Your most difficult writing obstacle, with regard to style?

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Your most difficult writing obstacle, with regard to style?

Postby A_Simple_Poet » Tue Dec 06, 2005 7:40 am

Every one has little writing hang ups and I was hoping to find a forum where writers can simaltaneously vent and elicits advice from their peers about topics they struggle with, syntax, dialogue, characterization, et al.

For me, it's the female mind. At the risk of sounding sexist, I find it very presumptious for a male to try and jump into a woman's head and say that he can fully understand what makes her tick. (The same is true in reverse). Hemingway avoided this problem by simply not writing about his female characters thought processes, because he shared my sentiment. All of his protagonists are male, and with regard to their interaction with the opposite sex, he let their actions and words dictate the performance of their character and the reader is left up to their own devices.

I'm not quite satisfied with this solution so I have been reading Woolf, Austen, and Allende to try and get a better idea of the feminine persepective. I would appreciate any ladies out there who might reccomend other literary sources I might explore.
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Postby Tuima » Tue Dec 06, 2005 4:15 pm

Hm... the authors you mentioned sound pretty good to me! I love Austen, I confess!
And, well, I say don't get too hung up on the female mind... You might have a girl who thinks rather like a man, simply as part of her personality -- heaven knows there's a surprising number of them out there.
But as for recommendations... lessee...
-"Beauty" by Robin McKinley (just 'cause I adore that book, and the writing style is incredible)
-"Crown Duel" by Sherwood Smith (a wonderfully realistic heroine)
-"Ella Enchanted" by Gail Carson Levine (what can I say, I love the mush)
-"Catherine, Called Birdy" by Karen Cushman (a strong but rather immature character)
-"Wolf Tower" by... er, I've forgotten who that's by. Ah, well, I actually didn't like that one as much.

I think you'll be safe with any book that has a female m.c. written in first person.
And if you actually read all those books, I will be astonished beyond measure.


Anyway.. great thread, ASP! I was actually venting the other day about how much trouble I have with dialogue. I can do body language and expressions, no problem, but when my characters open their mouths they always sound inane. Artificial. Blech.
Pointers, anyone?
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Postby seren » Wed Dec 07, 2005 12:28 pm

ASP wrote


For me, it's the female mind. . . get a better idea of the feminine perspective



"Does my bum look big in this?"

:D
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Postby Frelga » Wed Dec 07, 2005 3:34 pm

That came up in Nano-forums, and spawned a long and lively thread, much of it unTOSable. So I'll limit myself to a single thought:

IMO, when writing for the opposite sex, the biggest trap to avoid is creating a man/woman of your dreams, strong yet sensitive, infinitely accommodating, etc. The big question to ask oneself is therefore, do men/women really act that way or is it the way I would LIKE them to act.

Me? I'm still struggling with descriptions. :roll: Writing 101, here I come.
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Postby DrummerGirl » Thu Dec 08, 2005 2:53 am

Y'know, in RL I've encountered this, um, discomfort with how men or women think & behave. Here're my thoughts: Women and men are not all that different from each other. Sure, on balance more men may tend to be aggressive and more women may tend to be romantic, or whatever.

In reality, I believe it's just two overlapping bell curves. Think about the different men and women you know. I have known aggressive women and romantic men, and the reverse. Women and men are people. They're thoughtful or compassionate or quick to anger, and so on.

If you're a man and want to write about a woman, write about a person who's a woman. I'll just remind you that if she's between puberty and menopause, she has a period every month, and if she's sexually active, she'll be concerned about getting / not getting pregnant.

DrummerGirl

PS to Frelga: How's "The Wrong Side of the Mountain" going? I enjoyed your excerpt on NANO: I want to know what happens next.

