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Is it harder to write other genders?

  1. Yes

    1 vote(s)
    10.0%
  2. No

    9 vote(s)
    90.0%
  1. Brandon P.

    Brandon P. Active Member

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    Do you find it harder to write characters of other genders?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Brandon P., Aug 14, 2022.

    Despite being a cis-gendered heterosexual man, I've written mostly female POVs over the course of my writing career, as I'm fond of strong action heroines. I always felt that writing female characters didn't have to be harder than writing male characters and that you should treat them as characters first and their gender second. However, when I asked my mom for feedback on how I write my female characters (since I always send her my short stories and novel chapters), she told me I wrote them too much like my male characters (e.g. when evaluating a potential love interest, both my male and female characters start by checking out their physical attractiveness, which she felt was more typical of men than women).

    In all honesty, that opinion surprised me, as I always felt what women didn't like was when male writers treated them as gender stereotypes rather than people first the way they would male characters. Apparently, my mom thought it was possible to err in the opposite direction, by making female characters too much like their male counterparts.

    Do you find writing characters of other genders to be that much of a balancing act, having to make sure they're not too stereotypical or not too much like your own gender?
     
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  2. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor

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    I don't find it challenging at all. Men and women have more commonalities than differences. What seems to be a challenge for writers today is understanding that 'strong' doesn't necessarily mean masculine, but that's a different sack of potatoes.

    Just a guess: maybe in your case it's contrast that's missing. There could be too many Buff Strong (Ms./Mr.) that drink nails and fight bears when compared to the softer demeanors.
     
  3. Brandon P.

    Brandon P. Active Member

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    I dunno, I've written plenty of moments when my heroines show their soft, sympathetic sides to people who needed it. It doesn't come up in every story I write though.
     
  4. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor

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    Then it may be a matter of needing different betas' opinions.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2022
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    I don't tend to find it problematic. I don't determine a character's personality traits, emotions, and the like based on gender. I write them based on those traits and not gender. If I wrote a story where some aspect of gender was a key theme or subject of the story, then it might be different for that specific story.
     
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  6. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    Whether it's harder or not depends on what you are writing. If you are writing a story with lots of social commentary on how the opposite gender is treated socially, then yes, it's going to be harder because you do not have first-hand experience as there are indeed differences in that department in regards to how these genders are treated. There are many articles that highlight gender inequality so I won't go on detail here.

    On the surface though, women and men are mostly the same. They are perfectly capable of sharing the same interests, the same careers, the same emotions, etc. There have been many studies who have studied male and female brains and have found that they are mostly the same with only some differences, but these differences don't impact the overall function. For example, the article explains that the female brain is better at language, but there are plenty of male authors, so it's merely an advantage. How big of one isn't explained though.

    This is just me sharing my experience. Throughout my college years of studying IT and computers, there hasn't been a single female in my classes. In all the schools that I went to, men where in computers and other technical courses, and women in more artistic-oriented courses like hair-dressing, painting, etc. I'm not a sociologist so I have no idea why, but this was the way it was. That said, I'm not claiming or suggesting anything, I'm literally just sharing a perfectly repeated pattern. It's not as if they couldn't, they just chose not to. Whether that's down to social or neural influences I don't know.

    For me personally, when I'm writing female characters, I tend to keep my boundaries. As I said, we are largely the same, so I can put my female characters through any journey or position I want. A woman scientist I wrote is the inventor of an important technology, and why she's like that doesn't really matter to me, I'm not down to exploring what lead her to this job because women can indisputably be scientists, so who cares? What I'm down to is exploring what her creation did to the world. Sure, maybe as a woman, she's had different experiences in the science world than a man, but the story isn't about those, so I can avoid exploring them. That's what it means "to keep boundaries".

    As for your problem, your Mom doesn't represent all women, maybe a significant percentage does pay attention to physical details. I have personally not looked it up though. That's because I keep boundaries. If I don't absolutely have to, I don't explore love interests or how women view men for my characters because characters aren't humans, they are just assets of the overall story. I really feel that this an extremely important detail people forget.

    This information comes from a person who's thought way too much about not offending female readers with bad female characters.
     
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  7. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    Writing super, strong female characters who act just like men is kind of a stereotype too, though. Or it can be. It't not a list of cliches traits either masque or feminine that makes a character or a character relate to their gender. There are a lot more things that go into gender than that. Thinks about a trans character or a character that had a sex change. I don't think a woman wants to be a man because they are seen as stronger or seen as tougher. And vice versa a man doesn't want to become a women because they are more sensitive. So, we can see right there that gender goes much deeper than those thing. I'm all for people choosing their gender, switching their gender or whatever they want to do with it. But when we take on a character different than us it's important to know such differences are more than superficial. If you're going to make everyone the same in terms of how different genders approach things, why have different genders at all, right?

    Sure, a woman can check out a man just the same way it might happen to her and there thoughts on each other might also be similar, but a woman taking a double take on an attractive man could very well mean she's putting a lot into her appearance if these checkouts are sort of like some form of mating call for these character.

    I never write first person in the opposite gender. I have done it with close third, but it was a bit challenging. I'm shopping around a short story where I believe I pulled it off. I don't think first person would have pulled off the same authentic sense I hope comes from this character.

