"A man would never do that"...

J

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high stakes plot ideas

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Jan 25, 2016
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Inspired by @Chase Gamwell in his previous thread about creating lead female character I want to ask you about your experience with writing from a perspective of a protagonist of an opposite sex.

There are traits that we perceive as typically "male" or "female". I am ready to call bullshit on this, as there are more than 7 billion people in the world right now, and it would be silly to think each of them conforms to these standards. Still, this is how we categorize things and no one is sure (to my knowledge at least) if reasons are biological or socially conditioned. What I am sure of, is that reactions of readers are socially conditioned.

My WIP is a story of two guys. A fragment when one of the characters tells another that he looks better with his hair like-this-opposed-to-that gained a comment "A man would never do THAT". Maybe I would have even treated it seriously and considered changing the line or getting rid of it altogether if I would not seen the commenter in question (a male, of course) randomly complementing his (male) friends on growing a beard or similar aesthetic features. One of my very close male friend spend quite a while on lecturing me about how men don't realize details and are not very observant in general. Once over lunch the same friend, with flaring cheeks, told me that he saw an ex-colleague with another ex-colleague, and they were together in a car, but it was not her car, and OMG he was certainly not just giving her a lift. I do not in any case despise him for sharing gossip- I believe that non- or mildly-vicious gossip in the company of intimate friends is healthy. But I would not judge him as unobservant, despite his own assuring me of it...

My writing is heavily based on my observations. And from them I can conclude, that the specific landmarks of "male" and "female" are, if there are any, not very rigorous. However, I do want to make my characters believable and not make my readers immediately think "Oh yeah, a chick had to write that one".

Please share your experiences of writing as/about the opposite sex :) Also, of course, what your readers think about it- that would be really valuable for a newbie, who's readers were her partner, some BBF's and her cat :)
 
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Well, for the hair thing, I can definitively say there is a difference in thinking about hair and facial hair. Facial hair is a topic for men. Regular hair--generally--is not.

I don't know how to comment on this. I just know that I've written from the male perspective for all three of my books. My series is a male lead with a female supporting lead and three other male leads. I think a lot of it is my humor: I make jokes about comic books and guns and blowing crap up and the like. Not saying those aren't female characteristics as well (obviously, because I'm female and they're MY characteristics lol), but that's who they're more associated with. I do have plans for female leads, just haven't gotten to their books yet.

I do, however, have men as beta readers (not because they're men, just because they're awesome, but they do also happen to be men), so my hubby, my beta readers, and my writers group catch me on some things. Sooooooooo all that to say, I'm not sure what advice I can give. Except go hang out with a bunch of guys. I've done that all my life and it seemed to work for me. :)
 
I've written from the male and female perspective, but mostly in scifi/fantasy. Personally, in a speculative setting, I'm not sure there needs to be that much of a difference. In "real life" situations, stuff like complements on facial hair and regular hair will probably matter more (I can say what @Nicole Wilson said regarding the fact is true. I've complimented a friend on his facial hair, but the most I'd be likely to say about regular hair is "did you get a haircut?"), but otherwise I feel like it would be more of a matter of circumstance and character, otherwise.

As far as saying something like "a man would never do that...", I'm not sure that will be accurate for males or females 100% of the time, but there is something to be said for "normalcy". If you are trying to write something where the characters fit within the tropes of a genre or individual model, some things may seem out of line. If it's so glaring that someone feels the need to say something about it, maybe it would be worth looking into, but it would also be important to take the person saying it and the context in which they are saying it into account.
 
Men often disguise compliments as jokes, as this is a less risky way of saying something nice than being direct in their praise. Coming straight out with an observation on a mate's appearance is judgemental, potentially provoking an argument—or sounds gay, which some males are paranoid about avoiding sounding like.

