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 agree. I use dialogue a lot and am trying to get her voice right, to give her a language that is both street smart, intellectually vigorous and personal.
I find the most interesting thing about a character in a book isn't what they've done but what they want and maybe why they want it (though I don't expect every character to know why they want something). And the gap between what people say they want and what they actually want.
Nice! Complex. That's what we want. Though it's often something readers don't get and complain about.
Well, the readers who complain about complexity will not like my books. Another thought: William Faulkner said that literature is about "the human heart in conflict with itself." I think that's what drives interesting characters, sexually and otherwise. I'm very liberal but I also sentimental for romance and a kind of decency that is no longer in our culture. I know women who have fought hard for careers in the professions who want to be mothers and just don't know how to manage it in such an either/or world. We're all composites. We all live in at least three periods of history: the one we're coming into, the present, and the past, and the conflicts between them are internalized.
And how people react to that conflict makes them individuals. There's enough here to shape an interesting character or several.
Or they discover what they want in the process of living.
Internal conflict=what you want but don't/can't have.
And I was going to say if you want to read a male author who writes female characters who crackle with life, definitely without any reservation, read John McFetridge.
I'll do that.
Another male writer who doesn't shy away from female characters is Jeffery Deaver.

I think the trick is to see people as people. There are men who want sex, men who want relationships and commitment. Same with women. Men who want careers, power, prestige and men who are happy to stay at home (can think of at least one who chimes in on Crimespace who's been a stay-at-home dad). Some of the pressures from society may be different, but at the core, most people are people first, a gender second. One of my problems with feminism is that it makes everything about being a woman, and I don't think my ovaries have much to do with my need to work, pay bills or help the kids study for a test... but being a woman might result in me being treated differently at work. I like your post, and I think we could end up exchanging one set of cliches for another if we aren't careful.
Hah, Sandra's back. Good! Very smart cookie, Sandra. (For the new members).


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