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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Getting it terribly, terribly wrong, or difficulties writing the other gender (Page 3)

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Author Topic: Getting it terribly, terribly wrong, or difficulties writing the other gender
Leonide
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well, Icarus, I think you're discounting the obvious...he never says that this alleged dingle pulling *hurts* him. He only says he does it to keep from crying. In PUBLIC even. Can we say Junior Exhibitionist?


*three Dingle-licious pages*

[This message has been edited by Leonide (edited February 05, 2003).]


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Bob_Scopatz
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Okay, so basically, this is a culture where in exchange for not being able to cry, they let you masturbate in public? Hmm...

I think this author might have a few unresolved issues, you know?


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Leonide
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I think probably guys *would* masturbate in public, if it wasn't for all the women walking around.


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David Bowles
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Icarus, it's probably easy for us 'not-so-macho' guys to write women... Tom Clancy types seem to have more difficulty.
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Godric
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::Walks into thread and wants to cry::

::Runs away holding dingle::


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Icarus
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Not pulling. Squeezing. Squeezing tightly even!
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Icarus
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::nods::

That makes sense.


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Olivet
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I think the author's big mistake was using the word "dingle". It's too funny, all by itself. It's supposed to be a fairly dramatic scene.

Put another way... What if you had a female character in a tense situation... Lemme try this:

quote:
THe train lurched, and I knew something was wrong. A bit more force than usual for a stop. Then the world turned sideways all at once, flinging me against the metal wall hard enough to bruise my jahoobies.

See? If you are gonna use slang, try to find something that isn't going to make a reader spew cola out their nose.

[This message has been edited by Olivet (edited February 05, 2003).]


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Vána
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I hopped on Hatrack this morning and saw this thread.

I thought, "A three page thread that I haven't seen at all? When was it started? It must be an old one that's been bumped."

I checked. It was started yesterday. Last night, even.

So, I knew I had to read it. Only something very funny or very controversial could possibly generate three pages since last night.


Now, I have "Dingle Belle Rock" stuck in my head, and probably will all day. Thanks, guys!

I really do love Hatrack.


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Icarus
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::takes notes::

winkie, and ah, jahoobies

Right, then.


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enjeeo
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quote:
"Memoirs of a Geisha," written by a man, but about a woman, was stunning in its accuracy.
Firstly interested to know how your friend knew that, given that even Japanese people tend to know almost nothing for sure about the lives of geisha, especially in history.

And secondly, though a man wrote the book, he is supposed to have written it after extensive interviews with the woman the main character was based on, who actually said later that it wasn't such a perfect portrayal of her.

(I did love the book though! )


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Leonide
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enjeeo, not in its portrayal of geisha, but in its portrayal of women. They are a mysterious breed, those geisha.
I knew he'd interviewed an actual geisha, and that later she said the book was innaccurate -- there is a book out there, entitled "Life of a Geisha" or something like that, which is her *true* story.

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mackillian
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You know, Olivia, I was thinking along the same lines. I mean, what if the gender roles were reversed in the situation and it as a young lady instead of a young man.

quote:
so I put my hands in my shirt and held on to my bazoombas, real tight. That always kept me from crying.

Yep. That'd make me cry MORE.


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littlemissattitude
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quote:
...it's probably easy for us 'not-so-macho' guys to write women...Tom Clancy types seem to have more difficulty.

I think there probably is something to this. I also think - and this is my personal opinion, based on absolutely no research - that women have less trouble writing male characters than some men have writing female characters due to our cultural bias against men "being in touch with" (I hate that phrase, but couldn't think of anything more appropriate) female attitudes. This suspicion may well come from the men I know and their general reluctance to know anything about the female experience, and so may be completely off-base. However, my experience is that women know much more about the things men do and think than men know about the things women do and think. Or, at least, women are more willing to admit knowledge across gender lines.


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Olivet
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I agree. There may also be something else at play when women write men. I mean, most of our literary tradition has been male-centered, or had male main characters, etc. Gradually, as women began writing (which I think comes on the heels of women being, you know, taught to read *grumbles*), it stands to reason that they tended to write some male pov, just because of the literary tradition they had been brought up with.

Just a thought. Again, no research or anything. Also, it may not be as true today as it once was, since so many more women write. Still, I'd be willing to bet that many modern female writers are at least a bit influenced by the work of some male writers.

I should confess that I generally do not go for the gyno-centric, contemplation-of-the-vagina types of stories that seem to do so well in the feminist lit-crit circles. I have an English Degree, but I still expect to be entertained. That makes me low-brow, I guess.

