Sunday, July 17, 2011

She Says, He Says: Gender and the Writing Craft



We do know there is such a thing as “Women’s Literature” and it is known that romance fiction targets a feminine audience. Does the author’ sex influence its characters? Are male novelists guilty of stereotyping female characters? Are their feminine counterparts still hooked in idealized masculine protagonists?

In a near future, gender might become an obsolete term. Until then, we accept that men and women (regardless of their sexual preferences) react in different ways to situations and emotions. Just as religion, family life and past romantic history reflect on a particular writer´s work, gender does play a part in his/her craft.

Indeed, certain genres are associated with gender. As much as I try, I cannot remember a war novel written by a woman. Women can describe the effect conflicts have on civilians, but they don´t write battlefield scenes. Perhaps because until recently few women were on the battlefield and none was too eager to fictionalize her experiences. Think of how Margaret Mitchell describes soldiers in Gone with the Wind. They are either in hospital beds, on leave or marching away form Atlanta. She doesn´t show them actually engaged in war games as Stephen Crane does in The Red Badge of Courage.

Wounded Confederate soldiers in Gone with the Wind

There are hardly any women writers specializing in thrillers, adventure novels, epic fantasy or science fiction. I don´t know if there is a predisposition against them doing it or if those are not subjects women care for. This is why the few women who have achieved success in those genres (e.g. Ursula Le Guin) are twice as famous. Precisely why Nicholas Sparks is much lauded for being one of the small number of men who dare to write romance. In fact there are plenty of male romance authors but they hide under pseudonyms. Just as Nora Roberts signs her futuristic murder stories as “J.D. Robb.”

Beyond the question of prejudice in the publishing universe, I’m interested to know if readers notice a difference in voice when comparing genre written by novelists of either sex. Do women authors “feminize” their science fiction and mysteries? Do men authors rely on negative archetypes when it comes to feminine protagonists? Just think about those wonderful hardboiled detective classics and their femme fatales, as dangerous as tarantulas.

Barbara Stanwyck playing femme fatale in Double Idemnity based in a James Cain story

Nineteenth-century literature was full of novels with feminine names as titles, all written by men, all depicting nasty protagonists: unfaithful wives like Madame Bovary or Anna Karenina; prostitutes like Camille and Balzac´s Nana; fallen women like Tess of D’Urbervilles and ambitious schemers like Thackeray’s Becky Sharp. Thank you gentlemen, but you did us a disservice. Only Dickens stepped aside from the Scarlet Women-Makers Circle, but he used a worse stereotype: the victim, the damsel in distress that always needs a knight to fight for her virtue.


Women writers are also guilty of stereotyping. In The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger creates a leading man who is a metaphor for guys unable to commit and who drift in and out of their women’s lives. At least, Henry De Tamble has an excuse. He suffers a genetic disorder that forces him to time travel, but that’s little comfort to Clare, the wife he is constantly deserting. Although the novel should be about Henry, we are hooked on Clare and her plight. He is just a nuisance, an object, and although Niffnegger alternates Henry and Clare’s perspectives, sometime he feels like a cardboard character.

Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in The Time Traveler's Wife

It might sound as a generalization, but biographical data shows us that most romance authors base their masculine characters in “The Man that Got Away” (a former lover), or some approximation to the ideal man they dream to find. Sometimes they combine both and give an impossible happy ending to their botched down affairs. Although it´s legitimate to draw on our own emotional experiences to create characters, sometimes we concentrate so much in developing a leading man or woman that their counterpart ends up being a one-dimensional shadow.

Afraid to fall into that trap, many men writers have qualms about delving too deep into the feminine universe, and some female novelists wouldn’t dream of writing from a man’s point of view. This is particularly true in romance.

When I first started to write “seriously”, my story had a supposedly dead protagonist who resurrected around chapter fourth. Therefore, the first three chapters were written from her bereaved husband’s POV. My Beta Reader wisely said that no woman reader would care for a romance written from a man´s perspective. I went over my collection of bodice-rippers and saw her point. And yet we now have romantic bestsellers like Water for Elephants with a powerful sensitive hero, and he comes from the imagination of a woman, Sara Gruen.

Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon in Water for Elephants

Ideas such as “real men don´t read romance” (so far I haven’t met any who dare come out of the closet and confess to enjoy that genre) and women readers shying away from “masculine” genres are hard to kill. That is why to attract female viewers, movie versions of Jules Verne classics or Conan Doyle’s The Lost World insert token ladies that never existed in those books.
What is Arlene Dahl doing in the Center of the Earth? Certainly Jules Verne didn't put her there

I must confess I am an odd duck that don´t need girls in a tale to appreciate it. I have watched the Band of Brothers miniseries about twenty times and never minded the absence of female characters. Moreover, although I concede that women are at their best in the creation of female characters, some men authors are masters in that same craft.
Band of Brothers. Wo needs girls with such gorgeous soldiers?

I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse Novels (The Southern Vampire Mysteries) but I hate her! She is irksome, silly, and loud. Vampires, get her! On the other hand, I have fallen in love with the women in George R.R. Martin’s saga A Song of Ice and Fire since as characters they are vigorous, varied and they hold up their own in a world terribly biased against their sex.
Sookie and one of her vampire paramours

However, I constantly hear men complaining about the manner in which female writers portray their sex. They say that most male protagonists penned by women are feminine fantasies or nightmares. Even when it comes to “macho territory” such as detective stories they point out to me that Patricia Highsmith‘s Tom Ripley is homosexual and Agatha Christie´s Hercule Poirot is a fuzzy old bachelor, far from the manly private eye epitome created by men authors. I happen to think that P.D. James’ Inspector Adam Dalgliesh is a pretty strong masculine character, but then as a woman, my judgment could be clouded.

Could you give examples of authors who are experts in developing characters of the opposite sex? Do you find it hard to create them? As a reader, do you notice how the author imposed his/her voice to the text? Do you think gender dominates certain genres?

31 comments:

  1. 'In a near future, gender might become an obsolete term'

    Never happen. The differences between men and women are so broad and profound that their presence will always undermine any efforts to dismiss or diminish them, whether deliberate or subconscious.

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  2. Thank you Sister Suze. I hope you are right, but there are those out there who think gender is wrong and obsolete.

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  3. What a fascinating topic, Violante! I lol'ed at your caption under the Band of Brothers pic. ;-)

    The only time I've heard men complain about male characters created by women writers is with Edward Cullen. I do hear men complain about him. But my husband loved Henry deTamble (and so did I — and I didn't see the man-who-can't-commit metaphor till you pointed it out) and, in CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series, we both liked the male characters portrayed by that female sci-fi writer.

    Joss Whedon is excellent at creating female characters. He is a writer, but a writer of TV shows, notably Firefly and Buffy the Vampire slayer. We have two books of essays about Joss Whedon and gender: kind of hard to believe one guy could create that much buzz about such a narrow topic but his fans, women and men, love his female (and male) characters. They are complex, human, surprising, not stereotypical. They're warriors, engineers, and yes, prostitutes, but in a world where prostitutes have great power and status. Firefly is a mix of sci-fi and western, which you'd think would attract in mostly male viewers, but women love that show, too. Whedon is a fantastic storyteller.

    I've only read one Jodi Picoult book, "My Sister's Keeper," but I thought she did a great job hopping from a male POV (several of them, in fact) to a female one. I wonder what a guy would say. I don't think too many guys read Picoult?

    A book I read recently that had terrible opposite-sex-from-author characters was — and I know I'll get hate mail for this — "The Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I realize people adore that book with a passion that managed to elude me, but I found his female characters to be these boring wispy vacuous nothings who floated about in diaphanous nightgowns and got pregnant at the drop of a hat. I much prefer Dickens' Little Dorrit, actually, and Thomas Hardy's impetuous Bathsheba. Little Dorrit ends up doing most of the rescuing herself, and Bathsheba is a highly successful businesswoman in a man's world.

