Ok, so I just finished reading Megan Abbott's THE SONG IS YOU, and I just loved it! One of the many things that Megan does well in this book is take on the old canard that women can't write believable male characters (to say nothing of believable male POV characters) and vice-versa, and shatter it.

Her characterization is first-rate, and her POV character's descent into an alcohol and sleep-deprivation-fueled pursuit of some answers of his own in something he'd initially helped cover up is not only believable, it's truly the stuff of great literature.

This led me to the question of whether this is something that we as mystery writers do well or poorly. I confess that I've only ever written one female POV story, and hey, I was able to sell it (admittedly not for much). Then again, it's the only one I ever actually tried. I do make an effort to make my female characters well-rounded, because, like Shakespeare, Sophocles and a host of other male writers before me, I believe that women make for the most fascinating characters.

What do you folks think, and what have your experiencesbeen like when you've tried to write across gender lines?


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I must admit that I'm much, much happier writing from the male point of view, though I have written two female POV novels. I feel more at home with the male viewpoint (query? did I miss the lesson at school on "how to be a girl"? Hmm, must have been sick that day ...). It's also interesting (at least to me!) that my male novels are always done from the first person view, but my female novels are always third person.

Weird ... Somebody pass me a normality pill!


I think a male pov is easier. Maybe it's knowing that readers won't be as upset with him if he gets drunk or acts up, but if she does it - she's a real mess, isn't she? There are all kinds of situations where a female character can't do this or go there because she'll seem stupid or reckless, even if she's carrying a baseball bat along with that candle as she tiptoes down the cellar stairs. Reminds me of the moment I realized the rules were different - my brother got to go somewhere but I couldn't because it might be dangerous. He was, of course, delirious with joy but I'm still pissed off.

I agree with Donna, below, that Robert Eversz does a brilliant job with a female pov in Nina Zero. Getting the right mix of vulnerable and tough, and finding the pitch-perfect voice ... wow. It's amazing.
You should check out Officer Down in which the female lead, Samantha Mack (AKA "Smack") out-bads the boys ...
A good case in point - I got SO tired of her. I just wanted to smack her for whining too much. Oh, how appropriate, come to think of it. Maybe her name was a subliminal message.

Schwegel's second book has a male lead, also a tricky, hard-to-like person, but then they both work for a totally corrupt police force. I wonder how people who work for the CPD feel about these books? Even though it's Chicago, I found the level of corruption hard to buy. (Maybe I just don't have enough money.)
Well, first of all Brian I agree with you about Megan Abbott's books. I think she is one hell of a writer.

I sometimes have problems with the complaints that women can't write men and men can't write women. I've always found that if an author writes believable characters then their characters of BOTH sexes are believable. We all live, work and socialise with people of both sexes. I might not BE a man, but I know a few :o). Even Jane Austen wrote believable male characters and she would have less cause to 'know' men than we do today.There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to do it.

As far as POV characters are concerned I guess that I notice it when a male writes a female main character or vice versa because it ISN'T that common. Most of the ones I've read are done really well - Steve Brewer in BULLETS, Robert Eversz' Nina Zero - both are brilliant. There's only one popular series that I can think of that I don't like - and I have more problems with that than the female POV character.

I suppose it's what you are comfortable with as a writer. I've never written anything with a male main character, and I'm not sure that I could. But then, I don't consider myself a proper writer. What I'm working on now is multiple POV and some of those are, of course, men. I'm enjoying writing them. Are they believable? I don't know. But then I don't know whether my female characters are either.

And Brian, that POV female character you wrote was an excellent one (but hmmmmmmmm, that story brought back a few memories!)
I tried writing from a female POV a couple of manuscripts ago. I thought I did a decent job, but not one of 100 agents agreed. One big-name agent with Writer's House said to my face the female protag, Roberta "Bobbi" Sodano, was "a misanthrope." Looking back, I'm guessing his reaction--and everybody else's--had something to do with Bobbi's baseball bat.
I'm trying again with my WIP, though, an older Italian woman whom my agent and publisher loved in the last one. She sounds just like my wife's aunt, and she's a lot of fun to write, so I'm hoping I do a much better job.
I'd better.
Jack - I would LOVE to read a book about a female misanthrope with a baseball bat.
You know, I really liked her, too. Always thought she had the best opening line I ever used:

Men were trouble, dead or alive.
I love that first line. I would love to read a character like this. Sounds like my kind of gal.
I am inspired by your's and Donna's encouragement. Maybe I'll a try a short story with Bobbi and her baseball bat. If it comes out well, you've earned first-rejection rights. :-)
Several scenes in the Keller novels are written from a female POV...fortunately I have my wife to tell me when I've gone off track in those.
Women are human, just like most men. If the character is nothing like you, do some research. If I were to write about a chemical engineer, I'd go talk to one, learn about what makes them tick, what they think, how they think, etc. But once you get the basics out of the way, then treat the character as you would any other. Personally, I don't find it that difficult to write from a woman's point of view, not that I understand women at all - I mean, why can't they put the toilet seat up? Why do I have to put it down? They're the ones who are going to be sitting in piss. But if you're writing a female character, she wouldn't suddenly put the seat up because women won't do that.


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