Jennifer Melzer and I decided to trade guest writer blogs, with a twist. Instead of the usual “You write for me, I’ll write for you”, we opted to pick a topic and each cover that same topic, only from our point of view. This first topic is “writing from the point of view of the opposite gender”. You can see my take on the subject here. Read on for Jenny’s wonderful insight.
People are People: Writing from the Opposite Gender
Last year I started writing a novella from a male character’s point of view. I would sit down and scribble for a few minutes, and then get up and wander around the apartment looking for other things to do. After a few hours I would return and scribble again, but the same routine seemed to follow. It didn’t occur to me until about two weeks of this epic struggle against male-kind that I was having a problem because my main character was a man.
As a woman, I think I know men, or at least I like to think I do, but the truth is I don’t understand a lot of what men say and do. Despite being married to one of them, there are often times that he says or does things and I find myself stepping back and just staring at him in wonder.
This past weekend my husband and I went out to dinner with another married couple, and while waiting for our food we entered into discussion about living arrangements and home ownership. My best girlfriend and I approached home ownership from the “fret and worry about losing it” point of view. Both of our husband’s surprised me with their thoughts.
“I know making the mortgage payment every month is a struggle,” her husband said, “but there’s something about standing in the middle of my lawn while I’m mowing it that makes me proud. This is mine! This is everything I’ve worked for my entire life.”
It was an eye opener for me, a glimpse into the male mentality unlike any I’d ever seen before, and I found myself wondering what else I could learn from the conversation about the opposite sex.
In the past I tried to get a handle on the male perspective by asking questions. I remember years ago I was writing a semi-romantic/sexual scene from a man’s point of view. I sent it off to a male friend to read and he told me I had it all wrong. “Men don’t feel that way.”
So what do they feel like?
Of course he didn’t have an answer, opting for, “It’s hard to put into words.”
In my experience that has always been the case when I’ve tried to understand the way men work. You can’t ask them for answers because most of them don’t spend the same amount of time women do trying to put things into words like how they feel when sexually aroused.
Consciously observing without asking questions seemed to give greater insight into the male perspective. Yes, I realize not every man is going to be the same. Every man, just like every woman, flower, snowflake and fingerprint, is different.
And that’s the beauty right there. All that struggling I did with trying to write from a male perspective was self-inflicted. I just needed to step back and observe the men around me without generalizing the male populous.
Spending too much time trying to understand why men and women are different leads to forced characterization that will make it impossible for your readers to connect with the people you’re portraying.
In the end, people are people. Circumstance, experience and outside influence factor heavily into the development of personal character, so in essence those same elements are the leaping off point when you’re writing from the perspective of the opposite gender.
Jennifer Hudock is an author, podcaster and freelance editor from Pennsylvania. Her first full-length novel, The Goblin Market, is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. For more information about Jennifer Hudock, including updates on upcoming fiction, visit her official website: The Inner Bean.