Your close male friend's lecture says more about him and his expectations than the gender as a whole. One thing that irritates me about being in the company of men is how there's only a few subjects which they're happy talking about—sport, cars, booze and which female film stars and singers they fancy. I'm interested in some of these things too, but not to the exclusion of art, literature, wildlife, philosophy and the dynamics of relationships. This is probably why I've always had more female friends than male.

Such friendships, as well as being raised as the only boy in a predominantly female family, have made me comfortable with writing from the perspective of the opposite sex. In the short stories, novellas, poems and novels I've written so far, there's about a 50/50 split between male and female protagonists. My beta-readers (all women) have approved of my portrayal of the female psyche, so I must be doing something right.

Commercial considerations could or should come in, when deciding the gender of your characters. Readers prefer books written by authors of the same sex as them, which is one of the reasons the few successful male writers of romances masquerade under female pen names. More women than men read anyway, and the survey quoted in this article suggests there's an 80/20 split for female/male readers:

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, But What About Readers? | Digital Book World

Some men would never pick up a military warfare thriller written by a woman, and if they did it would be to find fault.

In a way, it doesn't matter how accurately we nail the behaviour and responses of our character's gender, as the reader will be applying their own prejudices to how that person should react.

533006616ef5cb9e70b6a9ad6183e63d.jpg
 
Inspired by @Chase Gamwell in his previous thread about creating lead female character I want to ask you about your experience with writing from a perspective of a protagonist of an opposite sex.

There are traits that we perceive as typically "male" or "female". I am ready to call bullshit on this, as there are more than 7 billion people in the world right now, and it would be silly to think each of them conforms to these standards. Still, this is how we categorize things and no one is sure (to my knowledge at least) if reasons are biological or socially conditioned. What I am sure of, is that reactions of readers are socially conditioned.

My WIP is a story of two guys. A fragment when one of the characters tells another that he looks better with his hair like-this-opposed-to-that gained a comment "A man would never do THAT". Maybe I would have even treated it seriously and considered changing the line or getting rid of it altogether if I would not seen the commenter in question (a male, of course) randomly complementing his (male) friends on growing a beard or similar aesthetic features. One of my very close male friend spend quite a while on lecturing me about how men don't realize details and are not very observant in general. Once over lunch the same friend, with flaring cheeks, told me that he saw an ex-colleague with another ex-colleague, and they were together in a car, but it was not her car, and OMG he was certainly not just giving her a lift. I do not in any case despise him for sharing gossip- I believe that non- or mildly-vicious gossip in the company of intimate friends is healthy. But I would not judge him as unobservant, despite his own assuring me of it...

My writing is heavily based on my observations. And from them I can conclude, that the specific landmarks of "male" and "female" are, if there are any, not very rigorous. However, I do want to make my characters believable and not make my readers immediately think "Oh yeah, a chick had to write that one".

Please share your experiences of writing as/about the opposite sex :) Also, of course, what your readers think about it- that would be really valuable for a newbie, who's readers were her partner, some BBF's and her cat :)
As a self-avowed male, I am guilty of exactly the same. I swear up and down that I am utterly oblivious. And I am. Except when I'm super-observant. Then I'm not.
Also, men do never ask how their hair looks better. Except for when they do.

Now, dear Bluma, think how you'd cut right to the core if you included that inconsistency in your work! In the next scene, or the previous, have the same character ridicule another character for saying the same thing. Then you're on to something.
 
Well, for the hair thing, I can definitively say there is a difference in thinking about hair and facial hair. Facial hair is a topic for men. Regular hair--generally--is not.

I don't know how to comment on this. I just know that I've written from the male perspective for all three of my books. My series is a male lead with a female supporting lead and three other male leads. I think a lot of it is my humor: I make jokes about comic books and guns and blowing crap up and the like. Not saying those aren't female characteristics as well (obviously, because I'm female and they're MY characteristics lol), but that's who they're more associated with. I do have plans for female leads, just haven't gotten to their books yet.

