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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Good point - after all, I'm 99% certain that Eric Garcia has never been a dinosaur, yet he still manages to make Vincent Rubio totally believable. And I'm sure that most science fiction writers haven't been to an alien world far far away. And the multitude of mystery writers who write about cats or ancient Romans or vampires have never been any of those things. Give me a centuries old female aardvaark detective from the Planet Zog and I will believe it if you make it believable.

By the way Steve, if a amn has been in my house and I end up sitting in piss, SOMEONE is going to pay.
Steve, I cannot tell you how many arguments I have gotten into with women about the toilet seat thing. I think it's possibly the stupidest way to ruin a relationship ever invented, except maybe for the toilet paper facing in or out argument. What's the big deal about lowering a toilet seat? It takes two seconds. And if you don't have two seconds to spare, ladies, then you waited too long to go to the bathroom.

This is one thing I really don't understand about some women, why they nitpit their husbands and sons half to death about such inconsequential things. I had much more important topics to discuss with my son. I did teach everyone to clean up after themselves so there was never any sitting in piss, but I could have cared less if the toilet seat was up or down. It's a non-issue, just as it should be in every home in America. That's why they put the things on hinges; so they can be raised or lowered. I haven't read of any law or Biblical dictate that says it's incumbent upon men to do all the raising and lowering. But some women end up in divorce court over the damn toilet seat. Stupid, if you ask me.

That's my ten-cents-worth.

Now on to the actual topic of this thread. I was blessed to be raised in a home with both sisters and brothers, and had an incredibly close and loving relationship with both my parents, but particularly my father. So I feel very comfortable writing from the male POV.
"Women are human, just like most men."

I similar line got me assaulted at a writer's retreat once.
I'm with Donna. I don't see any reason men can't write women and women can't write men. While there are the odd things that might stand out as generalized 'male' and 'female' thinking/behaviour, they are still generalizations. When I hear songs like 'Any Man of Mine' I want to find Shania with a baseball bat - I don't care if 99.9% of women agree with her - this one doesn't.

The psychological make-up of a person is a hell of a lot more than just gender. I mean, this is not your garden variety woman.

I love writing men.
Now, Sandra. Be careful how you talk about Shania. I don't agree with all her songs either, but then I'm not listening too hard.
I've long called that song the High Maintenance Woman Anthem...
You and I will get along just fine Eric...
Most of my successful stories have been from the point of view of a woman. I actually started with a woman's POV on the advice of Joe Lansdale. He critiqued a manuscript I'd written from the POV of a male but with a female second character. He hated the story, but liked the woman and suggested I try it in her POV and first person. His point was that to be successful, you have to take risks. My male POV was not successful because he was too much like me and not a real character on his own.

I think people make a lot out of writing from the opposite gender POV for two reasons. First, our culture makes a big deal of the differences between men and women. There's an entire publishing and pop-psychology industry devoted to it, trying to tell us men are from Mars and women are from Venus. The fact is that we inhabit the same planet, live in the same country, vote for the same candidates, sleep in the same bed and use the same bathroom. Men and women alike go to work, raise kids, care for parents, and grieve over the deaths of loved ones. The second reason this is a big issue is that we as writers are taught to write what you know, which we often interpret too literally. In fact, stories are products of our imagination. We write what excites us. I prefer Ken Kesey's dictum: Don't write what you know, because what you know is boring. Write what you don't know.

I think I've been successful writing from a woman's POV because I can't be lazy. I have to know my character fully and trust my imagination. An interesting aside is from time to time people in my writing group or my circle of early readers will pick something out and tell me no woman would ever say that or no woman would ever do that. Invariably, it's something I heard a woman say or saw a woman do and I threw it in because I was too lazy to use my character's own voice.
Because I write a female character, I've been interested in female detectives written by men. So far, I have a list of 63 going back to the early pulp days. I don't pretend it's a complete list, but if anyone is interested, I posted it on my blog. http://metroy.blogspot.com/. The list is sorted alphabetically. If you know of any I missed would you drop me a line?
I have to agree with whoever made the point on here that writing crime from a male POV is easier. I'm struggling with a very dark woman now and realize I have surrounded her with men. She just doesn't seem like she'd have any female friends. Or maybe the men act as females cause they are sure a lot lighter than her. Nice to hear you liked Megan's book.
I'm not a murderer. I've never been killed. If I could only write from the POV of a character exactly like me, that'd make for some pretty dull reading.

On the other hand, I have found myself wondering about writing something novel-length using a male first person POV. I've done it in short fiction, but don't know if I could pull it off in a novel. Not so much because "men are from Mars" and I'm not. In fact, I've been accused of having a man's brain in a woman's body more than once. (Like Ann Brooke, I think I missed how-to-be-a-girl day at school. I had to learn how to do drag at night school later in life.) I have always been totally comfortable with male characters, but I do wonder if my name and gender would slant the reader's perception going in. For instance, I don't come right out and say, "...oh and by the way, I'm a girl." when I'm writing a female first person narrative, but I can't help but wonder if I would need to explicitly state a male character's gender right up front to prevent the reader from assuming "I" equals female, just because I am female. I guess that's why so many female writers use initials.
The novel I'm revising now has a female protagonist, and I was really concerned about getting it right. The best piece of advice I've seen (and I can't remember where I read it, so I can't give credit where it's due) is very simple: don't try too hard.

That means don't work too hard to show how in character you're writing by fixating on the obvious differences between your sex and that of the character, whichever way round that may be. Put bluntly, men writing men and women writing women don't tend to wander off into description of how their character goes to the toilet. Men writing women or women writing men can do though, or obsess about details of clothing or whatever, just to show how much they understand. Overdone though, it can do just the opposite.


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