Wednesday, July 30, 2008

POV and Sex

I just started a recent book by a famous writer, a writer I don't read often because his stories are so male-oriented. This one has a female protagonist but it just didn't feel like a woman to me. If a woman is going to be just a man in spike heels and garter belts, why write from her POV? This is a man's *** dream of a woman, not a real woman. Maybe a woman can get away with writing a woman like this, but it feels wrong when a man does it, no matter how good the plot.

Having said this, I counted the POVs in my published short stories last night and, not including flash and ones that have multiple POVs, 24 of the 35 have male POVs. I don't know why this is the case and it isn't only in the crime fiction stories. It's all of them. When I used to take writing workshops, I got rapped for this, but I have never stopped doing it. The voice in my head is male more often than female.

How about you? Do you always write stories from the POV of your own sex? Does it take you out of the story when a woman is writing from a male POV or vice versa? Who does it especially well? Does it make it easier when it's third person rather than first? Do you expect "I" to be the sex of the writer?


Travis Erwin said...

I write in multiple POV most of the time but I've always thought my female charadcters were more captivating, however my recently finished novel is singular first person from a males POV.

Clair Dickson said...

I try not to expect anything when I go into a story. I try to get to know the narrator.

There are some male writers, though, that don't seem to spend much time making their female protags REAL people that the female characteristics seem like after-the-fact stereotypes added to remind the reader it's a female.

I'm only taken out of a story when the person seem like fiction, rather then fact. So far at least.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yeah, both my tries at novels are female POVs. For the long haul, write what you know best, I guess.
So many things can take you out of a story but the voice seeming "off" is a big one.

Anonymous said...

Joe Konrath pulls off a female protag convincingly, but there are too many male writers who seem compelled to throw in references to pantyhose and menstrual cramps 'cuz, "Oh noze. Howz I sposed to sound fee-male?" Gets annoying.

Similarly, I've read a few female writers (not as many) who either turn their male POV protags into snarling bundles of rage or get too touchy feely for the type of person the man is supposed to be.

James Reasoner said...

Years ago when I was ghosting a book for a female author, one of her common complaints about the manuscript was that "a woman would never think/say/do such-and-such". Then my wife would read the passage in question and say, "That's *exactly* what I would think/say/do in such a situation." It's no wonder that after a while we began referring to that project as The Book That Wouldn't Die.

pattinase (abbott) said...

A good point. Not all women are the same. We certainly don't all like Mama Mia or cozies. So what works as a seeming like a woman for some of us, might not for others. Same for men. When that voice gets in your head, it's hard to change its sex. It might go away entirely if you don't listen. That's my fear.
Joe is good. My mother read the first one and never realized a man had written it.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, I always think the narrator is the same sex as the author - until I'm told otherwise.

I've started to have a problem with a whole book from one POV. Seems like a wasted opportunity.

Given that all characters in books are fictional (it says so right in the inside flap ;) the same skills used to create a male character and a female character apply.

The main thing may be honesty. I know it's the toughest thing.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The thing I like about a single POV is that it lets you inside one person's head and you see it just as they do--blinders or not. Otherwise you take on God-like attributes in your understanding. Both work in certain books. But with multiple POVs only a very skilled writer can make each voice distinct. You do it well, John. But some writers don't.