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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Walking a mile in "his" shoes (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Walking a mile in "his" shoes
mayflower988
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I'm having some trouble writing a male character in my novel. (I'm female.) I keep writing things for him to say that are things I would say, and I'm worried that he won't sound genuine as a man. Has anyone else had this problem? Is it hard for you to write a character who's a different sex/race/religion, etc.? Can you give me any advice on how to make my man sound like a man?
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genevive42
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I don't generally have a major problem but I also run stuff by my boyfriend to make sure it has the right tone. He's taught me a lot about writing for guys.

Find a guy you trust to be honest with you and ask him to be your barometer for your characters. You'll get the hang of it soon enough.

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rcmann
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I ask my wife and daughter, and female friends. And I try not to get my female characters tin uniquely female situations. None of them ever deal with menstrual cramps or labor pains.

Really though, we are all human. I am guessing that a toothache is a toothache in anybody's jaw.

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mayflower988
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rcmann: True. But I'm finding a lot of my wordings sounds a little feminine. I mean, even though there's a love story in my novel, I don't want the man to sound like just something I dreamed up - just a few token flaws, but always saying the right thing at the right time. I want him to sound like a real person who happens to be male.

genevive: I'll have to track one down. I've got an older brother, maybe he'll do the trick. :)

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JoBird
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My advice: just make him a character with strengths, flaws, and most importantly motivation.

The flaws will keep him from being a silly fantasy. The motivation is what will allow the reader to ultimately understand him.

Honestly, I think the best way to write a character of the opposite sex is to forget that they are of the opposite sex. The essentials remain the same, that's where the reader connects. Hyper-focusing on the differences between men and women will probably make for a poor character.

Women are individuals. So are men.

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MartinV
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I think I need to find myself a female beta reader. The problem is I don't know anyone who is an avid reader but not a writer, let alone a reader of English.
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genevive42
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MartinV, why do you want someone who's not a writer? If you want someone to do a specific style of crit, like for character reality, I think you could just say so. I'd be happy to read for you, if you like.

And while I agree with JoBird in principle, there are still differences in the way men and women think and communicate. Being aware of those can add empathy and a touch of universality to your characters.

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mayflower988
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Jo Bird and Genevive are both right. I think that men and women do have some things in common, since we're both human, we're both individuals, but I think there are differences in our thought processes and communication styles. One example I've heard is that a woman may just want someone to listen to her if she's had a bad day, but if she's talking to her boyfriend/husband, he might keep trying to offer solutions.
I think that for now I'll follow JoBird's advice to just make him a person with strengths, flaws and motivation, and then once I'm finished with the first draft I'll take Genevive's advice and show my draft to a trustworthy male, such as my brother, who can tell me if the character sounds like a real guy.

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extrinsic
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An avenue for investigation into character behaviors and personalitites that doesn't involve deep gender study background research might explore stock and archetype character types. Wikipedia's essays on those subjects and "List of Stock Character Types" are a useful starting if not end point for identifying masculine behaviors, feminine behaviors too, and personalities. Theophrastus, a student of Aristotle, list of thirty "Stock Character Types" is especially illustrative.

Men, like women, are not, however, easily reduced to stereotypes. People and their behaviors and personalities are complex. A hapless man's affability, for example, might be a façade for a hidden personality trait, like a superiority complex, or an overcompensation for a miserable internal existence, or a coping strategy for a general distrust and fear of social relationships.

Surface personality and behavior characteristics are usually high-concept, meaning more or less universal and easily accessible and comprehendible. The deeper characteristics, they are sublime and ephemeral and low-concept, meaning intangible, immaterial, abstract and not so easily accessible and comprehendible. The former are easy to write; the latter challenging. The former develop simplistic, flat characters; the latter develop complex, round characters.

Round characters are most desirable for central characters; somewhat flat characters are okay for auxilliary characters, though with unique characteristics so they are as memorable as they need to be for a narrative's purposes.

Behavior and personality traits, like emotional reactions, are best portrayed in clusters so that readers' imaginations don't have to work too hard to figure them out. Once might be a coincidence; it takes two to tango; three's a party. But not all at once. A cue here and there and yonder will work readers' imaginations an appropriate degree and pull them forward along with a plot. Little mysteries are powerful narrative features.

[ July 21, 2012, 01:08 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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One of my favorite suggestions for this is to use astrological signs. You have twelve different personality types, with good and bad traits, to choose from.

Pick the ones that fit each of your characters most closely, and add in the traits that go with those signs.

And if you want to go further, there are a couple of possibilities.

1--pick sunsigns for the way they think, moonsigns for the way they emote, and ascendant signs for the way they appear to other people

or

2--get LOVE SIGNS by Linda Goodman and see how she says each of the signs interacts with each of the other signs (you can use this for other interactions than romantic, even though the book focusses on romance)

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by mayflower988:
Jo Bird and Genevive are both right. I think that men and women do have some things in common, since we're both human, we're both individuals, but I think there are differences in our thought processes and communication styles. One example I've heard is that a woman may just want someone to listen to her if she's had a bad day, but if she's talking to her boyfriend/husband, he might keep trying to offer solutions.

This is something to take into account.

I've heard that for men a "feel-good" hormone is testosterone, and one way that men elevate their experience of it is by competitive interactions with other men.

I've also heard that a "feel-good" hormone for women is supposed to be oxytocin, and one way women elevate their experience of it is by talking with and sharing emotions with other women.

Something to consider, any way.

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rcmann
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This is true for men. One thing that many women seem to find puzzling is that some men (not all) actually enjoy brawling. I mean fist fists, especially when drunk. I do not refer to lethal combat. I mean quasi-playful punching matches at the local tavern on a saturday night where nobody intends to inflict permanent damage. Just to release tension and revel in the surge of testosterone. A lot of guys like that. I don't. I hate pain too much. But then, that's why you get drunk first.

Other forms of testosterone induced pleasure come from hunting, sports competition (substitute combat), or taking really stupid risks for the adrenaline surge. It all ties back into the reproductive drive.

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s_merrell
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I was debating on whether or not to create a thread for this very issue. Thanks for bringing it up.

My problem is even worse. Not only do I have a problem writing from the vantage of a woman (I'm male), but I have trouble thinking of meaningful roles for women in my story. I mean, I have one serious character who's female, but the rest of the cast is predominantly male, and brainstorming produces few alternatives.

When world building or plotting, do you intentionally insert opposite-gender characters in prominent roles, or do you mostly just stick with what comes to you? Heh... Is novel-writing an equal opportunity employer, gender-wise? Or is it just happenstance?

