Tuesday 12 February 2013

OMG You Write Like a Girl - Take 2

Take 1.

I wrote this a few months ago and posted it. Five minutes after hitting the publish button, I took it down. I'm not sure why, must have been feeling exceptionally insecure that day. Anyway, I thought I'd give this another shot . . . 


Take 2.

In the 1920s, Virginia Woolf contemplated and addressed many questions that revolved around sex/gender and its influences on writers, especially women. Do women write differently than men, and can androgyny be achieved in literature? 

This got me wondering about my own writing style. Do I write like a girl?  Is there really such a thing as writing like a girl, or writing like a guy for that matter? And if I do write like a girl (because I am a girl), then how do I feel about that? 

Honestly . . .

Well, when I hear the phrase "you write like a girl," I can't help but feel a twinge of indignation because in the back of my mind I'm also hearing "you hit like a girl," which I think we can all agree is never intended as a compliment, even if there are many women that can knock the bloody lights out of a average man. 

Overall, I think gender probably does have an effect on writing style but I'm curious to what extent and if the average reader can pick up on the subtleties. Do you think you could read a passage from a book without prior knowledge of who penned it, and determine whether the author was man or woman? How about we have a little fun with this. Below are 7 short excerpts from well known published authors. Let me know in the comment box which excerpt you think has 'man wrote this' vibe and which has 'woman wrote this' vibe. (:  This is intended to be a fun exercise and I understand the answers won't really prove anything seeing how this "experiment" has zero scientific merit, the sample size is small, and the excerpts are short. But, I'm still curious to see what you guys come up with and think we can have some fun with this.  

I'll reveal the names of the authors and books where the excerpts were taken from in Friday's post.  (=  Oh, and one more thing. If by chance you recognize the excerpt and already know who wrote it, don't be an tool and give the answer(s) away, please. (;

Okay, what do you think . . . 

1)  There's something else in their eyes, too, something that will haunt them, all unacknowledged, until the day they die, and cast its shadow over even their happiest days. The fear of what they did. What they did in the unremembered part of their shared dream.
     That's what keeps him where he is and makes him take the telephone even though he is sweltering, roasting, fucking melting

2) Like and equal are two entirely different things.
      For the moment she had escaped from the power of IT.
     But how?
     She knew that her own puny little brain was no match for this great, bodiless, pulsing, writhing mass on the round dais. She shuddered as she looked at IT. 

3)  Silence.
     You'll find your way. Trust me.
     Tentative, she inched forward blindly. Leap of faith? Katherine could not even see her hand directly in front of her face. She kept moving forward, but within a matter of seconds, she was entirely lost. Where am I going?
     That was three years ago.

4) It turned its back on me and began to walk back the way I had come, toward the village, back to the empty house I had left that morning; and it whistled as it walked.
     I've been here ever since. Hiding. Waiting. Part of the bridge.

5)  The horizon merged with the dunes into a single mass of dusty beige. Out here even the sky is sucked dry of all color. It is a smudge of pale taupe, paler topaz; a trace of blued-steel, met by the blade of the horizon. To the south, east and west there was nothing, miles and miles of nothing.

6) At last, after some days, the sun again appeared and shone brightly over the white ground, but he went to bed again behind the mountains at a very early hour, as if he did not find such pleasure in looking down on the earth as when everything was green and flowery. But then the moon came out clear and large and lit up the great white snowfield all through the night, and the next morning the while mountain glistened and sparkled like a huge crystal. 

7) "Ohhhhh . . ."
It was the long cry of a man gone over a cliff into Eternity.
It seemed we sat waiting to hear him hit bottom.
Far off in the hills in the upper part of the house, his door banged shut.
My soul turned over and died.

So what do you think? Was it hard or easy to decide? Do you think you write like a guy or a girl or neither? 


  1. 1, 4, and 5 - men
    The rest, women.
    And I'm probably way off!

  2. Hmm, I'm not entirely certain of any of them. In general, I think one of our greatest challenges as writers is to be able to tell the story as the character would tell it--be it male or female. Men need to be able to write convincing female characters, and the opposite is true as well.

