I’ve never really given much thought to how completely gender-specific dialogue can be. Usually I just read the speech and instinctively know that it doesn’t sound quite right. But after reading this article by Writer’s Digest I can see how the subtlest things can change dialogue dramatically.
Although every character and writing style is different, I think a lot of valid points are brought up. The article is aimed at romance writing but I definitely learned a few things that I can use in my own less-romantically inclined novel. I particularly like the idea that male characters may be less likely to ask for validation:
Men tend to be direct rather than ask for validation or approval. Can you make your hero’s comments less dependent on what the other person’s reaction may be?
Being a woman, getting into the head-space of a man and making it sound authentic can be tricky. I can imagine some of my male characters falling prey to the girly talk I find so normal. So this is something I’ll be keeping in the back of my mind as I write.
As for writing the dialogue of a female character, I’d like to think I’ve got that one a little more down pat. I do like the point that
Women tend to talk about their accomplishments and themselves in a self-deprecating fashion rather than a boastful one. Can you rephrase her comments in order to make her laugh at herself?
This is where I reiterate that all characters are, of course, very different. That’s what makes them interesting people rather than bland robotic gloop. Of course not all male characters are going to be ‘inattentive to details’ or more likely to ‘show anger than any other emotion’; and not all female characters are going to ‘bubble over with emotion’ and be ‘indirect and manipulative’. Stereotype, much?
At least now when I’m writing dialogue I’ll be mulling over the gender differences, and hopefully it doesn’t all come out as an awkward slur of ambiguity and gender confusion.