Monday, November 8, 2010

Male vs. Female Fiction

Brandilyn Collins got off on the difference between male suspense and female suspense the other day. The difference that she pointed out is that in female suspense there is more angst and in male suspense there is more action. I’ve stated before that the difference between male fiction and female fiction is that in male fiction the protagonist takes action to save the girl, but in the female fiction the protagonist is looking for a knight in shining armor. I think we can meld my statement and Brandilyn’s statement to provide a better understanding of male fiction version female fiction.

Guys tend to be problem solvers. Present a guy with a problem and he’ll solve it. Women tend to talk about their problems. Present a woman with a problem and she’ll discuss it with her friends. It may not get solved, but she feels better about it. Guys don’t feel better about a problem until they’ve solve it. Women are content to let the guy solve the problem while they talk about it to their friends.

In terms of a story, a guy story takes a problem and the characters take action to solve the story. It is through these actions that the characters are revealed. Take Die Hard as an example. The story begins with a man and a woman having marital problems. He isn’t the type of guy who can sit down and talk about it, but because his wife is in danger, he is able to show through his actions how committed to his wife he really is. If this were woman fiction, we’d probably have a story in which they are trapped in the same room by the people taking over the building. Because of the situation, they’re able to talk through their differences and in the end the guy decides to save the day because he can’t stand the thought of losing the woman he now realizes he loves.

It’s worth noting these differences. I’ve read suspense in which the characters sat around talking about how scared they were. This is a classic example of telling rather than showing, but it seems that women are more interested in that sort of thing. As a guy, I found it rather boring. But we need to be aware of our audience. If we’re writing for women, more talk and less action may be the way to go. If we’re writing for men, we don’t need to spend so much time talking about what our next action should be. We just need to do it.