Thursday, October 6, 2011

Writing The Opposite Gender

So, today's a writing day and because the task ahead of me is so daunting, I'm here procrastinating instead of doing my work. Due to some news and business advice, I decided that instead of working on my Middle Grade novel, I was going to bang out this Young Adult novel that was next on my list. One of the biggest struggles I've come across in writing this story is that the main character is the opposite gender that I am.

I've written male leads before, and I'm by no means a girly girl, but I have to consider my audience, my limited knowledge of the male mind, and the story of this novel when I'm writing. For example, I believe more females read YA than males do, so my book having a male lead could be harmful if not done well. I noticed that of my two published short stories and my novel, the one with a male lead character and male on the cover does not sell as well as my other two. Could it be that the cover is just not as strong as the others? Perhaps, but when I consider how many YA books out there have a male lead, it makes me wonder.

This book I'm working on will have a much stronger romantic element to it than anything else I've written/published thus far, so to help attract the most people, I intend for the cover to show both an attractive male AND an attractive female. Doing so should keep it more neutral. I don't want to give anyone the impression that it's a paranormal romance, because it's a paranormal mystery of sorts, but I think highlighting the romance will help me reach my target audience, which is young adults between 13 and 19.

All that aside, the actual writing can be a challenge at times. In a good way, of course. But how much teenage boy do I want to include in the story before I start losing girl readers? I've been thinking about good YA I've read with male lead characters, and most of them were written by women. For example, Beautiful Creatures is a great book and has a male lead, and while the characters voice was there, I don't recall him feeling very manly. Teenage boys think about boobs and girls and nice legs, don't they? But I don't recall much of these things happening in the YA books with male leads written by women. I'm not saying that they have to overpower the story with the character talking about sex or boobs, but if a girl's blouse is too low or skirt too high and all the character does is mention this like an asexual third party observer, then what does that mean?

It's possible that I'm just over-generalizing teenage boys and that the majority of them don't sneak an (un)intentional glance at an attractive girl's chest when she leans over in her low cut top, or they don't notice long sexy legs in a short skirt. Maybe all of the guys in the books are too effeminate or too much of gentlemen to do such things. Or maybe the women writing the stories don't think it's important enough to mention, and maybe it isn't. I'm not sure, but I always found it strange that the point of view male characters were never as teenage boy-like as they should be. Again, it could just be me not knowing what I'm talking about.

So, how can I convey that this main character is in fact a teenage boy and not a woman trying to write a teenage boy? Voice and characterization are key, but how do I do this without making assumptions or stereotyping the character? An idea I had was in the way they notice things. Generally, I would say men are more visual and women are more intuitive. This is not to say that every single case is exactly the same or that both genders can't be both visual and intuitive. I know this happens and that's fine, but I'm speaking in general terms for the sake of this example. If both a man and a woman were to walk into a restaurant scene, how would their narratives differ? Would their narratives still differ if they were written in 3rd person rather than 1st? As a writer, I would tackle them differently, even in 3rd because the things they notice and the way they notice them would be different between them, not just because they are different people, but because they are different genders too.

[READER INTERACTION]: What are your thoughts on the subject? If you write, how do you tackle this challenge? Know any great examples of an author writing a lead/POV character of the opposite gender?

1 comment:

  1. I know how you feel. I've been trying to write male POV myself, but it never sounds like an actual guy.