*scratches self and belches delicately*


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mackillian
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*hums dingle song*
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Icarus
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Those are interesting points...the former being a much more polite restating of this point of mine:

quote:
I suppose it's possible that it only works in one direction...that women can write men but not vice-versa. This would fit in well with the "Men Are Scum" worldview. Women pay enough attention to men to be able to write male characters convincingly, but men are too chauvenistic self-centered to do the same.

But you're qualifying it to say some men. I don't agree, though, that women as a whole are more likely to be open to the male experience than men are to the female experience. Certainly, there are degrees of variation on both sides, but I know plenty of women who think, for instance, that all sports are stupid, and can't understand why they are important to many men, who have no idea how a car works, except that it somehow involves gas, and so forth. I suspect that stereotype women make up about the same percentage of women as a whole that stereotype men do for men.

In addition, authors, whether male or female, tend to be the artistic among us. That type of person often, though certainly not always, has a greater comfort zone exploring different sides of his or her own personality than other people. Besides, being able to put yourself in other people's shoes is practically a requirement of being a writer.

So, how often have you two had experiences of reading a female character written by a male and saying, absolutely not? Is it most of the time, or a minority of the time?


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littlemissattitude
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Early women not only wrote from the male pov, but in some cases had to take male pen names in order to be published.

Personally, I don't think all that much about labels such as "high-brow" versus "low-brow". What matters to me is that what I am reading is interesting. There has to be a good story; I am much more forgving of a writer who tells a good story but isn't always grammatically perfect than I am of one who can produce several hundred pages of perfect grammar but doesn't have anything interesting or important to say. Certainly, at a certain point, if the writing is just awful, I'll give up and put the book or story down.


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Icarus
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I'm not sure I see your point...
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^Saudade^
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Hehehehe... this thread is just funny
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littlemissattitude
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Icarus: I have to say that I have had the "absolutely not!" experience when reading male authors fairly rarely. Maybe I subconsciously steer away from male authors who I think might not be able to handle female characters very well. Or, if I do read them, I accept the limitation because I like the stories they tell. One author who comes to mind who has given me that experience is Clive Cussler, in his Dirk Pitt adventure novels. Another writer who always struck me as having a bit of difficulty writing believable female characters was John D. MacDonald. And I wonder whether the problem was that they were not capable of writing believable female charcaters, or if they were aiming at more of a male audience and didn't think female characterization was a top priority. The reason I say that is that the other place I have seen this happen, going the other way (male characters that don't ring true) is in romance novels written by women. I would lay this down to the same dynamic; the writers are aiming at a female audience and see male characterization as secondary.
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Icarus
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::nods::

That makes sense.

Of course, I'm not sure that the characters in those novels who are of the author's same gender are that realistic either. I've read all the Dirk Pitt books, because I got addicted to them as a kid and I'm obsessive about finishing anything I start reading. And I'd have to say that none of the male characters there quite rings true. Doesn't mean the books are not fun in their silly little Saturday Matinee way, but there it is.

So let me ask you a follow-up question. When you read a romance novel aimed at women, with admittedly poor characterization of men, are the women believable? I've never read in that genre, so I really don't know. Do they at least get women right? I don't mean the little details now. One would assume a female author would know what certain, *things* would feel like; but in terms of motivation and psychology, are they real?


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advice for robots
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I recently wrote an article about mothers quitting their day jobs and starting home businesses. It turned out really well--all the women who read it loved it, including my wife, the three female writers I work with, the whole marketing department, and the president of the company and her favorite vice president. Yay!

Then the president of the company found out that a man wrote the article. I didn't know about this until I saw the final proofs for the magazine. Supposedly because of this, she had gone in and rewritten the whole thing, along with her hench-woman the vice president. And it was the most unreadable self-righteous pile of crap I've ever seen. I'd conducted interviews with actual woman who were working from home, and what they said was the backbone of my article. I loaded the article with their good quotes. Gone were the quotes, and in their place was slapped a bunch of super-pc nonsense.

And now we're working on marketing products specifically made for men, and this same president is slashing anything that sounds remotely like "guy" language. And yelling at us for missing the point of the product line. This is a traditionally female-oriented product company, and I guess they really don't want to talk to men. Grrr.


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mackillian
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See, I think that's what most authors struggle to convey--reality.

I know from experience that "realness" of writing gets better each time...either that or I'm getting older. With my first book, I wrote from a male's POV and couldn't figure out if I had it right. The guys who've read it say I got it okay. My second book was from a male child's POV, so that was much easier... I guess because sexuality isn't developed in a ten-year-old (at least the one I was writing about). The novel I'm working on now involves a large family and it's tougher and more exciting than the first two, I suppose because of the complexity of relationships, how people differ when relating to different people, and how the family I'm writing about is very different from the one I grew up in (yeah, I know, grammatically correct would be 'in which I grew up' but it sounds pretentious).

