
  • AlanRain
    by AlanRain 3 months ago
    Suspect these deluded male writers get their 'inspiration' from female writers of erotica.
  • Woolleybeans
    by Woolleybeans 3 months ago
    AlanRain, I've read your latest comment several times and I don't follow. How do you mean get 'inspiration'?
  • Squidge
    by Squidge 3 months ago
    Mark Lawrence is fabulous - WB, his Red Sister book is well worth checking out. The second one - Grey Sister - is out in a couple of days...
  • Jillybean
    by Jillybean 3 months ago
    Grey Sister is not out over here in UK until 17th May, Squidge. Mark told me himself back in January when I was trying to get my hands on an ARC. (It's out now in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and US.)
  • mad_iguana
    by mad_iguana 3 months ago
    I've written from the perspective of a female character a few times and, if it's worked (not for me to say, though I enjoy trying), it's because the character is, first and foremost, a person who just happens to be female. They're influenced by their life and lived experiences, and some of those are unique to women, but they're still just people.
    My favourite thing I've ever written (so far) was in a first person female POV.
  • Athelstone
    by Athelstone 3 months ago
    I have a male character who thinks about women in much the way that the betweeted author writes about them. But then he's only about 18 and a bit of a dickhead as he is informed towards the end of one chapter. But when I write from a female POV then of course I know that I'm portraying a woman, but she's first and foremost the start of the POV so why on earth would she objectify herself? And even if she did then it would be ridiculous to do it with a male eye.
  • Squidge
    by Squidge 3 months ago
    @JB - is it not? What's the gif he's got running then? It's coming out somewhere in the next couple of days...?

    Ath - hit the nail on the head. The POV wouldn't allow the character to look at themself in that way - unless they are really self-absorbed. And self-conscious. Hmm...maybe there IS scope for a character that is constantly looking at themselves in that way? But that would depend on the character's motivation - if they were out to 'catch' a man, for eg, and knew he was the type to look for physical attributes. Think that's going to be different to objectifying oneself though, as per the example that was quoted in the original twitter feed... ?
  • Seagreen
    by Seagreen 3 months ago
    Red Sister is available on Kindle for 99p. Just saying.
  • Jillybean
    by Jillybean 3 months ago
    That's Red Sister - the First book. Grey Sister is the second book and has been released in US etc but not in UK.
  • AlanRain
    by AlanRain 3 months ago
    Woolleybeans, if you ever read erotica (I wouldn't recommend it, though) - most of which is written by women - you'll see that the style is much the same as that mocked by our Twitter friends.
    An inexperienced, or foolish, male writer could easily read this style and think it's a perfectly good way of representing female characters.
  • TheWeyMan
    by TheWeyMan 3 months ago
    I can highly recommend Red Sister! But I even highlier (that's a word now) recommend the 'Broken Empire Trilogy' and 'The Red Queen's War' trilogy - slightly related as there are entries written from female perspectives!
  • Woolleybeans
    by Woolleybeans 3 months ago
    Anyone who thinks this is a good way of representing women just thinks women are sex objects who think of themselves as sex objects.
  • Jillybean
    by Jillybean 3 months ago
    Since most erotica writers, whether traditionally published or self pubbed (ok most of what you describe AlanRain is self pubbed) use psuedonyms and do not post author puctures, how do you know they are female? Sure there are some female writers of erotica who are quite open about it - they tend to have actual plots and want to build a fan group - but there's no gaurantee that these writers you speak of aren't actually men. There have been several studies done fairly recently - at least two were published by the gaurdian - that show that a large number of male writers do in fact write women this way. These are not inexpwrienced writers - unless Clive Cussler, Dean Koonz and various others are your idea of inexperienced. Really this is just a more extreme version of the 'sexy lamp' syndrone - and it SHOULD be mocked.

    Wey Man - I concur. I have been a long term fangirl of Mark Lawrence and I totally recommend everything he writes. Seriously decent bloke too.
  • Mat
    by Mat 3 months ago
    I can't see Anais Nin or DH even sniffing in the room. That is erotica and fabulous writing.

    The Worpress and the 'Lush stories' - website where some degenerates congregate apparently - or your typical mucky book - is not very imaginative. Some of it reads like first draft, and almost lacks a third dimension, a density. I think the writers get a lot out of it, and readers as well, but to coin an old phrase it lacks solid nourishment.
  • Daedalus
    by Daedalus 3 months ago
    I think there’s a long tradition of male authors writing about women as if they’re a bonus human that comes free with the pair of breasts you ordered, pre-dating the recent wave of self-pubbed erotica. I read plenty of average thrillers from the 70s and 80s in my teens featuring two-dimensions female characters with very three-dimensional protruberences. As well as some of those JB mentioned I can think of Ken Follett, Sidney Sheldon and James Herbert. The sad thing is that people are still doing that.
  • Woolleybeans
    by Woolleybeans 3 months ago
    Yeah, it's absolutely not a new thing.
  • L.
    by L. 3 months ago
    @Mat - who's DH? I agree with you about Anais Nin, I love her writing and stories.

    @Deads - I agree, I don't think those male authors had to get those poor ideas about women from any other genre that I might risen in popularity recently, other than their own heads.
  • Barny
    by Barny 3 months ago
    @AlanRain - you should tweet your last comment on the twitter thread, see what sort of response you get.
  • Barny
    by Barny 3 months ago
    BTW just in case you didn’t know, blogs on here are publicly visible and searchable on goggle.
  • Mat
    by Mat 3 months ago
    dh lawrence
  • RichardB
    by RichardB 3 months ago
    L - I suspect DH might well be Lawrence.
  • L.
    by L. 3 months ago
    Thanks Mat and Richard.
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