    Not a fan of drawing gender lines in real life, so I probably wouldn't try/want to do it in writing either. (Not that that is what I think you're doing here in the slightest, by the way. I think I get where you're coming from--sociologically speaking--and it is interesting to think about for sure.)

  3. My guesses - #4 and #6 by a man; the rest by women (1,2,3,5,7).

    Both my protags are men, but it's the story that should enthrall, and anyone who says someone 'writes like a girl' is showing their own 'uneducated' assessment of the writing.

    Go with your gut, not the negative crit.

    1. I agree, the story should enthrall and the characters should be believable. Maybe part of the problem is the negative connotation that gets tagged at the end of writing 'like a girl.' That should be a good thing if that's what the story/character needs.
      Thanks playing along, you got a couple of them right. :)

  4. I'm guessing on these
    1 guy
    2 girl
    3 girl
    4 girl
    5 girl
    6 guy
    7 guy.

    Honestly, there are some female authors that always sound like girls, even when they write boys. There are some that write great male voices. It's the same with male authors. I think it's a skill, like grammar, pov, tenses, etc. Some have it, some struggle, some learn it, some never quite master it.

  5. Because I like to write females characters, if I was told I wrote like a girl, I'd take that as a compliment. :)

  6. Of course I have no idea, but I'll guess:

    1 - man
    2 - man
    3 - woman
    4 - woman
    5 - man
    6 - man
    7 - woman

    It's a fun exercise, but anyone who tells you they can always tell is full of crap.

  7. Not even going to guess, but I don't think I've ever read a book where I was wrong about the gender of the author after reading it. (This is terrible, but I rarely pay attention to author's names. <--You didn't hear that from me.) This is part of the reason I grab my hubby for a character edits and beg him to put some authenticity on my male characters--even having grown up with 5 brothers and mostly guy friends.

    1. LOL, don't worry I didn't 'hear' anything, my lips are sealed. (; I'd say it shouldn't be a bad thing to write like a girl or write like a guy, as long as it's a good story and is well written. And it's great you have hubby to beta read for you, that will certainly help make your characters more believable.

  8. #2 is from one of my favorite authors :)
    beyond that, here are my guesses for the rest:
    1. man
    2. not saying ;)
    3. woman
    4. man
    5. man
    6. woman
    7. I honestly have no idea but it strikes me as a woman

    1. Ah Ha! I had a feeling I'd get someone who would recognize some of these excerpts. (: I like this author too. In fact, I like them all. (;
      And you got a few others correct too.

  9. It seems that only no's 1&4 could be male.
    To be quite honest, I have no idea... and my brain is ready to go to bed...

  10. 1 = honestly this sounds like King because King is overblown in all of his descriptions to the point where I want to say "the worst travesty in fiction is when Stephen King became too powerful that he could no longer get an editor." So MAN

    2 = woman. Sounds like young adult writer. Men don't use the word "puny."

    3 = man. The inner monologue doesn't sound feminine at all. Like something a man would write pretending to be a woman, but doesn't men are the ones that react to conditions, women question the purpose behind a reaction. So a woman would be asking things like "Am I blind? Am I deaf?" but that narrator questions nothing so we know it's a man.

    4 = Completely androgynous. I have no idea. When you sample only descriptions, I think that it is pretty androgynous.

    5 = Again androgynous because it is description.

    6-7 no idea.

  11. Replies
    1. m; f; m; m; f; f; f...

      usually, the female writer includes detailed info of a scene, like the number of buttons on a sleeve, something a male, usually, won't mention

      these are tough to get a good fix on... just going by gut feeling

  12. I think 1, 4, 5 and 6 were written by men.

  13. This was hard. I reread the passages several times and still am not certain of the answers.
    Men - #1,#4,#7
    Women - #2,#3,#4,#6

    1. Thanks for playing along, you got a few right!

  14. Wow, I'm scratching my head. 1,4,5,6,and,7, are all guys, I think. The rest girls. I think men are less flowery with their words, but I can't be sure. Now, I'll have to read some man books. :P

    1. Not bad Celeste! Have fun with your "man" books. Wow, that sounded really bad, didn't it! :D

  15. I remember some jackass male writer catching some flack a few years ago for making a crack about this kinda "sex difference" in writing being easily discernible, and with a negative connotation about women writers. Tsk. I don't sweat that jazz. I either dig the writing or I don't, and I'm pretty sure male and female writers (or anythings) have an equal opportunity to either suck or rock. :-D
    Some Dark Romantic

  16. I'm going to guess that they're all by women. I'll either big big time wrong, or just a little bit wrong... :)

    An interesting topic, no doubt.