What I think I'm trying to say is that it's hard to write about what you haven't...lived? experienced? immersed in?


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Kayla
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advice for robots: Can you paste before and afters?

This thread made me laugh!! Y'all are a hoot. Mack, sweetie, I don't even know what to say about your song. I'm stunned. I'm amazed. It frightened me that you came up with it so quickly.

The only comment I have about the whole "please don't squeeze the charmin" thing is pressure over pain. Smack your finger, grab your finger. Pressure over pain works for a lot of things.

Though why missing mommy (heartache) would lead him to his penis is beyond me...

[This message has been edited by Kayla (edited February 05, 2003).]


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Kayla
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Going with what Mack just said, you know, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and The Bobbsey Twins were all thought up by the same person (a man) and though he farmed out the actual writing (he roughed out the plots and handed them off to different writers.) The point being, back then, kids were kids. We've been reading the Hardy Boys here recently and I've never seen 17 and 18 year olds act the way those boys do (Not even on Leave it to Beaver!) But for the time they were written, the authors could get away with it. I don't think they could today. Ender is a much more believable character than the original Hardy Boys.

Okay, the real point, you can get away with writing kids and not know what you are talking about, but the age limit on that is becoming younger and younger.


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littlemissattitude
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Icarus: The answer to that, in my experience, is sometimes yes and sometimes no. Sometimes the women characters in romance novels are just as stereotypical as the men are. Other times, the women are quite on the mark, anyway as far as I can see in measuring them against myself and other women I know. Sometimes, the female characters in these novels start out to be fairly true-to-life, but then became more stereotype than real character as the story progresses. I have been known to refer to this as the "normal, intelligent woman meets moody, emotionally unavailable man and her mind turns to mush" plot. I think some of the more recent romance novels do better than the older ones did in this respect, but I can't really speak to that since I mostly read romance novels when I was a teenager - I rarely read them now.

I do know what you mean about the male characters in Cussler's novels, even though I always thought the male characters were a bit - sometimes just a bit - more believeable than the female characters. I've read most of the Dirk Pitt novels as well, BTW. Side note: Which was the one that ends up with a chase scene through Pirates of the Caribbean (sp?) at Disneyland? I think of that now every time I go on that ride.


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Icarus
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That was Iceberg. I actually didn't read that one, though, because it was co-written, and thus falls outside of my obsessive-compulsive rules. It is a prequel, and doesn't include several of the main characters of the series.
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advice for robots
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OK, Kayla...money = mouth.

Here's the original article written by yours truly.

Here's the way the article appeared in print. (Not as nicely formatted!)

I'm more angry about the way it got handled: I didn't even know it was being revised until I saw the proof. I'm supposed to take care of revisions myself. I don't mind making them to what I write, but I hate it when somebody rewrites me and doesn't tell me. Maybe that biased me, I don't know. If you like the new one better, I won't hold it against you.


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Olivet
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My sister writes "Inspirational Romances". I have read a couple of them, but not in a great while. I really can't say that any romance novel I've ever seen has ever interested meto the point I would finish it. I found one on a plane once, and had no trouble leaving it behind. Same deal with visiting family (mom had one or two, and it was preferrable to books on religion-- God's Plan For Your Life sorts of things) if I forgot to bring reading material. That hasn't happened in years.

Anyway, one "romance novel" or series that worked for me in all-around characterization-- Outlander, by Diane Gabaldon.

I was coaxed into reading it by Hatrackers, who promised me it was more of a historical, timetravel fantasy than a "romance".


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Lissande
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Unhand me, you ruffian!

*falls under desk laughing*


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Belle
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Darn it, Liss - I wanted to say that line!

I have not read the last Outlander novel - because I know if I do it will be tortuous waiting for the next one to come out. See, now it's my choice, not Gabaldon's that I do without the next installment.


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katharina
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I have deliberately bought and read exactly one romance novel in my life, and it was after reading the an anthology of all of Isaac Azimov's science fiction short stories. Over a hundred stories of the same macho men, with exactly three female characters - only one of whom had a name.

But that story was The Ugly Little Boy. And Azimov got it right.

I loved the anthology, but I then felt a serious need for estrogen so pressing I scoured the Romance section in the library. I found a book that was calling to me.

I still have that book somewhere, I think. A reminder that while my favorite author is (at moments) Jack London, it's okay to love the romance.


