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Switching genders in writing

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Herman Snerd, Aug 2, 2006.

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  1. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999
    As a bit of a starter, the idea for this thread came from a fic I read quite a while ago. It raised what I thought was a good topic for discussion, but given the critical nature of what I wanted to ask I left it alone at the time so that there'd be no chance that the author of the fic in question could deduce I was referring to his/her story.

    The question I had after reading the story was "How do fanficcers write believable characters of the opposite sex?" This question arose after having read a story in which Obi-Wan had been so entirely feminized (and not intentionally) that he almost couldn't be considered a male character, but a female character with a hairy chest and beard (and other assorted accoutrements).

    My initial thought was simply "bad characterization," but over the next several days the subject got stuck in my head and kept raising questions about writing in general, and I hoped that after waiting for a period of time so that there'd be no possibility that this person could deduce "Hey, that's my story he's talking about!" I could bring it up for a general discussion.

    Essentially, how to male writers create believable female characters and how do female writers create believable male characters?

    Now obviously with canon characters the groundwork has already been established for someone like Leia, Padme, Luke, Han, Anakin, or Obi-Wan. With the exception of AU scenarios, there is an established pattern to follow when writing these characters. Plus, there's enough common ground between how men and women behave that it's quite possible that even if one goofs on a few gender-specific reactions that a character would at least appear to be androgynous if not properly masculine or feminine.

    However, that's not to say that it still all can't be done entirely wrong, as I mentioned above. Also, with original characters, where there aren't established guidelines to follow, is it more difficult to believably write a character of the opposite sex? (This part comes from having an old fic of mine recently beta read and it was pointed out that a female OC of mine was "stereotypically" too female in places.)

    So, when you women are writing a male character, are there any tricks to putting yourself into a male-perspective mindset so that the character's actions are more true to his gender? Same question but reversed for the men out there.


    It should go without saying, but please do not identify the fanficcer or the story or cite specific examples if making any critical assessments (unless critiquing one of your own fics, of course). If you want to give examples of how someone really got it right, obviously that'd be perfectly fine, but try to keep the discussion more theoretical than specific.
     
  2. YodaKenobi

    YodaKenobi VIP star 6 VIP

    Registered:
    May 27, 2003
    I've thought on this a lot to. I always hate it when I can tell whether an author is a female or male based on their interpretations of characters, but its not something confined to fanfic, for sure. One scene in profic for example, is in Vector Prime when Leia, Mara, and Jaina are talking on the Jade Sabre near the beginning of the book. It is so obviously a male's interpretation of women talking that I cringed while I read it (though I did love the book overall). I was waiting for them to start dancing around the cabin together or something, like in some bad "chick flick".

    I might be alone in this though, because I once saw people praising this scene in lit a long time ago :p

    My approach to writing female characters has always been that I don't do it. I don't write males either. I try and write each character as a human being instead. We're a lot more complex than dividing ourselves as "male" or "female." While it's a part of us, I don't think it defines us, and I don't believe it defines good characters either.

    I think if you're a guy sitting down to write a woman and you say to yourself, "Well, I've got to think like a female now, so I like shopping and talking about my feelings," or a woman who says "Well, I'm writing a guy, so I like sports and I have no emotional depth," you're going to end up with some bad characterizations :p Dwelling on it too much leads to sterotyping, IMO. I mean, is Jaina going to spend her afternoons shopping, just because she's a girl? Or Jacen watch a smashball game because he's a guy? That would be fairly out of character.

    Those might be extreme examples but I've actually seen both in fan fic :p Mostly though, it's more subtle, like Herman's examples of an over-feminized Obi or perhaps a male writing all his female characters as virtually helpless.

