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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Yep--fortunately I forget her name and which publisher she is/was with, but it was one of the big ones. I was pretty surprised by how truly narrow/conventional her thinking was--my stuff's not that far out of the box.
I don't know about the larger variety of weapons thing--one of the victims in my #1 was crucified with a pneumatic nail gun. You just have to look beyond the ordinary. I remember reading about a mafia hitman who turned state's evidence in Miami fifteen years or so ago, and he talked about using an amazing variety of at-hand weapons: everything from a spear-gun to a frying pan. Of course they also shot and stabbed people.
How about puffer fish poison? :)

Though I grant you the nail gun crucifixion was impressive. I don't much care for developers, contractors, and realtors myself.
They're hell on wheels in resort towns, generally speaking. The real estate bubble in P-town was incredibly intense. Glad it's over, for the most part.

I might use that spear-gun thing down the road sometime. You think of hit-men as being sort of cold, precise and organized, but apparently most of them are complete yahoos. Puts a different spin on things, for me.
Well Jon, there just aren't very many people who specialize in being hitmen. Usually it's just whoever has the best access to the guy who needs doing.

Ah, criminals, the last jack of all trades in this overly specialized world.
I write a lot of female protagonists in my short stories. Since the stories are often first-person, I need the reader to see my male name in the byline and KNOW by the end of the first paragraph that the protagonist telling the story is a woman. (I won't even get into the challenge of reading the story aloud in writing group.)

I think writing women (or men, or aliens) effectively depends on understanding their motivations.

Signaling the sex of the character in a fresh way is usually the challenge for me.

Well, you could just start with "My name is . . ."
Yes, but once I used that introduction, I didn't want to use it again.
Well, a lot of authors have their first person protagonist glance into a mirror. :) And then there are clothing items which are dead giveaways.

Though I can see someone working pantyhose references for a transvestite protagonist.

Or you could start with a phone call. Or a remembered conversation. Or a letter.
The female protagonist in my current book, Selena de la Cruz, was a minor character in my previous book, BLEEDER. With her in that minor role as an insurance agent I was able to begin exploring who this woman was and show some traits that are expanding and deepening in this book. Since she is a second-generation Mexican American, I've had to do research on all the cultural issues in addition to figuring out the 'woman' material. I found two books very helpful ("Hijas Americanas" and "The Latina Bible"), I subscribed to "Latina" magazine, and have been reading Mexican writers. I've taken a general interest in all things Mexican, most notably the feast of "The Day of the Dead", Aztec mythology, Our Lady of Guadalupe, family structures, the quincanera rite-of-passage for girls, proverbs (dichos), music, manners, food, sheesh, everything. I've been sending my work-in-progress to two women, one Latina and one not, to tell me if I'm getting the 'woman' stuff right and the cultural stuff right. The Latina reader is also assisting with the Spanish/Spanglish. So far, so good. The text isn't first-person, but with Third Person Limited I know I still need to 'think' like a Mexican-American woman. This is the hardest thing I've ever done.
Wow, language and gender. I'm using some Spanish and Russian in my present novel. It's definitely tough. Males are often accused of not listening. I'm doing some serious listening on this one. Good luck with the book. I like the idea of minor characters becoming major as a series progresses. Caleb Carr does this with his Alienist series.
Loved the Caleb Carr books.


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