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On Writing Women. Looking for honesty...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Heliotrope, Dec 11, 2017.

  1. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Would you be willing to do that to prove a point?
     
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  2. Chessie2

    Chessie2 Staff Article Team

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    Deferring to Helio's post as my answer here:
    I am not a feminist. Helio and I differ only on that. However, Dragon, claiming your all female story would stay the same if your MC turned male is...I'm sorry, unbelievable. Ever want to know what women TRULY act like when there's a ton of us and one dude? The Beguiled pretty much says it all. You'll disagree for reasons I won't go into here. Not trying to be mean but what you're claiming is pretty unrealistic.

    A quote from the Wiki article: "All the women and girls in the school are immediately fascinated by the handsome man."
     
  3. What, change my MC to male?
     
  4. I'm a little confused by what you're getting at here, but I don't think MC would immediately have all the women falling at his feet. I mean, they have priorities...like training, and not dying/being culled during graduation.
     
  5. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    But some would.

    I'm the group of not seeing how it could be possible. If the MC was changed to male in your situation, you really don't think any of the other characters would change the way they behave towards him? So are all the girls in your entire school and prison asexual? No one is at all interested in anyone else, or thinks anyone else is attractive, or interested in even the differences between girls and boys? This is not believable. I've taught a lot of teenage girls.

    Sexuality aside (lets pretend every single other character in your novel is asexual), They wouldn't notice that it was a boy, in an all girl's school? Not a single person would notice or care or wonder what the heck he was doing there? Wouldn't you have to come up with some sort of crazy backstory to even explain that? Thus changing the plot, and the stakes, and a whole host of other flashbacks and references to the past?

    I don't know DOTA. I think it is noble to suggest that not too much would change, but that is stretching it.

    We talk about "colour blindness" when referring to race. Some people say "I don't see colour" and pretend it doesn't exist. Other's say "I see your differences and embrace them."

    In this case I think we are discussing a sort of "sex blindness." This sort of idea that at the core all people have the exact same life experience, regardless of sexual organs. They are totally inter changeable. I just don't see that as being true.

    Even a trans woman, who believes she is male, has a totally different experience of transitioning than a male who is transitioning to female. Different surgeries. Different medication. Different experience buying clothing, getting hair cuts, trying out makeup (or going without makeup) for the first time. Different experiences dealing with reactions from family members...

    So even a women who identifies as male does not have the same life experiences as someone born male. They just aren't interchangeable.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2018
  6. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    Yes. Would it matter to you to simply change your MC to male? If so, why?
     
  7. I have the tendency to disregard the tangly situations sexual attraction creates in my books because i just don't want to deal with it. I guess that's my problem.

    And I was kinda envisioning in this scenario that the school was co-ed but yeah the label of an all girls school does bring gender into it.

    I think my realization had to do with the fact that I don't really write male characters in a different way than female characters. It's not me trying to be noble or trying to say that gender doesn't matter, I just found it hard to think of ways my characters would be intrinsically different as a different sex. Or even their relationships. I get what you're saying though.

    But I hate bothering with anything love/romance related so i kinda left it out. Except for a flashback or two and some references. A guy does form a part of my MC's backstory, come to think of it. I didn't even think of that before. But it's not in the present.

    Anyway, like i said I do get what you're saying.
     
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  8. Well, it'd be a huge pain, that's for sure. Changing all the pronouns and stuff. Anyway, I do like her as female. I can picture this character pretty easily as a guy, weirdly enough. I don't think I'd have to change much about the character intrinsically.

    When I think about it, though, some of the other characters I wouldn't want to change to male. Darcy especially. So why is Darcy being female important? I'm not sure.
     
  9. Now I'm thinking of my MC genderswapped and it's fun. wait why is he so attractive
     
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  10. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    This made me think :) I write almost exclusively female protags. Why? I had to think about that.

    I think, because of my belief that men and women experience the world differently, I don't think I could accurately write a male protagonist. It feels a bit like appropriation to me. I get not everyone has that belief, and there have been many men who have written fantastic females... I'm just not sure I'm comfortable writing a man. I feel like I would rely too heavily on stereotypes.

    My current WIP focusses heavily on father/daughter relationships, because I take a lot of my themes from my life.

    I know that question was for DOTA, but I wanted to respond with my own reasoning.
     
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  11. See, I find I can comfortably write either.

    I'm not very gender conforming (my interests have always been traditionally "masculine" and even my appearance/the way i present myself) so that might be why.

    I love writing about sibling relationships for some reason.
     
  12. I think i just realized an important difference.

    Whether the character is male or female will affect how the *reader* sees the characters traits.

    Like i feel like they'll be more negatively disposed toward my MC's temper and recklessness if she was a guy than as she is.

    I feel like readers have expectations about gender, and even double standards, and that affects things. Idek.
     
