Are there male and female voices?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who reads a certain author, whose name he couldn’t remember or I’d tell you here. He says when the author writes from a male character’s point of view, the work is brilliant, but when he writes from a female character’s point of view, it is less so.

Now, until he tells me who this mystery author is, I can’t weigh in on whether the difference is in the reader or the author, but I do think it’s worthwhile to talk about what constitutes “masculine” and “feminine” writing styles and points of view, since–in the course of my memoir ghostwriting work– I utilize both.

In fact, making this switch from one book to another is one of the most fun parts of my job. But it’s important to differentiate between “style” and “point of view.” In this blog, I want to talk about style, and how it can seem masculine or feminine.

When I select a style for a memoir or novel, it depends, of course, on the style the client’s plot requires. For instance, a memoir that wants to read more like a detective novel will have a clipped, concise voice embellished primarily with terse metaphors, while another memoir, where the focus is on romance, will be filled with more lengthy descriptions, including inner states of being, and the humor will be centered more on in-jokes between the characters.

Some people call these two particular extremes of style “masculine” and “feminine,” and I don’t really disagree, even though, in my experience, it’s equally likely that a client of either gender will request either of these styles.

What I do to develop the style, quite frankly, is find another author who exemplifies that style and read him or her a lot, to the exclusion of everything else. I don’t watch TV, I don’t read anything else, for a couple of weeks or a month over the process of writing the book. This way, I basically brainwash myself into the style, meanwhile observing little things I would change–more humor or deeper character descriptions or less dialogue or whatever it may be.

Then, I just write. No one reader will ever really know who I brainwashed myself to write like, because my imitation isn’t that perfect. It’s a little bit of me, a little bit my client, and a little bit of the author I’m copying, and it comes out to something new.

That’s my recipe for avoiding male or female stereotypes. When I know these three things well–the client, one author to use as a model, and myself, the combination is set to create something that has the “masculine” or “feminine” quality the client and I are going for, yet also be completely unique.

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