1. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    Writing About he Opposite Sex

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by mugen shiyo, Mar 13, 2012.

    Anybody ever have trouble writing from the viewpoint of the opposite sex? I suppose it's not so big of a deal since many books have been written already from both angles but it feels like when I write about it I might be coming off as a total 'tard.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have a bit of that problem. I'm a gay guy, and in my case, that means I spend very little time with women - I'm not really attracted to them. I have very few female friends. I spend the vast majority of my social time with males. So I doubt I understand women very well. All my MCs (so far, at least) are male. I have female supporting characters, but whenever I try to get into their heads in any detail, I feel like I'm on very thin ice. I don't know what to do about this. I keep feeling like if I write a woman the way I want to, she'd come across either as just another guy, or she'd be an exaggeration, a caricature, of a woman.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I use real people to base my characters off. It doesn't matter who the character is I start with a person.

    For characters of the opposite sex I find using an actor and watching them helps. Watch them act, doing interviews, dancing, moving etc. When I first started writing a seventeen-year-old boy the feedback from teen boys was that his thoughts were fine (although he was a bit of a pathetic wimp -- he still is lol), his dialogue was OK, but where I had really fallen down was on his body language and dialogue beats. He shouldn't giggle, squeal, slap etc

    When I started writing gay men I used a collection of ex boyfriends as my base lol
     
  4. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Yes, it is important to try to capture what it means to be "female," but the danger is that you will make a one-dimensional stereotype. Instead of making a female character, make a character. Worry less about what your character is like because she is female, and more on what your character is like. Give them a personality, give them a backstory, then go back and see how being a female affects that character. To me, it's almost like an afterthought. Of course, their gender is core to their existence, but it doesn't define them.
     
  5. mugen shiyo
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    mugen shiyo Contributing Member

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    I kinda do that already but what happens with something like severe trauma? I didn't want the behavior or reactions to sound campy or cliched. That and how the world is viewed through a womens eyes. Kinda like me writing about how the world would be viewed through a midgets eyes. I could sound anything from misinformed to a complete douchebag.
     
  6. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    No, because I don't write my characters thinking of 'gender', I tend to worry more about their personality and how I characterise then. As other people have said, it's not good to concentrate on trying to make your character fit their gender because you lose sight of what really matters. Besides, not all males or females act in a particular way.
     
  7. Dubya
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    Dubya Member

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    I am male, but a woman emerged as my MC in a murder/mystery I wrote. It wasn't through choice, it just kind of happened. (A bit like being married, you start off thinking you have some say in matters.......)
     
  8. Afion
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    Afion Senior Member

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    I base my male characters on ones in books I've read. Of course it's a lot harder to find books with females in ;) (unless you feel like reading romances!)
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Just write the story without worrying about how a certain gender should sound like. Think in terms of your MC's personality and what kind of voice that personality would have, not the differences in voice based on whether they're a man or woman.

    From what I've read in workshop classes, the people who obsess over the gender of the MC tend to come across as overly stereotypical. For example, some guys might think that all girls are frivolous and fashion-obsessed and mind-game-playing, because that's how they're often portrayed in media, but most girls are actually NOT like that. Same goes for girls thinking they have to make the guys ultra macho or whatever. Just think of their personality, how they'd likely talk around their friends, how their setting/peers would affect shape their narration voice, etc. and just go from there.

    I've written a lot of stories from guy POV and don't find it hard. In fact, recently I wrote from the POV of an elderly ultra-socially-conservative man in the Bible belt, which is pretty much the total opposite of who I am in real life. So it can be done. :)
     
  10. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Regardless of their gender all people react differently to different situstions, so, why should the characters be any different? It is said you get to know the true colors of a person when you go on a long journey with him/her. That is to say, you get to watch him/her react to situations and it may surprise you. So, there is nothing stopping you from making your super macho mc from crying!
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd suggest going ahead and doing just that - write your first female character as "just another guy", skipping the "feminine" stuff. Write a woman that prefers to wear jeans and tees and is almost as unfamiliar with skirts and heels as a man is. She doesn't engage in stereotypical feminine indirect speech. She doesn't smile all the time. She's caught by surprise and faintly irritated every time a man opens the door for her. She's a college student, so you can avoid male/female office politics.

    There are plenty of women that that would fit - for that matter, it would fit me when I was a college student. And maybe that exercise would make you more comfortable with the idea that a female character is just another character, and you could cautiously add the more conventionally feminine stuff for the next one?