EDIT: On second thought, perhaps this issue is different enough to merit its own thread. Let me know.

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extrinsic
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I plan roles then decide who's best for the role. Antagonist? An influence character role. Not a nemesis or villain, per se.

A teacher might be a positive antagonist, encouraging and facilitating a student to be all she or he can be, an agency of change already. What role does the teacher play? Challenger or booster? Male maybe if challenger. Female maybe if booster. Role reversal? Female challenger but with feminine persuasion methods. Male booster but with masculine persuasion methods. More role reversal? Male teacher but with feminine persuasion methods, and so on.

Secondarily, in what way does the role portray unique identity traits? Perhaps the teacher spends weekends drag racing. Maybe she's a closet fan fiction writer and would be embarrassed if not vocationally challenged if anyone discovered her secret. Perhaps she's more passionate about teaching writing and less about teaching reading but she's a literature instructor. On behavior and personality traits, identity markers: One is a coincidence; it takes two to tango, three's a party--or develop a well-rounded, interesting character.

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rcmann
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I just write the story, and stick in a character that fits the circumstances. Lucky for me, I know people of both genders with a wide variety of characteristics. I will admit that my female characters tend to be somewhat badass. But then, so do the women I know. I come from farming stock, and country girls are tough. I write what I know, and my heroines are the kind of women who appeal tome personally. To me, strong, tough, dangerous women are sexy as hell. I don't think I could write a clinging vine if I had to. I wouldn't know how. I haven't gotten to know one since high school.
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Robert Nowall
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Of late, my lead characters have mostly been women...it works for me, but I might just be projecting my disgusting fantasies onto my writing. (I've tried to tone down the more lurid elements of late, too.)
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shimiqua
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This is what I'd do to make your words sound like a guy actually said them. The things in bold are the things I'd take out.

"Jo Bird and Genevive are both right. I think that men and women do have some things in common, since we're both human, we're both individuals, but I think there are differences in our thought processes and communication styles. One example I've heard is that a woman may just want someone to listen to her if she's had a bad day, but if she's talking to her boyfriend/husband, he might keep trying to offer solutions.
I think that for now I'll follow JoBird's advice to just make him a person with strengths, flaws and motivation, and then once I'm finished with the first draft I'll take Genevive's advice and show my draft to a trustworthy male, such as my brother, who can tell me if the character sounds like a real guy."

This is just my opinion, but women come from a history where we've had to rely on how others perceive us in order to survive. You don't want to offend, because your life could be at stake. Even now, generations away from women as property thinking, we still hem and haw in order to not offend. Men don't correct themselves inside a sentence. Men say things once, they don't find flaws in their words, they just make a choice and stick with it. They declare things, they don't say "I think," or "in my opinion," or "in my experience." They don't have to justify having an opinion.

I think (notice I'm a girl)you should treat him as you would any character, and then when the first draft is finished go through and ditch every time he says I think, or that might, or any other weakened position. I've also noticed that men have a depth of pain that isn't often addressed. That depth of pain can make male characters fascinating to write. Find the pain, and then don't talk about it.

Here is how to change a manspeak into a womanspeak. Bold is where I've added in a women tick.

"I just write the story, and then stick in a character that most fits the circumstances. Lucky for me, I know people of both genders with a wide variety of characteristics. I will admit that my female characters tend to be somewhat badass. But then, so do most of the women I know. See, I come from farming stock, and we country girls are tough. I try to write what I know, and my heroines b] end up as[/b] the kind of women who appeal to me personally. To me, strong, tough, dangerous women are sexy as hell. I don't think I could write a clinging vine if I had to. I wouldn't know how. I haven't gotten to know one since high school because...tell a story about why that girl is the last one you'd spend time with.."

I apologize for taking liberties with your words rcmann, and mayflower. Hope my examples help.

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mayflower988
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Shimiqua: No worries. That actually does help a lot. When you said that part about the depth of pain a man has, do you mean something like a dark, secret past? Like the brooding, silent type?

"treat him as you would any character, and then when the first draft is finished go through and ditch every time he says I think, or that might, or any other weakened position." Fantastic advice. This is probably something more suited for the editing stage.

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extrinsic
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Manly men don't like to show their pain or their feelings at all for that matter. Doing so shows vulnerability and leads to unwelcome challenges from contenders. Contrarily, men notice weakness and respond by; one, challenging weaker contenders; two, taking command and control, bringing the weak who pose no challenge into his fold, building his troupe, so to speak.
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rcmann
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No problem. Useful advice. thanks.

Like extrinsic said. To admit pain is to reveal weakness. To reveal weakness is to invite attack. It might or might not be physical attack, but some kind of attack will come. We never stop testing each other and jockeying for status.

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JoBird
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I really think (note, I'm male) a lot of this advice about how men tend this way and women tend that way leads to overly affected characters. It's good to recognize that some folks speak in a more authoritative tone, but it's bad -- in my humble opinion -- to associate that with masculinity in a literal sense.

I'm sure you know some females who are more direct than others. I'm sure you probably know some females who are passive aggressive. Equally, you probably know men that spread the same gamut. The trouble with writing a character of the opposite sex is that you, on some level, believe there is a mystery there you don't understand. I believe that's just in your head though. People are people, some are selfish, some talk a lot, some are self-righteous, some are know-it-alls. Trust that each person is an individual, some will like you, some won't. The world is not filled with a whole bunch of individual women, and one strange group person over there called Man. Knowing this keeps us from indulging in stereotypes when we're trying to breathe life into our characters.

Remember, every character you conceive of will ultimately have your voice to some large extent. You can't avoid that. After all, they're coming from inside of you. The real trick to differentiating the characters is motivation -- what does this one want that that one doesn't? You can stage all the accents and speaking patterns you want, but none of that, to my thinking, is going to absolve you of the basic construction: who is this man? where does he come from? what does he want? why does he want it? how is he going to get it?

Here's a simple suggestion: Create three female characters. Think through the characters. Who are they, what do they want? Now, write three different scenes, one for each character. Finally, go and change all the she's to he's. There you go, now you have three individual male characters.

But wait, you say. One of my females was in a scene where she was gushing about a new purse she bought! Easy enough, change the purse to something a guy would have, feel free to keep it accessory in nature. Now you have a scene about a clothes horse/fashion guru guy gushing about this new wallet he just bought. There's nothing wrong with that. Guys do that sometimes, and it's believable -- so long as the fellow's ultimate motivation is believable, so long as the fellow's flaws are realistic, and so long as we care about what he's going through and trying to accomplish.

