We all get it - men and women are different. No surprise there, right? And let’s be honest if you’re a female writer – you write like a woman. If you’re a male writer – you write like a man. Well, let’s hope that’s not the case!
The thing is - we’d like both males and females to read and like our books. Creating characters of the opposite sex can be tricky – and when we write – we need to constantly ask ourselves, “Would a guy say that? Or “Would a woman behave that way?” Learning the male/female ‘language’ can boost your success as an author.
I find having a ‘male’ review my books is a great tool – if I can get him to respond quickly. But that’s not always an option. What is an option is learning to understand how the male/female character thinks, acts, reacts, postulates, speaks, and even internalizes.
Consider Helen Fielding’s runaway hit Bridget Jones’s Diary. The name on the cover of the book is Holly Denham. Its real author is Bill Surie, who wrote so convincingly that readers had no problem believing the story had been written by a woman. J.K. Rowling is so good at transcending gender (and age) that her books are devoured by girls and boys (and women and men) by the millions.
It’s important to consider the impact of your own gender when writing. You can do this by educating yourself about how men and women differ, which will help you understand what your opposite gender would truly say, behave, respond, and internalize.
It’s like the comment – talk the talk and walk the walk. It’s really true. If male and female characters talk, react, and behave the same, your reader will notice and most likely lose faith in the story. We never want that to happen. When I wrote my latest novel, Thunder, I watched a ton of wrestling interviews in hopes of capturing the male wrestler’s mentality, mannerisms, and language.
Women and men see and feel things differently. For instance, “I’m sorry we’re so late. We were driving along and slid across back ice, and went into the ditch. I didn’t think we’d ever get out.” Or, “A damn patch of black ice sent me sailing across the road and slamming down into the ditch. I threw my Jeep into four-wheel and got us out in record time.” Same story – two different perspectives. I’ll bet I don’t have to ask which gender said what sentence.
When writing the ‘male’ I keep in mind what he’s accomplished – like the fight he won, the child he saved, the bear he slayed. Women, however, focus on the relationship and emotions of the story. Who the fight affected, how the child changed the man, or how the bear got him the respect he needed in the tribe.
It’s important to keep in mind not all women and men think or behave the same way. How boring would it be if they did? The words from Edward Abbey always come to mind: “It is the difference between men and women, not the sameness, that creates the tension and the delight.”
Read the Writer’s Guide To Character Traits By Dr. Linda Edelstein if you need a list of unusual traits, quirks, flaws and strengths to make your characters unique and lively? It’s a fabulous eye-opener!