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A Selection from

Writing Between The Sexes:

Why Can't A Woman Be More Like A Man?

Why Can=t a Woman be More Like A Man?, Professor Henry Higgins asked plaintively in My Fair Lady. He was dealing with a much different time period and social system, but the question is still being asked, along with its counterpart  Why can=t a man be more like a woman?

The question itself is enlightening. Henry Higgins= basic premise was correct; there are differences between men and women. But the professor fell into the same trap most humans do -- we want members of the opposite sex to react in the same way we would. Our way feels like the natural way -- the right way. In fact, most of the time we don=t even realize that there=s another way to react, a way which is totally different but equally valid.

And that=s why writers sometimes get into trouble when we create characters of the opposite sex -- because we show them talking, thinking and behaving not as their gender suggests they would, but in the way we would react if facing the same situation.

If a female writer=s male characters think, act, and talk in a feminine way, her audience will be turned off -- even if they don=t understand why they=re dissatisfied. The same is true if a male writer=s female characters don=t think or act or talk like real women. Female readers are more likely to notice fictional women who don=t ring true, and male readers are more likely to toss aside a book where the men don=t sound masculine, so this is a particularly important issue if you=re trying to appeal to an audience of the opposite sex.

Of course, gender-different behaviors are tendencies rather than firm laws. Most people don=t behave strictly as gender dictates. Furthermore, each individual=s actions are influenced by upbringing, profession, life experience, and interests -- creating a behavior pattern unique to each person.

But there are certain traits which most men and most women show. If we can identify and understand the main characteristics which lead us to subconsciously tag someone as masculine or feminine, then we can create characters who are both realistic and unique -- not stereotypical...

Writing Between the Sexes: Why Can't A Woman Be More Like a Man?

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Leigh also offers Writing Between the Sexes

as a program for writers' groups.

for more information, contact her at leigh@leighmichaels.com

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