Sunday, August 25, 2013

Girl Books vs. Guy Books

Everyone knows that there are certain genres geared more toward one sex than the other. Fluffy Harlequin romances are clearly geared toward women, for instance. But I've noticed that there are distinctions within the co-ed genres as well. Not in terms of plot or the gender of the protagonist, but in how the book is written.

Men and women write differently. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but generally, I've noticed that men writers tend to up the physical stakes more and focus on the external. Action scenes. Political maneuvering. Plottiness in general. Women writers are just as plotty, but, more often than their male counterparts, they up the emotional stakes as well, taking more time to focus on the internal.

For instance, in the world of children's books, take Alex Rider and Harry Potter. Both are plot-driven adventures starring schoolboys thrown into dangerous scenarios they're unprepared for. Both have suffered familial tragedies. But whereas J.K. Rowling uses scenes like Harry's discovery of the Mirror of Erised to show the reader how heavily his parents' deaths still weigh on him, Alex barely seems to care that his uncle, the only parental figure he's ever known, was murdered. There are a handful of mentions of the uncle throughout Alex's James Bond-like spy adventure, but only in that they're important to the plot.

Of course, I'm speaking very broadly here, and only with regard to contemporary commercial fiction. Maybe things are different for lit fic. I just find it interesting that there is that distinction - guy writers focusing on increasing dangers and gal writers wanting the reader to truly care about their characters.

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