Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Write What You Know...or not?

This is kind of a two-pronged blog, but both prongs are pointing in the same direction...

I’m a guy. Always have been. Have no intention of switching. So anything I say or do is filtered through the nipple-deep pool of testosterone in which I swim every day. This point may seem like a non-sequitur, but it becomes relevant later.

Now, the first prong of this blog involves a little activity that guys often do when they’re about, say, 15, and then stop doing once they begin having sex. That’s right...telling each other sex stories.

I remember on more than one occasion, sleeping over at a mate’s place, two of us, three, four...whatever. You hit the hay, but you’re not ready to sleep, because all that each of you can think about is that potent and unknowable deliciousness that is the female form. Alright, so it’s not unknowable, but at 15, for my friends and me, it felt that way. So we would lay in the dark and describe what it would be like to “do” our favourite girl from school.

Looking back, of course, it was ludicrous. The only parts I remember were along the lines of “...and as I stick it into her, I feel that thing...what’s it called? Oh, yeah, the...uh...hire man...I feel it break and she moans and begs me for more...” Basically, Penthouse Forum, as written by chimps.

Prong two involves a discussion I had on Saturday night at the Roller Derby. I was chatting with a fellow who has a low level education, but a high IQ. On top of that he’s vastly well-read and has opinions which I respect. He put forward a theory that, in general, women don’t write violence well.

I told him I’m not really in a position to agree or disagree. I read a lot of female authors, but not generally in a field which involves true violence (just the whips and chains, emotional torture kind). It was suggested that because physical action, explosive action (which can, obviously, include violence) is so hard-wired into the masculine sense of being, we understand its use far better than females. Further, it was suggested that, in the hands of women, violence becomes cartoonish. Grotesque. He listed a couple of female authors who he had stopped reading for this reason.

Which brings me to the stage where both prongs run parallel.

We were young man-children, and the pool of testosterone was way over our heads. We knew how the parts worked. At least, we knew how OUR parts worked...we’d been working them every chance we got for a year or more. We knew that Tab A went into Slot B (but precious little else). But we were talking utter crap. We had no idea what it was going to be like. We’d only ever read about it. If the other theory has any merit, then it would seem that both examples are cases of people, effectively, “writing what they don’t know”.

Again, I’m a guy (please see paragraph two above), and also I make no assertion that my friend’s theory is or is not correct. I put it forward here because I would love to get some feedback from women, and especially from women who write.

Do women write violence well? If not, what is it that women write better than men? Or is there just no real difference?


Willsin Rowe said...

As regards the title of this blog...

I'm in the middle of reading "The Tenderness of Wolves" by Stef Penney. It's a very descriptive piece, and I've just learned that she suffered from agoraphobia while she was writing it. All the wilderness stuff, all the time-specific stuff...all research!

Leilani @Leilani Loves Books said...

Good question.
I think women can write violence well if they really tried. Like men can write sex scenes if they were up to it.
No big difference. As long as the writer is up to it, I dont think it matters.

Rozlyn Sparks said...

I've always taken the quote "Write what you know," in a little different meaning. It's more "Relate what you know to what you write."

Most people writing violence, male or female aren't really ones who have experiences it. They aren't in fact always writing what they know of violence, they are assuming based on what they have seen through research or are relating some other terrible things to the violence they write.

This may make some writers better at violence and others not. It really doesn't matter if they are male or female. It's more to do with what they can relate to their writing.

Smut Girl said...

perhaps women write violence that is better perceived by other women? but i don't think so. just like i don't think women write sex better than men. i have read sex scenes written by men that have made me green with envy. not only on a writing level but on an emotional leve. description, timing, emotion, love, all of it. i've read some doozies.

I think a writer writes well what a writer writes well. Poppy Z. Brite wrote one of the most gruesome hard-for-me-to-finish books ever. She's a she. And let's look at James Patterson and his The Notebook etc. (I said let's look at it. I'd stick a fork in my own forehead before I'd actually read it, but that is a matter of taste). He's got quite the following for a men in a 'woman's genre'.

I think there are writers--male and female--who 'hit the spot' for me in each genre. one who does violence well might not do love they way I can associate with it. most likely if your friend is cutting off a whole gender because of a few books, he's the one losing out.

perhaps men can write violence on a more visceral level than women. but not always. hmm, i think like almost everything in life, it's a case by case basis. if you generalize you are basically shooting yourself in the foot.

did i make any sense at all? did i!? X-D

great blog.


Smut Girl said...

i meant man. he is a man. not a men. jesus.

Willsin Rowe said...

Thank you, Smut Girl! Always nice to hear from you. Thanks to you all for commenting.
As I said in the blog, I don't have enough data to form an honest opinion yet, but I'm leaning towards Rozlyn's "adapt what you know" and Smut Girl's "case-by-case" theories.

Smut Girl said...

Holy crap, batman! It took me oh....3 days to realize that I meant to say either James Patterson's women's murder club books or Nicholas Sparks The Notebook. Somehow in my specialness I morphed the two.

Apologies to Nicholas Patterson and James Sparks and Willsion Rowe (yes, I always type an 'o' in your name WHENEVER i type it. Don't know why!)


Willsin Rowe said...

Well, I think we ALL know about you and your Freudian ginertips, Sinner...