I'm interested in a nuts-and-bolts discussion of this issue. I'm a member of a writing group of five, 3 of which are women, so I'm getting pretty good feedback. Nevertheless, I've never felt as confident writing women characters as writing men.

I'm also aware than there is a tendency of writers to consciously telegraph feminist issues, particularly in film and television writing, where women must have certain attributes in order to be PC: e.g.; they work out, they know self defense, work as supervisors of men, work in professions that a few years ago would have been difficult for them enter -- but these things have become so obvious that it seems that male writers in particular have traded one set of cliches for another.

I have women characters in a novel in progress and I have already overdone it. I have an African-American nun who runs a shelter for trafficked women. She is also a PhD, MD and has a black belt in Krav Maga. I started laughing at myself, and immediately removed the black belt. It seems that I was redressing the balance, but going off the end.

What is most useful to me is the subtle, non PC things that men miss in writing women. I've already learned some of them from my group, but am open to a creative discussion of the issue.

I look forward to your posts.

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Your blog post was funny and smart on this point, Minerva. My sidekick (Lola) is 5'10", 150, and she has no compunction about kicking men in the balls. "No point in hitting men in the head," she says. "Y'all have these tiny brains and big, thick skulls."
Great blog post, Minerva. I do a lot with gender, obviously, but I certainly don't claim to have it all figured out: I have my blind spots, just like everyone else. I do think about this stuff, though, and for me the key is that not all of everybody is/does anything, and no one person is ever just one thing. So, a woman in her thirties may be obsessed with having a baby (it happens, nothing wrong with it, and the relationship dynamic it creates is actually pretty interesting--to me, at least), but plenty of others aren't, and couldn't be less interested. Even if a young woman is obsessed with having a baby, that's not all she is/does: she still has a whole life going on, and plenty of brain that isn't entirely about baby. I don't agree, though, that women are essentially the same as men: I think there are often (not always) profound areas of psychological difference, particularly between straight women and straight men, and I've come to the conclusion that at least some of that difference is inherent. It's a tricky business, navigating reality without over-indulging in easy stereotypes, but it's also lots of fun playing with all of this stuff and trying (but always failing, ultimately) to get it right.
I think a good writer needs to be androgynous and able to create credible characters of gender, age and interests different from their own biological details. The skill is research and observation PLUS I think you also need an expert reader from those areas to check you have picked up on the nuances of other gender or occupation. I;ve written fron the viewpoint of a 21 year old male expeditioner in my 'Antarctica's Frozen Chosen' but checked with other expeditioners I had the male viewpoint right. More recently I've co-written f2m;the boy within which is a YA novel about transgender against punk music setting , but my co-author Ryan Kennedy has experienced this .So we're in the situation of having an 18 year old protagonist who transitions from female to male, and co-authors, one of whom was female, now acknowledged male. The great challenge is the pronouns, and trying to write a blurb where the protagonist changes gender in one sentence. And not making a complex situation sound glib. But it's been a satisfying working partnership, especially as we've done much online as we are in different continents ( Australia & NZ) and from different generations. Exciting. I think writing from a different viewpoint for the length of a novel is excellent discipline for an author.
Indeed it is a fine discipline. I've got plenty of feedback from women in my writing group, all of whom are deeply committed and widely published authors. It can't hurt to have this discussion too often. I've enjoyed this one, and I think we all got something from it.
Oh, teenagers... Especially girls.... You are a very brave man indeed. Can I help write the eulogy? Just kidding. I think the key is to look around you and write the kids you see the way you see them. We really are that bad, and that good too. The thing that is most difficult for us, especially as parents, to understand is that they are born as fully complete people. By the time they are teens, they are really tired of the fact that no one gets that.

Good luck!
I write a male protagonist, and one of the best pieces of advice I ever read about writing the opposite sex is to ask yourself, not, "What would a man do in this situation?" but "What would I do in this situation if I were a man?" (Of course, in your case, you'd replace "man" with "woman" in the previous sentence.) It's a subtle difference. Now that I know my character better, I just ask myself, "What would Jared do?"

Once the book is written, I run it past a lot of men to see if I got it right. Often, the things one man says no straight guy would think/feel/say/do, are the very things another says are right on the money. As my husband says, men are not monolithic.

Women generally like my guy a lot, but interestingly, it's usually women who say men don't know/feel [x], even when I originally got the idea from hearing and seeing men say/do/talk about [x] .

It sounds like you watch and listen to woman and approach your character with sensitivity, so I'm sure you'll do your character justice.
Nice post.
Right. Well observed. I also have a male protagonist and that is what I do. Still before one can walk in the guy's shoes, one has to know a lot about how men think and why they approach problems differently from women.
My list of writers (men and women) who "write" interesting women:

Charles Todd, Lindsay Davis, Kjell Eriksson, Elizabeth George, JOHN HARVEY, Stieg Larsson, Denise Mina, Anne Perry, PETER ROBINSON, Helene Tursten, Minette Walters

The two in caps are the best.
Thanks, I know Peter Robinson, Stieg Larson, and John Harvey's books pretty well, and I agree with you.
I agree about those three, though I suspect Stieg Larsen is in there solely on the strength of the girl with the dragon tattoo. I'm a bit dubious about Todd (don't remember his females at all) and I like Elizabeth George's female sergeant very much, but her aristocratic detective is a bit of a romance construct. Tursten is good, and so is Davis. I have assorted problems with Mina, Perry, and Walters. Arent' we to judge how well they write about the opposite sex?
I just learned that Charles Todd is actually two people, mother and son. So, I guess we need to scratch Todd from my list as well.


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