Ditch the stereotypes and say hello to whole new world of possibilities!
Writing from one character’s point of view is always challenging -the reader spends most of their time stuck inside his or her head, so you have to know your creation inside-out, pinning down exactly what makes them tick.
It’s therefore understandable that many writers create characters that bear similarities to themselves, in the hope of rendering them as believable as possible. This is why we so often see protagonists that are the same gender as their authors, and its totally normal to want your main character to reflect your own lived experiences.
But variety is the spice of life, and there’s no reason why you can’t mix things up a bit! To help you out, here’s our low-down on writing in the opposite gender:
1. Realise that the opposite gender aren’t a different species…
There’s no reason to feel daunted by the prospect of writing from the opposite gender. Think about your favourite protagonist, in either one of your own stories or someone else’s book. If you swapped their gender, would their identity drastically change? The chances are, probably not. You can get even experimenting right now! How about penning your own Harriet Potter or female Doctor fanfic?
2. ...But that society does often have different expectations for men and women, which may well influence how your character behaves
Society often labels different personality traits as either masculine or feminine. Whatever your opinion on whether women are naturally better at expressing emotions than their allegedly more logic-driven male counterpart, it’s undeniable that such stereotypes can have a real impact on how your character behaves.
For example, would your male character be comfortable having a sob-fest with his mates in the playground after his first break up? They’d probably be ripped to shreds! Consider the more likely methods used by guys to deal with emotional anguish, as well as the impact that feeling forced to hide their vulnerability may have on their minds.
3. Understand how to navigate these perceptions
This is not to suggest that your character can’t break the rules when it comes to gender expectations. In fact, some of the most compelling characters in literary history are those who have refused to conform! Think Arya Stark in Game of Thrones, or Augustus Waters from TFIOS, who many have deemed a Manic Pixie Dream Girl in disguise. Just remember that going against the grain may have consequences for your characters depending on the society they live in.
4. Check out how other authors do it
Plenty of authors write in the opposite gender, so why not check out their work to see how it’s done? Revisit the Harry Potter series, check out ‘Gone Girl’, or if you’re feeling really ambitious give Gustave Flaubert’s infamous ‘Madame Bovary’ a go.
5. Talk to the girls or guys in your life
It’s all about research, people! At the end of the day, the most believable characters are drawn from real-life, so remember to observe the people around you. Have nose at how the opposite sex interact with each other in various social scenarios, ask them about their hobbies, hopes and fears. Chances are you’ll realise you have more in common than you think!