Calling All Male Writers Writing Female Characters Wrong
Editor’s Note: Talking about male writers writing female characters wrong is tricky.
For one, Innovative Editing has young readers. And this topic can easily include some R-rated material.
It also has male readers. And this topic can easily come across as male-bashing. Because, half the time, it is.
On that last potential problem, I can flat-out state this: None of the following is meant to berate or discourage male writers. It's not even meant to berate male writers writing female characters wrong.
It only exists to help them depict their creations more realistically and engagingly than they have been before.
As for keeping this age-appropriate, well, let’s see how good my own writing skills really are…
Myth #1: There’s no real difference between men and women. Therefore, there’s no real reason to make female characters different then male characters.
As far as I’ve seen, this is a belief held by just a small subset of male writers. To them, writing female characters is a piece of cake.
It's lazy, lazy cake in that case. Not to mention cake that ignores massive amounts of scientific data and observable evidence. Which means nothing I can say here is going to make a bit of difference.
So for those male writers writing female characters wrong for this particular reason, carry on. Just know that you probably stink in the real-life boyfriend or husband department.
And your female characters can’t stand you either.
Myth #2: Strong, smart liberated women behave exactly like XXX stars when the mood strikes.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget this one scene written by a well-known and well-respected male writer…
A 40-something, professionally employed female character is trying to seduce a male character. After a brief conversation, she climbs up onto the table in front of him, assumes a certain very accommodating position, and says “Take me!” without a single bit of what we’ll call preliminary physical or emotional activity.
Here’s the problem: There’s nothing feminine about that situation.
Obviously, women can seduce men, have seduced men and no doubt will seduce men many more times as history unfolds. It’s just a matter of how we do it. And the above-mentioned scene just ain’t it.
We’re much more sugar and spice than bulldozer.
Myth #3: Strong, liberated women can always shrug it off when a guy is disrespectful to them.
I had to be very careful wording that statement when, sure, sometimes we can shrug it off. But oftentimes, we can’t.
Our memories are just a little too strong in this department. We’re much better at holding grudges, remembering birthdays and dwelling on stuff that hurt our feelings – even when we desperately don’t want to.
So when someone calls us an unkind female-related term, it’s probably going to hurt. We might not show it. But we feel it all the same.
It’s a rare woman who can just shrug it off all the time.
Myth #4: Strong, liberated women can handle everything all by themselves.
Have a successful, ladder-climbing career... Give the children the attention they need to turn into functional, well-adjusted adults... Get it on with hubby three times a week... Keep a worthwhile social calendar... and maintain sanity.
Easy peasy. I am woman; hear me roar. Right?
Saying so isn’t a knock against women. If anything, it’s graciously allowing us to be human and get some quality rest every once in a while.
Myth #5: Women can be manufactured.
There is something very special – very distinct – about being female that cannot ever be completely fabricated. (Same thing goes for males, but we’ll discuss that next month.)
Each one of us is an individual, yes. So some of us are going to love pink and some of us will hate it. Some cry a lot and some are pretty stoic. Some love wearing dresses and skirts and flounces and frills, and some of us rock jeans or business suits.
So with all those differences, what exactly makes being female being female?
Good question. Tricky answer.
It’s that je ne sais qua. That something-something that’s so easy to spot and so difficult to define.
As such, the best piece of advice Innovative Editing can give to male writers writing female characters wrong is this… Write out your story same as always. Then ask a woman to read it over.
It’s as simple and nuanced as that.