I do, however, have men as beta readers (not because they're men, just because they're awesome, but they do also happen to be men), so my hubby, my beta readers, and my writers group catch me on some things. Sooooooooo all that to say, I'm not sure what advice I can give. Except go hang out with a bunch of guys. I've done that all my life and it seemed to work for me. :)
Ah yes... that most manly of pursuits.
Tell me — handlebar mustache, or no?
20160219_155357501_iOS.jpg 20160219_155457112_iOS.jpg

Oooh! I can see a gray hair in the picture! Yes! I need to start wearing loafers, and blazers with elbow patches! Wait, I already do those things.

Men get kind of weird about beards. Don't we? I can't tell you how many random conversations I've gotten in about whether a complete stranger can grow a beard or not, and whether his family members can, and especially how long it takes to grow one. Like we have a race going on on our faces.
 
Dudley.jpg

My male character, Sunny, noticed that a bathroom had chrome fittings. A beta reader said Sunny had gone limp wristed, noticing a thing like that. Next thing, she said, he'd start to mince (sorry, but she did!) I just thought, he was highly observant of detail. He is a policeman after all. But I wasn't taking the chance of introducing a false note that wasn't significant enough to justify the risk, so I cut it.

Interesting though, when I wrote him drawing the girl in for a kiss in the bird coop. I had to reverse that imaginative experience. I did consider whether to make them making love in there, but, you know. Owl poo.

Pic is me with a Little Owl called Dudley.
Dudley the Deadly, I call him, because his peck was the sharpest of any of the owls in the sanctuary.
 
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I've written from the male and female perspective, but mostly in scifi/fantasy. Personally, in a speculative setting, I'm not sure there needs to be that much of a difference. In "real life" situations, stuff like complements on facial hair and regular hair will probably matter more (I can say what @Nicole Wilson said regarding the fact is true. I've complimented a friend on his facial hair, but the most I'd be likely to say about regular hair is "did you get a haircut?"), but otherwise I feel like it would be more of a matter of circumstance and character, otherwise.

As far as saying something like "a man would never do that...", I'm not sure that will be accurate for males or females 100% of the time, but there is something to be said for "normalcy". If you are trying to write something where the characters fit within the tropes of a genre or individual model, some things may seem out of line. If it's so glaring that someone feels the need to say something about it, maybe it would be worth looking into, but it would also be important to take the person saying it and the context in which they are saying it into account.
Same here — but then I tend to ask everyone those questions — "hey did you [do your makeup a different way/lose weight/get a new outfit/get highlights] looks nice!" Mildly inappropriate, but invariably people say "yeah! no one else asked me about it."

I feel like there is a difference in thought process, writing a male or female character, but then when people on this forum have used found pictures as their avatar instead of their own picture, I've been wrong nearly 100% of the time when I learn their gender. So is there? Maybe not.
 
My male character, Sunny, noticed that a bathroom had chrome fittings. A beta reader said Sunny had gone limp wristed, noticing a thing like that. Next thing, she said, he'd start to mince (sorry, but she did!) I just thought, he was highly observant of detail. He is a policeman after all. But I wasn't taking the chance of introducing a false note that wasn't significant enough to justify the risk, so cut it.

Interesting though, when I wrote him drawing the girl in for a kiss in the bird coop. I had to reverse that imaginative experience. I did consider whether to make them making love in there, but, you know. Owl poo.

Pic is me with a Little Owl called Dudley.
Dudley the Deadly, I call him, because his peck was the sharpest of any of the owls in the sanctuary.
That's cool! And I have to tell you — depending on the man *clears throat* if he's in the mood, a little owl poop isn't going to make him seek out a different venue. Or a lot of owl poop either. And it would certainly be a unique scene.
 
That's cool! And I have to tell you — depending on the man *clears throat* if he's in the mood, a little owl poop isn't going to make him seek out a different venue. Or a lot of owl poop either. And it would certainly be a unique scene.

Especially unique if someone wound up getting mauled by an angry sky kitten...
 
