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Old 31st December 2010, 09:18 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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To take a couple of SF examples, it's pretty clear that Ripley from Alien and Kaylee from Firefly are very different people
Not sure how true it is, but I've read that all the characters in Alien were written as male originally, and they didn't set out to have Ripley as female, they just picked Sigourney Weaver to play the character. How much of the characterisation then came from her, which would have come over differently if a man had played the part, who knows?

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I've with the Hoopster on this one. There's no need to think about it quite so much. A character is a character, the gender doesn't matter that much.
Yes and no. Thinking about my own work, if I made any of the female characters male, or any of the male characters female, I would have to wholly re-write them, simply because they would then be different people, in part because of their sex. Even if each individual remained aggressive, lecherous, kind, gentle or whatever, the way the aggression, lechery, kindness, gentleness appears would be different, not simply from the societal roles imposed on them in the book, but by the societal prejudices my hoped-for readers have and therefore their reaction to the characters. I can allow a female character to weep buckets if that is how she would react -- she might get on people's nerves but they'll tolerate her; I can't allow a male character to be in floods of tears without running a grave risk of making him seem ludicrous. That's not to say he can't cry, just that I have to write the scene where he is crying, in a different way.

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I'm not saying men can't write female characters though. I'm saying women tend to be able to write males better than men tend to be able to write females.
In just the same way that smart people can pretend to be stupid, but stupid people can't pretend to be intelligent...


Tragedy, as to your second question, I personally would always try to write in as near chronological order as possible, even though this means changing POV from scene to scene, but it depends on the story. Sometimes it might be better to stick with character A until a specific incident, then go to B and bring him to the same point, then go back to A, and so on. If in doubt, try writing it both ways and see which is most effective at generating tension and/or carrying the story along.
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Old 31st December 2010, 09:22 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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Yes and no. Thinking about my own work, if I made any of the female characters male, or any of the male characters female, I would have to wholly re-write them, simply because they would then be different people, in part because of their sex. Even if each individual remained aggressive, lecherous, kind, gentle or whatever, the way the aggression, lechery, kindness, gentleness appears would be different, not simply from the societal roles imposed on them in the book, but by the societal prejudices my hoped-for readers have and therefore their reaction to the characters. I can allow a female character to weep buckets if that is how she would react -- she might get on people's nerves but they'll tolerate her; I can't allow a male character to be in floods of tears without running a grave risk of making him seem ludicrous. That's not to say he can't cry, just that I have to write the scene where he is crying, in a different way.
Well, true. I'm not saying what I want to say very well.

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In just the same way that smart people can pretend to be stupid, but stupid people can't pretend to be intelligent...
I don't geddit.
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Old 31st December 2010, 09:24 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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stupid people can't pretend to be intelligent...
Hey, I resemble that remark!
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Old 31st December 2010, 11:14 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

Making your character interesting is the most important thing.

Never actually used a female character as my main one. I actually find them hard to write believe it or not.

Over the years on a number of critique forums I only used my initials so was taken for male, as many fellow members had judged me on my writing and had reached that conclusion somehow. So either my male characters were so convincing they thought I was male, or as I prefer to think my characters were interesting, as were my stories, so they did not notice any flaws in my characterisations, or if they did they did not jar enough to drop the reader out of the story.

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Old 1st January 2011, 09:01 AM   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

I can write a female character for about 3000 words and then she starts to grow stubble...
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Old 1st January 2011, 10:32 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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Should I simply switch genders of some characters and sacrifice a little bit of characterization just to have more female characters? And how would one go about writing a female PoV when they have only ever been able to observe from the outside. I know many, many male writers suffer from falling into stereotypes and simply end up boxing their characters in.
Whatever you do, don't sacrifice characterisation in the name of political correctness - it will show!