In short, I believe a lot of answers I'm reading here are over thinking the problem. That being said, these are just my personal thoughts, not engraved in stone from an authority on high, and certainly not stamped with the intransigent, masculine seal of authority.

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rcmann
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A new wallet? nah. A new jacket maybe.
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genevive42
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"Isn't this new wrench just darling?"

Sorry Jo Bird, I have to disagree. While I wholeheartedly acknowledge that there are many different people that fall in different places on the scale, there are differences between men and women. They are not simply interchangeable. To deny the differences is to deny yourself the opportunity to aid your audience in identifying with your characters.

Differences are what make people, and characters, interesting. Why would we want to dilute that by treating everyone the same?

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JoBird
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quote:
Originally posted by genevive42:
"Isn't this new wrench just darling?"

Sorry Jo Bird, I have to disagree. While I wholeheartedly acknowledge that there are many different people that fall in different places on the scale, there are differences between men and women. They are not simply interchangeable. To deny the differences is to deny yourself the opportunity to aid your audience in identifying with your characters.

Differences are what make people, and characters, interesting. Why would we want to dilute that by treating everyone the same?

This sort of completely misses the point. I suggest treating everyone differently -- everyone. Not just treating people like they're defined by their sex. There are more than two people in the world. In my opinion those people shouldn't be written with some sense of core traits because they have particular reproductive organs. That caters to self-conscious characterization.

I'm assuming we're talking about a character who needs depth in the story. If the role of your character (a walk on, for example) requires the use of stereotyping as a tool, then doing that works well. But if you need a more thoughtful character, a deeper character, then relying on delineating techniques will only show the astute reader your ultimate lack of insight into the opposite sex. It's true that writers often have a hard time writing about opposite sex characters -- why is that? They don't have a hard time because they're unaware of cultural stereotypes. We're all aware of cultural stereotypes. They have a hard time because they're not treating the character as an individual. Instead, the character's being treated as a nebulous being defined by orientation and womb, or lack thereof.

Choosing a "wrench" as the example pretty much shows what I mean. Just because the character is a man doesn't mean he's into tools, that's a choice you as a writer can include, but it's an obvious stereotypical choice.

Also, there's an insinuation that only females can use the word "darling" in regards to an item. I don't buy that. And I don't think that's the problem people have when they try to write opposite sex characters. They're not struggling with whether or not to include words like "darling". They're struggling with identity, letting their fear of that type of character get in the way of showing motivation. This is an area where the writer needs confidence, needs to know that a man is as much of an individual as a woman is.

"Isn't this wallet just darling? I got it on sale at Macy's." Do you hear a lot of guys saying this? No, of course not. But that doesn't mean that some guys don't say it. And that doesn't mean the average reader will roll her eyes and throw the book away when she hears it. It furthers interest. Who is this guy who thinks a wallet is darling? Perhaps he grew up in a family that worked in theater, maybe he grew up calling things "splendid" instead of "cool". One thing's for sure, this character is already leaps and bounds beyond the standard fare.

But there's something else to point out here too. The point behind writing three scenes, each featuring three females, was that the characters should be drawn well. That means with depth and dimension. The example of "isn't this purse darling" leaves a lot of room for the exploration of depth and dimension. When you're struggling for individual male characters, write an individual character you're capable of -- in this case a female character. Then take that fully fleshed out character, and give it man parts. The key to this is taking the fully fleshed out character, not just the stuff that seems odd. Obviously, you wouldn't take a scene describing a young girl going through her first period and expect to get anything solid out of this exercise.

Frankly, I've just never heard of a brilliant differentiation between men and women. At least, on a psychological level, or a level dealing with motivation. Physical differences, sure. The rest just deals with roles that society nudges us towards.

Let's say your female character is a feminist. How do you translate that to a male character? Uhm. The man is a feminist? That works fine enough on its own. Maybe though, you decide to shift it around a little, and make the man someone who advocates the support of social and political rights for men: he feels like men are getting a bad rap these days. Every commercial on t.v. features a bumbling dad, an uncertain kid, and a clear headed mom coming in to save the day. And this new male character is fed up with that, and wants to shift culture back to a time when -- in his mind -- men were more respected. Now you have the beginnings of a male character, an individual, a guy who won't leave readers wincing at your inability to create characters of the opposite sex.

The weakness is in trying to fit into the cultural stereotypes. That's when readers roll their eyes, realizing that the writer has, at best, a cursory understanding of what it means to be a man.

Regardless, my ultimate point remains the same. Worry less about how the man talks, and more about what he's saying. Is he talking about things congruent with his motivation? Does he have a reason to say what he's saying? Does he have a goal? That's what is important.

[ July 24, 2012, 11:55 AM: Message edited by: JoBird ]

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babooher
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The idea that a character can seem masculine or feminine shows that there are obvious differences. I think it has to do with balance.

My wife once had a snake slither over her toes as she was on the toilet. She screamed like...well, a girl, and demanded that I eradicate the snake. I grabbed a shovel and proceeded towards the bathroom where I would save the day like the manly man I am...then screamed like a girl because there was a giant spider in my way. She took care of the spider; I took care of the snake.

The point of that true story, is that we all have both masculine and feminine traits, but men tend to have more masculine ones while women more feminine ones (duh!). If characters adhere to the norm of having more of one than the other, you'll do fine assuming you stick with the typical. If you don't, I'd suggest having a reason for not sticking with it or your reader will either make one up or disbelieve the character.

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extrinsic
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Beyond biological distinctions, character perceptions are about all the meaningful differences there are between men and women and to a degree children's behavior and personality traits. Who's the observer observing whom? Observer effects and biases come into play. A woman writing about a man might notice his apparel more than his physical attributes. A man writing about a woman might notice more about her physical attributes than her apparel. Either could be a stereotype or artful portrayal. Context is paramount.

Why's she interested in what he wears? She's evaluating his means, checking out his external identity markers. Is he a provider and a protector? The latter has more to do with apparel; the former to a degree about his physical attributes. However, they are both physical attributes, externailities, and on the less essential side for creative writing than personality and behavior traits, internalities that have observable external presentations to a degree.

Perceptions, what kind of man does she think he is? A brute? Cues from his apparel and physical attributes might show that. But how he speaks, his tone, tenor, mood, and register, and how he behaves will reveal cues about his personality. Does he talk over her, browbeating, diminishing her ideas? Does he marginalize her ideas, appear to compromise or be ageeable but really isn't? That's fine, honey. We'll do that next time we have a day off together. Does his body language express interest or does his body language express indifference or hostility?

How does he react to her interest or indifference or hostility? Does he offer her help, affection, or show trust? Or does he take command and control from her?

What's her interest in him about in the first place? Does she know? Or is she operating on instinct? Do circumstances outside their immediate control bring them together? Are they then awkward because they are strangers? Or do they know and distrust each other? What's their relationship at the moment? Does their relationship shift by small or large degrees as they interact? Do they come to know each other better or do they become more mysterious to each other? Or do they learn enough about each other to want nothing to do with one or another or each other?

Perceptions are tainted by personal biases. If how a woman observes a man doesn't fit how the man perceives himself, there will be misunderstanding at least, if not contention, conflict, clash, confrontation, or conflagration. Or an escalating dramatic situation. Maybe they work it out, but not too easily or too soon if dramatic prose is the intent.

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JoBird
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quote:
Originally posted by babooher:
The idea that a character can seem masculine or feminine shows that there are obvious differences. I think it has to do with balance.

My wife once had a snake slither over her toes as she was on the toilet. She screamed like...well, a girl, and demanded that I eradicate the snake. I grabbed a shovel and proceeded towards the bathroom where I would save the day like the manly man I am...then screamed like a girl because there was a giant spider in my way. She took care of the spider; I took care of the snake.

The point of that true story, is that we all have both masculine and feminine traits, but men tend to have more masculine ones while women more feminine ones (duh!). If characters adhere to the norm of having more of one than the other, you'll do fine assuming you stick with the typical. If you don't, I'd suggest having a reason for not sticking with it or your reader will either make one up or disbelieve the character.

I disagree all over the place.

What you're talking about is expectation, what role your wife expects you to play. Then we get to the motivation: your desire to please your wife and take care of the snake. The motivation is important. Masculinity isn't a trait threaded throughout your DNA, it's an expectation that can or can not affect your motivation.

What is masculine? Strength and aggressiveness.

What is feminine? Delicacy and prettiness.

The fact that they are associated with men and women tell us zero about men and women. It tells us more about history.

These associations are societal, and cultural. They are not things hard wired into our brains forcing us all to act out as archetypes of our sex. (They certainly don't force us to talk this way or that way.) Rather, they came about through historical necessity. The men went out to hunt while the women were pregnant, thus men became the providers and women became the nurturers. Nevertheless, there are very aggressive women out there, and an equal number of very delicate men. Trying to short cut your way around that isn't wise.

Personally, I think these are things that take care of themselves when you write. You'll subtly inject more aggressiveness into some characters, and less in others, so long as you have a fleshed out individual as a character. This creates the social dynamic your characters deal with, and a lot of that hardly needs to even be conscious as you write. You may be surprised to realize that audiences find your male character feminine, but if you concentrate on clearly conveying his motivation that same audience will not find him poorly developed. On the other hand, if you rely solely on a few crutches -- he talks with authority see, yeah, and she talks with more of an open mind -- then readers will correctly begin to see the forced attributes, and frown appropriately. Because you neglected what was important and concentrated on trying to make your characters "sound" like their body parts. It's shallow.

babooher, I do agree that a balance tends to reflect most people. I don't believe that (duh!) women tend to be more feminine and men tend to be more masculine. Especially in this day and age, and even more especially in SF & F, a place where social expectations can be markedly different. Dynamics change and fluctuate far too often depending on the relationship you are in at the moment. You -- male or female -- may exhibit more masculine qualities dealing with your kids, and more feminine qualities elsewhere.

Some women may be searching for mates heavy with masculine tendencies. Some men may be searching for female mates with those same masculine tendencies. And vice versa. Or someone may be looking for more of a balance.

What I'm getting at is that masculine and feminine traits are just a tool to be used, like any other. Let those traits naturally infect all of your characters, and let them roller coaster up and down depending on your character's motivation and current situation, company, conversation, etc. It's great to recognize that these things exist. It's bad to think that they are literal definitions of men and women.

[ July 24, 2012, 01:49 PM: Message edited by: JoBird ]

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by JoBird:
What is masculine? Strength and aggressiveness.

What is feminine? Delicacy and prettiness.

Those are externalities. Gender identity, masculine and feminine quotients and perceptions of them are less about outward appearances and more about personality traits and behaviors, to a large degree caused by socialized behaviors but are also instinctive behaviors to a degree based on biological imperatives but mostly on socialization imperatives. These are internalities: status competition drives--masculine; emotional bonding drives--feminine.

Delicacy and prettiness are appearances, often superficial, that are feminine status competition rituals for attracting mates and followers. Conversely, strength and aggressiveness are appearances, often superficial as well, that are masculine bonding rituals for attracting mates and followers. We are, after all is said and done, social beings. Social bonding is essential for social satisfaction.

Conversely, again, hositility, alienation, and indifference--shunning--are how social beings punish or adjust by correction, castigation, disapproval, chastisement, scolding, cold shouldering, etc., maladjusted bonding rituals or the perceptions thereof.

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mayflower988
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quote:
Originally posted by genevive42:
While I wholeheartedly acknowledge that there are many different people that fall in different places on the scale, there are differences between men and women. They are not simply interchangeable. To deny the differences is to deny yourself the opportunity to aid your audience in identifying with your characters.

Differences are what make people, and characters, interesting. Why would we want to dilute that by treating everyone the same?

I wholeheartedly agree. That's why I started this thread. I wanted to make my male character to sound like a man, not like a woman put words in his mouth.

Plus, by definition, "masculine" and "feminine" mean those things that relate to men and women, respectively. So it would follow that masculine behaviors occur more often in men, and feminine behaviors occur more often in women. To me, that says that some things are just more male and some are more female. I don't want to write a stereotype (whether that's Prince Charming or Homer Simpson); I want my character to sound like a real person.

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rcmann
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Based on what I have read about the gender specific differences in the brain and some of the behavioral testing I have read about, I ended up with the following general tendencies (so far, Note I said tendencies. There is overlap among individuals.):

Men have an innate edge with numbers
Women have an innate edge with words
Men have an innate edge with spatial relationships
Women have an innate edge with multi-tasking
Men are more prone to seek dominance
Women are more prone to seek consensus
Either gender will kill you if you piss 'em off

If the archaeologists are right, we spent what? 999,990 of the last million years hunting and gathering? Some of us longer than that? The hunter/gatherer societies that I studied in college were laid out in a standard pattern. If you were male, you hunted and fought. If you were female, you gathered and chased kids.

... men went out alone or in small groups, pacing silently through the woods or across the grasslands...