One of my characters - a female - was a Serbian child and watched her parents being killed in the Serbian conflict in the early '90s. I developed her into a lesbian, S&M-loving psychopathic assassin (and no, there's no personal fantasy or wish fulfilment on my part)! She's still with me in the third book. However, I've never tried to write anything from her point of view. It's all about her actions and words which are meant to show what she is inside. I've had no feedback at all.
 
@Jason Byrne we're thinking along the same lines here ;) I do (or at least try to) ridicule generalizations in my MS. Also, I am making my character accuse others of the bad traits that he himself possesses. As for the beards- they are in fashion now, so yes, I witnessed guys talking about their facial hair with "reverence and gusto" as Ursula le Guin had put it ;) (BTW, another female author in a male dominated field).

@Chase Gamwell yeah, the "normalcy" or "normativity" is what I'm worried about. I mean, I don't like it myself, as you probably noticed already, but if I would be writing only to and for myself, I wouldn't be here ;)

@Paul Whybrow you sort of summed it all up. I really try to look at what my (few) readers say with objectivity and to take their criticism as something serious and valid. But upon hearing "Aha! That was so totally un-manly, I would never do such a thing, GAY, GAY!!!!!!oneoneone!" I am really tempted to ignore it altogether. BTW, the remark in question was not like "OMG, your hair is gorgeous, can I touch it?", rather an off-handed remark in a very informal, relaxed setting. Kom op, (as the Dutch would say ;)), you guys can handle that I guess? ;)

Heh, this thread is inspiring me to put some gender generalizations into one of my characters mouth/head. He's a redneck anyway, so it'll fit :p
 
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My male character, Sunny, noticed that a bathroom had chrome fittings. A beta reader said Sunny had gone limp wristed, noticing a thing like that. Next thing, she said, he'd start to mince (sorry, but she did!) I just thought, he was highly observant of detail. He is a policeman after all. But I wasn't taking the chance of introducing a false note that wasn't significant enough to justify the risk, so I cut it.

Interesting though, when I wrote him drawing the girl in for a kiss in the bird coop. I had to reverse that imaginative experience. I did consider whether to make them making love in there, but, you know. Owl poo.

Pic is me with a Little Owl called Dudley.
Dudley the Deadly, I call him, because his peck was the sharpest of any of the owls in the sanctuary.

Oh, that makes me think of the affair that was going on at a nature center I used to work at, between the two animal care staff...It was an open secret (though her husband didn't know...), and I'll admit I wondered what went on in the mews after hours...
 
If I had a royalty check for every critique I've received saying " a guy would never say/do that", or a "woman would never say/do that", or the more generic "no one would react like that", when the passage in question was inspired directly by an actual life experience of mine, I'd be a very rich man.

Like Bluma said, with 7+ individuals in the world, it's ridiculous to put only generalized expectations on any one, period. I've personally seen and heard things from both genders that some would never believe in a million years, so I tend to take these critiques with the grain of salt they deserve. The only rule I follow is, would the character I'm writing say/do/react a certain way, based on the personality traits, strengths and weaknesses I've already given him or her.
 
BTW, another female author in a male dominated field

I'd posit that fantasy was dominated by women around Ursula K. Leguin's time. I grew up reading fantasy and I can only recall reading one male fantasy author (two, if you count Tolkien). The rest were all women - Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and (though she wrote lots of sci fi, which is what I read of her stuff) C.J. Cherryh. To me, those women defined fantasy/scifi rather than any man/men.

And @Jason Byrne you seem to have your beard to a length where mustache wax will come in handy. Go for it...be fabulous...
 
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Inspired by @Chase Gamwell in his previous thread about creating lead female character I want to ask you about your experience with writing from a perspective of a protagonist of an opposite sex.

There are traits that we perceive as typically "male" or "female". I am ready to call bullshit on this, as there are more than 7 billion people in the world right now, and it would be silly to think each of them conforms to these standards. Still, this is how we categorize things and no one is sure (to my knowledge at least) if reasons are biological or socially conditioned. What I am sure of, is that reactions of readers are socially conditioned.

