When a writer writes a story, they introduce characters. They must understand enough about the other characters point of view in order to convince the reader that the feelings, emotions, and experiences of the character is real.:Writing about the character of a different gender can be particularly challenging for writers. Thus, this week’s question:
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters of the opposite sex??
Here are their unedited responses.
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I’m currently writing a novel based in the far future which features two females as the protagonist and antagonist. Both of these women are extraordinarily old, although one of them is pretending that she’s young. They become friends and then lovers. This puts me out on a limb writing wise because not only am I writing about female characters but I’m writing about these two characters having a relationship together.
It’s interesting writing from the points of view of the two women. I gained a lot of knowledge about how women experience the world because I been a photographer for many years. During that time, I photographed over 1200 women in photo shoots and in performances. There was quite a bit of downtime waiting for them to do their makeup or get ready for their performances, and I took that opportunity to have some long, interesting discussions. I even wrote a book, How to Be Friends With Women: How to Surround Yourself with Beautiful Women without Being Sleazy which is available on Amazon which explains some of the misunderstandings that men have towards women and how that gets in the way of making friends with them.
For me, the biggest challenge is to write a man that doesn’t fall into either of these two categories: a man I could fall in love with, such as the charming, enigmatic bookseller Hector Munro who first appears in Best Murder in Show, and a man I love to loathe, such as the despicable Reverend Neep in Trick or Murder? I find both of those types such fun to write!
Best Murder in Show is the first novel in my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, and Trick or Murder? is the second. There are currently five in the series, with an initial seven books planned, but more likely to follow, by popular request!
Series link: viewbook.at/SophieSeries
The hardest thing is getting inside their heads, which really applies to writing any characters in a convincing way. I think my interest in doing that goes back to years of practising medicine and closely observing the people I look after. As a family doctor, I’ve got into the habit of tuning into each new patient who comes into the consulting room and trying to put myself in their shoes, so that I can understand them better.
There are multiple points of view in both One Night at the Jacaranda and Hampstead Fever, with an equal number of male and female voices, and I’m always pleased to hear how realistic my characters are.
The most difficult thing for me about writing a female character is remembering that women’s physiology is different from men’s. A few times I read female readers complaining about how female characters, especially in fantasy books, never seem to have “that time of the month”, and I thought “oh! yes! this is a thing that actually happens!” This doesn’t mean my writing is filled with graphic descriptions of menstruation in the 8th century. It works as a reminder – if I want to write a realistic female character there will be extra things to consider.
The most difficult characters for me to write, though, are girls – as in teenage girls. I have zero understanding of how teenage girls think and act. So far I avoided the problem by not writing about them other than mentioning their existence in passing…
Actually, to be honest, I don’t find it difficult writing people of the opposite sex. The trick is to write them as a character – get into their heads and get to know them just as much as you would a character that’s the same sex as you.
Writing minor characters of the opposite sex is both challenging and fun. The most challenging aspect for me is considering how this character might respond to various situations. It’s important to create authentic characters; and the last thing I want to do is stereotype any character. Writing opposite sex characters simply take more time for me to develop. When I’m reading male characters written by female writers, I’m taking notes at what works and what doesn’t. Furthermore, male writers critiquing drafts is invaluable and insightful.
I killed a woman in each of my first two books. They were intimate and personal murders and the details revealed themselves easily.
No women were killed in my third book, only men. I won’t mention the number (you know, spoiler alert), but suffice it to say that there has been nothing personal and/or intimate about how I have murdered men.
It’s not something I’d ever thought about before answering this question, but the facts are undeniable. I kill women more elegantly than I kill men.
I’ve read about how men tend to murder in a more gruesome and personal way and women prefer a cleaner, poison-based crime. In examining my work, I would have to say that I’ve murdered women in a more gruesome, close up manner (none of which have not been graphically depicted because they are cozy mysteries) and the men in a more distant method with less explicit details that are abruptly glossed over.
Why that is remains unclear to me, although as I unpeel the onion the women have been murdered for bad behavior in personal relationships, that caught up with them. My men, on the other hand, have been murdered for acts far more public than personal. This leads me to believe that I am may not be comfortable addressing men’s private feelings and related actions, so I build a layer of separation between their feelings and the motives for their murders.
Perhaps, it’s merely because my third book is my first experience with murdering a friend. Could it be as simple as that? Murdering a friend was definitely more difficult than murdering those hateful, shrewish women. It was a genuine challenge to find the right balance between expressions of grief and sadness without completely killing the humor.
When I review the question about the difficulties of writing for the opposite sex I have more questions than answers. Who would have guessed that with all my focus on writing mysteries, I am the real mystery?
For me, writing characters of the opposite sex poses the same problems it does for most writers – How would they behave? What would they say? I just imagine what certain females I’ve known would say and do, and I’ve known a lot of females intimately.
You know the mantra Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus, right? There’s a reason for that- we’re entirely two different types of Humans. We think differently. We act differently. This was designed as such and is a perfect balance. Of course, being of the opposite sex, it makes it bloody difficult to get inside the mind of the opposite (if that could be so easily done, most of the world’s problems would disappear in a fortnight).
This is why I often enlist the aid of trusted ladies when I’m writing the opposite sex- they’re able to tell me right off the bat whether or not it’s reasonable and a valid response.
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