    I don't think the idea that gender is obsolete has much traction. There are people who believe all manner of oddities, but that particular idea is just not widely held, nor does it have much scientific basis. Sex (male/female) is, of course, a matter of one's chromosomes, and while gender may be partially a societal construct, anthropologists, biologists, and psychologists pretty much have noted that humans, like other animals, behave differently according to their sex.

    One thing I do notice about "writing for me" as opposed to women is that the former doesn't have to be especially well written. I picked up a Philip K. Dick, "Minority Report," and was appalled at his writing. It could have been written by a teenage boy. What my male friends tell me is that Dick is an "ideas man" and you have to appreciate that about him and ignore the writing. I've noticed that about "man's lit" in general. Could it be that men are less picky about the quality of writing? Or am I just skipping over the women's lit counterpart: romance? I don't read it: is it horribly written?

    Very interesting post!

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  4. Urgh. That's supposed to say "writing for men" not "writing for me." I wish we could edit our comments!

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  5. This is a great topic. After thinking it over, I either like a book or I don't, and whether an author is male/female doesn't enter into it at all.
    It is true that there don't seem to be any war novels by women, (I can't think of a single one)although there are a few memoirs around.
    Since I got into writing short stories, I've written from both male and female POV. I also try to mix it up and have both male and female "villains", and "heroes", although I strive most of all to make them complicated and avoid stereotypes. I will be doubly cognizent of gender bias in the future!

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  6. Hmm. Many Harlequin lines insist on on a male POV to partner the heroine's, so plenty of writers have been doing it for some time in romance. But do they do it well? Mostly not, especially in those particular books!

    I find the subject of writing from the opposite gender fascinating. I think as a woman, rendering a male character a different species is the worst thing you can do. Ditto female characters (and the amount of romance manuscripts I see that border on the misogynistic is immense. Women fail at writing other women almost as much as they fail in writing men). I say decide on your character's conflict, and think of their sex as a cultural influence, not a biological one (until it comes to sex, of course).

    Young Adult authors seem to nail writing the other sex more than any other genre, and I think it's because YA doesn't expect ideals like the alpha male. One can really explore the beta hero, for example, and teenagers are very forward in expressing their emotions, so they're more accessible to write.

    I've explored the male perspective on my blog a lot (including interviewing men who see themselves as "alpha" or "beta") and they were still emotional and expressive. You'd only know they were men by the topics they are discussing, the cultural factors.

    The problem with romance is that to an extent, it objectifies men. And yet they're human beings with their own flaws and quirks. If as a woman, you can be brave and strong enough to see the good AND bad in a normal man, you can write him. And he will be compelling, unique and awesome...but do not expect him to be a good boy all the time, and do not try to redeem him. Write him well and the readers will do that for you.

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  7. You are right Li, we don´t choose our reading material based in the author´s sex. But why it took me so long to find that P.D. James was in fact Lady Phyllis James of Holland Park or that Ngaio Marsh’s (another renowned mystery writer) first name was Edith? And until high school, I thought George Eliot was a man!
    I hope I didn’t open a can of crickets that will have us reviewing our characters till nausea to find bias in them, but ever since Library School (where I first met the term “Politically Correct”) I have been unable to read a book and not to think if it includes racial or sexual stereotypes.

