Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday Writers Tips: Men and Women speak a different language

Do you want to write stronger heroes? More dynamic dialogue? 

Disclaimer: Of course, not all men and not all women fit into one slot. There is overlap on both sides. 

Today, instead of pulling a writing how-to book off my shelf, I pulled off a psychology/self-help book. Exploring human nature is part of writing about human relationships. You Just Don't Understand - Women and Men in Conversation by Deborah Tannen brings light to why men and women often misunderstand each other. Starting with observing how children interact, Tannen demonstrates that the sexes come from two different worlds with two different objectives. Women are looking for connection, men are looking for independence. Women want support, men want to be the top dog.

From Chapter One - Different Words, Different Worlds:
In discussing her novel The Temple of My Familiar, Alice Walker explained that a woman in the novel falls in love with a man because she sees in him "a giant ear." Walker went on to remark that although people may think they are falling in love because of sexual attraction or some other force, "really what we're looking for is someone to be able to hear us."
When we talk to someone of the opposite gender, they "hear" something completely different than what we mean. A woman complaining about something is looking for support and sympathy. A man hears that complaint as something that needs fixing and his solution is "heard" as not caring.
This explains why men are frustrated when their sincere attempts to help a woman solve her problems are met not with gratitude but with disapproval. ~Chapter Two - Asymmetries: Women and Men Talking at Cross-pirposes.
The men's approach seeks to assuage feelings indirectly by attacking their cause. Since women expect to have their feeling supported, the men's approach makes them feel that they themselves are being attacked ~ Ditto.
I haven't read the entire book, by far (it's 300 pages), but I see it's potential in helping writers understand the dynamics of dialog between the genders and the possibilities for misunderstanding.

This book comes in several
editions and covers.
I came away from from Chapter Two with the idea that men are more likely to make statements than to ask questions. Asking questions is admitting being inferior and men are about status and hierarchy. I went back to my WIP and changed some of my hero's questions to statements. It definitely made him seem stronger and more self assured. All just by swapping a ? with a little dot.

There're are a lot of books out there besides writing how-to book that can help us make our characters stronger. And maybe they can help us in our own lives, too.

Have you found some insight you used in your writing from a source not intended to help you learn the craft of writing?

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