Male authors writing female characters vs Female authors writing male characters

There's an interesting thread on Westeros exploring the pros and cons of male SFF writers writing female characters versus female SFF authors writing male characters. And since this is something that was touched upon when I posted my favorite and worse SFF characters, I felt that it might be something many of you could be interested in.

Koolkat735 created the thread with this post:

So much is made of male authors' difficulties writing good female characters; I hear less about female authors' ability to write male characters, and I'm curious about that. What sorts of problems do guys typically have with female-created men? Are they as prevalent as the problems women have with male-created women? If so, why do we hear less about them--because it's easier for men to avoid female authors altogether than the reverse, or for some other reason?

I'm also curious about how the gender proportions of the cast of a book affect this. Most male-written works seem to have a cast that's well over 50% male, whereas female-written works seem to be all over the map, but generally with at least half the cast male. Does including a large number of characters of the opposite gender make for better characters (because they cease to be tokens) or worse (because inherent problems are compounded and become patterns)? Does it depend on who's given the POV? When I notice problems with men in female-written fiction, it's usually when they're given the POV and aren't (to my mind!) thinking like men, but the problems I see with female characters in male-written fiction tend to crop up regardless of POV.

Is it really just a matter of "we all notice problems when authors of the opposite gender try to write our own gender", or are there men who think women write men decently for the most part, or vice versa?

(It might help if we limit this discussion to works that actually attempt to create realistic characters. Romance novels and erotica for women aren't meant to feature realistic men any more than porn and superhero comics are meant to feature realistic women.)

The discussion went live on August 16th and it has generated 263 responses as I write these lines.

Follow this link to check out and perhaps become part of the discussion. . .

5 commentaires:

Cecrow said...

I've only lately become consciously aware that the works I'm least fond of are most often those by female SFF writers. The ones I've read, at least, produce characters who dwell a lot on their emotions, and with plots centered on subjects that generate little tension for me (Elizabeth Haydon is a good example). I think I most prefer C.S. Friedman, perhaps for her darker subject matter. I've also enjoyed Anne McCaffrey (her classics, anyway).

Scott Marlowe said...

With the exception of Robin Hobb and Lois McMaster Bujold, I steer clear of most fantasy fiction written by women. I find their portrayals of both genders too sappy, the plots often bog down in girly emotions, and there just isn't enough action/adventure/stuff happening. Just my personal experience.

CyndiF said...

"With the exception of Robin Hobb and Lois McMaster Bujold, I steer clear of most fantasy fiction written by women."

Have you tried Kage Baker? P.C. Hodgell? Martha Wells? I'm a chick but on the more analytical side and those are a few more female fantasy authors I've enjoyed.

Unknown said...

As a woman, I definitely do notice when a man is poorly written by a female author (and this is a universal issue, not just in SFF). Like Cecrow mentioned, they're often too focused on emotions, or additionally, their speech pattern tends toward feelings and such in situations where it seems out of place. Obviously, men do get emotional too, but maybe not out on the job site or in the middle of a restaurant. Romance novels are often really bad for this aspect. I realize that's a genre where the reader is often looking for a sensitive male, but it often runs counter to the rest of the characerization in a way that makes the character himself a little weak.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing worse than a male character written by Connie Willis.

Balless, gutless, soulless dishrags who don't have sex or offensive ideas.