Something interesting happened to me once.
I was reading a book by Nick Hornby and I set it down and thought, “Man, I wish that I could write like that.”
I couldn’t help but ask myself: Write like what?
I thought about the authors that usually make me feel this way and the books that make me feel this way and I came up with this, bare with me, messy list: Nick Hornby, Stephen King, Joe Meno, Hemingway, King Dork by Frank Portman.
Huh. Those are all dudes.
It’s not that I don’t like what women write. I love it. Give me Wharton, Plath, Woolf, Cather, Hurston, Morrison, Munro!
So, then, what is it about those men that made me specifically want to write like them? I tried to break it down and I came up with: They write like men. Oh, hear me out. Their characters are deathly flawed, hardly ever described as far as looks go, mostly shitty kinds of people, adolescent-like (or adolescents, nod to Portman and Meno). Their writing says crass things about all kinds of things and people swear and they drink and they make stupid, stupid decisions and get up in shitty situations because they are horrible or the world is horrible and they themselves are just meh.
(I can tell you this. I have now read High Fidelity three times and the first time it was hilarious and the second time it was about my horrible break up and the third time it was about mortality. Three periods in my life that it rang like a bell. Anywho…)
I am sure that there are women out there who write like that. I know they must exist. Surely there must be some of us willing to swear and talk about breasts. After all, we do have them.
What about this? What if it has to do with the coming of age story? I mean, look at Portman and Meno and, arguably, Hornby. They are telling active coming of age stories. “This happened and so the character did this and that set this in motion.” I feel like most of the female coming of age stories are just about things happening to women.
Here’s a crass example that I almost didn’t use because I was editing myself: In a coming of age story about rape, a female protagonist would be raped and the story would be about her dealing with it. In a story where the male protagonist is the rapist, it would be about him dealing with it and discovering that he is a better person than that and making a decent decision in the end that redeems him. Or it might be about a male protagonist dealing with a woman he loves being raped, in which case he would end up being the hero, most likely.
Those are broad strokes, I know. But what I’m really getting at is that maybe men are more likely to be middle class about their writing, being grittier, be funnier, laugh at themselves.