So I submitted the first chapter of my WIP to Gender Genie, a program that uses an algorithm to predict the gender of an author, and this was the result.
It’s one thing for a guy to be accused of “hitting like a girl” or “throwing like a girl.” But “writing like a girl?” I’m not sure that’s so bad of a thing. Either way, I’m secure enough in my manhood to disregard the slight. However, it is peculiar how often the Genie thinks I’m female.
This is especially peculiar since my writing group consists of three women (three peculiar women, at that). What I’ve progressively noticed is a marked difference in how we critique each others work, what we repeatedly look for or identify. The girls almost always key on a character’s motivation and reaction. I almost always key on the visceral and atmospheric elements.
Perhaps this says more about us as individual writers than it does a tendency of genders. Nevertheless, it’s forced me to reflect on the ever-sensitive subject of differences between male and female writers. Do intrinsic differences really exist and how do they translate into our writing? And is it appropriate to expect someone of the opposite gender to write more like their genetic counterpart?
When I’m reading, my radar seems to first track on atmosphere and action. I’m asking questions about the story environment, the lay of the land. I’m wanting to feel wind in my face, smell the gunpowder, and hear the plop and splatter of the… watermelon.
Is this peculiar to male writers? Are men more genetically inclined toward the visceral, more fast-paced, less interior types of tales?
Whatever the answer, I’m finding my critiques often center around these visceral elements of the story. The girls — not so much. What often marvels me is how often, when the women critique a work, they ask questions like, “Would he do this? Would he worry about this? Why would he worry about this?” I mean, they really seem to dig into the character’s psyche! So while I’m worrying over the feel, mood, and pacing of the story (exterior elements), they’re concerned about whether the protag would really suffer such emotions or speak that way in the face of such loss (interior elements).
It often leaves me feeling like a dunce.
So should I just chalk it up to gender differences, to wiring? If you ask the Genie, I’ve cultivated my feminine writing side enough. I need less emotive dialogue and more blood and guts. I need to worry less about a character’s motivations and worry more about crisp pacing and descriptions.
In other words, I need to write more like a man!
It’s made me wonder if the differences between men and women writers aren’t very, very real. In fact, learning to write like the opposite gender may be less about developing technique than wrestling against biology. And the more we make it an issue of technique, the more we go against the grain of who we intrinsically are.
Oh, I dunno. Maybe we should just ask the Genie…