    I think you have to look at each character as a whole human being (or whatever being they happen to be, I suppose :p) and all the different facets that make them up. If you focus on one aspect, like gender, you'll end up with characters that seem like what you think a man or woman should be. Honeslty, I think the best compliment I ever got from a few readers were the ones who thought I was a girl. That way I knew they didn't know where I was coming from [face_peace]
     
  3. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    I have a very basic technique when I'm writing canon characters. I base my characterization of them on their dialogue and body language. Sometimes, I admit that I will get it wrong just because I am a 25-year-old girl who won't ever think just like a 55-year-old man, but it helps me focus on their style and character a lot.
     
  4. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999

    Excellent point. :)

    Perhaps a better question would have been: "How do you turn off your own gender biases when creating a character of the opposite sex?"

    To clarify something in my initial post since I only briefly mentioned the point and it deserves to be stressed more than it was, male and female characters aren't entirely different. There's no formula that says that in the face of danger, a female character will faint from fright while the male character will be brave and heroic. Those are useless stereotypes that still manage to sneak their ways into fanfic and profic as well.

    Yet there are, IMO, still differences that can be attributed to gender. I'm guessing we've all seen interviews with various actresses who played "action heroes" on film and they've discussed how the character of the "female hero" was different from usual Schwarzenegger/Stallone/Willis mold due to gender. What pops to my mind first is Sigourney Weaver discussing her character Ripley from the Alien series.

    Though Ripley possesses all the obvious attributes of the hero (bravery, resourcefulness, strength, etc.) the writers of the films and the actress herself made sure to not turn the character into a typical "male hero" that's more prevalent in this genre of film.

    I guess to put it more succinctly, the fact that Ripley is a woman isn't important to her being the hero in the film. Yet at the same time, the fact that she is a woman wasn't just totally ignored either.
     
  5. TKeira_Lea

    TKeira_Lea Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 10, 2002
    Interesting question. I haven't actually ever considered that a man would be harder to write than a woman. Mostly, I think of characters in terms of their core traits and work from there.

    In a way, Jaina's core traits might be classified as more "male" but we all know she is far from that. She can come across as more tomboyish - fixing her fighter, pilot, bold and a little edgy. But some of her mannerisms and personal moments are entirely female.

    For the male characters I really try to utilize what I see from the men I've crossed in my life. For the most part, writing is giving form to impressions, especially if the POV is looking at a character so it's not much different than observing a man, a father, a coworker or brother. Introspection from a man's perspective might be a bit tougher for a female, but I have never really struggled with that because it always comes back to the core traits which drive your character that will drive his thinking.

    Plus having a beta of the opposite sex always help ;)
     
  6. MariahJade2

    MariahJade2 Former Fan Fiction Archive Editor star 5 VIP

    Registered:
    Mar 18, 2001
    One way to help get over speaking from your gender, so to speak, is to be a good observer of people. Temperament means more in how a character will respond to a situation. Is this person shy, outgoing, bitter? Intelligent or just average? Are they naive or wordly? Start with that and then watch how each person reacts to the same situation. I've got three brothers, all decidedly male in their own way, but they would all handle things differently. There are gender difference and though we may not want to admit it, they are there. A man will usually, though not always have more upper body strength than a woman. Women's brains are more detail oriented and men are better at hand-eye coordination. Watch and listen. That's my advice, or get your sister to visit more often. :p
     
  7. Souderwan

    Souderwan Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Registered:
    Jun 3, 2005
    I think it would be a mistake to ignore a character's gender in creating him/her as so many things are an outgrowth of gender. Being short means something different to a man than a woman. Same thing with being old, or being fat. Males generally can't get pregnant (nothing's out of the question in the GFFA :p). While there are core traits around which you should build every character, you have to consider the character's gender in developing him/her.

    That being said, I pretty much do what YodaKenobi said afterwards. Once the character is drawn, I don't think about gender. If I did a good job drawing the character in the first place, then all his/her actions will flow naturally for that character. As has been pointed out above, there is quite a variety in how characters from both genders behave. If I read an OC male that seemed to be rather feminized, I'd be inclined to assume that was the way the author intended the character to be.

    When it comes to canon characters on the other hand, the key there is to be true to the character that has already been drawn. I would never write Padme as a shrinking violet, swoon-and-cry-during-a-fire-at-the-Jedi-Temple woman. That's just not true to her character. Character honesty means writing the characters as they are, not as you would like them to be. This kind of approaches the Mary-Sue/Gary Stu kind of discussion where the writer inserts too much of him/herself into the character and destroys the credibility of that character.

    All that being said, like TKL, I have a beta of the opposite sex and she only recently called me on bad characterization of a female character. It was a simple thing, but having an honest, forthright beta can usually steer you clear of those kinds of problems.

     
  8. VaderLVR64

    VaderLVR64 Manager Emeritus star 8 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Feb 5, 2004
    I agree, Mariah. I've got three sons and a dozen nephews, so a lot of times I draw on them when writing male characters. Men and women DO think differently, but each of us has a core that makes us who we are and that is usually the "skeleton" around which I write, adding "flesh." That's the only way I can think of to describe it. Sometimes for me, writing a woman with whom I cannot connect is harder than writing a man.
     
  9. Jennifer_Lyn

    Jennifer_Lyn Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 8, 2005
    this is a great topic and as soon as i read it i started going over the canon characters and OCs i've written, taking a quick tally. with OCs it all comes out fairly even, though with canon, it's almost exclusively male.

    as was said earlier, i think canons are easier to write cross-gender as we have a ton of cues to work from. even so, i think that for me it is fairly simple to write those male characters because i admire them so much.

    as for where to go with OCs, i often look to film portrayals of characters whom i admire outside of the GFFA. the epic heroes in LotR, the slick spies like James Bond, the sensitive, but still definitely male characters in many romantic comedies, and the strong, brotherly commaraderie in any great war picture.

    i think i do generally approach each character as a whole person, not as one gender or another, with one exception. i find it tough to write battle stuff, the clones, the army/navy guys. i'm always nervous i've gone too over the top with them and made them into these macho gung-ho guys. i do my best, then to try and temper them with a sensitivity and inner acknowledgement of why they are there and keep them grounded in the reality of what they are doing. so far i've got no complaints, so i guess that is working.

    good topic!
     
  10. oqidaun

    oqidaun Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Jul 20, 2005
    I've been told on more than one occasion that I have a "male" voice when it somes to writing. I write a lot of male OCs and it's only been within the past year that I've started writing more female characters indepth. Granted I'm not much of a girly girl and I've had a lot of male friends both now and growing up--so there's probably some environmental perspective going on there.

    However, I do take gender into consideration when I craft the character as part of their broader cultural construction which also includes issues of social class as well. It is part of the character's identity and it shapes the way that they interact with other characters. It is a part of the whole character. For example, I have two soldiers that I write and while I never intentionally write them as stereotypically chauvanist, they do tend to slip in a few less-than-pc remarks when they encounter an very fashionable socialite or when they're talking about a social engagement. They work with another woman who they see as the proverbial "one of the guys" and their interactions are decidedly different around her. A decade of graduate work in the social sciences has undoubtedly shaped my perspective here, but I also base these gendered behaviors on my own experiences. A lot of the guys that I've know over the years through skating, playing in bands and just hanging out with usually behave in a similar fashion with regard to the girl who's one of the guys and the girl who's not. It's not solely a gendered reaction, but gender does play a role in it. Therefore (having probably lost sight of the question) I do see gender as element to take into consideration when writing.
     
  11. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Mar 1, 2002
    I've never really thought of it. I tend to write canon characters in AU situations so I ground myself in the movies (mostly) and books about those characters. As for OCs, the characteristics may just as well come from their species as any gender differences. I know what you are saying - I've seen some stories where the males are much too feminized and the females too macho but, for the most part, it seems to be a nice balance.

    I would point out that females tend to get more "masculine" as they grow older - testoterone levels rise after 50 or so - so you can take that into account with age differences.

