by Joyce Tremel
On Sarah Weinman’s blog yesterday, there was a link to an intriguing article on women crime writers. The author of the article, Julie Bindel, interviewed several female British novelists about writing crime novels and what makes their books different than those written by men. The authors all stated mostly the same thing: That women humanize the victims better than men. They write crime novels as a way of “understanding the danger that lurks around us.”
The more I think about it, the more I think this is true. While both men and women are equal in the ability to write crime novels, each have different ways of presenting the story. One way is not better than the other. Just different.
Men like to deal with facts. Many times (not always), men lay out the story, investigate the crime and catch the killer. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. There’s blood and guts and maybe a little bit of angst on the part of the protagonist—but not as much as a female writer would show.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to explore the reasons for the crime. They want to know why the murder occurred—not just how. Female characters often go through quite a bit of anxiety and anguish in their quest. They want not only to find the killer, but bring some justice to the victim.
From what I’ve seen, this is true in real police work, too. Female officers are more likely to empathize with the victim. Male officers just want to solve the crime. “Just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday used to say. That’s not to say they don’t feel sympathy for the victim—they do—but they don’t handle it the same way a female officer does.
Another thing I found interesting about Sarah’s post were the comments. There were several comments from men who, in my opinion, completely misunderstood what the article was about. For some reason, they seemed to take it more as personal criticism, than just a general study of how women and men can approach the same subject in different ways. They accused the interviewed authors of stereotyping. I didn’t see the article as stereotyping men at all. The women were giving their views on how women view violence and how they portray it in their own work. There was no male bashing of any kind. The differences between the male comments and female comments just proves the point that men and women are inherently different. We just don’t think the same. That should be a surprise to no one.
What do you think of the article? Do you agree that women and men write differently? When writing a character of the opposite sex, how do you approach these differences?