Sunday, January 23, 2011

Note to Self: You Don't Understand Women

I started out Novel 2 with ten characters. Five were boys. When I thought of another character I wanted, I made her a girl. Six to five is still pretty close to even. But one of the boys was dead weight, and he was the first to go. That left six to four. One of those boys was the antagonist, one was the main protagonist. The other two ended up with very minor roles in the plot. Two of the girls also ended up with minor roles.

Are you keeping track? That means I had four girls with major roles and two boys. For reasons that are no longer true, the antagonist wasn't a point-of-view character. One of the girls became the point-of-view for the bad guys. And that eleventh character, the girl I added as an afterthought, has become a main protagonist, equal with the original one--the boy.

Now I have a book with four female POV characters, and one male POV character.

I'm not female.

Note to Self:  If you're going to write a book just to practice and learn by making mistakes, you might as well make it as difficult as possible.

Ha! Just kidding. That's not really the lesson here, though it is potentially useful advice. Except that I don't recommend sitting down to write a novel just for practice. Takes all the fun and motivation out of it.

No, the real lesson here is: No one can tell you how to really write male or female characters and do it right. At least, no one I've met. You can resort to stereotypes. You can just not worry about it. There are plenty of books where the boys act like girls and plenty where the girls act like boys. Maximum Ride, for example, has more testosterone that I've ever had. (And yet, somehow, no sex drive. Hmm.)

But who wants to do it wrong? Not me. So, when girls tell me something's not quite right, I listen, knowing that I'm not the expert. I've lived with girls and women my entire life. For a lot of those years, I much preferred the company of girls. I still have a hard time thinking like one.

Note to Self:  Pay special attention to how you write female characters. Close attention. You'll never get it exactly right, but you can fake it well enough that it won't distract. Most people. If you're careful. And edit a lot. Did I mention to pay close attention?

Coincidentally, Novel 3 will have a single POV character. A male.

4 comments:

  1. Funny post, Ben. I've dealt with similar issues, and I found that gender was less of an issue than making sure the character had a strong voice. I was always looking for guys to give me feedback on my male character's POV. Good luck!

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  2. Thanks, Kelly. That's a good point, too. They go hand in hand, at least for me. I still have a lot to learn about voice, both my own and my characters'.

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  3. Lol! My current favorite series has a female author and a male protagonist. I haven't noticed anything fishy, but then I'm a girl.

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  4. In THE HUNGER GAMES, Katniss's total obliviousness to how Peeta really felt about her kind of bugged me--until I realized that Peeta was just as oblivious. Why did I just say that? Not sure. Maybe because I think if I were a girl my perspective would be different?

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