Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Men's thoughts about women's fiction

Sugar Diet Update: Going very well, except I did have a Starburst today and it nearly put me in apoplectic shock from the sweetness. Since when did Starburst get so sugary-sweet? I know it's not because I've been conscious about reducing my sugar intake lately. It actually made me ill.

I was thinking a little about the difference between what males and females like in their stories. This came after a male acquaintance read the first chapter of my novel. His reaction, much like my husband’s, was to empathize with the male in the story. He also, as my husband did, saw right through the personality defects of my female protagonist. I wondered if that’s because boys have a very non-emotional way of looking at things, generally. My friend’s assessment was: “She [the protagonist] needs to grow up.” She does, no question, and her actions in the opening chapter prove that. My female readers, myself included, tend to sympathize much more with her, and hope for her sake she gets past her troubles. Maybe this is why in women’s fiction, which is generally emotion-driven, appeals to women, and less to men. It’s why the formula often incorporates a growth of character for the woman in the story. It’s why we like strong female protagonists.

That’s fine; obviously men and women can have different tastes. (And let me just say right here that I am sure there’s been a ton written on the differences, and careful looks taken at “lad lit” writers like Nick Hornby, et al, but I have unapologetically not done that research.) My problem is that women’s fiction tends to be seen by men, in my opinion, as lesser because it’s emotionally dramatic. I wonder, do men see women’s fiction as the print equivalent of the wild emotional ranges we have?

My intent here is not to bash men, or to be too general, although I’m afraid I have. My husband is always quick to point out that women are just as much at fault for bad things as men. This statement usually comes after I made some broad comment on how many more men cheat on their partners than women. I still vehemently disagree with the perception that women’s fiction, chick-lit, whatever, is frothy and sugar-puff piffle and far removed from serious literature, especially if it has a pink cover. What man likes to read that stuff? I don’t know. Anyone have any ideas about that?


coffeelvnmom said...

My husband felt for my protagonist's husband as well. He didn't like Hallie's choices, I don't think.

Nice to know he wasn't the only one who sides with the man in the story. And though I had more to say and I can't remember what it was, I do remember this - we're writing "Women's Fiction". Therefore, I am aiming my novel at women. Let the boys stick up their noses or shoot down our characters (and I don't mean in a bad, mean way, because they don't do it like that) because I'm not writing it for them, I'm writing it for the ladies;)

CKHB said...

This is why my husband refuses to read my book -- for fear he won't like it because my kind of book isn't his kind of thing. He watched numerous episodes of Sex & the City with me over the years, and sometimes he "got" it, and sometimes he wanted to know why the characters didn't just grow up and quit whining... I guess it depends on the story and the characters, in the end. I know several chick-lit-hating guys who LOVED The Nanny Diaries. And I personally hated Ally McBeal because I thought she needed to shut up, grow up, and quit being such a whiny and self-centered [insert expletive here]. So, somewhere out there are "women's lit" books that speak to a wider audience, for sure.

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