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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I must admit to having some juvenile amusement at your comment! Can you imagine referring to a guy as a smart cookie? It just struck me as ironic, given the topic of the thread.

(In no way offended. Happy to be called a smart cookie. :)
Guys are seldom referred to as a smart anything these days. Oh, wait a minute: "smart rat." Or smartass.
Well, we haven't reached the unisex status quite yet. But you set me thinking: what would I have called a smart male? I'm afraid I would have had to go to something like: "he knows a lot about the business."
Doesn't have the same cheery ring.
Not to derail this thread, but feminism, as I define it, is the idea that women deserve fair and equal treatment to men, under the law and in society in general. The term has been co-opted by anti-feminists to mean other things (consider 'feminazi'), which has, sadly, led many women to disown the description. If you are a woman who wants to be treated fairly, you are a feminist. The thing you are referring to ('making everything about being a woman') is not feminism, it's something else.

Ironically, feminism is in fact the art of 'seeing people as people.'
I think it's also true that the demands of characterization are somewhat different in genre than in literary fiction: certain tropes must be observed, or at least acknowledged and dealt with. The lady super-cop is one of them; as is the detective tormented by his past, etc. The extent to which we make those clichés our own is the extent to which we can consider ourselves original. Or not.
Or not. Tropes? Or cliches? There is no need for those in the mystery genre, in my opinion.
Well, one man's trope, etc. What's the standard grab-bag o' clichés in the world of historical mysteries? There must be one, but I have no idea what it is. I mean, there have to be horses, I suppose, and swords. What else?
There don't have to be horses unless they are needful. Same for swords. The equivalents of cars and guns. I do have a larger variety of weapons on hand than the modern crime novel. And my forensics investigations do not take up most of the book. And people used to walk a lot in those days.
I really don't pay attention to historical novel cliches. Yes, there are many. I try to stick to what was likely to happen at that time in that society. A kind of "truth."
My forensics happen offstage and merely provide plot points. People have absorbed enough CSI episodes that the linkages have a built-in verisimilitude and I don't see that I can add anything new. The present novel is gun-heavy but the context requires it.
I get to do a bit of real-world truth with forensics by not really doing it. In Massachusetts, years of budget cuts have rendered the State Police forensics lab practically useless: it's not uncommon for them to take two or three years to do DNA testing, say. Stuff gets lost and corrupted. So advanced forensics are probably never going to play a major role in my series.
For me part of the fun is playing with the form and its conventions, messing them up, turning them inside out. One of the editors from a big publisher who rejected my #1 wrote that she might be interested if I made a laundry list of changes, at the top of which was "the detective needs to actually solve the crime." I wrote to my agent that that editor clearly hadn't gotten the joke. I think I'm very lucky to have landed with someone as smart (and funny) as my current editor.
She really said that? And people wonder why writers aren't in awe of the superhuman insight of editors.

For the record, I read the book, and I got the joke. It was kind of the point of the book.

Jeez.

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