Writing the opposite gender, or any gender other than our own, is a daunting task.
As young writers, we often tell stories from our own perspective. Girls tell stories from the viewpoint of a girl, boys from the eyes of another boy. It’s the easiest way to tell stories that ring of truth – even when they are obviously fiction.
But as we get older and more experienced, many of us start contemplating challenging ourselves. Or maybe we have stories that need to be told that aren’t from our own point of view.
Whatever the reason may be, you’re here because you are thinking about trying a new perspective. Whether that’s male, female, or otherwise, these tips should help you get started.
Tips for Writing The Opposite Gender
I have always been a people watcher. Growing up, I was shy and scared to talk to even my family half the time. So I watched what people said and did, listened to conversations, watched body language.
In recent years, I realized how much it’s helped me. If you are trying to figure out how to write a woman, go to a coffee shop and observe some women.
DON’T BE A CREEPER ABOUT IT. I seriously can’t stress that enough. Don’t be a weirdo!
If you sit and stare at people, it’s going to get you nowhere but kicked out or arrested. But just listen to the cadence of their voices, watch how they stand or hold themselves.
Woman are naturally more delicate than men, but some can be crass and boyish. Not all women are mini skirts and high heels, just as not all men are dirty hands and work boots. Some women sport dirty hands and work clothes while some men are lithe and feminine.
Hang out online
This one relates to the point above, and by hang out I mean read forums and whatnot. If you spend any time online, you’ll get some idea how your target gender acts and speaks. But if you already know what gender you need to research, go to their online haunts and read through comments, conversations, articles, whatever.
For example, if you’re researching to write about a gym rat dude, read health forums for men. If you want to write about a girl who’s really into art, spend some time online with those female artists learning what they like.
Do as the character would do, and you’ll be able to get in their head more easily.
If you really don’t know how a person of another gender thinks, or maybe how they’d react to something, you can always ask someone you know.
It never hurts to ask, you just have to make sure the person is willing to give you honest answers. Without honest answers, you’ll get nowhere, and you’re probably better off guessing at that point.
Pay attention to characters like your own
This could be watching television or films, reading books, whatever your poison. If there is a character you can observe, one that is similar to your own character in ways, they could be a good way for you to study.
Pull out a notebook while you read or watch a movie or whatever else and take notes. Keep track of that character’s traits, then go back over your notes and tweak things.
I’m not saying you have to create the same character all over again, but you can pick and choose which traits will work for the character you are writing. This will probably work best if you take notes from several different influences and pick the things that make the most sense for you and your character.
Try to avoid writing an entirely stereotypical character
Unless that’s what you’re going for.
Just keep in mind that generally people don’t like the jerks who are jerks all the way through. People like the jerks who are sort of soft and squishy on the inside. There are countless traits you can use to create a new character without creating a carbon copy of someone else’s hard work.
Not all women like wearing makeup every day, or high heels and fancy clothing and jewellery and sexy lingerie, and not all men wear a leather jacket with biker boots and ride a motorcycle. Maybe your biker dude is a chick who still sleeps with a stuffed bear at night because her daddy gave it to her. And maybe the look she sports is just to keep guys away because she’s too vulnerable.
Or maybe that guy in the coffee shop serving drinks is a gang member.
I don’t know what you want to write, but try not to give your characters traits that are typical to their gender. Some women are fairly masculine (not in a bad way), and some men are fairly feminine (also not in a bad way).
A lot of traits go either way, and having a mix of both will help make your character seem more realistic. Let that man cry over something that’s gone terribly wrong, or a loss of some sort, and let that woman swing a hammer once in a while.
Don’t overdo it
You want to give your characters some traits that are present in any gender, but you don’t want a male character to have primarily female traits.
There are some exceptions to this, of course, but the general “rule” here is to try to lean more toward male characteristics if your character is male. You don’t want to confuse your readers by presenting mainly one gender when they are reading about another gender.
If you still can’t find your character’s voice and make him or her believable, maybe they aren’t supposed to be that gender. Consider changing the gender of that character, or maybe walking away and writing some short stories about them to get to know them better.
You can even just walk away from the story and write something completely unrelated and come back to it in the future to see if it’s still worth fighting with. Sometimes it’s not the character that is the problem, but the story.
(Please note that I am in no way trying to exclude any people in this post who do not identify with the typical gender roles. There is room for any gender in writing, and it’s up to the writer to decide which gender is the one you’d like to focus on. While there are always exceptions to the rules, especially with gender, this post is merely meant to help you figure out how to do your research – not how to write any specific gender.)
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