...women were chasing kids, gathering baskets, chasing kids, settling arguments, helping old people, chasing kids, fixing skinned knees, digging roots, chasing kids and settling arguments, picking berries, chasing kids and dragging them out of places where the had no business venturing, killing snakes, chasing kids, setting snares, chasing kids, climbing trees, chasing kids, cutting firewood, chasing kids, trading gossip, carrying baskets back to the camp/village/cave and unloading, chasing kids, skinning small game, chasing kids, cutting more firewood, gossiping some more, chasing kids, feeding kids and old folks, scraping skins, chasing kids, sewing, chasing kids,....and so forth...

...meanwhile, the men would find a herd. The leader would grunt and point. The other men would move into position and wait for the signal. They attack. Death comes swiftly in a savage fountain of bloody screaming. The men gather around the carcass. Some of them start to field dress it, others turn and cut poles for carrying. The only speech would be a few brief comments on how effective the tactic was, and "gimme knife. mine dull". They pick up the animal and head for home. Each man carries a three dimensional map of the terrain in his head, constantly updated as he travels. They know exactly where they are and how to get back. (This is a learned skill, but It is not difficult. I have never seen a man who is not capable oo doing it with a little practice. Most men don't try anymore. but it is not difficult). They come to a river. The leader grunts, shakes his head, points upstream. They head upstream. The leader points at a tree. Several men look at the tree, look at the river. They nod at each other, agreeing the tree is long enough. They cut the tree dropping it across the river. They walk across and keep going....

...meanwhile back at the cave....

... the kids are fed and frisky, the old folks are complaining because their joints hurt, the crippled and sick who can't do for themselves are being a pain in the ass, other women are either gossiping or arguing about the kids and the menfolk, while simultaneously continuing to scrape hides, feed fire, carry away ashes, wipe backsides, pull teeth, mix medicines, yank splinters, chase kids....

...the men come back bitterly complaining about how tired they are. The women sooth them with tender sympathy, take the meat, and get to work. The men collapse into hammocks, and the women chase kids..


Is it any wonder we developed a few points of specialization?

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mayflower988
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You sound like you'd be an entertaining history teacher. :)
And you're right, that does make sense.

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JoBird
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The original poster seems happy with what she's received out of this thread so far, so I'm hesitant to continue. Especially considering that I seem to be a lone voice arguing my side of this. But I'll throw out a couple more comments before agreeing to disagree.

I had a chance to sit down and talk with a friend of mine about this issue. To a large extent my friend agreed with me, it's better to use masculine and feminine motivations at appropriate times in all of your characters than to try writing tricks that could ultimately stilt your own voice. See, overall, I think the suggestion that men have to speak a certain way to be read as realistic men is a really bad bit of advice, it's just not true, and it could be damaging to future attempts at characterization. It could also fall into a habit that becomes very hard to break.

Regardless, my friend did make an interesting point. The discussion isn't likely to proceed very far without some example dialogue. It didn't really occur to me to ask for any initially because I assumed I had a sense of where the original poster was coming from. So, to rectify that oversight, mayflower, if you'd like, post some example dialogue, a few lines maybe. Then people can weigh in on whether it sounds like a man or a woman.

Another distinguishing feature between men and women: body language. I think this happens to be an area you can get a lot of mileage out of in regards to differentiation.

All the same, the real differentiation in your characters should come via attitude and agenda. Here's an article by Card that's somewhat related to this issue: http://www.hatrack.com/writingclass/lessons/1998-08-14-2.shtml

I really think that article is worth reading.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
quote:
Originally posted by JoBird:
What is masculine? Strength and aggressiveness.

What is feminine? Delicacy and prettiness.

Those are externalities.
Those are just definitions. I just grabbed them from the dictionary. They are qualities that can represent someone externally(appearance), or internally(emotion). For instance, you can display strong emotions, you can be aggressive with your attitude. An attitude can be pretty, or rather possess the quality of being appealing. And people can certainly be emotionally delicate.

A perceived placement in society for both sexes only means so much. First, we're talking about SF & F settings where those perceptions can be off to a large degree. Second, we're talking about whether or not stereotypes are catered to. There's also a perception that Asian folks are really good at math, but I think any writer worth their salt would balk at the notion of trying to write all of their Asian characters as "good at math."

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mayflower988
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Here's some sample dialogue. Keep in mind I'm writing in a medieval England setting:
"Dreda, you're back!" He came trotting toward me. "I knew I'd never forget your face. My, you've changed. Or have you? Do you still like to climb trees?" His eyes sparkled. "Have you been digging for worms in that convent of yours?"

Is that enough to go on? I can always give you more.

That's a good point about the racial stereotypes. I hadn't thought of it that way.

Thanks for that article. It's very helpful. I hadn't even seen that part of the site yet.

I guess to boil things down (sorry if I'm repeating myself), this character is my Lead's love interest, and I know that I personally will have trouble when writing him because I'm likely to make him sound like my ideal man. Terrible, but true.

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JoBird
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quote:
"Dreda, you're back!" He came trotting toward me. "I knew I'd never forget your face. My, you've changed. Or have you? Do you still like to climb trees?" His eyes sparkled. "Have you been digging for worms in that convent of yours?"
There's nothing about this that would make me think it's a woman speaking instead of a man. So, the question then becomes: what type of man?

Eager. Youthful. Confident. Teasing (to Dreda). Probably the love interest.

Personally, I would prefer a little more of a tease to the reader though. She's back from the convent (granted, I don't know how long she was there) so the guy here might be a little less confident. He might be scared that she's changed, a touch more reserved, but still happy. Something where it takes a second for him to get back into the groove of rapport with Dreda.

Most people are scared of change until they begin to understand it. This guy is opening his arms to it. Instead, showing a lack of assurance, a small defense, a paused moment where he gauge's Dreda, might add a touch of depth.

But you'll note that nothing I thought in the way of critique had to do with masculinity. It all had to do with the guy's attitude. If anything, I've suggested a more feminine angle for him in this scene: showing a level of fear and uncertainty in the face of confronting potential change. But -- if you decided to go that route -- it would not mean that the guy sounded like a woman. Because it would be appropriate and understandable to the reader.

quote:
I guess to boil things down (sorry if I'm repeating myself), this character is my Lead's love interest, and I know that I personally will have trouble when writing him because I'm likely to make him sound like my ideal man. Terrible, but true.
I'm of two minds on this. For what it's worth, I understand the feeling.

Mind One:

It's your story. If you want to put your ideal man in then go for it. A lot of characters in (very successful) novels function in the role of wish-fulfillment.

Mind Two:

But your ideal man is probably unrealistic.

So...

