Can a Man Write from a Woman's Point of View? by Ruby Barnes

Write what you know is the maxim often bandied about at workshops for wannabe best-selling authors. Read in the genre that you want to write. Write in the genre that you read. Base your fiction upon your knowledge and experience.

If - IF - we accept that premise then can a man write successfully from a female point of view, and vice versa? The answer, of course, is yes. But only if that author can immerse himself in the character and speak convincingly on their behalf.

Shameless plug time:

 It's easy to be shameless when what you're plugging is actually someone else's work. The Demented Lady Detectives' Club by Jim Williams is a cozy mystery written from a female point of view. To pull off something like this needs a lifetime's experience of the fairer sex and Jim, in all fairness, is as old as Methuselah so if anyone can do it he's the man.

I have nothing else to add except the description of the book.

In the pretty Devonshire town of Dartcross an elderly lady diarist struggles with her memory to write a history of her colourful past, her hateful cat and her murderous husband. At the same time, Janet Bretherton and her friend Belle try to discover a purpose to their retirement. Is it enough to discuss the latest novels in their readers’ group, go to the theatre or attend a séance? Perhaps, instead, they should try to solve the mystery of the dead Polish man whose body is found by the river?  

The Demented Lady Detectives’ Club is both a whodunit and a funny yet poignant account of a group of women growing old and seeking love and meaning in both the past and the present. The unnamed lady diarist finally faces up to the horror she has buried in her memory and the love she has lost. And Janet has to deal with the tender feelings she is still capable of evoking in a man who is twenty years her junior.

The Demented Lady Detectives' Club is now available in paperback and e-book on Amazon. If you are a book reviewer and would like to read it then contact Marble City Publishing for a review copy.


Susan Price said…
A good question, Ruby.

Of course, there's no doubt that men CAN write well from women's point of view (and vice-versa)but they both have to be willing to make the effort, and go beyond cliches about gender.

Terry Pratchett, for example, wrote wonderful, fully realised women characters, of all ages. Some are of high social rank, some poor, some brave or selfish, intelligent or silly. Some are werewolves. All female life is there, and you never feel that Pratchett thought they were 'other' or puzzling.

I don't think it's a matter of 'a lifetime's experience of the fairer sex' either. It's a simple matter of recognising that men and women are members of the same species and their aims, hopes and fears are the same, altered only slightly by biology and society. If you know that, you can create a character of the opposite sex just as you would any other character.

There are some writers - some quite famous writers - who could never get hold of that simple fact.
Lydia Bennet said…
Very true, Susan. It's perhaps harder to write about people of a very different age, at least for younger writers or even middle aged, to create old characters who are not ageist stereotypes of one kind or another. The idea of 'demented' detectives could be a disaster in the wrong hands... it'll be interesting to see if your mate Jim has managed the balancing act required! I see he's written some Russian tec thrillers too.
Wendy H. Jones said…
This sounds just my cup of tea. It all sounds like the author has managed to pull it off. All kudos to him, and to you for rating the question and answering it so well.
@Ruby_Barnes said…
Thanks Susan, Lydia and Wendy.
Yep, I think Jim has handled it well. He's a very versatile writer, having also written those Russian tech spy thrillers, not to mention the faux-antique Scherzo.
Dennis Hamley said…
This sounds a 'must read'Ruby. Yes,I have, in a few books, tried to write from awoman's point of view, and in Ellen's People did a full first- person narrative ovver 300 pages. Nobody has ever said Isucceeded, but nobody has said I didn't either.
This sounds like a really interesting novel! I've just finished a crime fiction novel where not only could the writer not write credible female characters, but seemed to see them all from a point of view of his own sexuality - i.e they were all described in terms of how attractive or unattractive they were to the writer, but we never really got inside the head of any of them. Not a book written by anyone I know, thank goodness - but a trad published award winning book to boot. Poorly written, poorly edited. Meh. I'll admit I skipped turgid paragraphs at a time just to see if I'd guessed whodunnit and why - which I did, about a third of the way in. But I agree with the comments here. I think you CAN write about the opposite sex if you're willing to genuinely set yourself aside and climb inside the heads of your characters but there are some quite famous writers who can't do it and don't even seem to try. I'm unsure about older characters though. I do find myself wondering if you can really do it when you're very young. I know I wouldn't have been able to write 'as William' in The Physic Garden when I was a young woman. I was reading a piece recently about the bigger trad publishers now being top heavy with very young urban types who simply assume that everyone wants to read what they want to read. A huge generalisation, I know - but I think there's some truth in it.

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