Friday, November 26, 2010

Sugar n Spice n Everything Nice?

There's a discussion going on in a writing group that I belong to that has me frustrated. I understand the point that's being made; I've even had some of the same fears (I posted just a few days ago about how I adopted a pen name, just in case). But I just hate how the feelings are delivered with finality (as in, "this is just how it is").

It all started with a woman who posted that she was writing horror piece and that she thought she'd have to self-publish it. The three "facts" that came out in the discussion were:

1) it is unacceptable in society for women to write horror because they aren't supposed to write violence and gore;
2) there is no market for a woman horror writer;
3) most women write with a feminine style, while men write with a male style.

The worst part of all is that the writer has accepted these "facts" as immutable, despite other posters pointing out the contrary (except for #3--I know a lot of writers accept that as fact).

To "fact" #1, I say, "who cares!" So what if society is going to think you're a little off? What's the worst that's going to happen? Your neighbors cross to the other side of the street when they see you coming? Sounds like a bonus to me! Seriously, though, there will be people who have a problem with what you write no matter what you write. Just try writing a piece of literary fiction and watch how many of your friends and neighbors shun you because they're sure that raging jerk that's battling your protagonist is really based on them. That's just what happens when you're a writer. Horror or otherwise. Yes, with horror, there will be people that read your gory scene and think you are a sick, twisted bleep! I thought that about Stephen King for years. But I always said it with great affection.

"Fact" #2: Maybe, maybe not. I had this same worry when I started writing, because I had heard that there might be a gender bias. So I started out with a male pen name, transitioned to my initials, and now write under my real name. Is there a gender bias? I don't think so. I sure haven't seen any bias yet. But if there is, a pen name will solve the problem. So again, "who cares!"

"Fact" #3: Agree with it or not, this issue is generally accepted as true. There are even classes on this: how to write like the other gender. I've always been stunned by the very thought, because I don't think I write like a girl. When I come up with a story, the protagonist is rarely female--it's just not my first thought! The settings that pop up in my stories are never malls; it's usually bars, strip clubs, and the great outdoors. My characters never shop; instead, they hunt, fish, get into bar fights, and chase skirts. I really, REALLY don't think I have a feminine writing style.

That might just be me. I sometimes forget I'm a girl (much to the chagrin of my husband). When particularly angry, I've been know to yell, "Suck my XXXX," forgetting that I don't have a XXXX. My favorite t-shirt says, "I don't need sex. My government XXXXs me every day" (I could go on, but I'm getting tired of typing X's). Definitely not feminine behavior, so how could I write like a girl. And I'm sure that there are plenty of other women out there like me. So this one I'll give a Mythbusters style "Plausible" to; there are probably a lot of women who do write with a feminine style. But I'm sure there are a lot who don't.

The whole thing just gets me more motivated. Now I've got to get this latest horror novel written, edited, and published--under my real name (my prior pubs are under the pen name or my initials; but the editors obviously knew I was female when they made the checks out). Then, when someone says, "There's no market for horror fiction written by women," I can say, "I did it. You should to!"

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