Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Of POV and gender ...

Another little tidbit I picked up from the recent Mayhem in the Midlands conference involved writing characters not of one's own gender, again from the What Authors Get Wrong panel. One of the authors (male, I'm thinking, although I'm not going to throw out a name, because I'll probably mis-remember!) related a story about a woman in his critique group who wrote a scene with a "manly man." The rough, tough testosterone-driven protagonist enters a home to interview a suspect and notices ...
The lovely pattern in the drapes.

The critique group pointed out that a guy is not likely to notice (much less comment on) the print curtains.

Writing characters from a gender differing from your own is a topic of some discussion. Here's a sample of blog posts and discussions:
And now, here's something fun! Copy/paste a 500 word sample of your writing into The Gender Genie (on BookBlog) and it will analyze your work and "determine" whether you are male or female.

I slapped in the first 800 words for the as yet nascent 4th Silver Rush book ( first chapter drafted and I know where the second is heading). I checked the "fiction" button and punched "submit."

... Here's what popped up ...

Score: Female: 796 Male: 1046
Result: The Gender Genie thinks the author of this passage is: male!

I'm intrigued (but not male)!

The results list "feminine keywords" and "masculine keywords" and the occurrence of each in the writing sample. The words are apparently weighted according to an algorithm. What I take away from this is that I am comfortably balanced between the two worlds.

Try it and let me know what your results are....


KK Brees said...

This was fun. I entered part of a chapter into the gender genie and it declared I was male. Female- 506; Male - 796

Actually, I was intending the section to be more gender neutral. I think I'm working hard at developing a writing style that doesn't scream "WOMAN."

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'll have to try that as well. I've written from both POV (and definitely prefer male) and usually focus on feelings and reactions, which are very different between the sexes.

L. Diane Wolfe

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Fascinating! I tried it with my work in progress - female 828 and male 581 so it was right for me. I may try it again with an action scene and see if I get the same results. Now I plan to check out the other links you've mentioned.

Jane Kennedy Sutton

Bob Sanchez said...

What fun! I submitted a 1000-word passage of a scene I wrote from a woman's pov. The conclusion? The text was written by a woman! The score was 810 female and 598 male. I have no idea of the validity of the test, but hey, it tells me what I want to hear.

Bob Sanchez

Ann Parker said...

Isn't this little test cool? I'll have to submit "different scenes" and see if the score varies much.

There's actually a technical paper you can download on the site if you click the "an algorithm" link. (Yeah, I downloaded it and am reading it ... I'm that much of a nerdette! ;-) ) So you can read and decide for yourself.

N A Sharpe said...

What an interesting and fun post! I went to the Gender Genie too. I scored as a male also. To be precise, I scored female 844, male 1089. Interesting. The passage was being told from the male protagonist POV.

Nancy, from Just a Thought…

Anonymous said...

Developing personalities for those of the opposite sex can be difficult. That's why I have a female editor. She gives me a perspective I would fail to see on my own.

Also, my sister-in-law is the first to review my rough drafts, and she gives me awesome insight on female characters that I can go back and tweak the character.

LOL! Yeah, most guys probably wouldn't comment of curtains or drapes.

- Steve Tremp

Jane Finnis said...

This was fun, but weird. I pasted in 500 words of a short story I'd done from a male POV and it said I was female, but when I input the opening of my first full-length mystery, narrated by a woman, it said I was male! If I've understood the results right, they're using occurrences of very common words but not nouns, and I refuse to believe that sentence structure alone reveals gender. Well it clearly often doesn't, judging by people's experiences reported here!

Rod Duncan said...

It would be interesting to cut and paste a chunk of dialogue from male characters into the machine and see whether the result was different from a chunk of dialogue from female characters - whichever gender the author was.

Also, it would be interesting to know if a chunk of text from different novels by the same author came up with the same result. Each novel has its own voice.

Enid Wilson said...

Fun stuff, I'm a woman, spot on. Hehe, we are all suckers of games.

Bargain with the Devil

Ann Parker said...

Yep yep ... it's fun to play around with this little program. The background paper is also fascinating to read (if you like to know how they determined what words to pick and how they weigh them, etc. etc.).
Rod -- I thought yours was an interesting suggestion. I loaded up a short story I'd completed from (what I thought was) a male POV. It came up ... female!
Well, how about that. My female POV turns up male, and vice versa.
If nothing else, it provides some thoughts on what words to look for during editing...