Some tips on writing women:

1. They're just people, as varied in their personalities as men - give them complex emotions and motivations and you're halfway there. Some women are very stereotypically feminine, some of us are much less so - but that doesn't mean we're butch either! I'm a total computer geek and rarely wear a skirt, but I also like to paint my toenails and wear pretty jewellery

2. It's a generalisation, but men tend to want to solve problems whereas women often just want to talk about a problem to get it off their chests (no pun intended!)

3. When writing dialogue, use more qualifiers in female speech - women are less direct, less confrontational. In some women, this can lead to manipulative behaviour, but mostly it's just the way we naturally interact, seeking consensus rather than "alpha male" domination.

4. Faced with a problematic situation, a woman is likely to think first about how it will affect people emotionally, whereas a man will probably think of the practical issues.

5. Feel free to use more internal monologue when in a female PoV - women tend to be much more aware of their own and others' emotions, more self-analytical, and better at guessing other people's moods from their facial expressions

6. Pay close attention next time you watch some TV drama (not soaps, which tend to be melodramatic) - good writers of both sexes can portray women convincingly! Also, I would like to add Terry Pratchett to the list of male authors who write women well.

You might also find this wikipedia article a useful starting point.

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My second question is more straightforward. Is it better to write a PoV to completion, or write the chapters in chronological order?
That really depends on your writing style. I prefer to write chronologically, because my plots are quite complex and I need to have cause-and-effect running in sequence or I'd go crazy! Of course you might find it best to write everything in chronological order and then revise one PoV at a time for consistency of voice.

Last edited by Anne Lyle; 1st January 2011 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 1st January 2011, 05:05 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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...not simply from the societal roles imposed on them in the book, but by the societal prejudices my hoped-for readers have and therefore their reaction to the characters.
But what if one's characters are not actually human but might be confused for them (i.e. they aren't, say, dragons or intelligent rocks)? How much does one have to work with the hoped-for readers' prejudices?

It strikes me that many "humans" in SFF fall into this category - for instance, all those Fantasy human-like creatures living on not-Earths, where the reader simply assumes the characters will act just like real humans - which is perhaps where my question's coming from, because I tend to see (am intended to see) them as human and ecpect them to act accordingly.
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Old 1st January 2011, 07:17 PM   #23 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

Well, I've read plenty male characters written by women that just made me cringe. Particularly teenage male characters. I think part of the issue is that people simply FOCUS o. female characterization way more. Most people could care less about how men are portrayed. Personally the woman who gets the most "screentime" in my WIP is a horribly unrealistic character/woman and I have no intention of altering the way she's presented. And no I don't think it takes away from her or the story.

Back to original post, if they're are no women in your tale screaming to be seen/heard... then don't force it. Just write whats neeeded to move the story forward not to be politically correct...
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Old 1st January 2011, 07:36 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

I have two threads in my story, one is based around a male and the other around a female. I cannot recall having to think that I should approach anything differently, but I do agree that my female is much more caring of others around her, thinks more about consequences (even though she can be hot-headed when necessary). Like Karn, I had a lot of female influence (four older sisters) and an absent father, so maybe I'm just more in touch with my female side...?

If you perceive it's a problem, then read how it's been done by others -
that should help more than anything IMHO. Joe Abercrombie in the First Law trilogy does it quite well, (even though one female is a hellcat only bent on killing men of a certain race, so she's kind of stereotyped...) but I'd recommend Trudi Canavan and Fiona McIntosh - female writers doing good female leads, which should help you see into the female psyche.

I'd say just write it, and see how it turns out. You may be surprised...
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Old 1st January 2011, 08:17 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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my female is much more caring of others around her, thinks more about consequences (even though she can be hot-headed when necessary).
Interestingly (or not) this sounds more like the lead male in my book, rather than the lead female. Although the lead female is a teen, so age could be a factor too.
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Old 2nd January 2011, 07:02 PM   #26 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

I agree with mouse; I don't think there would be any sacrifice of character, but then, I'd have to read the story. Women can be just as aggressive as men, and men can be just as mushy and loving as a woman. There's no problems :P

I also agree with J-Wo. If this story doesn't have any female main characters, you don't have to change it; yes, as he said, maybe your next project could be one for you to use mostly female main characters and get in some time with them.

