There have been ongoing discussions on some listservs about men writing female characters and women writing male characters. It intrigues me because in my Work In Progress, one of the main characters is a man and I’ve been trying to get into his head.
Writing from the point of view of the opposite sex is a challenge, because even though we might not want to, we do stereotype and a lot of that stereotyping is through physical description.
I can’t say how many books about women protags (and even tough women protags) I’ve read in which descriptions of clothing and shoes are quite prominent. And women authors are just as guilty of doing this as men. Just look at Michele Martinez’s Melanie Vargas and the shoes. Sue Grafton always writes about Kinsey's black dress that never gets wrinkled. I keep Annie in jeans and T-shirts and fleece. JA Konrath dresses Jack Daniels in designer suits. Lee Child does describe Jack Reacher’s clothes — and he's always dressed very smartly — although I think that fascination, for me at least, is mostly how he gets his clothes, since Reacher doesn’t ever have a suitcase on him.
Another phenomenon (and I’m picking on male authors now) is the abundance of incredibly good looking women. In Harlan Coben’s THE WOODS, all the women are gorgeous and have long legs. James O. Born's Duarte is surrounded by amazingly attractive women, as is his Bill Tasker. Wallace Stroby's Harry Rane always manages to bed beautiful, sexy women.
But women authors can’t throw stones, either. Lori G. Armstrong’s Tony Martinez is the epitome of hot (and if you read SHALLOW GRAVE you may find yourself blushing). Alison Gaylin’s Krull may be strong and silent, but not when it counts. Michele’s Dan causes Melanie to throw caution to the wind, lock her office door and offer herself to him on the desk. In my books, Vinny DeLucia used to be a geek but now he makes Annie weak in the knees.
As a society, we are obsessed with good looking people, and it translates into gorgeous, sexy, well-dressed characters on TV and in books. I mean, those CSI shows can't be farther from the truth when you see an actual CSI. Can we justify feeding into that by writing these characters who take our books just a stone’s throw from the old-fashioned bodice rippers? Can we justify this by saying that’s what readers want? Can we justify it by saying that’s what we want?
Causes Karen Olson Supports
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation