Saturday, April 23, 2016

Guys Writing Gals

 The topic of males having difficulty writing about female characters came up in our writing group today. I thought I would touch on this issue, rather than go into a full in-depth analysis.
This is mostly for the guys who are stumbling over this issue.

Maybe for some of us older guys, and count me in as being a burly ex-cop who acted a little macho in his day, when we were brought up watching the likes of Lost in Space, Leave it to Beaver, Mary Tyler Moore, hearing the "furniture" remark in Soylent Green, and even Prin described as a "standard pleasure model" in Blade Runner, I don't think it's any wonder why women have had such a terrible time with equality and due respect as we've progressed through the decades. Most of those women, and so many more in T.V. and the movies, were portrayed as quiet, obedient, stupid, cowardly, over-emotional (prone to tears), ditzy, naive and truly, second class characters. They were always, given less airtime if the setting was male MC oriented. The WASP male was the default icon that solved everything and made all the decisions. Even as a teenager and young adult, I resented it. I could see right through the stereotype and into the human element. I think Ripley, in Alien, woke up a lot of the male populace to the fact that women could be strong and innovative without any help from a male, thank you very much.

If anybody (guys) have trouble writing female characters, or think they do, start asking them questions. Be their buddy. Try and understand their motives and thought process. I did a lot of this when I was young, especially with girlfriends, and it paid dividends later. You get those "aha" moments.

Sure, women have little quirks, (or positives) just like men do. Note: there's always exceptions. All you have to do is stop and think about some of the ways they are different and SPARINGLY apply them to your story. Be observant. They're natural-born dancers with an inborn rhythm, they are more nurturing, more inclined to follow directions, have a more acute sense of smell, are more observant (able to pick out a piece of lint at ten paces), more communicative (social skills), don't throw a real fit when they break a nail, generally bathe more often than males (concerned with appearance) eat more delicately and display better manners, do not need doors opened for them, can drive a nail with a hammer with the best of them, have tempers and fight back, are a bit more embarrassed when they fall down (concerned with grace and dignity), and the list goes on and on and on. You can use one of these traits in such in way as to peg the character's sex without having to name the gender. You have to do it skillfully and, again, sparingly.

Try not to describe women as body parts unless you're writing heavy romance or erotica. There are some male authors who do this masterfully. She's not a brunette, blond or a hot redhead, as an all inclusive tag. Perhaps she's the one who graduated Harvard and loves grapes. I like to describe women's physical attributes in metaphor and simile, painting an image rather than listing stats. Better still, show a male's reaction or inner monologue toward a woman, and you can just about nail her appearance. Let the reader imagine and fill in the gaps.  

Above all, these are very minor differences when put into the universal perspective. Generally speaking, all human beings think alike, react to stimuli similarly, suffer pain and frustration and experience joy the same way. You're just a human writing about a human.