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  8. Sister Stephanie,
    I don´t know where to begin.
    Thank you for telling me about “Foreigner”, I don´t read much science fiction so I wanted to hear about biases in that genre.
    Prior to reading The Time Traveler´s wife, I read Audrey N.’s declarations that she had written the book under the stress of an unhappy love affair. Upon finishing the novel, I thought “she is so mean. Her man got away so now, in her fiction, she chops off his feet and lets him die of hypothermia!” But it got me thinking about my own male characters.
    Jodi Picoult is a good example because she is not a romance writer, yet do men read her?
    I hesitate to bad-mouth Philip K Dick. I once thought of contacting his agent (who, by the way is supposed t be THE BEST agent in town), but after reading “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” I have to agree with you. To be fair, current historical romances are equally careless when it comes to style. It irks me so because many people think romance writing is synonym to bad writing. Far from it, from Rosemary Rogers to Diana Gabaldon we have seriously good writing style in the genre.
    Ha, Ha, Ha! I haven’t read the ineffable Mr. Zafon, but I believe you. Spanish writers of the twentieth and twenty-first century are notoriously good at sexual stereotyping, and that applies to both male and female writers. Funny, but you don´t find that bias in XIX century Iberian writers (it´s why I love them). The irony is that Spain in the last decade has become obsessed with the anti-gender agenda. They even have a Ministry of Identity to investigate charges of sexual prejudice. Alas, it hasn’t helped to make their population understand or be less hostile to the opposite sex.
    Now don´t get me wrong, I love my Dickens and Amy Dorrit is one of my favorite characters but she is submissive and so devoted to a family that kicks her around. That is one Dickensian stereotype that I hate, the Cordelia-like heroine who is willing to sacrifice herself for a weak father (Agnes in David Copperfield, Florence Dombey, and Madeline in Nicholas Nickleby). Moreover, Dickens is a great creator of waives like Little Nell or Esther in Bleak House, and when he distracts himself from his subservient women, like in Great Expectations, he creates someone evil like Stella.
    Bathsheba is indeed a strong heroine who breaks apart from stereotype, but Hardy has his share of destructive heroines in Tess, Jude the obscure and The Return of the Native. Mind you they are not unsympathetic characters, but they have negative effects on the hero’s lives.

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  9. Lucy,
    Harlequin is exactly what I had in mind when I spoke of bad writing in romance.
    It’s interesting what you mention about YA. I was telling Sister Lorena that I think women are great when it comes to describe boys, but fail at describing men’s inner world.
    Alas, my heroes are bad boys, but I still feel they are not real, perhaps that is why I write about werewolves. It’s a great cop out!
    But moving away from Romance, do women still objectify masculine characters?

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  10. I love this topic so much Sister Violante and I have been talking about it since last week. To answer your opening questions:

    Yes, I believe the gender of the author influences the creation of their characters (not in the same way, since everyone has their own style and way of viewing the world) but everything that we are--gender, culture, background, education, profession, hobbies--influences how we construct our stories and characters.

    About men writers stereotyping females and women idealizing males, we can't generalize, but I believe it does happen. But the opposite is true, too. Male writers are also guilty of stereotyping their male characters (the womanizer detective, cop with a past, etc.) And like Lucy said earlier, female writers have done the same with their women. I agree that many female writers probably base their male characters in fantasies (Edward Cullen?), stereotypes (too many to name) and/or lost loves (like Louisa M. Alcott with Prof. Bhaer or Margaret Mitchell with Rhett). But characters have to come from somewhere, right? BTW, I think Peggy did a good job with the three main male characters in GWTW: Ashley, Rhett and Gerald O'Hara. Other female writers who, IMO, have done a good job at crafting male characters have been: Anne Rice, Mary Shelley (never would have guessed an 18-year-old girl wrote Frankenstein) Daphne du Maurier in The Scapegoat and, like Violante reminded me last week, Grace Metalious had a few interesting men in Peyton Place. I just thought of Jane Austen's Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet's dad. I liked both, but I may be biased because of Colin Firth's interpretation ;)

    Steph, I agree Jodi Picoult has done a good job with her men, but like you say, she's considered a Woman's Fiction writer (my husband had no interest in "My Sister's Keeper" even though he tried to read it, but it may have been the subject more than the characters). So I guess we have two separate issues here:

    1. Are men reading female writers?
    2. Are female writers crafting interesting male characters? (and according to who are they interesting: men or women?)

    Ha! Sister Violante, I'm afraid you HAVE opened a can of worms.

    About female writers and war, the only one I could think of is a non-fiction writer of military history Barbara Tuchman (who, according to my hubby and his dad, is awesome).

