“What a wimp!”
This is handwritten in the margin of the first and only draft of my first novella. My friend Jeff wrote it next to Cate and Micah’s first kiss. You see, I am a woman, and I thought that Micah’s hesitance was sweet and sensitive. If I had planned on marketing primarily to women, the scene might have sufficed, but if my own sweet and sensitive guy friend Jeff wasn’t going for it, I was in trouble.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve read novels written by men and thought, “THAT scene was supposed to be sexy?” Women who are unsure of themselves at work completely changing their personality on a first date, brazenly baring their breasts; women who aren’t gymnasts performing miraculous stunts; overly specific descriptions of sex with no dialogue or mentions of, I don’t know, thoughts or feelings…
MEN! ALWAYS HAVE A WOMAN CRITIQUE YOUR BOOK BEFORE YOU PUBLISH IT! It goes beyond love scenes. An otherwise great book can be derailed by a bad love scene, or worse, a woman written badly the whole way through a book. Ask a woman friend, “Have you ever known a woman who thought this way? Have you ever known a woman who acted like this?” You risk at least half your potential market if you don’t get it right, not to mention that you want to get it right for the sake of writing life like it really is. Don’t you?
Poor, wimpy Micah is only a pile of papers in my closet now, but if I ever go back to that novel I’ll have to do something about him. It might only be an added sentence or it might be a story-wide overhaul, but Micah is not a wimp, and I won’t have men readers thinking of him as such. It doesn’t do him justice.
Men, how do you see your woman character? Make sure women see her the same.