My WIP is a story of two guys. A fragment when one of the characters tells another that he looks better with his hair like-this-opposed-to-that gained a comment "A man would never do THAT". Maybe I would have even treated it seriously and considered changing the line or getting rid of it altogether if I would not seen the commenter in question (a male, of course) randomly complementing his (male) friends on growing a beard or similar aesthetic features. One of my very close male friend spend quite a while on lecturing me about how men don't realize details and are not very observant in general. Once over lunch the same friend, with flaring cheeks, told me that he saw an ex-colleague with another ex-colleague, and they were together in a car, but it was not her car, and OMG he was certainly not just giving her a lift. I do not in any case despise him for sharing gossip- I believe that non- or mildly-vicious gossip in the company of intimate friends is healthy. But I would not judge him as unobservant, despite his own assuring me of it...

My writing is heavily based on my observations. And from them I can conclude, that the specific landmarks of "male" and "female" are, if there are any, not very rigorous. However, I do want to make my characters believable and not make my readers immediately think "Oh yeah, a chick had to write that one".

Please share your experiences of writing as/about the opposite sex :) Also, of course, what your readers think about it- that would be really valuable for a newbie, who's readers were her partner, some BBF's and her cat :)

Men seem to use less qualifiers - less adverbs - shorter sentences - might talk abou their facial hair but not in a way that would AT FIRST seem the same as how women talk about their hair... with women it's all delight 'Oh .. you got your hair done ... I really like it .... blah blah blah' ... to which the next woman might respond ... 'Yeah .... I wanted something different ... I like this blah blah ... but not sure about blah blah' With women its' a ritual sort of dance.... with men I would imagine this scene differently but since I don't know a lot about men's facial hairstyles these days (or EVER but the whole facial hair thing does seem to have gotten more complicated lately).... let me just see if I can make my way through this.. while the female scene would happen ideally in a greeting sort of situation .... where they are giving one another their full attention ... I see the male version of this happening while men are doing something together .... not when they meet on the street or whatever ... so they're playing pool ... one guy takes a shot ... steps back and whiel the other guy is lining up his shot ... guy #1 says 'I see you have a soul patch going' (the only name I know for a facial hairstyle LOL) ..... guy# 2 shrugs .... "Yeah.... wife seems to like it' ... they continue playing their game of pool ....eventually this conversation could devolve into a female like face to face discussion of facial hair which I would find really funny.....

just rambling thoughts at 4:11 am CST
 
Less qualifying, I'd say so. Less verbal grooming, more communicating on a need to know basis. Men are less likely to say 'oooh.'

(Let's see if anyone now says 'oooh.' They are a polite but refusenik, rebellious lot)
 
Inspired by @Chase Gamwell in his previous thread about creating lead female character I want to ask you about your experience with writing from a perspective of a protagonist of an opposite sex.

There are traits that we perceive as typically "male" or "female". I am ready to call bullshit on this, as there are more than 7 billion people in the world right now, and it would be silly to think each of them conforms to these standards. Still, this is how we categorize things and no one is sure (to my knowledge at least) if reasons are biological or socially conditioned. What I am sure of, is that reactions of readers are socially conditioned.

My WIP is a story of two guys. A fragment when one of the characters tells another that he looks better with his hair like-this-opposed-to-that gained a comment "A man would never do THAT". Maybe I would have even treated it seriously and considered changing the line or getting rid of it altogether if I would not seen the commenter in question (a male, of course) randomly complementing his (male) friends on growing a beard or similar aesthetic features. One of my very close male friend spend quite a while on lecturing me about how men don't realize details and are not very observant in general. Once over lunch the same friend, with flaring cheeks, told me that he saw an ex-colleague with another ex-colleague, and they were together in a car, but it was not her car, and OMG he was certainly not just giving her a lift. I do not in any case despise him for sharing gossip- I believe that non- or mildly-vicious gossip in the company of intimate friends is healthy. But I would not judge him as unobservant, despite his own assuring me of it...