    About male writers I have noticed a couple of things:

    1. When they write sex scenes, it's all very "down to business" or blunt (even funny). But women writers focus more on the girl's emotions and feelings. In contemporary films, I've noticed men writers/directors often portray female characters as very open about their sexuality and/or slutty. (And we accuse female writers of using fantasies...)

    2. When men write romantic stories, they always end in tragedy: one or both characters die, or leave. (I'm not sure this is the case for male writers who write romance under pen names). The examples are plenty: Nicholas Sparks, Erich Segal (Love Story), Ian McEwan (Atonement), Jorge Isaacs (Maria), even Shakespeare, as Violante pointed out to me. Is it because they know how to push their female readers' emotions? Or do they hate romance and this is their only way of expressing it? Ha! Male writers, please explain yourselves!

    I can't end this comment without mentioning one male writer who built his career as a novelist writing about women: Sydney Sheldon. Out of all his books, he's only had one male protagonist (in his first novel, "The Naked Face"). When I read "If Tomorrow Comes" years ago, I didn't know Sydney was the name of a man (so I guess his voice doesn't give him away. Then again I didn't pay much attention then.) Unlike other male writers we've mentioned, Sheldon's protagonists are strong women who defy the odds, take revenge on those who betray them and come out successful in the end.

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  11. Sister Lorena,
    I am grateful to you and Lucy for having the courage I lacked and pointing an accusing finger to women who stereotype their own sex.
    There is something we must remember. The idealized hero, the sensitive protagonist, and even Mr. Alpha… they are all gifts to women readers. They appeal to our fantasies, we are happy with them, we love them! It is men readers who complain and perhaps they have a point, just like when we complain about pornography because it is geared towards a masculine public and turns women into objects. The question is not if women can create interesting masculine characters. They do! The question is if male readers could identify with those characters. I have met only one man who enjoys Jane Austen and none who likes George Eliot or Virginia Woolf. So even clasdic writers fail to hook men readers.
    I had forgotten about Sidney Sheldon, very good example.

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  12. Sister Lorena,
    Not only men are different when it comes to describe sex scenes, they also resent long, overly descriptive sexual scenes so common in historical romances. I remember your poor husband having to swallow Fadika's three page description of her wedding night. I still blush when I think of that torure I inflicted upon him!

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  13. Sister Violante, thank you for a fascinating topic! I'll jump into the fray and give my two cents. First, I think there is a difference between "Romances" and "Love Stories." A Romance is primarily for the couple getting together and centers around the way that relationship develops and not much else. Think about it. What do you look forward to happening in a Romance? Why the sex! And that's why many of us lose interest once they've consummated the act. Love Stories, on the other hand, involve so much more (this is why I wouldn't place writers such as Sparks and Galbadon into the Romance genre). There is a deeper story bringing the couple together, pulling them apart, and ultimately (either with one of them dead or alive) there is a less-than-predictable ending involved. Every Romance has a predictable ending. I'm currently reading THE PAINTED VEIL (Thank you Steph and Lorena!) and I would not call it a Romance at all, but rather a Love Story.

    Secondly, when we look at fiction written during the time of Dickens and his ilk, we have to look at the women of that time period. We want to connect with the characters as we think they should be this day and age. What did writers of his time period have to work with? Prostitutes, women controlled by their parents, and always, always, marriage was about the only foreseeable future they had. That or being a governess or a prostitute. I don't take much offense to the way women are written in classic literary works.

    I find it ridiculous that so many people take offense to gender these days (there's actually a preschool in Sweden that has removed all gender from their curriculum and everyday speech). You can't take the woman out of a woman or a man out of a man anymore than you can say a dog's not a dog when it barks and walks like one. I love what I am, and whether writers reflect my gender properly or not doesn't matter much to me. It's all up to creative interpretation anyway. If I don't like an author's crappy writing, then that's the last book I'll read of theirs.

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  14. Agreed. Romance and love stories are two different things. That's why I excluded genre-romance male writers (using pennames) from men who write mainstream romantic fiction (like the authors I mentioned earlier.)

    After you finish reading "The Painted Veil", I recommend you to watch the movie (much better IMO.)