    I don't have a beta to point out any problems in my work but I've never had any complaints (even from my all-too-honest friends) so I don't worry about it.

    Good topic, though.
     
  12. JediKnight-Obi-Wan

    JediKnight-Obi-Wan Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Jan 13, 2000
    I have thought about this. Drives me nuts in fact because the OC I write that gives me the most trouble is male. I try to write him one way and...this may sound weird but I just can't. It's like he wants to write himself. Strange as that may sound. So I don't know....I hope he's masculine....I'd hate to think I'm writing a girly man.

    Course I've always hung around with guys more than girls, so hopefully that's rubbed off somewhere.
     
  13. Flowerlady

    Flowerlady Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Dec 14, 2005
    This is an interesting discussion, because I too have found characterizations while reading fanfics that scream "I'm a teenage girl trying to think like a 40 something man" Yes, I'm referring to Kyp's characterization.

    But that's besides the point. I will admit my characterizations are not always great... But I try to keep my canon characters in character with how they act in Profic. With my OCs I don't think of just their genders when writing them I try to encompass their personality into how they act or would act in a certain situation. I do not try to stereotype a characters sex because that is so narrow-minded and will only lead to weak characters with no depth. The one work that I?m currently working on that has most of the major characters as OC?s has been an interesting study of personality. It is basically about the adult children of some of our favorite parings of the NJO. I based a lot of their characterizations on their parents and/or how they were raised. I think when writing your own characters the writer must develop a history for that character that may never see the light of day. You have to know what they were like to determine how they may act in a certain situation. Just like all of us, we base a lot of what we do and think on how we were raised.

    I feel that by my doing this type of character construction before I ever set the character loose on the page has helped me keep them ?in character? whether they are male or female. I actually have more trouble writing females than males sometimes and I?m a female.

    The other aspect I hinted at above deals with age. As with sex, it is hard for a young adult to think like a 50 year old man without using stereotypes. I try to avoid this pit fall too by doing the same thing. I think of what life may have thrown at them and how that would have changed them. Again, in my work, the strong characters of Jaina, Jag, Jacen, Kyp are all older, in their fifties and sixties. I like to think that these characters probably won?t act the same way as they did in their twenties. Aging a character is, IMO, just as important as keeping them within gender.


    FL @};-
     
  14. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2002
    I have a much easier time writing male characters than female characters, no matter their age. Make of that what you will. :p

    My best friends have always been girls (or geeks), but I was a big tomboy and always had guy friends - the kind who make stupid dirty jokes and shake soda cans to make them explode. Sometimes they were older family friends, sometimes they were high school or tennis pals. Thus, writing about males in everyday situations comes easily to me both in fanfic and original wriiting.

    I agree that a lot of that is because on some levels there's little difference between men and women. But I wrote a scene once with a 14-year-old girl, and when I look back on it I'm not happy with it. I was that age once, and I can be a totally stereotypical girl at times, but it's really hard for me to adopt that mentality and put it into writing without the character sounding too young or too girly. Then when I try to give the girl some toughness, I get a masculine extreme.

    If you asked me to write two scenes, one about a group of guys, one about a group of girls, and within the groups each personality had to be distinct, I'd do pretty well with all the guys and get maybe one or two girls halfway.

    Lately I've been looking to geekettes for inspiration, the kind who love to go shopping and wear Superman shirts, or the hardcore gamers who have rainbows and unicorns on their consoles. Another example is the character from the Disney TV movie "Motocross," a cheerleader/motocross rider (I told you I can be girly :p ). It helps to use these as starting points for 3D female characters.
     
  15. Herman Snerd

    Herman Snerd Jedi Master star 6

    Registered:
    Oct 31, 1999
    One thing I neglected to add is that when it comes to beta readers, the guy fanficcers have a bit of an advantage since there's such a larger reservoir of you gals here to provide a female perspective when needed. And personally, I'm thankful for it because it's saved me on several occasions.