The question is really about the role that the fella plays in the story, and what kind of story it is. Clearly, you want to develop the guy so that he has dimension and depth. If you feel strongly about that then just make sure to give him flaws, give him an agenda, and make sure that his actions in every scene are relevant, and understandable.

It might also be worthwhile to say that -- if you give this a lot of thought -- your ideal man may be riddled with flaws and dimension already. Real love is, after all, accepting of flaws to an extent.

Anyway, I'll end this with a Patrick Rothfuss quote from his character Kvothe:

"Anyone can love a thing because. That's as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”

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mayflower988
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by JoBird:
Most people are scared of change until they begin to understand it. This guy is opening his arms to it. Instead, showing a lack of assurance, a small defense, a paused moment where he gauge's Dreda, might add a touch of depth.

I laughed when I read this. I realize now that I accidentally wrote this character, William, as a bit too eager. Dreda's been in the convent for about ten years, so yeah, there would probably be a bit more hesitation on William's part. Glad you pointed that out.

Thanks for your comments; I'm glad you posted, even though the thread had a bit of age on it. I especially like what you've said about giving William an agenda, flaws, etc. You may have already said this, but I could do that with all my characters, at least all the ones I want to deepen. Thanks again!

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MAP
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JoBird,

I get what you are saying, but I have to disagree. It is true that there are some men have more feminine personality traits, and some women have more masculine, but you can't write a woman charater and swap her out for a man. Whether there are inherent differences or not (nature vs. nurture), society will not treat them the same way, and how society treats them will effect who they become.

Let's take your example. While a man may love to shop and may even say "darling," he isn't going to be the same person as a woman who loves to shop and says "darling."

The woman is conforming (to some extent) to the social norms. The man is going against social norms (at least in this one area), and that is going to affect his personality.

Unless society treats them the same (which it could if you created a world like that, this is speculative fiction), you can't just swap in a male character for a female. They won't have the same backstory and experiences, and IMO, that is what shapes people and characters into who they are.

But the advice to think about motives and wants is a good one, and I'll add delve deeply into back story.

@Mayflower. I agree with Sheena's post. It is a generalization, and not all men fall into this, that is very true, but most men tend to be less wordy and get to the point.

In your example dialogue. I think he is being a little too wordy and repetitive. So it does sound a little girly to me, but if he is that way, keep it. I'm sure that there are some guys who do talk like that. It depends on who he is.

Hope this helps. [Smile]

[ July 26, 2012, 11:58 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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mayflower988
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Thanks, map, that does help. I think you're right, that men and women can have traditionally opposite-sex attributes, but they would not be the same. Good point about the man not conforming to society's norms.

And yes, my character is being a bit wordy. I think as JoBird has said, my character does come across as too eager, and you have a good point, that to some he would seem more feminine. So in his case, I think I'm definitely going to cut back on his word count, especially in the beginning to show his hesitation.

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JoBird
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I suspect that at the end of this thread I'm just going to have to agree to disagree. Unfortunately, I'm built in such a way that I find it hard -- nearly impossible -- to not respond. Even though I probably come across as intransigent, rest assured that I mean well.

quote:
Originally posted by MAP:
JoBird,

I get what you are saying, but I have to disagree.

Unfortunately, I don't get what everyone else is saying. I'm legitimately trying to, but I don't. I wish more people would come over to my side of the argument, things are so clear from here. [Smile]

It almost seems like the other side of this debate is trying to have it both ways.

1. Yes, some men have more feminine personality traits, and some women have more masculine traits.
2. No, you can't make a scene work by changing the sex of the character in the scene.

This makes no sense to me. Yes, a man can say "darling". No, you can't change the scene where a woman says "darling" to a man who says "darling". Uhm. We've already established a man can say it. So, why can't the man say it in the scene instead of a woman?

Keep in mind I have already said:

1. Some things can't change over: a girl going through her first period. It would be silly to try to make that character a boy. The scene demands a female.
2. Every time you change the sex of a character you have to give consideration to the new character you've developed, you have to understand the character. As I mentioned several posts above, if your new male character is saying "darling" then you have to figure out why.
3. It was meant to be a writing exercise, to show that characters are often interchangeable, and to help with the understanding that males are as unique and individual as females.

But for some reason, I feel I'm getting a lot of: no, you're not exploring the beautiful world of male/female differences unless you write females as wordy and unsure, and males as brief, to-the-point, and authoritative.

This is as far from the creation of individual characters as I think you can get. It seems, at best, like a clumsy trick. At worst it seems like bad advice that just serves to help writers have stilted dialogue.

quote:
It is true that there are some men have more feminine personality traits, and some women have more masculine, but you can't write a woman charater and swap her out for a man.
Why not? Let me put it this way: you most certainly can. Your concern seems to be whether the character would be believable. So, do you have an example of when and where it won't work?

quote:
Whether there are inherent differences or not (nature vs. nurture), society will not treat them the same way, and how society treats them will effect who they become.
Again, it is a fact that aggressive women exist. It is a fact that passive men exist. Do men and women receive different societal nudges throughout their lives? You bet. Do those nudges dictate that they represent themselves in a certain manner? Absolutely not.

quote:
Let's take your example. While a man may love to shop and may even say "darling," he isn't going to be the same person as a woman who loves to shop and says "darling."

The woman is conforming (to some extent) to the social norms. The man is going against social norms (at least in this one area), and that is going to affect his personality.

This is probably the crux of it. I'm hoping I can get across my point more starkly here, maybe we can boil this point down and see if we're even talking about the same thing. See, all you've really said (to my understanding) is that you -- as a reader -- will interpret the actions of a man and woman differently in the same scene, even if they're doing the same thing. That in no way says the same scene won't work for a man and a woman. It just says that you will feel differently about their personalities for doing the same thing. There's nothing wrong with that.

But I'm failing to see the relevance.

John saves Jane from a fire breathing dragon. Written well, it works.

Jane saves John from a fire breathing dragon. Written well, it works.

Do you think the first version of John is the same as the second version of Jane? Probably not. But that differentiating stuff is immediately injected into the scene based on which one is in the role of hero, and which is in the role of victim. Because you don't have to beat people over the head with it, you don't have to write it differently. It just has to make sense.

quote:
They won't have the same backstory and experiences, and IMO, that is what shapes people and characters into who they are.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for creating a vibrant background -- if such is needed for the type of story you're telling.

But I made earlier mention of this, of the need to address the interpretive baggage. Why does the man say "darling"? That's a question you have to ask yourself when you make the change.

quote:
@Mayflower. I agree with Sheena's post. It is a generalization, and not all men fall into this, that is very true, but most men tend to be less wordy and get to the point.
First, I just don't agree with this. Especially the bit about "getting to the point" which I think is somewhat more insulting and subjective than factual.

