Sunday, January 9, 2011

9 Bad Excuses to Not Write Women: Excuse #9

9) I only write what the story requires me to write, and women aren't necessary in my story.

Do you really think that women have nothing to add to your story? Really? Seriously? You don't see any value in having women in your book? You don't think they have something to say or anything to contribute? Okay, I'm not going to argue with you, there are several other posts on this topic that discuss the value of women in genre fiction.

Just let me ask you this: does your story require readers? Do you want women to buy your book? Female characters are probably a good bet in any story you want women to read. These days, most of the women I know are growing increasingly tired of seeing so little of themselves reflected in their reading material.

Last Excuse
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So, that's the end of the series. I hope you found it enjoyable, or at least vaguely interesting. ;) What are your thoughts on women in fiction? Big question, I know, so let's break it down to this: Who is your favorite female character in genre fiction?

4 comments:

Mysti said...

Who doesn't write women into their stories? I don't think I've ever read a book without women in it. But I don't consider myself widely read, either.

For my own experience, I've found it difficult to capture male POV's in my stories, but I don't leave men out altogether. They just may end up more "sensitive" than they should :)

Thoughts on women in fiction: I love strong female characters. I love non-cliched female characters, and I try to go that route in my romance stories. Like, the girl saves the guy instead of the other way around.

Favorite female in fiction--That's a hard one. I like several, but one that's always stood out to me is Jane Eyre. She overcomes obstacles and people that threaten to bring her down, and she proves to be a match to the intimidating Mr. Rochester. Even as dated as her story is, she's always been an inspiration.

Mike said...

I'm boggling a bit at the notion of "I only write what the story requires me to write". I picture that novel being about four pages long, written in bullet points and and starring the characters A, B, C and D.

Women in fiction: the only really valid reason I can think of *not* to put them in would be if they didn't exist in the world you're writing. Maybe because you're going for historical authenticity - something like the Napoleonic naval life of 'Master and Commander' (the movie). Maybe because the story is *about* the absence of women, in the same way that 'Children of Men' is about the absence of sprogs and how that absence affects the world. Maybe even the absence of gender altogether, as in Ursula Le Guin's 'The Left Hand of Darkness'.

Other reasons *to*... I'm not sure whether this series was intended to be "9 Bad Excuses *For Men* to Not Write Women", but I wonder whether opposite-gender writing might not potentially offer a clearer or at least a different perspective, in the same way that other people can often have a clearer picture of what we're like than we do of ourselves. After all, turning it around, most of my favourite male characters were written by women. Where would we be if Lois Bujold had decided not to write men? No Miles! No Gregor, no Ivan, no Bothari, no Pym... shudder.

Favorite female character in genre fiction... probably Mary Gentle's eponymous Ash.

Liana Brooks said...

Loved the series! Thanks for the laugh
:o)
L

Marion Sipe said...

@Mysti - I've read quite a few books without any females characters worth mentioning. Oh, there might be a named shopkeeper or cook or whatever, but no female characters that effect the plot or play a substantial role in the book.

Good on you! I think our perceptions of which traits are masculine (or feminine) are socially-based. I've met a lot of people and known as many sensitive men as I have insensitive women.

I try to write a little of everything, especially the behaviors and character personalities I don't understand. I'm very introspective, and most of my MCs tend to be as well, so I like to throw in an extrovert who never thinks anything through and just rushes in headlong. It's sometimes a challenge to get into their heads, especially when they're only partially there most of the time! ;)

Hee! I love the turning of cliches! I think it really helps to liven up a story, especially when you're sure it's going to be one way and then BAM! Not what you thought at all. :D

@Mike - I know, right? I don't get it, but I've heard at least three people say it! (Well, okay, two of them typed it, but you get my point! :D)

There are some instances in which I totally understand a lack of women. Shawshank Redemption is an excellent example. However, if the environment of the story isn't gender controlled, or the lack isn't the point, I don't understand the exclusion of female characters, you know?

Well, I didn't intend the series to specifically target men, because I've known women writers who don't write female characters or who relegate them to small roles.

I think this comes from women more often being more comfortable with writing male characters because we have so much exposure to them. Most genres of fiction include major male characters as characters whose heads we see into.

Being exposed to that, many people imitate the style. For instance, consider the science fiction stories with one female officer to every three male ones, despite a setting with an atmosphere of gender equality. Some are written by women, because that's their internal frame of reference, their default setting. It's what they grew up reading and seeing. And, sometimes, because they've never thought to question the gender equality of their own writing.

The most obvious exception, of course, is mainstream romance which targets the female audience and very much plays to the perceived mindset of women. (And, because of that, shapes those perceptions, I believe.)

Okay, I'm rambling now. :D

@Liana - Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!