    One problem I had several years back was that I ended up with a scene where all the characters were women. The story required a certain outcome to their conversation to set up what would happen next, but I found myself stumped for quite some time. How should I know how you gals talk with each other when there's no guy around. [face_mischief]


    Finally, I just pounded out the scene as if the characters were men, got the resolution/decision that the scene required, then fired it off to my beta with the orders "Fix this!!!"

    At first my beta told me "Oh, it's fine," but after some insistence I got her to really go through it (thankfully the scene used established GFFA characters) until it was right. I remember being quite grateful at some of the suggestions for change. Changes such as: "The characters are too adversarial in their discussion," and "A woman might talk to her husband like this, but not her friends."

    In the end, thanks to my betas hard work, the scene was truer to the characters, flowed much smoother into the storyline, and confirmed for me that you women are even more complicated than I thought. [face_mischief]
     
  16. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Jedi Grand Master star 9

    Registered:
    Mar 26, 2001
    Oh, god bless a beta like that. :) One thing that I'm lucky to have is RK_Striker_JK_5, who, when I IM him and go "I've got two guys trying to lie to each other but in a military setting and they are not friends. How would they be sitting?", he gives me a male perspective on it.
     
  17. RK_Striker_JK_5

    RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Registered:
    Jul 2, 2003
    Thanks, Ish. Glad to help.

    Most of my family's women, so getting a good female perspective is actually kinda easy for me. I've got about a dozen different templates to draw upon.
     
  18. poor yorick

    poor yorick Ex-Mod star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Jun 25, 2002
    Hey, I was just talking to someone about this topic the other day, and about how it would be a great Resource thread. Jinx! :p

    The topic of stereotypes and gender-associated mannerisms is one that has always interested me, because my natural personality has always fallen dead center between stereotypical masculine and feminine traits. Sitting on my desk right now I have a spray of artifical flowers and a Star Wars action figure who appears to be doing battle with said flowers. All that sounds perfectly normal around here, but mention that anyplace else, and they will spot some gender (and age) contradictions there.

    I had the bad luck to be both tomboyish and heterosexual as an adolescent, and I realized at some point that if I was ever going to get a date before I died, I was going to have to deliberately learn and cultivate a passably feminine persona. (Being "one of the guys" gets you surrounded by boys, which is good. It also prevents you from making so much as a "ping" on their "girl radar," which is bad.) From that perspective, I can tell you that yes, while people's personalities come in every possible variation, no matter what their sex-chromosome configuration, there are unspoken cultural "dialects" that say "male" or "female," and the way people react to you will depend on which one you use.

    This is just a random collection of things that tend to "color" people's perceptions of someone, based on cultural beliefs about gender. These cues are Western/American, and may not apply elsewhere in the world. Obviously, there will also be differences based on individual personalities and subcultures.

    Males generally have a larger area of "personal space" than females. For example, it's considered kind of unclassy, but not un-masculine, to lie or sprawl on a couch when there is someone besides a close relative in the room. Females would tend to feel rude and/or unladylike if they did that. It's condisered "male" to claim that much space. Also, women are more likely to worry about "hogging" the couch and keeping someone else from sitting down--even if there are other chairs in the room. Similarly, under typical circumstances, nobody but a man's girlfriend/wife, minor daughter or pre-teen son will sit right up against him on a couch or anywhere else. Other first-order relatives may be exceptions, depending on the situation and the personalities involved. Friends, however, generally leave at least a phone-book's length of space between themselves and a man when they sit near him. Acquaintences definitely had better leave at least that amount of space, unless they want to cease being acquaintences and become lovers--or people to be urgently avoided. By contrast, a group of women and girls who barely know each other may be willing to sit squeezed together. (All trying to play the same game, look at the same thing, etc.)