Second, I advise against building characters based off of generalizations. You build them to serve the story, to have agendas, to promote conflict, to inspire the reader, to fulfill a role within your novel. If your needed role happens to be that the character should exemplify some generalization (which is just, in this case, a way of saying that not everyone fits the stereotype), then great. If not, then not.

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rcmann
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I just re-wrote a short story not long ago. In the original, the villain was female. A manipulative, selfish, ruthless bitch. I re-wrote it to have the villain male. A manipulative, selfish, ruthless son of a bitch.

In the first incarnation, the female villain (Properly it should be villainess I guess. Or is it villainette?) Came across as mean and hateful, but not really frightening. In fact, while nobody could ever like here there was even a tiny bit of pathos in her death at the end. I had no intention of putting it in there, but there it was.

The male character was pure predator. He suffered a fate that was, to him, most likely worse than death. Rather than pathos, the flavor of the ending was vindictive satisfaction.

Now, I can't help wondering how much of that was my own personal prejudice? (Male here.) The plain fact is, I do not perceive women to be as inherently dangerous as men. At least, not as inherently dangerous to me. Intellectually I know this to be foolish. A woman can kill as easily as a man. In some cases more easily because she can get closer without activating wariness. But my gut refuses to get scared by a female villain.

How do you remove your own inbuilt predisposition to view the sexes in a particular way?

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shimiqua
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quote:
In the first incarnation, the female villain (Properly it should be villainess I guess. Or is it villainette?) Came across as mean and hateful, but not really frightening. In fact, while nobody could ever like here there was even a tiny bit of pathos in her death at the end. I had no intention of putting it in there, but there it was.

The male character was pure predator. He suffered a fate that was, to him, most likely worse than death. Rather than pathos, the flavor of the ending was vindictive satisfaction.

Now, I can't help wondering how much of that was my own personal prejudice? (Male here.) The plain fact is, I do not perceive women to be as inherently dangerous as men. At least, not as inherently dangerous to me. Intellectually I know this to be foolish. A woman can kill as easily as a man. In some cases more easily because she can get closer without activating wariness. But my gut refuses to get scared by a female villain.

How do you remove your own inbuilt predisposition to view the sexes in a particular way?

I don't think you can. I think you can only use your in built predisposition to prove yourself wrong. Establish a world where everything happens the way you think, instinctively, it should be, and then use that belief to surprise your readers.

I don't get that idea that females aren't frightening. But then again, I've had people hurt my child, and I've felt the mama bear hatred. I've scared myself.

Rcmann, your words make it sound like you think girls are fluffy little kittens, that might scratch you, but obviously couldn't hurt you because you are a big strong male. Now I might just be reading into this (female here) but I got to tell you, that you are so wrong. Most woman I know are tigers, not kittens.

If you can only write kittens, then you are missing out on a whole spectrum of female characters. Females ABSOLUTELY can be amazing villains.

I was in a scene in college where I played a crazy homeless woman who was beyond frightening. She was scary, not because she was waving a gun around, but because she ignored personal space, personal boundaries, and personal ideological "kitten" behavior. She was out of her mind, paranoid, angry, infatuated, and would not let the victim in the scene leave until she was done with her.

Woman are powerful. We aren't the weaker sex. We are just as strong IN DIFFERENT ways then men. We are also scarier in different ways then men. Men will only kill a person once, but a woman will trap you with manipulation, and then kill you slowly, then heal you, and then kill you again.

And that should scare the crap out of you.

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genevive42
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quote:
Woman are powerful. We aren't the weaker sex. We are just as strong IN DIFFERENT ways then men. We are also scarier in different ways then men.
Very, very true.
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JoBird
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quote:
Woman are powerful. We aren't the weaker sex. We are just as strong IN DIFFERENT ways then men. We are also scarier in different ways then men. Men will only kill a person once, but a woman will trap you with manipulation, and then kill you slowly, then heal you, and then kill you again.

And that should scare the crap out of you.

Personally, I feel like when I hear someone expound on the differences between men and women I learn more about the person talking than I do about men and women.

Example: "men will only kill a person once, but a woman will trap you with manipulation, and then kill you slowly, then heal you, and then kill you again."

Why is this stated as fact? Do men not engage in mind games? I've heard many stories about men beating women, then telling them that they're sorry and they love them, and then beating them again. And men do this with emotional abuse too, not just physical. Men nag women, they push buttons, they do passive aggressive things. Neither sex holds ownership over manipulation, killing slowly, healing, and then killing again. That's a dark side to humanity, not to women.

The short answer: both sexes are capable of being downright horrible. Both are also capable of being amazing and wonderful. Choosing between right and wrong is a struggle everyone has to go through. Women aren't particularly more vindictive than men, they don't particularly hold grudges longer. These are issues relative to individuals, not sexes. Though it may seem otherwise when you've grown to identify yourself as a male, or as a female. But you are a person before you are either. In my opinion it's self-identifying image, biased history, and defense mechanisms that draw these lines between the sexes, not empirical data.

quote:
How do you remove your own inbuilt predisposition to view the sexes in a particular way?
I can only offer my thoughts here -- I'm not sure that I really know. I suspect that it happens when you start to realize that your predisposition is wrong.

Then, in this case, you look at what makes a villain scary. It's not just power, it's also the willingness to use it.

The hero is tied to a chair. The male villain stands over the hero and puts a cigarette out on his face. The villain has power over the hero, and is willing to use that power.

The hero is tied to a chair. The female villain stands over the hero and puts a cigarette out on his face. The villain has power over the hero, and again, is willing to use that power.

Same scene. The only difference that can exist is what's inside your head. This, to me, means that you almost have to be shifting the motivation of the villain between the two scenes. For some reason you're making the female villain more endearing. If what you say is true then you are, without doubt, creating sympathy for her somewhere in the story. Somewhere you have ennobled her, or given her more sympathy. You just have to hunt down where that happened in the story, and then examine why you had it in one version, and not in the other.

That's the great thing about writing stories really. They can be somewhat therapeutic.

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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by JoBird:
That's the great thing about writing stories really. They can be somewhat therapeutic.

And cathartic and revelatory from self-realization. Writing epiphanies happen parallel to personal epiphanies and both are inspirational and heartbraking and empowering bubbles and dark chasms of the abyss at once. Reconciling them is glorious.
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MAP
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JoBird,

I can see you are not understanding what I am saying.

