Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – Writing the Opposite Sex Posted on June 21, 2019 by Jordan Dane What are your biggest challenges in writing characters of the opposite sex?
I haven’t written enough yet to get lots of feedback, but I actually do BETTER writing the male standpoint than the female because I’d RATHER write a male character. Off the top of my head, however, I think one of the issues I have to learn to navigate is “saying it shorter” in the male perspective. We women tend to be more wordy in speech so I have to watch that when I write male characters.
EXACTLY. Early on, I learned to write male dialogue the way it first came to me, then go back & delete a large chunk of it, to get at the essence. Thanks for starting us off, BK. Good one.
Went to some great workshops about this. It’s understanding that we’re still hard wired the way we were in caveman days. It’s survival of the species, not the individual, and evolution is way way way behind civilization. Men are not women with chest hair.
I did a whole bunch of blog posts on some of these differences, but here’s a quick summary: https://terryodell.com/men-arent-women-with-chest-hair/
One thing I do is go back over my dialogue and cut a lot of the ‘extra’ stuff from male charcters’ lines. And, to my critique partner’s annoyance, I’ll cut question marks. If a man says “Why don’t we go to the movies” he’s probably not asking, he’s telling.
I’ve been told I do a decent job with my male characters, and I enjoy writing them.
Omg. I never thought about question marks, but I can see why. Hilarious. Thanks for the link, Terry.
“Gates to paradise” HAHAHA! Love your link. Perfect.
I tlike to write YA more then adults, and when I was shadowing some teachers a few months ago, I listened to the kids talk. And found… girls and boys sound pretty much the same. Maybe it’s a now thing, but girls don’t ramble or ask questions as much as psychology wants to make us believe. The main difference is that girls have higher pitched voices, and tend to use more slang.
I love eavesdropping on teens when they’re together. Mixed genders and girls or boys together. I bet if you listen to girls in a bunch, you’ll see a difference. At that age, neither sex has figured out who they are with the opposite sex. Could be an interesting experiment. Thanks, AZ.
I struggle. My current series is about a petite (four-foot-eleven) girl-next-door American of Scottish descent, who beat the odds of the physical requirements and became a U.S. Marine military police officer because her Daddy enrolled her in a local dojo in a small Oklahoma town.
She had the same unsavory boyfriend all of her life, and has a twin sister two minutes older than she is, American Indian, and is five-foot-eleven (you’ll have to read the series).
I made her a Marine–my Son is a Marine–and gave her the same jerk boyfriend because I, being a guy, can’t relate to her dating, her girlhood ways, nor the throes of female young love.
She is clearly feminine with cute ways, but relates to the world through the eyes and experiences of someone who, though the Marines say she’s not supposed to, has been in combat, has had the horrid experiences of getting burned, wounded Marines and soldiers to the field hospital, and accompanying Naval corpsman through firefight conditions to save the lives of others.
So I never had to deal with the emotional strain of her having to try to attract a grade school guy to her cafeteria table or ask her to the dance. Her lifelong boyfriend, often in need of a shower, was always there, often being a jerk. He provided her with particular needs she didn’t realize she had until they got together.
As I said, I couldn’t at all have related to her life as a young girl, the agony of young love, wondering about The Prom, and so forth. So, in her cute and feminine ways, though she was head cheerleader, she also played shortstop and batted third on the varsity softball team. (Those things I observed because my Dad, as a teacher and in addition to being a librarian, was a successful, winning coach of both boys’ and girls’ sports team. I saw him work with a girl on bunting over a couple of season. She bunted home the winning run in the conference tournament her junior year.)
So I think–think–I have been able to turn my exclusively male childhood and teenage years, and years as a married college student, into enough emotional information to create a female character.
One problem I had: my character’s twin sister (remember the circumstances) adopts a young Chinese teenage from a Chengdu orphanage who, despite an unexplained physical condition of weakness as well as frequent doctor visits and treatment, becomes successful in America. I have her tell her story in a few pages when she reveals to her own “adopted” little sisters that she has set up trust funds for them. (Talk about research. I had to solve the problem of how a native Chinese speaker relates to the English language.)
Let’s face it: I won’t know whether I was successful in telling the stories until people either congratulate me or an irate mob of girls and young woman carrying torches and pitchforks storm the door of our senior living apartment.
One thing struck me in your summary of your girl reminded me of how I grew up. My parents had all of us in private Christian schools where we wore uniforms from elementary grades thru high school. On elementary school, we were co-ed, but all girls in HS. We were a small HS & didn’t have sports teams, but despite some disadvantages, we were never drawn into typical boy/girl dynamics. A boy’s school was down a hill & we did joint dances, but as girls, we became outspoken & confident, without deferring to boys for any class subject. We were more confident & forced to wear uniforms, we all looked the same. No typical girly drama regarding fashion or someone with more family money. On the surface, we were all alike & the focus was college predatory/education. Advanced studies.
Your girl could have this in her background which would give her advantages & disadvantages.
I love the complexity & layering you describe. Thanks, Jim.