Friday, August 21, 2015

Do Certain Writing Genres Stereotype Men and Women? By Connie Vines

Round Robin Blog Hop.  August 22, 2015

Today Topic:  Do you feel certain genres stereotype men and women?  Why do you think that happens? How do you prevent it in your writing?

Fact: Certain genres are looked down upon.  Comics, mysteries, and speculative fiction are all derided as formulaic, escapist, and without literary worth. However, based on my affiliation with RWA for over two decades, I think, romance suffers the worst of this stigma.  People who read romance aren't just reading worthless escapist fantasies, they are doing it because they are women who couldn't get a man -- cat ladies who would rather live in books than in the real world, and who possibly can't tell fact from fiction. I’ve heard it all.  (It makes no difference that I’ve garnered numerous literary awards, was nominated for the National Book Award and Frankfurt eBook award).  I hear the same disparaging remarks.  With this genre, I often meet people who don't just judge the books -- they judge the reader, and the author too.

It is often argued, “Romance novels are feminist documents. They're written almost exclusively by women, for women, and are concerned with women: their relations in family, love and marriage, their place in society and the world, and their dreams for the future."  Are these topics not relevant to society as a whole?  Is the continuation of the family unit (past and present interpretation) not beneficial to men and children alike? Or, is the real reason for the stigma NOT because of the genre itself--but because the this very successful genre is dominated by women?

Do I feel certain genres stereotype mem and woman?  Is it stereotyping, or simply writing to the needs of the reader?  If a reader picked up an Inspirational Romance/Suspense, etc.  The reader is looking for a different experience (at that particular moment) than someone who is shopping for story set in heat of “Desert Storm”.

Why do I think stereotyping happens?  Not digging deep enough when ‘casting characters’ or developing a scene is often the reason.  However, the writer may have developed a particular style, and therefore, a reader base who demand this ‘experience’ (author’s voice).  This is why I, as well as other authors, will chose a pseudonym.  Why? Because if one reader base with a preference for ‘action and witty banter’ does not say, “What the heck?” when she thumbs though one of my ‘I’ books (first person, told from the hero/heroine’s point of view) which tend to be more introspective.   
How do I prevent stereotyping in my writing?

When you are doing your “casting call” for secondary characters, or create a situation, don’t be lazy.  What will your character look like?  Why not have a serial killer go out in the morning, instead in of the during the night?  Who said a serial killer must be male?  Or a bodyguard tall and muscular?

Try using different adjectives instead of the first ones that pop into your head. By juxtaposing new combinations, you can create a unique voice. A person who grew up in the suburbs of Southern California of the 1980s will have a completely different speech pattern, list of buzzwords, and manner of dress than an individual who was raised by an Aunt in a blended family in a gritty northeastern city.

The femme fatale is a standard character in crime and noir fiction, but put a twist on it. Strong women need strong men.  Strong men need strong women.  Make your characters evenly matched. 

Remember, it is your story, your voice.  Your story whatever you want it to be.  Look at the genres you write or plan to write.  Then find a way to twist, update, or mix-up that genre to make it your own.  Build on the mythology, fairy tales and fables you know, and make them contemporary and new.

Clichés and stereotypes happen when an author is being unrealistic about character portrayal. Emotions, situations, goals must be gained by observing life in the real world.  Life is not reality T.V. or a soap opera.  Life can be boring—but show some day-to-day action anyway.  People have families, meals to cook, a job to pay the bills. Reveal bits of character build emotion and tension pull your readers into your story. 

Sprinkle in what you know in your story.  Your heroine can share your hobby-- be it your love of fly-fishing; or your lack of skill in walking a straight line while wear kitten heels. Look at the world and use it to enhance your story.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s topic.

Stop by the other members of this month’s Round Robin Blog Hop to see what they’d written.

Happy Reading,



Rhobin said...

Enjoyed your analysis and advice, although I found myself smack in the cat lady comment (but I am so much more!) LOL.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your post, Connie. I so agree with you about the romance genre being looked down on. These are books written mainly by women, for women, and I'm sure that's a lot of the reason why people don't take them seriously.
I especially liked your advice to "do the opposite" of what the reader expects. I'll think hard about that one for my next novel. Thanks for your great post!

Skyewriter said...

Insightful comments, about genre and stigma etc. But as far as I'm concerned, they can look down on romance all they want, it still dominates the market.

darkwriter said...

I loved your different approach to this topic. It's a great post and thought provoking. I'm going to be considering many of your points when I look at my writing. thanks Connie.

Fiona McGier said...

Stereotypes make it easy to grab a ready-made audience. Creating new, unique relationships can go unnoticed by readers, even if they would enjoy it. Sigh.

Great discussion on this interesting topic.