  17. I'm pretty sure I'd guess wrong...but I'd be curious to know who wrote what when you reveal the authors' identities later on.

    Sometimes I hear about women writers using initials for their first name instead of sharing their whole name, and it might have to do with their fear of being accused of writing "like a girl." Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with writing with a feminine voice. While a feminine voice can be sweet and gentle, it can also be loud and bold. There is a lot of diversity in "girls' voices" and we should acknowledge and embrace that.

    1. I agree with you 100%. Some women also use their initials for fear of losing a part of their male audience who would shy away from books written by a woman. I think this was the case with JK Rowling.

  18. This was really hard! Most of the time you know the gender of an author before you start reading, but as Cynthia said some use initials, and I bet there's loads of cases where you could read a whole book and still not be sure at the end.

    Having said that:

    1 - man
    2 - woman
    3 - woman
    4 - man
    5 - man
    6 - woman
    7 - woman

    Probably way off! In regards to writing from male or female POV, I'm the only guy in my circle of CPs and often get called on to help out with a male POV. But I'm not a typical guy and don't know how one thinks! I don't even think there is such a thing as a typical guy, or girl. The answer - go with your instinct on what seems to work for that story.

  19. I had to write a lot of chapters from a female's POV in my books. She's the antagonist's girlfriend and a killer who is very active. It was challenging and I had to do some research. But overall I think with the help of my editor I did a pretty good job.

  20. My guess: 1, 2, 4 & 5 - men.

    I've been told my writing reminds people of Koontz and other male authors, but I've also had people call me on things like my hero describing a colleague as 'He was an attractive man...', saying one man wouldn't use the word 'attractive' to describe another man - even if born in the late 1800's. *shrugs*

  21. Okay, here goes:

    1. M
    2. F
    3. F
    4. M?
    5. M
    6. M
    7. F

  22. i feel i write like both, i'm an assertive girl so writing for a guy is a little easier, but i have to watch for girliness...

    i write like me, dont like the stereotypes!

  23. I've never heard that term before. I never considered that you can tell whether a woman or a man has written a book, except if it's romance, usually women write those. If it's generally what you'd call chick books, similar to chick flicks, you can pretty much bet it was a woman who wrote it, but not always. When you write, you're writing the character, whether or not they're a man or woman, so I don't really get that.

  24. Very cool idea! I actually recognized the first two entries--oddly enough, I just got done reading the book the first entry is based on.

    So I'm gonna start my guessing at number three.

    Three, Four, Six: Man
    Five seven: Woman

    I'm probably dead wrong on everything. haha. It's pretty hard to tell!

  25. Man, I have no idea which quotes are male/female. I know I hit like a girl and I'm pretty sure I write like a girl. I've had to hone in my male characters so that they act like males. haha I'm glad you posted this, even if it was a Take 2. :D

  26. I suck when it comes to tell writing gender but I found a page that could tell you that after you cut and paste a fragment. I really thought five was a woman.

  27. Oh, that's tough. I write from a male and female pov, but I'm guessing it wouldn't take too much to figure out a female wrote both, even though I do write different for a guy pov.

  28. I'm a girl who likes to write from the male POV. I hope it doesn't show that I'm a girl. But, I couldn't tell by these.


  29. I write from both POVs, and I can't tell which of your samples is authored by males or by females. Guess I never thought it was important, but now you've made me curious--it's the linguist in me. I know there are studies about the difference between male conversations and female ones, so maybe there's some data on how the sexes differ in their writing.

    If I find something, I'll let you know. :-)


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