    ChickenFreak
     
  12. Jethelin
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    Jethelin Member

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    I have more female characters in my current WIP than male and I am male. I agree with just writing a character, not a gender. I may have it easier though since all of my female characters are loosely based off female friends in my life. Most anyway, and same with my male characters. If they are their own unique person in all ways, then no one can say they are too girly or boyish. They will just think they are being themselves if that makes sense at all. The only time people will notice depending on your writing is if its too stereotypical which will come from obsessing over it. Just let the characters go and develop with the flow of the story all while having gender just be a small title.
     
  13. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Awww... but women are sort of like gay guys with periods and boobs, trust me :D I had lots of gay friends and we always thought that.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Folks is folks.

    Gender is another attribute. Sure, it's a biggie, but it does not fully determine behavior.
     
  15. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I second mallorys advice, plus: practise, practise, practise!
    Afion: are you saying you only read book with male mcs?? and that females appear only in romances in your world? wow, that was... I'm speechless.
     
  16. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's a difference between what society idealizes as female behavior, and actual female behavior. The first things that pop into your head when trying to force some character into being feminine could all to easily be from the former category. Things a woman "should" be in regard to mannerisms, looks, etc... And following only this, the result would all too likely become a terribly stereotyped and shallow character, who fiddles with her hair and smiles sweetly and mostly concerns herself with buying shoes. As for the latter, where do you get that? Well, a good place to start would be female friends that aren't hopelessly trapped in the former themselves, but if that fails you might wanna try and have a look inside yourself. Yes, you read that right. Jung claimed that all men and woman have an archtype of the opposite gender buried inside their psyche, and with some probing (in your case, she) will come out. One of my mains is female, and truth be told I can identify with her a lot. More than I'd admit in public.
     
  17. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    I'm a gay guy writing about a woman at the moment as well.

    I felt a little uncomfortable about it initially, but I have a lot of close female friends and they are all dramatically different to each other. Some probably fit the 'masculine' ideals more than I do!

    So I have (to an extent) adopted a more genderless approach where I base elements of their personalities upon either myself or people I know. By having a clear idea of the background of my character I can make sure I keep consistent with that, which ultimately helps their behaviours fit with their gender as their backstory is built with that factor in mind.

    Just make her a gay with boobs. As much as I dont like stereotyping they are pretty much the same lol.
     
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  18. Salama
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    Salama Member

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    A good advice is STICK to stereotypes when not sure!
    It applies to almost everything.
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Um. Wow.
     
  20. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    It can be a potential issue, I can perfectly understand where you are coming from - the writer I think you should check out is Sebastian Faulks, whose novels such as Birdsong have been praised by woman for their accuracy in depicting how woman think and act. Sebastian Faulks himself has been quoted saying he spends a lot of time around woman, and 'knows how they think'; this can be found in the opening chapter of Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong: a reader's guide by Pat Wheeler which can be found on GoogleScholar. Reviews of the novel Birdsong should also point you to better examples than I can list here, and Birdsong itself is a really good novel, worth checking out.
     
  21. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    Maybe you didn't mean it this way, but your statements can be interpreted as "When I don't know someone, I will stereotype them." Sticking to stereotypes when not sure is exactly what bigots do. It's a major contribution to hate crimes. It's synonymous with "cultural ignorance." Like I said, maybe you didn't mean to say this, but I advise that you watch your words more carefully in the future.
     
  22. cs2212
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    cs2212 Member

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    Erm...so all my black guys should be listening to gangsta rap and shooting each other? All the gays should be effeminate weirdos, the women should be image obsessed idiots with no obvious competencies beyond sucking husbands off and cooking the Sunday roast?

    As lovely as that sounds, I only plan to have people primarily from one race and socioeconomic background in my book so I think it might get a little boring when they all have identically stereotyped personalities.

    But I could always feature you in a cameo appearance somewhere along the line for a little cultural diversity. Maybe walking down the street sideways making a 'Z' shape? You are in Egypt? Im sure people walking along topless like that must apply to almost everything. It must make it hard getting through turnstyles though.
     
  23. Salama
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    Salama Member

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    Wow!
    My comment was intended to be humorous, hence the exclamation mark.
    I'm sorry that that wasn't clear.

    Actually one of my recent short stories talks about the exact opposite of what you understood!
    http://aboutsalama.blogspot.com/2012/03/khalil-does-act.html
    "Khalil does The Act"
     
  24. The Magnan
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    The Magnan Active Member

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    Funnily enough, no I don't, if anything I seem to find it easier writing female characters in my story, if anything they are all very unique and particularly interesting. I try to make them and as equal to their opposites as possible, in both my Sci-Fi stories, my female characters are certainly not to be messed with.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I suspect English is not your first language. The exclamation mark denotes emphasis, not humor or irony. So your statement was taken at face value, not as sardonic humor.
     

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