For some reason, women writers used to believe that they had to use a male pen name to make their books more saleable. George Eliot is a case in point, and only in my third year of varsity did I realise that Middlemarch was actually written by a woman.
But there is a new breed of man; the one who realises that women read woman’s fiction by the container load, and they would like to cash in on the insatiable thirst for bubbly pink romances and other types of women-only stories.
Amazon is just such a container, loaded so heavily with romances that it tips precariously to one side. And we’re not talking Fifty Shades kind of romance (that is another debate for someone else who has the stomach for it); we’re just talking about the boy-meets-girl type of happily ever novel that one downloads and reads over the weekend. And if it is any good, you feel good about life and you return to reality without any regrets — or even another thought of the book that just gobbled up a large portion of your weekend.
The question is: Can a man write from the perspective of a woman? This interesting question popped up over the weekend when a writer friend sent his opening pages and outline for a novel he had just begun. Needless to say, (or perhaps I should say it, just so you know, Mr S) the writing was superb, the dialogue real and the outline had everything my perfect life would consist of. If it were perfect.
He covered everything a good woman’s novel is built on: tragedy, art, business opportunities, beautiful setting, new love interest, etc. etc.
But (and this is such a big but I won’t even ask how big I look in it)…
He didn’t get it. By ‘it’ I mean what it means to be a woman. There are a few things that men have to understand about writing from a woman’s perspective.
First, you have to know that we are never just ‘clearing the dishes’. A woman is always mad, sad, frustrated, overjoyed, excited, bored, or happy. We do not hide in ‘nothing boxes’. If you write a passage about her clearing the dishes, be aware that she is not just clearing the dishes. It may look like it to a man, but there’s a lot of stuff going on in our pretty heads. ALL THE TIME. And women readers know this. So they will want to know what’s happening INSIDE while she clears the dishes.
Second, our lives are not perfect. Our kids don’t just sail through their teenage years and end up in a good college, take a gap year, and end up the way we planned. A lot of stuff happens, that men don’t usually know about, in our kids’ lives while we raise them. If you need an antagonist in your novel, think of the kids. They are perfect antagonist material.
Thirdly, unless you really love your character, you ain’t gonna know her. We only let men close to us when we know they love us. And the same goes for the relationship between the writer and his female character. While your character may not show you EVERYTHING about her, she will let you take a peek into what makes her tick. And if you can figure it all out, you have a winner.
I’m not sure if Mr S has already returned to his suspense/crime fiction writing. If you have, my friend, good for you. The learning curve needed for you to write from a woman’s perspective may require at least a century longer than you have left. 🙂
Now, it’s your turn! Have you ever written from the POV of the opposite sex? Did it work?