Writing Women


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Thread: Writing Women

  1. #1

    Writing Women

    The other day on twitter, another writer posted this:

    How men write women characters: She was gorgeous beyond imagination, jaw-dropping, and still, she didn't know it. Her legs were long, her height a cool 5'10, yet she barely grazed 105 pounds. Unlike other girls, she never complained, not once. Her top was perfect; non-existent.


    Of course that started a discussion on how men write women.
    I thought it was a good topic for a conversation in the forum, since I had indeed seen a few men write exactly this way.

    Okay, some ground rules;
    1) Yes, women can contribute to this thread. In fact it would be very helpful if some of the ladies would help us idiot-men write better women.

    2) You are encouraged to contribute by showing your work. yes, comments are welcome, but you'll get more respect if you show us how YOU write women. Don't just talk the talk...

    3) This thread in no way makes any claims that I am an expert on writing women.
    Last edited by Ralph Rotten; June 13th, 2020 at 06:00 PM.

  2. #2
    Okay, I'll prime the pump here.
    First off, I try desperately to avoid defining women by their looks.
    Doing this is a quick way to lose 50% of your readers.

    I also try to not define them by their sexual drive...unless they happen to be a nympho.
    Really, until there is a love scene I just pretend like they're all Ken dolls down there.

    I also try to avoid shrinking women. You know, the women who scream and shrink away when the monster appears.

    So what does that leave you?
    Here is an intro I did for Jenna, the FBI agent assigned to track down Jamie & Jackie Sparks.


  3. #3
    Okay, now even though I just said I try to not define women by their looks, this is a rare case where it is necessary. This is Maria, and her looks are sort of integral to her character.


  4. #4

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    The other day on twitter, another writer posted this:

    How men write women charactersShe was gorgeous beyond imagination, jaw-dropping, and still, she didn't know it. Her legs were long, her height a cool 5'10, yet she barely grazed 105 pounds. Unlike other girls, she never complained, not once. Her top was perfect; non-existent.


    Of course that started a discussion on how men write women.
    I thought it was a good topic for a conversation in the forum, since I had indeed seen a few men write exactly this way.

    Okay, some ground rules;
    1) Yes, women can contribute to this thread. In fact it would be very helpful if some of the ladies would help us idiot-men write better women.

    2) You are encouraged to contribute by showing your work. yes, comments are welcome, but you'll get more respect if you show us how YOU write women. Don't just talk the talk...

    3) This thread in no way makes any claims that I am an expert on writing women.
    Wow I would never give that much description to a character's looks unless she was a seductress and it played heavily into the plot.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Ralph Rotten View Post
    The other day on twitter, another writer posted this:

    How men write women charactersShe was gorgeous beyond imagination, jaw-dropping, and still, she didn't know it. Her legs were long, her height a cool 5'10, yet she barely grazed 105 pounds. Unlike other girls, she never complained, not once. Her top was perfect; non-existent.
    Wow I would never give that much description to a character's looks unless she was a seductress and it played heavily into the plot.

  7. #7
    I think this is quite a bit more complicated than men being bad at writing women. For one thing, a lot of women are really bad at writing men, and for similar reasons: The male character has a tendency to become some kind of romantic/sexual ideal. Also, must be said, a lot of writers, male and female, are just bad generally.

    That being said, I do think male writers tend toward certain...mistakes (let's be generous) when writing women/female characters. I find this especially true when writing from the POV of a woman, but its often pretty rampant throughout. Some of the things I tend to notice are:

    - Making the woman more casually aware of her own body parts than most women are. This is where 'she breasted boobily down the staircase' comes in. I'm not a woman, but I find it hard to believe women think about their breasts at all often in an average day-to-day context, and certainly probably never for no reason at all. Most women I imagine strap on a bra (or not) in the morning and literally don't think about them again for the rest of the day. And yet, I cannot think of a single male-authored-female-POV book when the 'character' doesn't mention her tits during some kind of monologue or 'looking in the mirror' moment or whatever.

    Male characters don't mention their balls much, do they? Not even when it's clearly a hot day at Hogwarts. You won't find a single mention of poor Harry's sweaty scrotum sticking to his thigh in the middle of Potions...and that's most definitely a thing that happens frequently. So it's weird how nobody ever mentions that. It's almost like it's...not necessary for the story to work or something.

    - Describing the woman's physical assets more than is necessary and within a very limited range: Sort of a third-person version of the last point, but also it's own thing. I notice male authors typically love describing women's physical appearance. That's fine, and women authors do it of male characters too, but the difference is that generally male authors tend to fixate more on a really narrow range of physical characteristics (pretty much: hair, face, boobs, hips, legs, ass). You don't get many descriptions of posture. Why not? Posture is far more important in revealing character than the shape of eyes or the size of breasts. The fact something so useful is often so absent betrays the writer's priorities.

