Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Writing about the Opposite Sex.

I put my trolls aside for a few weeks. I got hit with editing fever, so I am editing and doing minor rewrites on Patriarch. When you take 4 minor characters out, the others have to take up the slack.  And I am also in the middle of celebrating the one year anniversary of the the release of Fledgling.

The rewriting has been interesting. I have been writing about things from a man’s perspective. That has never bothered me before. I never have gotten hung up on gender when I write. But there are a couple of scenes I had to ask my husband to look over, because I needed to have a man verify what I was writing made sense.

How do you write for the other gender?  The same way you write for any character. You get in their heads.

For the most part, writing for a the opposite gender should not cause hang ups. If you keep the some things in mind. If you are writing a modern story set in the United States, there should not be a big “gender gap”. But if you are writing a Victorian romance, you should have researched the roles expected at that time and planned your characters accordingly.

But what if you get into an area, that it is gender defined; like childbirth or erectile dysfunction? You could ask really close friend or significant other to give you their views. Talk to someone that has gone through it. Or, and this one is a little tough, imagine yourself going through the same thing.  You may not have had a child, but have you passes a kidney stone?

But those particular issues are sex defined, not gender defined. There is a difference.

I think some writers get hung up on the difference between gender roles and sex. Having a child, has nothing to do with the gender role. All females are capable of giving birth, barring medical issues. Some chose not to have children, some cannot due to life choices, and some are happy having as many kids as they can.

How is that different from gender roles? Depending on the time period, and culture you are writing, how a woman is expected to have and raise those children is a gender role. A real quick example: Farm families in parts of the United States, in the last century, would have a lot of children. One reason, especially earlier, child mortality. Another reason, on hand labor. But also it was a show of pride. The more children you had, the more well off you were. Now most people can’t afford to have too many kids. Where a family of eight children would not have batted an eye seventy years ago. Now they get a reality TV program.

Think about the role of women at the time too. It was expected that the husband make enough to support the family, so the wife could stay home and watch all the kids. Now, very hard to do. Physically, those are the same women. But their place in society, the expectations, and economics all shaped what was their role.

When you get hung up on writing for the opposite gender. Look at what is really hanging you up. Is is something physical, that only a man or woman could experience. Or is it trying to understand the role your male or female character has to fit.

I have heard male authors say, I don't know how my female character would react to this. Or female authors say, but do men talk about such things?

Stop thinking like that.

Think about your character individually first. How would your character react? What would they talk about? Each character is different, so even if the gender roles are the same, they could react in different ways, than are typical.

If you are still not sure, have a good friend or significant other read it. They can tell you if it sounds right.

1 comment:

  1. I think getting into the character's head is really important to understanding how to write about that character. I can write either gender but writing a female character requires extra thought because I'm a male.

    My first novel has a 18-year-old Japanese-American woman as a viewpoint character. Since the setting is a video game company, I'm playing heavily with the anime stereotype: she looks like a beautiful 16-year-old, can kick box her way through men, and come across as being a Japanese American Princess without the attitude. I've seen enough anime to write about an anime girl. The challenge is to make her character grow away from the anime stereotype to become a fully realized woman.

    Her mother is the exact opposite by being a traditional Japanese mother. Writing her requires a completely different mind set. She doesn't want her little girl embracing the American culture that is so alien to her traditional Japanese upbringing. This creates conflict in the mother-daughter that drives the daughter into trying new things to shock her mother. The challenge is to make her unbending as possible until she finally accepts her daughter for who she is.

    The father/husband character is probably more easier for me to write. A Japanese-American citizen born in San Francisco, he is a native California slacker dude. Being a native California slacker dude is something I know a lot about. The challenge is to keep him out of the mother-daughter conflict as much as possible and have him step in only when necessary to keep the peace.