On Writing from the Opposite Gender Point-of-View

If one of the maxims of the writer is “write what you know” can there be anything you would know less than writing from the perspective of someone who doesn’t have the same gender as you? It’s not quite like you can go out and easily learn what it is like to live as someone who isn’t the same gender as you.

Literature has plenty of examples where writers did just that: Madame Bovary, Moll Flanders, Frankenstein, and Harry Potter all feature main characters that were not the same gender as their authors.

It can be true that women might have an easier time writing from a male point of view. The stereotype at least is that men are much more straightforward when compared to women. Men tend to have a more direct correlation between their emotions and their actions, whereas a woman might say or appear one way when feeling the opposite, a sort of emotional armor. A female writer might still have trouble when it comes to writing a man in a romantic scene, being unsure of how things might feel physically and giving the reader that sense of immediacy. Hence, it might be easier for a woman to write a male perspective for an action scene, but stumble when it comes to romance.

Some authors, when they are writing from a POV other than their own gender, like to use a third person perspective instead of a first person POV. Maybe it helps build some distance between the writer and the character, an emotional buffer that helps the author keep themselves separate as compared to the much more personal “I.”

Of course, some people prefer writing in first person from the opposite perspective because it creates an automatic distance between the character and the author. There is less concern that the author is automatically talking about themselves, only thinly disguised as the character.

As a final word of advice, when writing from the opposite gender POV, think of friends, family and acquaintances. How do you think they would respond in a similar situation. How do they react to different stimuli?

When reading an author, do you immediately assume the main character shares the same gender as the writer? Do you feel comfortable writing from the opposing gender? What do you view as the biggest stumbling blocks when you try?

The original discussion can be found here at Writer’s Carnival. Many thanks to all who’ve participated in the discussion so far.

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