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  15. Sister Mary, Mary,
    I heard of that Swedish pre-school. There are several European countries toying with these “experiments”.

    I was sitting here at my wit´s end trying to remember love stories written by men, and you bring up Somerset Maugham. The Painted Veil and Of Human Bondage are good examples of how male writers portray men in love. Both end in death. In The painted Veil, Kitty is redeemed of her infidelity, but she loses the husband she wronged and has grown to love, that is her punishment. In OHB, Mildred´s death frees Philip from a wicked influence and sets him on the way to find a better companion. That is his reward. It´s amazing how Maugham still followed the moral frame set by Victorian writers.

    I don´t have a problem with books about prostitutes and waives, as long as the former are not idealized and the first are not demonized. Spanish writers of that same period also wrote about prostitutes and fallen women but were much more sympathetic to them.

    I noticed something about the way XIX century writers described love (from a masculine point of view.)It was seen as a struggle. The hero fights the seduction of a bad woman in order to reach a pure, idealized companion, and once he nails her down, he settles with her into a paradise of domesticity. Think of David Copperfield and Tolstoy´s War and Peace. At the end of the book, the hero has rid himself of a bad wife and is happily married to an angelic creature who is also a great housekeeper. I chuckle when I think of Edith Wharton´s novels (Ethan Fromm, The Age of Innocence) where the hero wants to flee from the arms of the “perfect wife” into the arms of a more alluring creature. Which one was closer to what men really wanted? Perhaps that is what John Fowles had in mind in his parody of Victorian novels, The French Lieutenant´s Woman.

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  16. Lore -- I've seen the movie. It's great! And I actually want to see it again after I've finished the novel. I can't remember all the bits and pieces so I want to watch it again.

    Violante -- It's true what you say about XIX century writers and how men pursue the women they choose. As to what men like? Everyone has a different taste so I'm glad literature can reflect that.

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  17. I love this discussion! There are so many interesting comments here.

    You know what I can't believe I didn't mention in my first comment? "She's Come Undone" by Wally Lamb. My husband and I both read it and loved loved loved it, and both of us were amazed at the way that male writer got into the head of his female protagonist. It's perhaps *the* best job I've ever seen a writer do in portraying an opposite-sex character.

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  18. Sister Violante, you've touched on a sore subject for me... The Age of Innocence! Can someone PLEASE explain to me why Newland didn't go see Ellen in the end? Weren't 26 years of sacrifice enough? :-(

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  19. This is an interesting topic. When I'm reading and a character is poorly written, I never think in terms of the author's gender; I think about the author's ability as a writer.

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  20. Missed Periods,
    Indeed gender is not to blame when it comes to poorly drawn characters, but I have yet to hear a man say “That is a woman writer who really understand how our mind works.” I am waiting to hear from our masculine audience

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  21. Sister Mary, Mary
    Men are still pursuing women of their choice. What is interesting in European Nineteenth century literature is a pattern where the hero first goes for the “bad” or “wrong” girl, eventually realizes his folly and settles for the domestic angel. Whereas in Edith Wharton’s novels men are fleeing from the wife everyone, but them, think perfect.
    Sister Lorena, you have asked a question that baffles readers (just like why Jo March didn’t marry Laurie.) My theories are:
    Newland didn’t want to see an “old” Ellen. He wanted to keep the memory of both of them young and beautiful
    Having realized Ellen was his past and had no place in his future, he chose to stick to “reality”.
    This s what the author wrote
    “It's more real to me here than if I went up," he suddenly heard himself say; and the fear lest that last shadow of reality should lose its edge kept him rooted to his seat as the minutes succeeded each other.

    Sister Stephanie,
    I read “She´s come undone” synopsis in Wikipedia. It sounds so depressing (reminds me of Precious) that I won´t read it, but it must be one heck of a writer to describe the inner turmoil of such a protagonist. When Gustave Flaubert was being praised by critics for Madame Bovary they asked him where he had gotten his knowledge of feminine psychology, he just answered “Madame Bovary c’est moi” (She is me.) Do men get in contact with their feminine side in order to create feminine characters that we appreciate?