PPS I don't know yet what, stylewise, is most difficult for me. Right now, I'm guessing conversations, which I find difficult in RL as well.
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Postby Cerridwen » Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:20 pm

I add my two bits, if you've got change. :P

How many women do you know? I mean know well? I know it's hard to get inside somebody's head, particularly when you speak a different dialect than she does... :P but you can certainly observe behavior, and predict it based on the person... and depending on how well you know them.
You can also fudge it by not giving a lot of specific information. Your other alternative is simply to have a woman write your female characters. It can make for some hilarious times.
Personally I started writing male characters for a challenge, because I wanted to expand my repertoire, as well as hone my skills as a writer. You won't be perfect immediately, and you may never feel like you've gotten the hang of it. But you will have improved for trying, and maybe you'll come to understand the strangeness of the female mind. Embrace the oddness. We have to.
In response to something somebody else said, biology is certainly something we have to deal with... But it's so normal you hardly give it a second thought. It isn't like 'Oh, by the way, I'm having my moontime!! I personally don't know anyone who acts like that in real life. Do you?
And as far as dealing with the delicacies of intimacy... if you really want to acknowledge what's going on and include it in your descriptions... that's your ball of wax. It's less trouble to simply allude to such things, however, and you don't risk getting something wrong. People like me pick up on that sort of thing very, very quickly. It's a huge pet peeve of mine when authors [male or female] write about different methods of contraception and get it all wrong. It isn't difficult to understand, but if you feel even a little bit iffy about it, a good and simple rule is don't. You will drive the student midwives in your readership royally batty, and they will have words with you in tones that they don't typically use with friends. :P
On the other hand, if you [or anybody else] wants to be informed on that subject, ask me. It's my current specialty, and it will be a major part of my profession in days to come.

As for the rest, decide what's going to make your lady tick. Is she ambitious? Shy? Greedy? Mad as a hatter? What makes her do the things she does? Schemers are a lot of fun to write, male or female. Find the root that her actions spring from, and sympathize. A lot of writing is about getting your readership to sympathize. Whether they decide to hate or love the character, they should have an idea where they're coming from, and be able to understand them.
Write an individual. Write your significant other or your mom or your sister... with a twist. What would that woman be like if....?
Fill in the blank. Have fun. Above all, have fun.

Hope it hasn't been too rant-ish. I sprouted an opinion years ago, and the world has been changed because of it. Whether it changed for the worse or for the better is a matter of perspective.

Good times,
Cerri
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Postby Tigerlily_Goldworthy » Sun Dec 11, 2005 8:16 pm

*sneaks in, having finally found something relatively un-inane to say*

I was actually going to say something like what Cerridwen said, only I sounded a lot more snotty and stupid. So I cancelled that post. :angel:

I was listening to the radio today, and one of the programs was "The Art and Origin of Ordinary Speech." Basically, the guest (a researcher whose name I didn't catch...) was talking about how we speak, in a conversational setting-- the filler words, the pauses, whether we overlap or take distinct turns, etc. I thought it was interesting, because it sounded like something that could be useful in writing. It's not up in the audio archives here yet, but I'd guess it'll be up soon. I hope it's helpful for anyone who takes a look... (or hear, I guess.)

Cerridwen wrote: It isn't like 'Oh, by the way, I'm having my moontime!!' I personally don't know anyone who acts like that in real life. Do you?


:lol: Well, I was reading this really weird site last night that had a list of what people say in reference to "that time of the month"... some of the things listed on there were pretty wacked-out. But for most people, I think I can safely say you're right. ;)

I think my main problem in writing it transferring what I have in my head to paper/computer without completely ruining it. I don't know if how I plan out things is unique to me, or if everyone does it this way, but I see things like a movie. The people do things on my mental screen. So I can see exactly what I want, but then when I try to get it down in words, the words decide to be difficult and don't do what I want them to do!
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Postby Lalaith-Elerrina » Mon Dec 12, 2005 2:13 pm

For me? I'm lucky. I have a husband to bounce my ideas off of. I write quite a lot, and I have met with your concern before in writing about men. I've found that asking my husband if a man's behavior, or way of thinking in a particular scene is realistic, is very helpful.

