Sunday, August 22, 2010

Writing Meme: Male or Female Characters? [2/30]

2. How many characters do you have? Do you prefer males or females?

I don't think I can put a number on my characters. Counting both major and minor characters, each novel I've worked on has at least ten, sometimes more. That would put the number of characters I've worked with at more than 50. No wonder I can't keep track of them.

For me, the answer to the male/female question is full of irony. I love male characters: you can do more with them, and they pack a punch that you can't quite get with a girl character.* On the other hand, I'm not good at writing male characters, while I can write female characters pretty well. (I am one, after all.) The problem is that I don't come into contact with males frequently. (Aside from my dad, but there’s only so much you can learn when you only have ONE specimen to observe in detail.) Ever since I discovered just how effeminate I'd made my guy characters, I've been trying my best to fix the problem. It's difficult for a girl to ‘think man’ when she doesn’t know what exactly that means.

But now that my eyes are opened, I see many girl writers falling into the same problem. I think that female writers who don't have a lot of guys in their lives tend to believe subconsciously that at the heart of every man is a woman that needs to be emotionally liberated. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I know, but I believed it myself for a while. I have read so much fanfiction (even from fanwriters who are excellent at their craft), portraying guys having emotional breakdowns that mirror what a woman would have in the same situation. Granted, the writers had the decency to put the guys through a lot more to get them to break down, but the end result was still the same.

Girls, be careful about your guy characters, especially if you don’t know very many guys.

To everyone else, do you have any advice on writing guys? I am trying to garner as much wisdom on this subject as I can, because I respect mankind and want to portray them accurately.

*Note -- I am not trying to discriminate against anyone, but you cannot get around the truth: a woman can never be a very good man, just as a man can never be a very good woman. The two sexes are equal, but they specialize in different areas. And when I say that a female character cannot 'pack the same punch', what I mean is that there are some character roles that are better suited to men. We women get so used to dealing with emotion that in some ways, it doesn't mean as much. But when a man feels an emotion, it is rough-hewn and stronger. That's why when an author wants to get across the grave emotion of a situation, he will so often use a male character. Tears from a man tells the reader that this is real.

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