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littlemissattitude
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Thank you, Icarus.
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enjeeo
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leonide

Ahhh...I see. Okay, get you now. @myself

PS...I'm interested to read the one just called Geisha, the book by Liz Dalby, the first Western woman to train as a geisha. Of course this is as a modern geisha, so not quite the same rules apply, but should still be interesting.


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porcelain girl
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i read your first post, icarus, and came up with this:
maybe the author was trying to show that the little boy physically held onto a symbol of his masculinity while trying to emotionally maintain that idea of "masculinity" as upheld by his society.

but that doesn't excuse what a horrific and astoundingly STUPID job she did.


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Kayla
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advice for robots, I see what you mean! Okay, their tampering was slightly annoying. Had I been the writer, I might even be miffed! Why did they change your first woman's opening sentence and make it the third woman's?

(I'm convinced that "have it all" means do the man's work and the woman's work. )


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Kayla
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Icarus, what was the point of the story? Did the fact that the little boy "held on to my dingle, real tight" ever fit into the plot at all? Was it his own quirky weird thing, or was it a societal thing in the villiage without the women? Does he ever outgrow the crying?
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Shawn Smyres
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After reading through this I figured I had to join in.

Ahem: DINGLE!

That's all.

Shawn "Smears" Smyres


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Icarus
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afr, I read both and I see what you mean. I wouldn't say, though, that they changed it to make it more PC. Rather, it seems that they added verbiage, and often dumbed it down. (What does that say for their perception of women?) I noticed that a couple of times, they actually changed direct quotes. Is that considered acceptable? I also noticed that in a couple of spots they added details that were not present in your version. Did they work from your notes, call the women back, or just make the stuff up?

My words are pretty important to me. I would share your anger if somebody changed them. Especially if they changed them without ever approaching me about it. It would feel like a slap in the face to me. I assume you wrote this freelance...do you need to submit material to these people again?


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Icarus
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Kayla, it was his own thing. We never get inside anybody else to find out if anybody else does it. The point of the story was the boy's learning of the truth behind why the women left, which he does not know at the start of the story, and of the suicide of his mother. Realizing that, in leaving to protect themselves and their daughters, they abandoned their sons, and abandoned him, he comes to the conclusion that women are, indeed, bitches.

Porce, that makes sense, and I think you're right. But then it's an example of sabotaging the readability of a story to wedge in a clumsy symbolism, something I abhor in fiction.


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Bob_Scopatz
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Maybe the author was just yanking your chain.

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Leonide
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::coughDINGLEcough::
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mackillian
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Jeez, Bob, get it right!
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coil
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LMAO!
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esl
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OK, I'm not done reading but guess what! I was reading. I have about a thousand songs and they're playing on shuffle. It just happens to play Jingle Bell Rock.
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Leonide
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Oh the ironies of the dingle-influenced world....
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advice for robots
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Kayla, there is no rhyme or reason to the changes. They do it because they can. The whole marketing group lives in terror of them because they do this to every single piece of writing that gets produced. They are micromanagers extraordinaire. They sit through hours-long meetings and go through every single word. I've been in those meetings.

Yeah, the new stuff wasn't dripping with pc like I was ranting about, but it was unreadable and self-justifying. It carried all that empty corporate-speak. Who wants to read that? It's like slogging through a company memo. I'm not saying mine was a spectacular piece, but theirs brought tears to my eyes.

Icarus, their altering of the direct quotes (and tacking on their little explanations) is purely unprofessional. That's all the explanation I can give. Like I said, they do it because they can. That's how they throw their power around.

This isn't freelance. I work for the company's creative department, basically an in-house ad agency. That actually gives me a bit more leverage, because I know everyone who works there and I can help get things running right. I usually don't do work for this division, but the several pieces I've done for them have all wound up like this. Just yesterday, a brochure that we thought we had all wrapped up nicely came back with paragraphs of text added and changes all throughout what I'd already written (and gotten approved by the normal marketing folk). And the contact person who'd until then been so accomodating warned me not to change one word. Literally. I took out some bad typos and added a few commas and left in all the horrible run-on sentences they'd added. And I told the account rep that I wasn't going to sign off on the changes, because I wasn't taking responsibility for the text anymore and I didn't want my name on it.

I could go on. Luckily, I don't work with them very often. But I'm complaining, and the right people do listen to me, and things will change. That brochure was the cement pillar that broke the camel's back.

This isn't a criticism of female execs--merely a criticism of impotent execs. And I actually do enjoy working in the department. This really is the exception, and there's plenty of fine people who handle revisions in a much more professional manner. When I do go freelance, this will doubtlessly be good experience. I need to learn how to handle clients like this.


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Olivet
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Bump
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Lissande
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*thinks the proper bump phrase for this one should be 'dingle'*
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