Again though, I would have to agree with Drummergirl. Men and women are people. The only person whose thoughts you really know well, are your own. If you can write well about the thoughts and motivations and behaviors of a fictional character of your same gender, you ought to, with a little care, be able to write a well crafted character of the opposite sex. That being said, I can still understand lingering concern and hesitancy. In that case, asking a member of the opposite sex if a certain character's thoughts and bahaviors seems realistic to them, might not be too bad of an idea. :)
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Postby Frelga » Tue Dec 13, 2005 12:12 pm

DrummerGirl, how kind of you to ask! :oops: I finished Nano with the measly total of 7,000 words, so not much is happening yet beyond that excerpt. :oops:

Cerri, about moontime. Sure, if we encounter the female character in her office, or throne room, or bower, whatever, it will not be an issue. (Although the male character might wonder what happened to the girl who was so sweet to him last week. :twisted: It is my ambition to write a story that includes the line "He shouldn't have crossed me at this time of the month". Preferrably as the heroine stands over the bleeding corpse of her adversary.)

However, if your heroine is stranded for weeks in the wilderness alone with males around her and no drug store nearby, she will have to solve a logistical problem. The convention is to ignore it, and honestly it bugs me. No need to get into details, of course.

Tigerlily, I hear you! Finding words for that vivid visual in my head is torture. And half the time after I write it down, I find that the visual made no sense anyway.

Lalaith, I also ask DH if the way I write males makes sense. I'm very lucky that he volunteered to be my Beta.
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Postby bellmaker4 » Tue Dec 13, 2005 8:59 pm

ASP-Yeah, I have problems with writing from a female's point of view. The biggest thing for me is taht I tend to think ahead before I write, which sometimes kills me. One good thing, though, is that I have my own forum where I can post stories and let my friends read them and tell me what they think. Right now I'm in the middle of a love sequence and I'm having some problems. :(

Question: Is there any way to edit your submissions to the Reading Room without being a Premiere member? :|
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Postby Cerridwen » Wed Dec 14, 2005 2:45 pm

I hope not to go off on a rabbitish trail with this, but I wanted to agree with Frelga... and disagree, since I know you well enough to do that without worrying about having limbs torn off. :P
LOL at the whole standing-over-the-dead-cold-corpse thing... that's funny. :P

It bugs me as well when such things are consistantly glossed over, but something that bugs me more is when the writer is inconsistant. If it's been a week in the 'action' since the female character last dealt with her biology, that's really annoying to me. Nutrition also plays a role, and some women are more sensitive to changes in their environment, stress level and nutrition than others. It's difficult feeling as though an author is completely ignoring an fairly common issue, but for the author to get it completely wrong shows slovenliness in research.
Not that it's a darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don't dichotomy. Just follow the old adage to 'write what you know'. If you know your material, you'll do fine. I don't think any of this can be successfully formulated. The tendancy would be to follow the formula, and that can stifle creativity. It can be as hurtful as it is helpful, in my experience.

One of the more creative ways I've seen it handled involved characters of other-than-human decent. One of the elves went into this hunting/prowling frenzy about every ten to twenty years, and these episodes of hers would last for months.... essentially she'd get the urge to go hunting for a mate. She could choose what to do with these urges, but that was what her biology was telling her.
I've seen such information come from lots of other-than-human sources of inspiration. Be creative.... and study nature. :P

Just a few thoughts, and my two bits... anybody got change for two bits...? :P

As usual,
Cerri
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Postby A_Simple_Poet » Wed Dec 14, 2005 6:36 pm

Please let me be clear that this is not all about me. Feel free to share your own writing style challenges which do not have to be gender related. :)

That being said, I do very much appreciate all the insightful commentary regarding the literary "splicing" and "dicing" of gender. I just view women old fashioned like with sugar, spice, and all feigned nice. :twisted:

Seriously, it is hard for me to adjust my thoughts that women mentally think like men, but I know that we are all human too and that the opposite mental dynamic is also true at times. I think that the best interaction I see is on sitcoms (I think Raymond) illustrates female/male issues rather well (and PLEASE understand I am not a big sitcom guy). I try to incorporate this fluidity into my dialogue (where I have the toughest time betwixt the gneders, but that is not surprising because before my wife in the dating game, 'twas true with me). Since dialogue is infinately more interesting and power tempo as opposed to exposition, I think Hemingway could cloak his hesitancy to write about gender issues there by hiding his dialogue insecurities in male/female small talk. Chandler did this well, but he did it better. Marlowe had more meaningful relationships with women, and the conversation, more believable. And that is what I am aiming for, believable interaction... Whew, quite a rant. Sorry. :oops:
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Postby DrummerGirl » Wed Dec 14, 2005 11:07 pm

A_Simple_Poet wrote:Please let me be clear that this is not all about me. Feel free to share your own writing style challenges which do not have to be gender related. :)

Differences and similarities among men and women seem to be perennial favorites.:)

That being said, I do very much appreciate all the insightful commentary regarding the literary "splicing" and "dicing" of gender. I just view women old fashioned like with sugar, spice, and all feigned nice. :twisted:

Seriously, it is hard for me to adjust my thoughts that women mentally think like men, but I know that we are all human too and that the opposite mental dynamic is also true at times. I think that the best interaction I see is on sitcoms (I think Raymond) illustrates female/male issues rather well (and PLEASE understand I am not a big sitcom guy).
...


Hmmm. It's not that "women mentally think like men". Different people think differently. Some are men. Some are women.

Sure, you can make some generalizations, but they won't be applicable to all. Just look at the posting styles of the various people at TORC. Some are organized, some aren't. Some have correct spelling & grammar, some don't. Some are verbose, terse, descriptive, chatty. Some are female, some are male.

For instance: for some reason, ASP, I figured you for female - why? I dunno. I was a little surprised when I read your OP, and it turns out you're male! :Q

I'm at the far end of enough bell curves for it to be noticeable. I hate shopping, am terrible at conversation, never wear makeup and seldom wear skirts. I work in a male-dominated field (architecture). When I had the time, I played D&D with my brother and his friends (long, looonng ago). I can work on my own car. And I never, ever watch TV (so the Raymond reference zipped right over my head). :oops:

If you're concerned about "getting in the psyche" of a women, maybe try writing different male characters. Make them seriously different from each other, and consistent. Then try writing a woman.

For some reason, this topic makes me think of Robert Heinlein. All his characters, male, female, old, young, were some version of himself.

Frelga wrote:...It is my ambition to write a story that includes the line "He shouldn't have crossed me at this time of the month". Preferrably as the heroine stands over the bleeding corpse of her adversary.)...

Frelga, if you ever write this, I must read it!

Another 2 cents,
DrummerGirl

Edit to add
*realizes she's been flogging a dead horse. sorry about that :oops: *
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Postby *yona* » Wed Feb 22, 2006 11:20 pm

Well, this is strange, but I have a problem about writing girls. A female character is all right, as in if she's an old woman, or a fish wife, or a elegant lady, something that has a distinct characterization to it. But girls, from about twelve to twenty, I have difficulty getting them to seem alive. I have to be able to get them to be interesting, without being completely off the wall, which I avoid like the plague, because that sort of character I can't tolerate. As I say, there must be a way for me to do this, its just a hangup at this point. Maybe practice will help.
Anyway, liked this thread, hope it doesn't fall of the map.
ASP, you start the nicest threads!
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Postby salean » Mon Mar 13, 2006 8:15 am

I have difficulty in writing adults. I just don't understand them :P hence the reason at the moment most of my characters are fairly young. Which also makes them fairly unbelievable... but hey...

Tigerlily and Frelga- I also have a lot of trouble trying to get from the idea in my head to a written story. It never seems as good after I write it down...

To add to the general conversation about male/female characters:
I've never really struggled to write boy characters even though I am a girl. I usually try to get a balance of boy/girl main characters in my stories... dunno why actually, I just do... *wonders about this* Ahem. Anyway. Quite a lot of books I read are from a male pov, so I don't know if that makes a difference... I'm quite observant at watching people's feelings... or something like that... but I have quite a few friends who are boys and when I was really young they were a big part of my life so I've just always known that in any story I write there has to be a boy character. If that makes any sense. Which it doesn't. I might try and explain myself better another time. I'm confusing myself.