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  13. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I really want to make it clear that I believe any person can write any character, without restriction. I don't even care overly much for the "appropriation debate" we are seeing so often now. I'm all for creative license and freedom and speech. It's just that I don't feel comfortable writing men. I prefer to stay in the cozy little cave of what I know :)
     
  14. glutton

    glutton Inkling

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    My female characters can be traditionally feminine or more masculine in terms of personality, but their sheer awesomeness tends to override that either way. If you can beat up a 500' dragon with a nonmagical melee weapon, even if you want to come off as girly, others will tend to view you a certain way and you'll just have to... Stand Short (or tall) and Proud.
     
  15. Michael K. Eidson

    Michael K. Eidson Archmage

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    I've enjoyed writing my WIP with three female POV characters, ages twelve, nineteen, and thirty-three. Though all three get fairly equal time, the nineteen-year-old is the main POV character. She has a twin sister who plays a big role in the story, even if she isn't a POV character. The main antagonist is female, older than them all, using magic to make herself look twenty-something. Another important supporting character is a female ghost, with the appearance of a twenty-year-old. The thirty-three-year-old woman is married to a thirty-two-year-old man, who is at the focus of everyone's attention, for reasons other than romance. There's another guy in the story, a secondary antagonist. There are a few other characters, some men and some women.

    I've written the whole story and am now editing. If you were to ask me to change the genders of any of the characters specifically mentioned above, I'd say hell no. These characters are my friends, and I like them just the way they are. I understand them as they are. Change them on me, and I won't recognize or understand them.

    And don't get me started on appropriation, HeliotropeHeliotrope. :)
     
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  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    It feels to me there is room for some nuance wrt writing men, writing women. We all write both. The discussion so far has more or less presumed we are talking about main characters, but of course both genders will be on stage, however briefly. So wherein lies the discomfort or question or room for discussion?

    I can see a couple of areas. One, interactions between the sexes. Is my female protagonist speaking in a convincing way to another female? To a male? And vice versa. I've certainly seen critiques that said one or the other was behaving in a stereotypical way.

    The other is internal life, how the character thinks about herself, or thinks privately about others. This to me starts to get interesting. Does a man fear in the same way as a woman? Would that vary by class or age? Are they courageous in the same way? Do they analyze a problem the same way? Is a man reticent the way a woman is? Does he get angry the same way? Or, here's one: does the son relate to the father in a way different from the daughter? Are there some generalizations we can make or, more importantly for us, are there some actions or thoughts that would ring so false it would take the reader out of the story?

    When I consider such questions, I cannot avoid think there are differences. More relevant to me, that there are difference that will matter in how characters behave in a story. Even down to small touches. Does it ring the same if my male character giggles as if my female character giggles? Or blushes? Roars? Gnashes her teeth? Word choice, body language, all sorts of things enter in here. It has less to do, but is not unrelated, with men and women than with how we portray men and women in a story. And, as I hinted above, these things will vary by social standing, age, cultural background, and individual characteristics. Fantasy writers than have the additional wrinkle of species.

    This has been a good discussion, but it was starting to feel a bit binary, so I thought I would through a few curves and maybe even a knuckleball.
    (no spellcheck deserves my respect that doesn't recognize knuckleball *harumph*)
     
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  17. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Yes, these are ALL exactly my concerns when writing characters. I have no problem using male characters as secondary characters, but I struggle with them as POV's for all the same reasons you described above.
     
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  18. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    I think in many cases struggling with writing significant characters of the other sex is a matter of respect and humility and a healthy thing.

    I sometimes struggle writing important female characters because I recognize my limitations in understanding the sex that I am not part of, and respect women enough that I want to write them in an authentic and fair way.

    Men I know like old hat. Women not so much. I think it is like anything you know very well, you feel you can deal with it in your sleep. While things are are novel or not as well known to you are more challenging.

    If one didn't give a crap about those important issues the struggle would not exist. Thus I think that struggle is the sign of a healthy, insightful writer;s mind.

    Or at least I hope so.
     
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  19. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    yup, I feel all that.

    At the same time, should a young writer have such compunctions about writing an old person? Should a poor author fret over writing about the wealthy? You see how that path wanders off into absurdity. That's why I said this is shady ground, as filled with bright patches as with shadows. Russ' comment about staying humble is certainly relevant. Don't just assume you know. The more I treat each character, however peripheral, as an individual fully formed within their context of gender, species, age, position, history, the better story I'll have when I'm done.

    At least a painter only has to worry about getting the anatomy right. <gdr>
     
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  20. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    Totally agree.

    I would never suggest that one should avoid those kind of challenges, but simply to approach and depict groups that I am not part of with respect and a sincere effort to depict them accurately.

    I am writing a book now where a lot of the characters are black and it is the hardest writing I have ever done. But it won't stop me from trying to tell this story.
     
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