    Males generally speak in shorter sentences than females, use more nouns and verbs and fewer describing words. They also use fewer "politifications," such as: "Oh, if it wouldn't be too much trouble would you . . ." "Thank you so very much for . . ." "Oh how wonderful of you to . . ." etc. Males are also more likely to continue other activities when someone is talking to them, and don't feel the need to make eye contact as often. If a woman is *extremely* busy she may do this, but 99 times out of 100 she'll apologize to the person who's being "ignored," even if she's actually following the conversation perfectly. Females generally don't make sustained eye contact unless they're flirting (staring someone in the eye can be considered aggressive); instead they look up, make eye contact, and look away. The nonverbal message is, "I'm listening." For some reason, making "supportive eye contact" seems to be required more often when women speak to each other than when they speak to men. In may family, at least, the only place women are free of this rule is when female relatives are working at separate tasks in the kitchen. We're not even "nice," docile girls! It's just somethi
     
  19. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 10, 2002
    Very good topic and I know it's something I've thought about when I've come across certain stories. (Particulary the h/c variety. :p ) I worried about it a lot when I started writing my own stories, and I still have bad memories of a paricular scene from Obi-Wan's PoV I wrote that my beta tore apart for being too "emo". :( but that was a long time ago... :)

    I hope I still don't write males with a female voice. I rarely make OCs, and I try as much as possible to keep the canon characters as close to the films' potrayal as possible. I do tend to make Anakin emo, but then again, he is an emo kind of guy. :p

    I sincerely doubt that I make any of the women over-masculine. George(ina) Quentin was my least favourite of the Famous Five. :p

    edit:
    Good points there, ophelia but I have to disagree with Anakin not looking people in the eye. He seems to perpetually do that - almost to the point of aggressiveness. It's actually an aspect of his personality - he's more of a confrontational type of guy, than someone who would prefer to use tact. ;) Unless, of course, he's just not interested in listening. ;) On the other hand, being non-confrontational is more natural to Obi-Wan. Being a 'negotiator', and someone who's skilled with words, he's more inclined to artfully avoid stare-downs. You see it a lot with Alec Guiness in the OT, but Ewan McGregor also shows some fine moments of Obi-Wan's trademark shify eyes. :p
     
  20. leiamoody

    leiamoody Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 8, 2005
    Whatta ya know, story of my life, too. :p

    But I digress (as always)...

    Now see, I do acknowledge these differences, but I also tend not to want to use them, simply because so many of them are cultural differences, and cultural differences are inhererntly artificial. Not only that, but when you're writing about men and women in the GFFA, you are writing about individuals who come from unique cultures that are far more diverse than anything we on our little planet can ever come up with. One would think that in the GFFA, there would be more cultures, even among humans, where the automatic "men do this, women do that" divide might not exist. The only example I can think of from profic is the Hapans, with their matriarchal culture. An interesting alternative, but it wasn't executed very well to my mind. The females in power seemed like nothing more than bitter old shrews. I can't imagine that power structure working for as long as it was have supposed to if the ruling queens acted like that. (I might be remembering this wrong, as it has been eons since I read COPL.)

    For myself, I try to write individuals who are diverse and off-kilter. I'm influenced by those individuals who went through life doing what they wanted, because that's what they wanted to do. If they didn't always act like a 100% male/female, well fine. That just makes them more interesting.

    I also consciously avoid writing any situations where it's all-male or all-female situations. To give two examples...if there's a sabacc game, I will put a female in there, just to even out the balance (because card games are always so stereotypically male). I also won't write about the GFFA equivalent of a bachelor party or a bridal shower, simply because it's too narrow-focused. I'd much rather write about a celebration where both sexes are invited...or maybe just have the couple elope, depending on who I happen to be writing about. :p
     
  21. Healer_Leona

    Healer_Leona Squirrely Community Mod star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jul 7, 2000
    Finally getting in here to say lovely topic. I'll omit the teasing I was going to do Herman. This time. :p
     
  22. Jade_Pilot

    Jade_Pilot Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 10, 2005
    OK, the title of this thread just drew me in to find out what the heck it was about.

    Having read the posts, I have to say this is fascinating. I'm learning so much already.