    - Unsavory references : This is the kind of thing I find rampant and its plain obnoxious when it's out of context: All too often male authors like to describe female characters in relation to things that are just plain creepy. The number of times I've read shit like 'her budding breasts' and it's in relation to a twelve year old girl. Why is that necessary? It isn't, more often than not, and you won't convince me it is. I mean, I have yet to read a book by a woman where her character (male or female) chose to observe the bulge in the pants of a little boy playing softball. It's not just the pedophilic aspects, either. It's the fucking incestuous ones. It's the ones with old women, fat women, thin women, any women as long as it is A Woman that the writer could possibly find sexually viable in some distorted fashion:

    Here's Stephen King, you know, that *great* author to demonstrate, from The Stand. Doesn't seem too terrible, until you realize the (male) character is talking about his mother:

    Attachment 25834

    I find women authors don't usually do this.

    Here's another example from Uncle Stephen (The Jaunt). Ask yourself if the reference to a nine year old's breasts was really necessary here, and keep in mind there are hundreds of examples of this kind of thing:

    Attachment 25836

    And again -- The Institute:

    Attachment 25838

    Sixteen year old breasts in Carrie, with a bonus of coffee colored nipples. Because the color of her nipples matters, I guess:

    Attachment 25839

    - Bad anatomy: Male authors frequently seem to misunderstand basic female anatomy. That's fine, I mean, I don't understand it particularly well either, but come on guyz. For instance, how many times do we need to establish that probably most women's nipples do not generally 'get hard' at the drop of a hat in real life? Again, and I feel bad picking on him at this point but it's too easy, here's Steve King, writing about exactly that...over a female character...being afraid...of antisemitism in 'It'.

    Attachment 25837

    If it's not hard nipples, it's aching wombs at the thought of babies. If it's not aching wombs at the thought of babies, it's vaginas expanding with lust. You can always appeal to context with all these things, of course, and you should, but there's no doubt there's a lot of gratuitous objectification stuff that a lot of male authors indulge in.

    A lot of the time it seems the argument is that this kind of writing makes the characters seem real within their contexts. And okay, that's fine, but at the same time, I don't see too many lurid descriptions of skid marks or body odor or boogers or bad breath. Why not? When a character is getting dressed in the morning isn't she at least as likely to notice how smelly she is as the color of her nipples? So much time spent in the shower running hands over breasts, so little time spent on the toilet squeezing out a really big and brutal-smelling turd. Why is this?

    So yes, there is a tendency toward using female characters as a means to satisfy some repressed sexualization, I think, and that's what we (as male authors) need to be wary off. Even if it just comes down to perception, the world has changed on that score.


    Quote Originally Posted by Biro View Post
    we always describe men and women with a slight or full sexual element. Unless we are describing a person who may be the opposite for whatever reason.
    One of my characters is based on my grandmother, who was a woman, and I promise there was no 'sexual element'.
    Last edited by luckyscars; June 11th, 2020 at 08:11 AM.

  8. #8
    Okay, this might be a dumb question, but are these excerpts from erotic literature?

  9. #9
    Scanned through my WIP draft for a contributory own work example.

    I think this was the only part where I directly describe the female character and do the 'men writing women' thing. No boobs, sadly, but I did do the face:

    In the unflattering light of the single, pull-cord bulb, the face was not one she easily recognized. The skin was cracked, like the dome of some over-sized mushroom. The older bruises – from David – now formed a kind of masque of creamy yellow and black; something like the yolk of an over-boiled egg. The scratches from where his fingernails had scoured were as deep as before but no longer bleeding, the result a kind of runic pattern of violet. One that looked, but thankfully did not yet feel, infected.

    She could see where Zepherine had hit her. A bright, sore area of inflammation. It looked like a smear of smudged blusher, a misshapen patch that stretched from near her left ear down to the jawline, tapering off near the corner of the mouth in the vague outline of a small fist. On its own, it would have been unremarkable, the kind of injury Jess was something of an expert on. But in combination with that yellowish, diseased-looking skin, the greasy rats’ nest of graying hair and the sagging pockets of skin and winkles that were the gift of advancing years, perhaps the only thing on earth indisputably crueler than David. In combination with all those things, she found it monstrous. Perhaps because she understood that the face was hers, her entire life written within . In a sense, that face was its own punishment. In a sense, it was a kind of death row.

  10. #10
    No, they're Stephen King. Grocery store bestselling horror. Erotica gets much more hideous cringe.
    Sometimes somebody posts a snippet of "Men write women".
    I remember one that came down the pipe where a murder victim "had a small purse, just big enough for a credit card and drivers license, tucked in her vagina". The immediate response in the book was to ask where she was going.
    W-whaaaaat?!? This was in a Big 5 published book! Did not a single woman's eye cross that sentence?

    Learn some of the things we have to put up with. Ask, listen, and don't argue, because I swear just about every time I have to talk about this stuff to a cis man, they start an argument with me to the point where I don't even like being asked anymore. You wanted to know, don't get angry at me for answering, I don't want to get punched again.

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