Please Gender Check Your Story

confusedThere is a trap I’ve noticed that authors fall into sometimes when writing from the viewpoint of a character of the opposite gender.  I am female for example and though I claim to not understand men at all, I have managed to observe their behavior in the wild so to speak. Therefore I think I can or at least try to write from a man’s point of view on occasion in my stories.  What I do try to do is avoid the “eek, that doesn’t sound right” moments is ask guys to read my stories keeping an eye out for thoughts or behaviors that don’t really seem like a guy way of acting – to a guy anyway.

Being an online gamer for years now, one of my little hobbies was trying to determine the actual gender of other players based on what they say in chat, which was my only clue. Many gamers play the opposite gender, it’s part of the fantasy I guess. Along the way I picked up a few clues and more often than not I could tell. I would verify this with them in private chat and they always seemed interested to know how I figured it out.

One of the things that I noticed is females playing as males would suddenly stop mid game announce they have a head ache, need to take bath and log off. Guys just don’t do that, they will play until they drop before admitting they have to pee. What guys who were playing females would do is slip up and make verbal reference to male genitalia or use them as an insult in chat. Gals usually don’t do that…OK most of the time they don’t. I’m generalizing here. It’s pretty funny when you start picking up on it.

Recently I read 2 books in which oddly stereotypical gender behaviors kept yanking me out of the story. One was written from the point of view of a female in her 30s in a major melt down end of the world scenario. It seemed like every 5 minutes she was making a mental note of the condition of her armpits, sweaty, cold, sticky, etc. I’m a female in my 50s and have been in some pretty hellish scenarios in my life; assaulted, gun fire, earthquakes, typhoons, tornadoes, house on fire, floods, rioting on the next street over, rumble in the discount aisle, etc. I guarantee that in none of these instances did the condition of my arm pits come to the front of my mind. I finally started laughing and checked …sure enough male author.

In another book I read, which was another end of the world scenario, the male character was either thinking about or adjusting his “package” almost nonstop. I tell you it was amazing that he found time to gather weapons, food and go about the business of surviving an apocalypse with all that crotch flailing going on. You guessed it – female author.

I guess the point I’m trying to make is if you’re writing from a gender not your own, be careful when you start getting all detailed and nitty-gritty with the body parts. Ask a few people who are the gender of your character for a reality check. It can be an eye-opening, amusing and sometimes rather embarrassing experience, but well worth the effort.

3 responses

  1. ladyserenity92 | Reply

    It isn’t that easy. Nowaday it’s just become tricky to write/draw stories from gender-reverse roles. Too much styeopypyping, whitewashing and lack of funding. Plus, fear-based stupidity.
    That still doesn’t mean that I have to give up.
    Truth is stranger than fiction.
    More new things under the sun.

  2. Good catches. We are different from one another. I’ve noticed that also. It’s highly annoying, I find.

    1. I guess the value of a good editor (person not machine) is underestimated.

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