Questions: Females and PoV's

Discussion in 'General Writing Discussion' started by Tragedy, Dec 31, 2010.

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    Tragedy

    Tragedy New Member

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    I have finally managed to create the complete skeleton that I want to write, and now am in the final stages of editing before I start to add muscle, sinew and flesh.

    However I have stumbled across a problem.

    I lack female characters. Not because I have created a world where females are walking meat and have no purpose other than bearing children and maintaining a house, but because I simply fear that I cannot write a female character properly. I have somehow only managed to scrap together only 3 female characters (bad, I know) with only 2 of them being of major importance. Furthermore, I have ditched the idea of writing one as a PoV as it would be easier to write about her from her male partners perspective. How big of a problem is this? 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.

    My second question is more straightforward. Is it better to write a PoV to completion, or write the chapters in chronological order?
     
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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    If there's no female characters there's no female characters. Why force it? With your next project maybe some female characters will present themselves and you'll be a lot more confident in your characterisation skills to do them justice. Heck, maybe you'll write something with an entirely female cast, even.
     
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    Glitch

    Glitch #452

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    If you want to include a female pov so much, then why not enlist the help of a female friend in creating that pov.
     
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    Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

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    Yes, if there's no major female characters in the story then fair enough, I'd have thought, especially if it will seem false to artificially rig it. That said, it may seem strange if every other "active" character is seen from their own POV and the only woman character is seen from someone else's, but it's hard to tell from here.

    As for writing from a female POV, I really don't know if I'm any good at it at all. My own feeling - I was told this by a female friend ages ago - is to try to write the character as a convincing character rather than a convincing woman. I get the impression that some male writers think "Whoops, I've written three pages without going on about dresses/complaining about how stupid men are/crying/whatever" and bung in some out of place stereotypical thing before getting back to the alien-slaughter. To take a couple of SF examples, it's pretty clear that Ripley from Alien and Kaylee from Firefly are very different people, and ought to operate in very different ways. At least, I hope this is right: I've been trying to write a story with a female lead.
     
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    Glitch

    Glitch #452

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    To quote from a 90's film.

    Receptionist: How do you write women so well?
    Melvin Udall: I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability.


    This is not how I do it, but it seemed too good an opportunity to pass up :)
     
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    Mouse

    Mouse cowabunga!

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    Um... why would it "sacrifice a little bit of characterization" just because she was female?!

    Just write a woman the same way you would a man. We're really not that different, you know. :p

    Although, I think female writers tend to write male characters better than male writers write female... (Robin Hobb writes male characters in 1st person POV!) Joe Abercrombie said that he found writing females difficult. In fact, it's only Phillip Pullman and possibly George RR Martin who I can think of who write women pretty decently.
     
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    My Atomic Tales

    My Atomic Tales Steampunk Villain.

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    Strangely enough, even though I'm male the protagonist of my novel is female. There's no particular reason for it, but when I was thinking about a leading character she appeared and hence she stayed. I can't say I've had any particular problem writing her dialogue or internal monologues, at least nothing that jars. People are people, regardless of gender, and depending on the situation we're place in we'd all react the same. Obviously there are various biological factors I have to take into account, if only subconsciously, but by and large I've encountered no major stumbling blocks.

    As mentioned above, there's no point forcing the issue. Your main focus should be on good characterisation, regardless of gender. If a decent female character presents herself to your imagination, introduce her. If not, don't. For the time being, at least, there are no quotas when it come to who you people your imagination with.

    As for POVs, when I reach a natural climax in the narrative I tend to switch to another character. On a cynical scale this could be seen as creating a cliffhanger to keep the prospective reader hanging on your every word, but for myself it's a way of recharging my batteries and finding a new perspective. Either way, there's really no right or wrong. Good writing will ride roughshod over many a structural flaw.*

    (*lol at me, an unpublishable author giving advice. All I can say, trite though it seems, is do what feels right for you.:))
     
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    Karn Maeshalanadae

    Karn Maeshalanadae I'm a pineapple

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    That's not always the case, though, Mouse. I believe I can write female characters fairly well, at least by a liberal stance.


    I think it comes from the fact that my family is actually disproportionately female. There's only a total of four males in our extended family left and about eight females.