:P Sal :P
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Postby Ugluk » Mon Mar 20, 2006 1:54 pm

Interesting thread. I don't think I've ever had much of a problem writing female characters. Being a bookwork and growing up with three sisters who were bookworms meant that I had a lot of literature pushed upon me with a female protagonist, so I feel fairly confident in saying that I have a decent idea of how they could think. Plus, nearly everything I write is read and reviewed exclusively by females, and if they had a problem with something I'm sure they'd tell me.


What I have problems writing is descriptions. Little bits here and there that let the reader know what a particular place looks like, what a person looks like, et cetera. I've always hated reading descriptions and now I find that I don't put them in - at all. I've written an entire book and upon re-reading it I find that my reader has absolutely no idea what a main character looks like - color of her hair, height, and so on - because I never bothered to put it in. :roll:
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Postby prmiller » Wed Apr 12, 2006 8:03 am

I have a very difficult time convincing people that I really do want to write in a way that makes people better from having passed through one
of my stories or poems. Perhaps I have some kind of attention
deficit disorder, but I have not really be able to sustain a story for very
long. Poetry, then, has been a far better, and more successful medium,
I believe, for expressing the little sound bites of wisdom that crackle
and pop in my brain.

Honestly speaking, I am in awe of the storytellers. I am honored to
know you all!

Parm :)
...discovering that writing after two o'clock is just as unproductive
as writing after midnight...

...of to bed with the boy!
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Postby dlloyd » Thu Apr 13, 2006 6:07 am

prmiller wrote:Perhaps I have some kind of attention
deficit disorder, but I have not really be able to sustain a story for very
long. Poetry, then, has been a far better, and more successful medium,
I believe, for expressing the little sound bites of wisdom that crackle
and pop in my brain.

Honestly speaking, I am in awe of the storytellers. I am honored to
know you all!


I have the opposite problem - when I get into writing a story, I have a hard time resisting the urge to go off on dozens of different tangents and just focus on what really _needs_ to be said... once I get on a roll it's hard to stop!

Poetry, on the other hand, is my weakness - I can read and enjoy it, but my brain just can't seem to create it. I think I've said elsewhere in this forum that most of my attempts at poetry end with me searching for a word to rhyme with "Nantucket"...
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Postby *yona* » Thu Apr 13, 2006 9:49 am

There was an old sea captain from Nantucket,
When he grew too old he kicked the bucket... :?:

I don't know, that is the only word I could think of that rhymed!
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Postby Galhadrim » Thu Apr 13, 2006 10:29 am

Trust me, we're all glad that's the only word you could think of that rhymed.

:shock:
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Postby Taramire » Sat Apr 22, 2006 1:28 pm

I'm a very new writer so maybe I shouldn't be saying anything, but here I go. I don't think it's hard to write about a male as long as he is an adult; teenager, on the other hand, is another story. When you write about an adult female I really don't see the problem; the female, being an adult, has learned to take control of her emotions and is not at the mercy of them. True, I know women who haven't learned to control their emotions, but that isn't the norm. Or maybe I'm just more in control than most women; I don't know. One of the things that irks is when writers show women as being out of control or women that are men except in name. That's one of the things that bothers me about 'The Wheel of Time' series by Robert Jordon; I really don't like the way he protrayed the female characters (at least in that I've read).

I'm writing a story for http://www.fanficton.net right now that has all male characters (4 to be exact) and it's really not that hard for me. Of course I don't think my writing is any good (though I do admit, it is better than some :shock: ) and I'm having a terrible time trying to figure out what happens next. It's my first story and it's so hard to write, but my sister and brother really want me to finish it so I keep writing for them. At least I have two fans :) .
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Postby Ilyda » Mon Apr 24, 2006 8:01 pm

I've been writing for a while, but I'm just now starting to branch out my writing skills. I've delved into poetry a bit, and I agree with Parm that it does suit short bursts of thought. However, I do like writing short stories as well. (I can't hold a plotline any longer than that!)

