Today I want to talk about stereotypes in fiction. Specifically, I want to talk about stereotypes in writing characters’ behavior.
Yesterday, I happened upon a blog post with advice on how to write ‘realistic male characters’ — you know, fictional people who speak and behave the way men speak and behave in real life.
So… You probably already know that I’m not in favor of any pigeonholing of people — real or fictional — based on sex. gender, race, age, species… If I go on a bloggish rant when I see some fantasy story where the author says ‘All gnomes think alike and act alike’ — people who are entirely fictional — why should I have no opinion about stereotyping half of the human species in a similar way?
I’m sure the author of that article meant well and was just trying to help women who write male POV characters. Still… There would be quite justifiable outrage if someone were to post an article on writing female characters that stated, ‘Women think like this, and women act like this, and women like these things and dislike these other things.’ Not a hive mind, right?
Guess what: Non-female humans are also not a hive mind.
Anyway. Here are a few of the tidbits from “Is Your Guy a Guy?”:
Men always say what they mean and focus on a single topic at a time.
Men use short sentences with the fewest words possible.
Men are not talkative.
Men are thinkers, but not feelers, so they definitely don’t think about how they feel.
Uh-huh. Is this the first time you’ve visited my blog? If you’ve been here before, you already know that some men are talkative, don’t stick with short and simple sentences, and may even be incapable of focusing on a single topic at a time. (My clone wrote a downright “Faulkner-esque” sentence the other day, long and convoluted and full of imagery — I’m so proud of him. 🙂 It’s only his background in technical/academic writing that sometimes causes him to keep to short sentences, by the way, because he doesn’t do that in speaking, just writing.)
Or maybe you shouldn’t just take my word(s) for it. Ever read Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds? His post from yesterday (which you ought to read, ’cause it’s good) is somewhere past 1200 words in length. (You may want to contemplate word count for individual sentences in that post, if you find yourself still unconvinced. One is 76 words long; another contains 41 words. Short sentences, my ass!)
If the best advice out there (and it is very good advice, in my opinion) on how to write believable, realistic female characters is simply to write believable, realistic characters who happen to be female, why shouldn’t the same hold true for writing male characters?
(And, for the record, I get every bit as irritated on the rare occasion when I see some article about how the only “realistic” female characters are the clichés and stereotypes — especially when such an article is written by a woman. And I get angry when I see a man claiming that men are all alike. Hell, I have a clone, and we don’t think or act alike — don’t even write alike.)