    But back on the subject at hand, it is not actually all that hard to sketch in the opposite gender. You merely need to study the behavior of those around you, watch their everyday actions, not just your family, but next time you go out to a park, or a bar, or club, or whatever other hot spots you like to go to. Study how each person acts, then-and I hate to say this-put in generalizations that you know beyond doubt about the opposite sex, then maybe back up a couple notches and put in your own individual quirks that makes each character alive. Sound complicated? No, not really. Being apt at psychology can really help. Intuition can as well, as well as a highly observant eye.
     
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    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood The Needlessly Defiant

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    "Generalisations that you know beyond doubt about the opposite sex"? That sounds almost like an oxymoron to me. Generalisations are applied to a large group of people despite there always being (and often, much more than thought) exceptions to it -- there should always be doubt about generalistions. So, a female character who has throughout the story shown to be strong, indepedent, leading people through everything has to break down and cry every so often, just because she's a woman? Has to be a bit irrational every now and then? Or a guy who is from a certain walk in life that has very little relation to physical activities has to suddenly start talking about sports? A character should be created from their background, their situation, and yes, societal influences that do affect the creation of identity. Gender (femininity and masculinity) is a sliding scale and the more generalisations are perpetuated, the more the binary's going to linger. And the more characterisation will suffer, in my opinion.
     
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    Karn Maeshalanadae

    Karn Maeshalanadae I'm a pineapple

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    Well, perhaps "generalizations" was the wrong word. It wasn't what I meant to convey.

    There are certain facts about each gender. The fact that women are the ones who bear children, and they will often go through hormonal changes during their pregnancies, or through their periods. Not always, of course, but that is one such "generalization". And there's also the fact that they will usually be highly protective of their children, and sometimes of children in general. That sort of thing.
     
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    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood The Needlessly Defiant

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    Even such facts can be ambiguous. Transgender, intersex, androgyny, the case of the man (as he was legally by this point) giving birth. The more the individual is considered, the more interesting characters emerge. All of the things mentioned, as with yours in the above post, have their effect on people, but in the same way, each and every time? Highly unlikely. How each person reacts to such is the key to making a rounded, human character.
     
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    Karn Maeshalanadae

    Karn Maeshalanadae I'm a pineapple

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    Not every time, no, but I'm talking about likelihood, not absolutes.


    There are always exceptions to everything, of course. But the point is, that it is not actually hard to write about the opposite gender-and I did say to put in individual quirks. That could be transgender, that could be in finding a secret delight in throwing pickled onions at red cars and oranges at blue, it could be anything. But you have to admit that worldwide it is usually the woman to give birth to a child, and in many instances worldwide-but again not every time-you can see the woman nurturing and protecting the child. It IS a generalization, and it is rough, but I meant to say that it is simply a stepping stone into the female character, and then you pay attention to individualism to get the meat of the character going.
     
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    HoopyFrood

    HoopyFrood The Needlessly Defiant

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    I have to say, with every male character I've written, I've never started with the thought "Well, he's a man, so he'll..." It's always been "Well, he's going to be in this situation, and go through this, what would he..."

    Sorry, gone off on one a bit, it's one of those few areas where I do! So to get back to the original post, I think it's clear that I agree with other people about creating individuals; they are more interesting after all, I feel. I think what Toby's friend said was very apt. And also, if there's less females in the story, that's probably just how the story's gone. I find they can have minds of their own sometimes, the stories we think we're creating.
     
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    Mouse

    Mouse cowabunga!

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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.

    I think that's where men (not all!) go wrong. They over-think/worry about it.

    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.

    I don't know any female writers who've written unrealistic male characters (though I'm not saying there aren't any!) but there seems to be more male writers who have difficulty writing a female character. Like I said, Joe Abercrombie even admitted that.
     
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    Nik

    Nik Speaker to Cats

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    Momma Cat

    D'uh, there's an easy fix: When the Female character is pressed, go with Kipling's 'Deadlier Than The Male'.
     
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    The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    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?

    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.

    In just the same way that smart people can pretend to be stupid, but stupid people can't pretend to be intelligent... :D


    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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    Mouse

    Mouse cowabunga!

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    Well, true. I'm not saying what I want to say very well.

    I don't geddit. ;)
     
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    Karn Maeshalanadae

    Karn Maeshalanadae I'm a pineapple

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    Hey, I resemble that remark! :p
     
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    Susan Boulton

    Susan Boulton The storyteller

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    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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    J-WO

    J-WO Pretentious Avatar Alert.

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    I can write a female character for about 3000 words and then she starts to grow stubble...
     
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