The issue I just overcame was that of writing believable dialogue. I couldn't do that for the longest time. It's nice to have a story with the spoken word included. Makes it go a lot faster that way.

My current problem, as I'm coming to realize, is that I have a hard time writing a main character that isn't me. My last story was about a grown woman estranged from her family, and that was difficult, because I had little to draw on. (Honestly, I exaggerated the feelings that all kids have about their parents. I also took a few eccentric traits from various people and combined them into the parents.) My current story is about a teenage girl in detention. The last time I had detention, I was 13. And I'm just now establishing the true personality of my RP character, which I couldn't really do before. I'm learning, albeit ever so slowly.

I think when I've made it to the point of not making all the characters into me, then I'll tackle having a protagonist of the opposite sex. However, I will admit, I've made a couple of failed forays into that. It's hard sometimes, to know what other people are thinking, much less another gender with different issues to face.
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Postby elerrina_narloth » Thu Apr 27, 2006 4:53 pm

I can't say that I have any trouble writing about the opposite sex, probably becasue I grew up with almost all boys. everyone tells me that dialogue is my best, but it is hard for me to tell. emotion is something that is hard for me to get across without being melodramatic, but I'm guessin all us girls do! :roll: but for those of you who struggle with description, weave it into your dialouge, it helps a lot. and yeah, I have a hard time staying on a story line too, but I have managed long enough to make it 113 pages in one story
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Postby Taramire » Mon May 01, 2006 5:53 pm

I don't think I stated this, but my problem is when parts of the story "writes its self" and then I'm stuck trying to figure out my next move. People have told me that my dialogue is good and that it keeps the story going; but I have to completely depend on what other people say about my story because I think my story is dead in the water with nothing to it. But other people like it and want me to continue so I'm trying to finish it and it's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I keep wanting to abandon it, but I guess I can't.
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Postby geek_chick » Tue May 02, 2006 6:57 pm

In regards to the female biology conversation: I just want to know how women survived cramps before the invention of ibuprofin! I would be doubled over for two days straight each month! :shock:

My biggest writing obstacle? Creative writing in general, lol .... I think I do a good job of writing technical documentation, research reports, etc., but I have a hard time writing fiction that actually sounds artistic (metaphors are very hard for me!), realistic emotions, and dialogue that sounds natural instead of formal and explanatory.... I am a pretty logical person (my husband says I am too logical -- and that's scary coming from a guy!) so it's hard for me to describe character's emotions in a believable way! My best emotional passages are ones that reflect a very similar experience of my own...

But hey, practice makes perfect, right? ;) And if I ever get around to finishing and posting the fic I'm working on, well, no one has to read it if it's not any good ;)
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Postby prmiller » Wed May 24, 2006 5:36 am

Thinking evil: really. I have a hard time thinking really, truly, evilly.
Nasty, perhaps; spiteful, possibly, but not down-into-the-brimstone
devilish...which is perhaps why, Lewis's The Screwtape Letters
so profoundly moves me: evil has a voice, and it is not gargly, scratchy,
and minionish, but mellifluous, with Oxonian tones...oh! That really
scares me!
:shock: :shock:
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Postby Dubatuluk » Thu May 25, 2006 10:18 am

my absolute biggest problem is the same as ASP's except for one crucial factor:


I'm female!


Gasp!


Seriously though, I cannot get my female characters to be believable. I can write much better from the male perspective and am so comfortable in it, that when I try a female one it gets shoved into the back and is seen entirely by a male character (such as Hemingway's characters.)

I am, by no means, trying to convey that I know the male mind. I wonder if it's because most fantasy and sci-fi fiction is from a male perspective; and, after reading it in such a fashion for so long, I have become a stereotype? Any other thoughts on this?

EDIT: A really awesome book from the female perspective: The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. Read it. Now. GO! :lol:
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Postby elerrina_narloth » Wed Jun 14, 2006 9:27 pm

I guess if you are having problems with perspectives, ask a friend, they can almost always help you, and I am fortunate enough to have good writing buddy who helps me when I'm stumped
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