The past two Wednesdays, I discussed gender-based reading preferences as it relates to writing.
It started out by observing my 2-year-old niece and almost 2-year-old godson interacting with each other.
“Douglas! Douglas! Look at my shoes!” is a memory well-worth keeping and sharing.
But as adorable and entertaining as they were, they tied right in with a whole lot of questions I’ve had for months about gender-based reading preferences and writing preferences.
When I think of modern-day male fiction authors, I think of writers who tell single stories from multiple perspectives. As in, they head-hop by chapter or segment, allowing more than one character to push the story along from their point of view. Just a few such male fiction authors include:
Rick Riordan (though he can write a whole story from one perspective)
The only modern-day male fiction author’s name I can instantly think of who doesn’t do that is fantasy writer Jim Butcher.
Modern-day female fiction authors, however, always seemed a lot more diverse in this regard. For instance:
Philippa Gregory can write both ways.
Lauren Willig prefers two points of view.
Seanan McGuire writes in one.
Kyra Davis writes in one
Heather Dixon writes in one
Julie Kenner writes in one
Gillian Flynn can write both ways.
It all made me wonder if men preferred reading from more than one perspective and women didn’t care as much. So I asked around between a few Facebook writers groups and on my personal page, only to find this…
Out of the 44 people who responded, 29 were women. One said she preferred single-perspective stories, nine preferred multiple and 19 didn’t care.
Of the men who responded, three said they preferred single-perspective stories, five said they preferred multiple, six said either, and one was an all-around troll who accused me of being sexist for asking the question. Considering how he didn’t know the actual definition of the word “prejudice,” I’m putting him in the idiot category.
Now, 44 – or 43 and one idiot – isn’t a truly scientific sampling for such a complicated question. Plus, I did get the impression that some people answered a certain way in order to prove my question wrong, which means I should have asked it as, “Do you prefer to read a single-perspective story or multiple points of view?” instead of bringing up gender right away.
I also have to consider that a decent number of my female respondents were Christian fiction readers, and the romance fiction genre – which most Christian fiction boils down to – is typically written from multiple points of view: hers and his.
So that skews my sample as well.
That’s why I went to Barnes & Noble to scope things out from the writer’s side of things as well. Choosing a total of 50 books across six genres, I looked to see if there was a trend there.
And there was.
In the conglomerate literature section, my theory about gender-based reading preferences proved spot-on across the five male authors and five female authors I randomly selected. All five men wrote from multiple perspectives, whereas the women went three and two.
As far as I saw, there were no female western fiction writers, so all I polled were guys, who were surprisingly more diverse. Two wrote from a single perspective and three wrote from multiple points of view.
Romance, another pretty polarizing genre, only had female writers. And, as expected, all five I opened covered both her and his points of view.
The sci-fi fantasy genre was evenly split, with three male authors and three female authors writing from a single perspective whereas two and two wrote with multiples.
Mystery was fairly diverse as well, going two and three for the boys, and three and two for the girls. Whereas young adult had only two of the five male authors I selected choosing a single perspective and four out of the five female writers going that way.
So that breaks down to 9 modern-day male authors and 12 modern-day female authors who wrote from single points of view vs. 11 and 13 for multipleperspectives.
What’s a modern-day female author to conclude from all of this?
How about that the topic of gender-based reading preferences is a lot more complicated than I originally assumed.