    Writing in a different gender POV means you understand key and subtle differences that go beyond the list of stereotypes. It's great that you're making your characters strong women, but you also need to take note that there is a lot more going on with them than just that.

    It kind of like writing a story from the POV of a waitress or waiter if you've never worked in a restaurant. Sure, you've born to plenty of restaurants, but if you don't know the stress of too many tables or ordering wrong dishes, dropping plates, etc... Your waitress or waiter is likely to come of less authentic than someone who spend 10 years in the business writing about it. Since you've never been a women, it's just going to be harder to pull off and get right.

    I'm not saying it can't be done. Of course, it can and has been many times. Another thing is that it's not always hard for a readers to know if something is written by a man or female. I've noticed this with a lot of literary translations. I'll be reading something and then look back to see if the translator was a man or a woman, and most of the time I'm right about that. So, it's not only the characters themselves, but also the laugh choices that can hint toward the gender of the author.
     
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  8. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Contributor

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    But saying 'act just like men' presupposes there is way men act, which is something that is based at best on statistical distribution and at worst on stereotypes. I don't think either is a good basis for crafting a character as an individual. I know men whose personalities would be viewed as stereotypically feminine and woman who act more stereotypically masculine (e.g. a good friend of mine served in the military, likes to box, and likes to drink beer and watch football--would a character like that be viewed as acting 'just like a man' even though it's a woman?).

    In my view, unless you're commenting on gender, stereotypes, traditional roles, &c., it is best to craft characters as individuals and not worry about what statistical distributions of traits might be at work because they are male or female.
     
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  9. peachalulu

    peachalulu Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I don't find it difficult per sey but I've been observing men for a long while and I was raised with a lot of guys. A lot. So I feel somewhat confident. I do have issues surpressing natural female instincts. And they can tend to rise up at the oddest times and make my characters sound gay. I could describe it but I'd probably have to go into exacts. People get huffy on other sites when I say this - oh, really what constitutes as gay?! You know it when you see it.

    Most people forget some of the basics of what separates the genders. They forget how vulnerable a woman is and how much she doesn't want to appear that way.
    And even if we do have common goals or interests we go about them differently and respond to things differently. It's inate from birth even babies want to be nurtured & comforted by their mothers more than twice that of their fathers. I think what burns us in admitting the differences is that we feel they've failed us somehow. If we can embrace bodily differences though, why can we not do the same with the emotional, motivitational, biological differences and layer those with our characters personal experience.

    When I want to get more into my male characters I'll observe more, read up more, and study male authors. The best thing to do is layer - even if you start with a stereotype - layers will transform the type into a dynamic character.
     
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  10. sd12

    sd12 New Member

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    Yes always
    When ever I sit down to write I’m like okay I know what she’s about her feelings through process ect and what’s underneath what drives my female character. Perfect got it then I go to my make counter part and I have nothing ! Not a single clue which is crazy because I feel like I relate much more to men than other woman but to put it on paper baffles me
     
  11. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    I find I lean more towards female characters than male, or at least find them a bit easier to write. I think it's because I like to have some way in which the character is obviously "not me", to give me a bit of distance from them.

    I do try to remember that women have different social pressures and expectations from men, at least in a modern-day story. How much that affects any given woman will depend on the individual and her backstory.
     
  12. Gary Wed

    Gary Wed Active Member

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    It is essential that any writer be able to write other genders fluidly. In fact, that's a relatively minor issue because there are lots of things that differ from yourself and everybody else. The only other option is to write yourself, two, ten, a hundred different ways (depending upon how many characters you have in your work). This is what it means to be a writer. It is also why so many professional writers stress character. But it's even worse than one might imagine, because imagine being in dialogue, banging one person against the other, line by line. One has to be completely into a different person's space on each of those lines, possibly the most Sybil thing on earth. Not just a character actor, but one every single line.

    Most of my main characters in my novels are women, in fact. I can pull this off because I know a lot of women, to include my four daughters. There are some advantages to having women as main characters, as well, mostly because men are so well taught to not have any emotions and to hold so much in.
     
  13. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Contributor Contributor

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    I'm an asexual/aromantic cis woman and yet I love writing characters of all genders. Despite my own narrow PoV due to my own identity, I believe myself to be pretty empathetic so I enjoy putting myself into the shoes of others when it comes to fiction writing. can be cynical as all hell about people in real life, but when it comes to fiction heroes, villains, and everything inbetween are exciting to write about. Some of my favorite original characters of mine have been men, but that's not to say I don't have great female characters. Just shows that the gender of a character (while often very important to that character's story and experiences) doesn't affect how I feel about them.
     
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  14. Thom

    Thom Active Member

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    Never thought of it really. A hero acts like a hero, a villain like a villain, despite gender. There may be more nuance involved with a female character, perhaps events taken a little more personally, or actions meted out on that more personal level, but even that is not restricted to gender. I'd say concentrate on your character and their actions, based on life lessons, and not so much their gender.

    I will credit Peachalulu however, as the aspect of vulnerability, real or perceived, is something I have missed, but will now keep in mind.
     

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