Friday, May 08, 2009

Gender, Author and Character part 2

This topic keeps coming up in conversations and e-mails since I posted a couple of days ago. I was at a book launch for three young adult novels last night. The question of gender and characterization came up in the talks, so I asked for comments from the three authors.

Claire Tuloch said she was drawn to writing descriptive passages in her novel DROWNED, and that a male point of view seemed the natural voice for her in getting the tone she was looking for.

David Belbin said he often takes a female point of view in his novels because he finds women more interesting to write about. Having said that, it is only recently that he has stepped into writing female protagonists from the first person. In the context of a supplementary question about other people's reactions, he said: Writers have the right to do anything" - which I liked.

Dan Tunstall said writing a first person female narrative was on his to-do list.

I'll write more about the launch in another post.

For another novelist's take on writing from the opposite gender, we move to an e-mail I received from thriller writer David Hood. I've blanked out some names to protect the possibly guilty:

Interesting blog on gender in writing. It has always been my view that there is a big difference between getting action right and thought right, and an even bigger difference between plot driven novels and those with lots of introspection. The deeper the book gets into the character’s head, the harder it is to get the opposite gender right, because it’s delving into something that you cannot possibly have observed. I know, for example, that two days a month some of my female charters are going to act differently, and I can do a fair job of describing the change in behaviour, but I have no idea, nor courage enough to try to describe, the change in internal thought and emotional processes that’s driving it. The more you claim to be describing the thoughts (sometimes unconscious and often suppressed) of someone of the opposite gender, the more you lead yourself towards danger.

It always surprised me that some of the great female literary writers get the subconscious workings of their male characters wrong, especially when they try to delve into suppressed sexual or ego driven instinct (XXXX XXXXX who is otherwise a brilliant author is a prime example; I remember throwing a couple of her books across the room because she got the male motivation wrong at the critical emotional point of the book. XXXX XXXXXXXX and XXXXXXX XXXXXX have suffered similarly at my frustrated hand). I have always assumed – though I’m not in a position to judge – that male authors return the compliment when delving too deeply into the subconscious of women.

As always, comments are welcomed...


siobsi said...

'TWO days a month' ? ... I wish!

Rod Duncan said...

I had a feeling that might stimulate a response. I'll let Dave defend himself on that one.


Paul Lamb said...

Darn, I was hoping to find out which author had made him throw a book across a room.

Is anyone talking about just how they write from a gender perspective? What are the mechanics of it? Stronger word choice? More complex sentences? less complex sentences? More dependent clauses? Concerns with certain angles of the subject? What?

Rod Duncan said...

On the identities - I am sworn to secrecy, Paul. :-) But they are all three of them very famous!

As to the technical questions - there the magic begins. How do any of us put ourselves into the minds of others and write from their POV, whatever the gender? How do I write from the POV of a non-dyslexic?