Tuesday, October 09, 2007

POV, Gender, and Voice

I've seen a number of writing related blog posts and essays lately about 'voice' and how effective it is when a female author writes from a male POV and vice versa.

Today's post from "Writers Unboxed" linked me to 'The Gender Genie', an online algorithm that is based on research that predicts the gender of a writer from analysis of a section of text.

My current project, "Heal Thyself" is told through close 3rd person POVs which alternate between 2 characters: a man and a woman. Just for kicks, I pulled out 8 samples of scenes (all 750 words or greater), 4 from Lilliane's POV (female), 4 from Zev's POV (male) and ran them through the gender genie. Some scenes were heavier on action, some on description, some on dialogue. I made sure I took representative samples per character of each type, not just action scenes from the male POV and descriptive scenes from the female POV, for example. Most scenes mixed exposition, dialogue, and action.

The results:

The genie nailed it 8 for 8 times. All of my female POV chapters are "Female", all the male POV chapters "Male."

I found this an interesting experiment because I've tried all along to 'inhabit' each of my characters' world views and write their stories true to their perspectives. Since they come from radically different cultures, my goal was to be honest to each character's cultural beliefs. Perhaps I was also thinking of gender, but on a less conscious level. It does help that I live in close proximity with 3 possessors of that Y-chromosome.

How do you write from the perspective of the opposite gender? Do you have a sense of authenticity when you do?

Try out the gender genie and see what you think.

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