Writing as the Opposite Sex

The title of this thread isn’t meant to imply that any readers of this blog have pen names which conceal their true gender. Rather, I’m referring to creating the fictional thoughts of a character in the first person, though a second or third person viewpoint could require adopting a different way of expressing their behaviour if they’re of the opposite gender.

I’ve written twenty short stories and novellas, five novels and about 500 poems and song lyrics. Five of the stories are seen through the eyes of my female protagonist, and there are multiple viewpoints too, including those of women. I try to avoid any of my characters behaving in stereotypical ways that are meant to show their gender – men who can’t cook, women who don’t know how to top-up the oil of their car engine, that sort of thing. I dislike this hackneyed and sexist shorthand, which is lazy, demeaning and doesn’t work anyway.

I think that I’ve done OK in representing my female characters well, and my beta-readers who are all women, have commented that they found them believable. I may have an advantage from my upbringing, which was primarily in female company – sisters, mother, aunts and grandmothers. I’ve also worked in jobs that are dominated by women – teaching, librarianship and counselling. I have eight close friends, and seven of them are women. From all of this, I may have picked up on female attitudes, strengths, worries and, for want of a catch-all term, traits, better than some male writers. 

I can’t say that I noticed inhabiting my female character’s persona affected me greatly, though it certainly altered novelist Elizabeth Day’s writing and behaviour when she penned a novel, Paradise City, that has an alpha-male as the protagonist.

Image result for Paradise City by Elizabeth Day

I’m not trying to start a war between the sexes with this post. I’m tempted to have one of the characters in my next Cornish Detective novel be transitioning from one sex to the other, which would certainly throw open different points of view.

I avoid writing anything sexist, unless it’s to show some flaw in a character, but there’s a lot of casual reverse sexism in advertising and even in the routines of supposedly politically correct comedians. I saw a book advertised recently, by Bridget Christie, which is called A Book For Her and which has the tag line beneath the title *And for him, if he can read 

Image result for bridget christie a book for her


Imagine the outrage that cover would cause had the book been written by a male comedian, and the disparaging remark was made about women being illiterate….

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