I agree that you can have any type of male character and that you can have any type of female character. You and have a tough woman and weak man. You can have a girl good at plumbing and a guy good a sewing. You can have an agressive woman and a whiny man.

There are no limits. A female character can be anything, and a male character can be anything.

Joe can save Suzy from the dragon, or Suzy can save Joe. I'm not disputing that. I'm not locking any character into social norms.

BUT you can't create a female character, think deeply about her back story, write a scene with other characters, then change all the shes for hes and have it work.

These characters aren't raised in a vacuum. How other people in society treats them will affect who they become.

Lets take Joe and Suzy.

Joe is an awesome fighter. He was raised to play with swords. His dad taught him to fight every single day. He played with wood swords with his buddies. Won more often than not. The whole village thought he was pretty awesome.

Suzy is an awesome fighter. When she little, she would watch her older brothers play with swords. One day she picked one up, and tried play fighting with them. Her brothers thought it was cute. They let her play. Her mother thought it was fine too as long as she still helped with the house work. Her grandmother would chatise her endlessly about it. But Suzy got better and better. Other boys outside of her family told her that girls can't play with swords and refused to play with her. Other girls made fun of her telling her that no boy would ever want to marry her, but her brothers encouraged her to keep learning. So she did, and she became a great swordswoman.

My point is that Suzy can be awesome at fighting with a sword. As awesome as Joe, but she can't be Joe. Even if biology has nothing to do with the differences between men and women, society will never treat them the same (at least not in society like ours).

So you can't write a scene with Joe as the dragon killer and just change Joe to Suzy. Suzy can kill the dragon. She can even do it that exact same way, but her thoughts and what she says and the way others react to her is going to be different. Because Suzy isn't Joe, and she can be as awesome at fighting as him, but she'll never be Joe. They have completely different life experiences.

And to me that is good character development. Thinking about where that person comes from and how they got their. That influences how they see things, what they say, what they do. And men and women can't have the same backstory. Society won't treat them the same.

Real life example. I used to be on the debate team in high school. An aggressive boy debater usually wins. It doesn't even matter if he makes better arguments or not. An aggressive girl, not so much. She has to have good arguments and even then, she still might lose. Every single girl debater I knew got at least get one judge who essentially said she was being too bitchy. They were so common we even had a name for them, bitch ballots.

Boys get rewarded for being aggressive. Girls get punnished for it (most of the time). And that affects who we become.

On the Mayflower's dialogue. I never said a guy couldn't talk like that. He could, but I would see the character as a little more effeminate. I get the feeling that Mayflower is asking this question because she wants him to sound more masculine. I think she's gotten great advice for that.

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genevive42
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quote:
Boys get rewarded for being aggressive. Girls get punished for it (most of the time). And that affects who we become.
Also very true. I can't count how many times this has happened to me. My best solution? Play with the boys.

If men and women weren't different, I wouldn't need this solution.

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Owasm
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I agree with MAP. I wrote an entire novel and then performed a gender change operation. It was a difficult task because in a reasonably close third, the thoughts had to change with the different challenges.

I think it can be done, but women and men just have a different frames of reference. Look at shoes and watches sold out in the marketplace to men and women. Different frame of reference. But I think writers can come up with credible approximations of the opposite sex if they are observant enough.

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shimiqua
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quote:
Do men not engage in mind games? I've heard many stories about men beating women, then telling them that they're sorry and they love them, and then beating them again. And men do this with emotional abuse too, not just physical. Men nag women, they push buttons, they do passive aggressive things. Neither sex holds ownership over manipulation, killing slowly, healing, and then killing again. That's a dark side to humanity, not to women.

So true. Good points. I was simply arguing that women aren't kittens.

Carry on.

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mayflower988
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MAP said, "I get the feeling that Mayflower is asking this question because she wants him to sound more masculine. I think she's gotten great advice for that."
Exactly.

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extrinsic
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Men and women are so much alike the tiny differences are profoundly noticeable. A precision marching band marching in step, the marchers out of step stick out. One woman among a room full of men, she stands out, and vice versa.

Men's motivations and faults aren't unique to men, nor women's to women, nor more nor less complex.

A man's motivations and faults can be portrayed mostly as a stereotype role, a stock character, or an archetype and still not be sufficiently unique or complex for narrative purposes. A key for developing unique and complex character characterization is idiosyncracy and idiom.

I don't mean Bob wears a funny hat idiosyncracies. That's an appearance feature, an externality. I mean personality and behavior traits with idiosyncracy and idiom features.

When Bob sees a car being repaired in the neighbor's driveway, he goes over to help. He's always offering neighborly help, advice, guidance. He's so helpful. But his personality doesn't let him not stick his nose in. He thinks he can fix anything.

Bob's behavior is contrary to that. His own home could do with a few repairs and basic maintenance. His honey-do list is pages long.

He goes over to the neighbor's because he wants to show off his prowess, his superiority to his neighbor. That his advice is off the mark he doesn't notice. That he has many tools he really doesn't know how to use, he doesn't notice. But he's proud that he has gadgets he can show off and show he's got more and better toys than his neighbor. He's clumsy. He's a pain.

None of that is especially unique, maybe a little complex. For uniqueness' sake, from contrary to expectations, Bob might say he can tell if a car battery is dead or just drained. Neighbor says prove it. Bob brings out from his garage a jump charger that's still in the box he bought it in. Neighbor hooks the charger up. The car starts.

Bob says turn on the lights and the windshield wipers. If the wipers run slow, the battery is dead. If the wipers run normal, the battery was just drained. The wipers run fine. The battery actually is okay. Bob then gloats that he can fix anything, though it's the first advice he's given the neighbor that was on the mark and timely.

Complex character, yes. A manly idiom, yes. Idiosyncracy, not much. Needs a stronger idiosyncracy feature than just that Bob has a garage full of orderly, expensive, brand-name tools he rarely if ever uses or really knows how to use.

True to character, offering a parting shot, Bob says to the neighbor that the Thunder Chicken [Thunderbird] the neighbor's driving is just a sports car poser. His own Trans Am rag top is a real midlife crisis sports car. Although ribbing the neighbor and playing one-upmanship, Bob secretly knows he's having a midlife crisis. Now that's an idiosyncracy and an idiom. Bob knows he's having an existential identity crisis, that's why he's got a garage full of tools, but he is powerless to fix or satisfy the crisis on his own.

[ July 28, 2012, 10:58 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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rcmann
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I don't see much in this thread about biology. Testosterone promotes muscle and aggression. Also increased sex drive. Unless my teachers were lying to me. This *does* have an effect on behavior. It is a matter of degree rather than kind, but there is a difference.
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