As a result of all these blog workshops, I've been thinking about various different aspects of writing. One blog I checked out was looking at the difference between body language, thought and dialogue for men and women. The idea here is that you show male/female character differences by paying attention to how they speak, think and act.
The blog workshop itself wasn't so helpful in a fantasy writing context, being focused on modern speech and mannerisms, but it did get me thinking. Plus one point in particular really hit home: Men can make fewer than a third of the facial expressions a woman can make due to how their brain is programmed to express emotion. Men usually hold expressionless faces, especially in public, to appear to be in control of their emotions and to stave off possible attack from strangers who might perceive weakness in an emotional display.
Wow -- I didn't know that. (Obviously there are exceptions.)
This revelation has put me mind of a book I am currently somewhat obsessed with (again): Olivia Joules and the overactive imagination by Helen Fielding of Bridget Jones fame. (But OJ is so much better!) Anyway, she has a male character that is brilliantly portrayed in just such a way. There are very few descriptions, but they all sum up to give an overpowering impression of the character:
". . . he sat at a table, leaning forward, chin on hands, watching the crowd intently."
"His face was almost expressionless, but he had compelling eyes, grey and intelligent."
"X caught her watching him and raised his beer bottle. There was a slight change in his expression which might or might not have been a smile."
The other nuances of character (including some strong emotion) are shown through action and dialogue. In my view, it's really well done.
Some other interesting points from the blog workshop on thinking:
Men have only four to six areas of the brain to evaluate others’ behavior (where women have between fourteen and sixteen areas) which explains why men find it harder to read facial expressions and body language.
Typically the woman’s brain is very active. Thinking, thinking, thinking, especially in the emotional part of the brain. A woman’s brain is always working.
Why do women always want to talk? Researchers have found that connecting with another through talking will trigger the pleasure centers in a woman’s brain, a high second only to an orgasm.
Women are able to use both sides of their brain for language, so they tend to be more fluent, which may be why they have more to say. (Men only use the left side of the brain for language.)