Really, we aren't so different :P Though women do tend to think differently about relationships; as I listened to the radio the other day, I had to agree with them when they said that women are better at socializing than men; but that's not true for everyone; it's a generalization that you can happily ignore; men can build rock-solid relationships with anyone.
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Old 3rd January 2011, 02:23 AM   #27 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

Maybe you could start out with...female bikers? Wrestlers, cops... more stereotypical male roles. Then you have the struggle between the inner sensitive, intelligent female and the brute knucklehead male.
Her's a character from a street near where I live.
Cynthia crouched in the doorway, waiting. He was always late.
Finally, Armand walked up quickly.
"Where ya been, ya $$!#!"
"I missed the bus."
"%%!%! you. You %!%!$ ^!^%!%. I've been here an hour."
"Yea, well I gotta go."
"!!!$. Here's twenty it's all I have."
"The &!&!&!. You said thirty. No %!%!5 way am I %!%!% that ^!^!^"
"You $!$!$! You ##!#!ing !$!#!
So there's quite a range there. * )
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Old 3rd January 2011, 09:51 AM   #28 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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Maybe you could start out with...female bikers? Wrestlers, cops... more stereotypical male roles. Then you have the struggle between the inner sensitive, intelligent female and the brute knucklehead male.
Unfortunately they're the ones that tend to come across as men with boobs

I tend to avoid writers who suck at writing women, but there's a lot of fantasy in which women are either an amalgam of all the worst stereotypically female qualities (whiny, manipulative, over-emotional) or sexy kick-ass warrior women. The latter are just cringe-worthy adolescent fantasies, and the former make one wonder if the writer is working out some personal issues through his fiction.

Just make your women as varied and three-dimensional as your men, and you're already doing better than average
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Old 3rd January 2011, 10:52 AM   #29 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

I think a lot of writers don't realise how easy it is to spot a character the author fancies or would like to be. It's not so much having attractive people in a story as not allowing them to ever do anything unattractive. I think the two female characters I've written about are both pretty attractive, but they do spend a lot of time looking foolish. Hopefully that avoids the problem.

To my mind there's nothing inherent wrong with having women who can fight, run battles etc (not that anyone said there was), but a writer who doesn't try to take into account what that would entail is dodging the hard work. A female soldier would probably look a lot like a male one, to be honest: I'm no expert on the female mind, but wearing high heels or some sort of space-wetsuit (you know what I mean) doesn't seem sensible when combat gear is on offer.

Then there's the psychological aspect, especially in fantasy worlds where the very concept of equal rights doesn't exist and might well seem to both men and women to be a violation of the edicts of God. The experience of doing something outside the usual roles could have a very odd effect on a person's outlook over time. I wonder what those women who pretended to be men in the Napoleonic wars must have been like.

(That said, I've read books where the author has waded deep into Mary Sue territory and established the Mystical Order of Spanking Leather Nuns or the like as a vital plot device. But don't expect me not to laugh).
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Old 3rd January 2011, 01:09 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Re: Questions: Females and PoV's

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or sexy kick-ass warrior women. The latter are just cringe-worthy adolescent fantasies
Unfortunately, some writers seem to think "strong female character" = "ninja with boobs".

It's an interesting problem to try to reflect modern (or even better-than-modern) ideas about gender equality when writing about a pre-modern setting. Some people seem to just ignore the idea that there's any conflict at all. Steven Erikson's Malazan books depict a Medieval-type society where a good proportion of the soldiers seem to be female, despite him never mentioning why those women aren't expected to stay at home and raise children, nor why their frequent sexual relationships with male soldiers never seem to result in pregnancy. It's almost as though he wants us to believe his culture includes shared childcare, equal career opportunities and failsafe contraception, but without ever mentioning them, nor how they arose. Had he taken the trouble to work those more modern ideas credibly into his world, it would have made it a lot more real.
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