Why You and I Should Be Ticked Off At This "Advice"

I have a publishing credit from a few years ago (a short story), and I haven't yet cracked the publishing world on the novel end of things. (All in due time. :-))

I subscribe to a feed for the Daily Writing Tips blog, and the blogger's post about a certain published author's "advice" left me a bit ticked. Not the blogger; she couldn't believe what this author said.

The Author's "Advice"?

So what the heck did this author say, making it sound like some sort of rule?

That you, the writer, should only write in the Point of View (POV) of your gender, and that you should only write a POV character with your own past experiences.

To which I respond: Bullshit.

To Write or Not To Write In Your Own Gender

A few months back, I came up with an idea for a story set in a town not far from where I live. Just for the heck of it, and since I had never tried it before, I wrote from a male perspective.

I revised the first chapter a couple times, curious as to what people thought of it. I submitted it to Evil Editor's blog, received a really funny continuation, and it ended up in EE's first Novel Deviations book (OF COURSE I bought it :-)). Anyway, if I remember correctly, there were 2 comments that said it sounded as if the male MC sounded more like a female. Heh. :-) Made me grin and realize I had a lot to work on. I've since put that aside, but I'll continue to experiment with male POVs just because can, nyah, nyah, nyah!

Guess what? That's a personal thing with me. I would never, ever offer that as writing advice. And it's obvious why: Plenty of authors have written POV characters that weren't in their own gender. And have done well with it. J. K. Rowling immediately comes to mind, as I'm sure other writers will come to mind, too. (A recent author, who writes mysteries, is J. A. Konrath, a man writing as a woman. On his site, he readily admits to getting advice from his wife and mother, and knows that if he gets something wrong, he'll get whacked for it. :-))

So...don't be afraid, if you're a woman, to write as a male, and vice versa. Maybe it'll suck, but maybe it'll be brilliant. Who knows until you've tried? :-)

Me? That's something I have to work on!

As For Using Only Your Past Experiences?

More horse hockey.

If by past experiences, this particular author means work and personal experiences (bringing up kids, working as a brain surgeon, bungee jumping off the Eiffel Tower, etc.), again, I feel this is something particular to her, and not a rule or guideline.

For instance, in my current WIP, I have a POV from a woman who has 4 kids (I don't have any) and from a woman's POV character who works as an editor at a small publishing house (this part is set in 1940s, BTW).

Now, according to this woman, I CAN'T write about a mother and her kids because I don't have any. Baloney. I remember how my mother treated me (and it's specifically between this woman and just one of her kids, a daughter), plus I have an imagination and can imagine how this woman would feel in certain situations (especially when the woman is tricked into leaving her daughter...)

As for the other...there's a writers' website I've frequented where I feel I've received quite an education about the publishing world. True, it's about the publishing world as it exists today, but I can't imagine it's too far away from the 1940s (huge discounts for bookstores and the agenting thing notwithstanding). Besides, the people running the publisher have no idea what they're doing, the woman-POV character doesn't what to be editing the types of books she wants to edit, etc. And any ineptness feeds well into the storyline.

The other part of the storyline, setting most of it in the 1940s, is because I have an insatiable interest in the 1940s. Setting in and near Hollywood during that time is also near and dear to my heart: I have the movie studio books to prove it (and have read through them hundreds of times over the years).

Do Want You Want...and Do It Well

The thing to remember is to write characters that are believable, whether they tie in to your past experiences or not. Maybe you've come up with a character that has a profession or passion for something that suddently piques your interest. So who's stopping you from writing about that person, whether it's a he or a she?

Yourself, of course. And you shouldn't let it, just because some multi-pubbed author has problems with it. That's her problem, her business.

Persist, have fun with it! Don't let someone else's problem become your problem.

~Nancy Beck


Angie said...

Umm, yeah. [eyeroll] I've always written male POV characters -- probably more often than female -- and I do just fine, thanks. And I suppose this woman doesn't think anyone at all should be writing SF or fantasy...? Good grief.


Nancy Beck said...

Yeah, can you believe that, Angie? Sheesh. Just because SHE can't write believable male characters she figures it's some sort of writing rule?

Give me a break.

And I suppose this woman doesn't think anyone at all should be writing SF or fantasy...?

Right?! And in SF/fantasy, there are beings other than humans to write POVs from...man, that would completely scramble her brain, methinks. ;-)

Billy said...

Rules such as these are, as you say BS, and your examples disprove the author's advice. If people didn't depart from such narrow parameters, much great literature would have never been published. More and more, I take what authors, agents, and editors say with many grains of salt. I am sorely tempted to blog about the inconsistencies and poor protocol of agents.