Saturday, September 18, 2010

Writing Women, Part 1

Continuing my epic quest to be as intellectually arrogant as I can in as short a time as possible, I turn now to the question of writing female characters. And I will begin by saying: Not That Hard.

My immediate corollary, twain: If you know people and if you can write characters. My bonus conclusion: If you know the true extent of Culture.

How many strangers have you talked to in your life? Talked to as in had a conversation with: you know at least part of whatever name they gave you, have a reasonable understanding of the person's public personality, and've got one or two snippets of information about their background and present lifestyle as told by them.

How many strangers have talked to you? Would you say there are 2, 5, 10, 20, 100 people in the world who can say about you about what you can say about the strangers above?

Describe your native culture. Describe two other cultures you've interacted with. How different are they, how similar? How many people are in each culture? What is the geographical scope of these cultures? Internet cultures only count if they're not anonymous. What does the word 'sub-culture' mean to you? Does it even exist?

If you can answer all those questions to your own satisfaction, you might just be ready to write characters. Even if you can't answer all the questions, write characters anyways. You'll figure it out as you go. But can you (I imply that you the reader are a man since I the writer am, if that be not the case, add whatever other gender herein that you are not, it'll scan the same) write women characters? We need to answer that question with one more question.

How much does Culture shape behavior?

Answer that question to your satisfaction and you can write any character, regardless of gender, as long as you have a firm grasp on the culture that character exists in, and to what extent the character has a choice in subscribing to that culture.

The massive project continues tomorrow with Part 2, where let's discuss Women In Culture


Speaking of massive projects, THIS is what we should be doing with technology. That's a proposed mega-irrigation system for the Sahara Desert. I didn't waste my youth and young adulthood playing every version of Civilization for us to not have irrigation or other such improvements absolutely everywhere we can fit it. Let's get busy, it's a recession!

We have a Kardashev scale for a reason, people.

2000 words? Yes
Book "Lived Too Long To Die"
- - - -
Reading - "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" (Ursuala K. Le Guin)


  1. Conversely: writing men if you are a woman, I assume. I’ve seen a fair few newbies state that they can’t have convincing *insert opposite gender here* MCs because they don’t know how that gender’s mind works. I always wonder if that means that *all* of their characters share their gender-- and every other aspect of their life. An essential weapon in a writer’s arsenal is the ability to write characters who think differently from their creator, to imagine their motivations and life stories convincingly. Whether that means someone who is of a different political mindset, or culture, or gender, it’s all the same. Good stories wouldn’t exist if writers didn’t have the ability to place themselves in other people’s shoes.

    So, in conclusion, I agree- if you know something about the type of person you’re trying emulate, it shouldn’t be that hard.

  2. Funny, I've never had any trouble writing women... :)

    Nor men, really. I agree. You just put yourself into the other person's shoes and think about how they would react based on who they are. And the few times I get stuck on something (how would a man do this?) I ask my husband.

  3. I'll put a more clear disclaimer in Part 2, but yes, I am intending that this is how a writer of any gender writes any other gender.

    With the addition of different politics and culture, the sentence would be How One Person Writes Another, Different Person. Which seems to be at least 50% of Writing. Or at least the part you can't fake 'till you make it.

  4. Oh, your disclaimer was perfectly clear, I'm just giving you trouble.... :)

  5. I'll take any excuse to go advocate people using Find and Replace on my posts. That's the real promise of the eBook age.


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