February 7, 2016 by Renee
As those of you that participated in this week’s little experiment know, I’ve been conducting a very unscientific experiment here on the Edge, where I asked several authors to write a scene based on a prompt. Each writer had the same prompt and word limit, and I published the excerpts without names or any hints as to the gender of the authors.
The Prompt: Write a scene between two people involving an inanimate object no bigger than your computer screen. Must be in first person.
Word limit: 500 words.
Scene 1: Tony Bertauski (male) Tony had 4 votes for female, and just 2 for male. Tony’s object: Eyeball
Scene 2: S.M. Carriere (female) S.M. had 3 votes for female, and 4 votes for male. S.M.’s object: Art (old computer screen with paint splatters)
Scene 3: Mike Keyton (male) Mike also had 3 votes for female and 4 for male. Mike’s object: Brass eyepieces.
Scene 4: A.F. Stewart (female) A.F. also had 3 votes female, and 4 for male. A.F.’s object: A book.
Scene 5: Steve Wetherell (male) Steve had an even split; 3 votes male, 3 votes female. Steve’s object: a dead dog
Scene 6: Me (female) And me, well 5 of you guessed I was female, and just 2 voted male. My object: Sex toy
Apparently, I can’t fool anyone, because all but 2 of you guessed I was a girl, and a few messaged me privately to confirm I did indeed write scene 6. Either I’ve really honed my voice, or you’re all psychic.
Scene 1: Tammy E. A. Crosby (female) 4 guessed that Tammy was female, and just 2 guessed male. Tammy’s object: a mostly dead horrific creature
Scene 2: Mark Morris (male) Mark was the same, with 4 votes for female, and 2 for male. Mark’s object: A chocolate bar
Scene 3: Katrina Monroe (female) Katrina fooled almost all of you with 1 vote for female and 5 for male. Katrina’s object: Mother’s pillow feather
Scene 4: Will Swardstrom (male) Will had and even split; 3 votes female and 3 votes male. Will’s object: an urn
Scene 5: Hanna Elizabeth (female) Hanna also had an even split of 3 and 3. Hanna’s object: a photo
Scene 6: Christian Saunders (male) Only 2 of you guessed that Christian was male, while 4 guessed him to be female. Christian’s object: Cannibalistic serial killer’s fork
In this one, I was surprised to see most of you thought Katrina Monroe was a guy. Only one person guessed her gender correctly.
What I find really interesting is that when I tally the “votes” almost everyone was right about 50% of the time. Of course, that also means you were wrong 50% of the time. Only a handful managed 65% correct, but no one scored higher than that. Both guys and gals had similar results, and we were no more successful at identifying authors of our own gender than those of opposite genders. By that I mean, we misidentified our own gender as often as we misidentified the opposite gender.
This isn’t a huge survey, so it’s not exactly “conclusive”, but I’d say it’s damn hard to determine gender based on a sample of writing. Perhaps a longer work, like a novel, would give a reader more clues, but I doubt it. Why?
I’ll tell you more during Miller Time over at Underground Book Reviews very soon.
For now, the winner of the $10 gift card is…. Janet. I’ll email you Janet to get the details I need to send your card. Congrats and thanks to everyone that participated.
I’m curious to know what you all think about the results. Also, do you believe gender influences what or how you write?