My writing is heavily based on my observations. And from them I can conclude, that the specific landmarks of "male" and "female" are, if there are any, not very rigorous. However, I do want to make my characters believable and not make my readers immediately think "Oh yeah, a chick had to write that one".

Please share your experiences of writing as/about the opposite sex :) Also, of course, what your readers think about it- that would be really valuable for a newbie, who's readers were her partner, some BBF's and her cat :)


Bluma, your male friend sounds like a stereotype speaking on stereotypes. (Apologies, mildly, to said friend).

I have complemented men and women on hair - whether a style suits or not, on colour, cut etc. Perhaps because I am trying to notice, or because I'm useless at small talk and latch onto anything regardless of socially-accepted genderised topics. Or perhaps (in the case of certain women I know) it's because I want to compliment them. Or because it's always nice to receive compliments whether or not we can accept them.

So there are many reasons why a man might broach these so called taboo subjects. Keeping such comments in your WIP gives your male character more flavour ... it can even be commented on by your other characters if they expect men to behave in certain ways ... if it suits you to do so.

As an aside, when it comes to women's hair, I often get it wrong and a person's cut might not be as new as I think, or their colouring might have been done weeks/months ago ... so noticing for a bloke does occur ... it just might be a bit late.
 
I'd posit that fantasy was dominated by women around Ursula K. Leguin's time. I grew up reading fantasy and I can only recall reading one male fantasy author (two, if you count Tokein). The rest were all women - Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and (though she wrote lots of sci fi, which is what I read of her stuff) C.J. Cherryh. To me, those women defined fantasy/scifi rather than any man/men.

And @Jason Byrne you seem to have your beard to a length where mustache wax will come in handy. Go for it...be fabulous...

Chase, please take this as a compliment: I don't know of any author in the world who has his surname (mis)spelt in so many ways and yet we still know exactly who you mean.
 
Men seem to use less qualifiers - less adverbs - shorter sentences - might talk abou their facial hair but not in a way that would AT FIRST seem the same as how women talk about their hair... with women it's all delight 'Oh .. you got your hair done ... I really like it .... blah blah blah' ... to which the next woman might respond ... 'Yeah .... I wanted something different ... I like this blah blah ... but not sure about blah blah' With women its' a ritual sort of dance.... with men I would imagine this scene differently but since I don't know a lot about men's facial hairstyles these days (or EVER but the whole facial hair thing does seem to have gotten more complicated lately).... let me just see if I can make my way through this.. while the female scene would happen ideally in a greeting sort of situation .... where they are giving one another their full attention ... I see the male version of this happening while men are doing something together .... not when they meet on the street or whatever ... so they're playing pool ... one guy takes a shot ... steps back and whiel the other guy is lining up his shot ... guy #1 says 'I see you have a soul patch going' (the only name I know for a facial hairstyle LOL) ..... guy# 2 shrugs .... "Yeah.... wife seems to like it' ... they continue playing their game of pool ....eventually this conversation could devolve into a female like face to face discussion of facial hair which I would find really funny.....

just rambling thoughts at 4:11 am CST

I have to say in my experience, when men talk about facial hair, it is usually a) whether it's a decent growth, b) what sort of treatments, or not, the owner uses, and c) the sassing-frassing-£(*%&)($*£&$ing itching.
 
If I had a royalty check for every critique I've received saying " a guy would never say/do that", or a "woman would never say/do that", or the more generic "no one would react like that", when the passage in question was inspired directly by an actual life experience of mine, I'd be a very rich man.

Like Bluma said, with 7+ individuals in the world, it's ridiculous to put only generalized expectations on any one, period. I've personally seen and heard things from both genders that some would never believe in a million years, so I tend to take these critiques with the grain of salt they deserve. The only rule I follow is, would the character I'm writing say/do/react a certain way, based on the personality traits, strengths and weaknesses I've already given him or her.

What he said.
 
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