Male or Female?

by Ciara

Question: I'm a female but I love writing from a guy's point of view and I find it easier to do and to relate to them that way. However, I've heard that I need to do a lot of research to make sure that its believable and that it would be best to just stick with writing from a female's perspective. Should I just write from a female's pov instead?

Answer: If you love writing from a male point of view and you find it easier, the only other question is whether readers, including men, find your character's voice authentic.

I suggest you show your writing to a few men and ask them.

Incidentally, extensive research is mainly required for those who have absolutely no clue how to write for the opposite gender. Gender is a complex issue, composed of many elements. What you might need to research will be different from someone else's needs. Here are a few of the elements...

1. Body. How someone thinks is somewhat affected by what body they're born into and its hormones. How big a role this plays depends a lot on what type of story you're writing. You might need to ask male friends about this area or observe male behavior closely

2. Culture & Socialization. These are the roles we are expected to play, and the attitudes we pick up from same gender friends and role models. If you have a lot of male friends and understand how they think, you have probably have much less need to research. (But a little research won't hurt either.) Certainly, military culture has a distinct set of attitudes which have been traditionally a male domain - but not so much any more.

3. Brain gender. Are you a linear or a holistic thinker (left vs right brain, Mars vs. Venus)? Most men are linear thinkers, but not all. Most women are holistic, but not all. You and your character could easily have the same brain gender, even if you are opposite sexes, which would make your task easier. (It's hard to think like a character whose brain is completely opposite to your own.) Of course, this is seldom a black and white issue. Most people have a percentage of both in them. Try to nurture your linear side when writing from a male perspective.

4. Sexual orientation. If you can't imagine why anyone would be attracted to a female body, it may be hard to write from a male heterosexual point of view. Fortunately, as with brain gender, most people have a little bit of bisexuality in them and can fill in the rest with imagination. If not, you may have to grill some male friends for their attitudes. Certainly, there is truth to the stereotype that sex is more of a motivation for most young men, regardless of sexual orientation, than emotional intimacy, whereas for most young women it is the opposite. But there is plenty of individual variation on this issue.

5. Be-ers vs Do-ers. Be-ers try to solve problems by changing themselves. Do-ers try to solve problems by changing others or the world around them. Traditionally, female protagonists have been be-ers and male protagonists have been do-ers. (This goes back to male/female culture and socialization.) However, this is changing and you will see a lot more male be-ers and female do-ers in fiction, making this issue not so much a problem.

Finally, bear in mind that a good imagination can compensate for a lack of research. You're not trying to present a textbook, stereotypical male character, but a particular individual, who may not fit the model exactly. He may have a little more of a holistic brain. He may be more of a sensitive nerd than an alpha male jock. His upbringing and innate personality may not fit the mold - which would be a lot more interesting anyway.

Comments for Male or Female?

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Dec 23, 2013
Imagining yourself a different gender
by: Mina Bancheva

I have a two protagonists in my novel, male and female and write alternative chapters from their different points of view. My male character is a painter, therefore more 'right brain' than 'left. while my female protagonist is more pragmatic and linear in her thinking. I have and good feedback for both characters from both my male and female tutors

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