    I have a wonderful master, JadeLotus, who has helped me find the 'voice' of canon characters and remain true to them. At least I try. Lando Calrissian was very hard for me to write and she was invaluable with her insights. I think now I need to consider gender more when I do write canon characters.

    I find when I write OCs, that I base them on people in my life. I write Ben Skywalker using my own son as a template and this has helped me.

    Also a great help to me are WyoJedi and brodiew. These male writers give me a greater insight into the male psyche. I'm looking forward to more discussion on this subject.
     
  23. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Registered:
    Sep 20, 2002
    Being "one of the guys" gets you surrounded by boys, which is good. It also prevents you from making so much as a "ping" on their "girl radar," which is bad.

    I think a fair number of us can identify. [face_laugh]

    I cracked up all the way throughout your post, ophelia, because it's pretty much true for Western culture. There's a great book called Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office (yes, I own it :p ) that addresses the same issues. How can women get ahead the way men do? By acting more like a man and still being a woman. The "I'm sorry, but..." tendency was one point the author made - men almost never start off that way. To me Leia would be the poster girl for this book because she's achieved that balance between male and female qualities.

    Another way I've thought of those differences is in terms of conflict. Guys can beat the crap out of each other and suddenly be friends. It's like your ability to hold your ground earns you respect. Girls (when they decide to fight, as a lot of them try to be "nice") seem to be more sneaky and underhanded, and it's less about losing ground than losing your reputation. It's "Fight Club" and "Mean Girls." So maybe my problem in writing girls is that I don't understand why they wouldn't just put things out into the open from the start. :p

    For a lot of us the problem seems to not be so much about switching genders as it is about identifying the gender traits within one character. People have called Jaina a ***** and other unpleasant thing because she's always downright nasty to folks. But is she really? To me she just exhibits a lot of male tendencies. She's aggressive, sometimes demanding, and often terse. I think that shocks readers because they expect her to be more like a girl, like Leia. They expect her to have a "softer" side, which she does though usually not when confronting people. But while Star Wars is full of archetypes, the Jedi seem to blur the line between male and female. Instead it's all about your connection to the Force. In that vein, writing Jedi might be easier than other characters because it's one less thing to worry about.

    Of course if you decide to defenestrate all Western stereotypes, you may have a much harder time crafting your characters against people's preconceived notions, but you're bound to come up with some cool OCs. [insert emotion that implies I think this is funny, since I don't want to be girly and use an emoticon :p Aw, ****...]
     
  24. TKeira_Lea

    TKeira_Lea Jedi Knight star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 10, 2002
    Exactly! =D= As a person who has spent plenty of time consider Jaina, to me she exhibits many typically male qualities.

    As a woman in a male dominated field I've heard the B-word thrown around more times than I care to admit. The best response I ever heard from a woman, to a man who called her just that, was, "Why thank you. That means I've stepped up to your male level of testosterone production." It set the guy back, because really she was doing nothing more than acting as aggressive as he was. With men in business it's all about who can pee on the fire hydrant more times than the other. Who's the top dog so to speak. When the girls decide to play their game, we're suddenly female dogs though. Funny how that works [face_mischief]
     
  25. Eleventh_Guard

    Eleventh_Guard Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 17, 2005
    For me it depends on the character. I can write some females and some males with relative ease (Tenel Ka, Jacen, Anakin and Jaina to some extent) and have difficulty with others (Tahiri, Jag, a few other YJK Jedi). It's partly due to interest levels, and partly due to whether I can empathize with them (visualizing the character as oneself) or have to sympathize (visualizing the character as a friend). This is pretty unrelated to the gender of the character and more related to their personalities.

    I'm not a man - but I'm not a Sith, or Jedi, or bounty hunter, either, and we write those! I think we need to be less concerned with the physical sex of a character and more concerned about personalities, because while one's sex shapes one's personality to some extent, it's not an absolute, any more than socioeconomic class or natural Force ability would be.
     
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