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  22. I actually wonder what drives such stereotyping anymore. Any aspiring writer who's sat through a writing class, conference, etc. always hears what to avoid and what your character "needs" to be in order for your story to sell. Isn't this just another form of stereotyping today? Agents often offer feedback on how this or that character does not fall into the category that they perceive for that character, so they pass on your ms. In the end, a man's man with some sort of flaw is found in thrillers and the characters of any romance novel are exactly the same like any other romance novel. So, are characters formed by the input we receive concerning what the audience "really" wants or what the author really wants to write?

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  23. Of course, that is formula. Follow the rules and you'll sell your book, but that is why Harlequin romances, thrillers an vampire sagas read all alike.

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  24. "Follow the rules and you'll sell your book, but that is why Harlequin romances, thrillers an vampire sagas read all alike."

    That's one reason genre has such a bad reputation among "serious" readers. Think of tourists who go to McDonald's when they're visiting Japan: a lot of people only want familiarity. The same-old same-old doesn't bore them, it offers comfort and stability.

    But of course there are sushi-lovers, too, and people who read Jhumpa Lahiri and Orhan Pamuk. (Full disclosure, I could not finish "Snow" by the latter. And sometimes I like French fries.)

    I think those writing in a genre are likely to be pretty restricted to sticking to that formula, so they'll probably be generating the stereotypical characters their readers will be yearning for. That is the path they've chosen. If a writer wants to break out of that, she's probably going to have to a) write "literature" and b) resign herself to having a harder time getting published and a smaller audience when she does get published.

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  25. But it’s not that easy. Otherwise everybody would stick to formula, everybody would follow the manual, and everybody would get published. I see fads ruling genre, at least in Fantasy. In the decade after the publication of the first Harry Potter there was this galore of books about students of magic, and schools like Hogwarts. Now, you find none, they were eclipsed by the vampire craze. And I remember reading in an agent’s blog something like she wouldn’t touch another book about magic objects that save the world.

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  26. Gender obsolote? HA!

    Can synaptical relays become obsolete?

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  27. Sister Suze,
    I still would like to hear your opinion on how gender affects writing.

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  28. Hello, Violante. Just saw this, today.

    My contribution won't be as substantive as all of the conversation which has already been taking place, but I'll throw in a coupla pennies.

    I try to avoid generalized statements so I think my main thought is that the gender of the writer does not have near the same impact on writing as the voice and skill of the writer.

    That said, I did briefly consider using a gender-neutral pen name for a piece in a genre different from what I typically write so perhaps the greater bearing is that of the impression on audience?

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  29. Mm, but where does that idea of audience's tastes comes from? The audience's reaction itself or some bogus marketing study?

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  30. Wandered over from Moody's. I'd count "Mockingjay" as a war book. A writing friend thought it was the most violent book she'd ever read. And Collins said she wanted to show how horrible war can be.

    It can be hard to get into the head of the opposite sex, if only because we do think differently most of the time. But not all men are the same any more than all women are. In my first book, a critiquer thought a scene in the epilogue wouldn't fit for a couple who'd been married ten years. It would fit my hubby, and we've been married nearly 28 years.

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  31. Hi, Donna
    Thanks for coming over. And thanks for letting me know about Mockinjay. The truth is that I heard "The Hunger Games” are soooo disturbing; I am staying clear from them. However, I wasn’t saying women were unable to write gruesome details, they can, they do. I But they seldom write about military affairs and battlefield scenes
    You are right. When all it´s said and done, we are different, regardless of our sex. We are children of our experiences and act according to them. But there is a gender trap and it catches us at the oddest moments. Once in a while, I’ve been told “I think like a man” (whatever that may mean), but when it comes to romance, I seem to develop all the horrid tendencies men associate with difficult women!
    Stay with us!
    PS. By the way, don´t you just hate when you describe a situation you have actually witnessed or gone through yourself, and people say “that’s impossible. It would never happen in real life!”?

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