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I'm trying to plan a story but I'm struggling to wrap my head around one of the main characters who is female. I was wondering if anyone else on here has had trouble creating characters of opposite gender and how you overcome it?
It is a bit difficult to write about the opposite gender. What makes it difficult is that you have to know how the minds of these people work. Eachperson's mind is unique, so you need to develop your character. If you have been watching a lot of movies, you could simply stick to the stereotypical behavior of the opposite gender. If and only if you are really having difficulty, you could set the personality of your protagonist to a bit "tomboyish".
If all of the above fails, I would simply ask a person of the opposite gender questions that are relevant to the story. You may ask them about reactions or such. You can also observe their behavior (not in a stalker kind of way) and see how they react to certain stimuli. You do have to choose your subject wisely though, and ask permission first.
When writing about the opposite gender, take some time to consider what they would do, say, or feel.
P.S. Usually, within the dialogue of females, their use of language is reasonably refined, thus swearing is limited.
Read female authors and understand how they write and how they reason out problems and resolutions. The way Jane Austen and John Keats emotionally view the world is different considerably, beyond their writing styles and although they wrote during a similar period of time.
Some of the most articulate observations made about the female character are made by some of the most articulate females in their writings either directly or indirectly.
Though no example is comprehensive and no rule definite, here is a useful example at showing counterpoint between genders (though in all honesty the entire book is short enough to be read in a day or two and in my opinion is worth it) Pride and Prejudice Chapter 45.
Avoid stereotypes and do not cast your characters based on your observing your peers. You are not trying to create people you are trying to create characters. As such you are trying to make a point about some part of human behavior (ideally) or drawing an emotional focus to a general behavior rather than an individual. It is much more important your audience remembers how they feel about your work than if they remember the characters individually, especially non-heroic figures (a distinction I make because not all protagonists are necessarily so important). Make sure first and foremost your character is create the emotional context you desire to further the immersion of your writing and if not rethink your approach.
Finally, on a note of personal and entirely subjective opinion, I usually consider whether or not I want my work to challenge a view on a gender, and if I do I will make a point of establishing a marked difference between female and male roles. If the point of gender is non important and simply a point of characterization for the sake of variety (think of it as character affirmative action), it would be more advisable to not make the female character as different as you would originally believe necessary. In all honesty, people's behaviors and personalities vary much more based on external factors like their upbringing than their gender (I would wager there's no universal behavior every woman I have ever met possess) so it is not so important that the behavior of a female is markedly different than a male's behavior.
At 1/4/13 06:26 PM, Nitro24 wrote: I'm trying to plan a story but I'm struggling to wrap my head around one of the main characters who is female. I was wondering if anyone else on here has had trouble creating characters of opposite gender and how you overcome it?
The best way that you can empathise with people is to talk to them. I know, this is difficult, but in the past 6 years, I've found it easier to empathise with ladies, because of the major relationship that I went through and how it has left me with more friends, despite going down in flames.
It's especially good if you are in a situation where you can Role Play with at least one female. Seriously, D&D from their point of view can be a very different experience, as it has proven for me - the three ladies that I have RPed with for years are all very different people and one or two of my characters want to slap theirs (for very different reasons)
Failing that, try thinking your way through the situation as a girl that you know. Work through it step by step and, while it will be painfully slow, you should be able to build up a picture.
mhzinski's paragraph is good advice for one strategy. And it may be good as a cursory philosophy, but in my view, being overly analytical of the purpose of gender in a story risks losing spontaneity, a property of all complex characters regardless of gender. And I wholeheartedly disagree with him on the point of "don't observe your peers". All it takes is a startling line of dialogue or a small gesture or tick you notice someone across the cafeteria act out to create a solid baseline for a character. Characters we create will never be as complex as actual people, but the heart of an effective character always comes from our imprint on a degree of perceived or imagined reality.
If you plan to write a literary novel dealing with the socio-economic status of women in the 21st century, then maybe you need to do a little research and a little deep thinking. But otherwise, as mzhinski said, the gender of a character is simply, in the end, just the cherry on top of the sundae. A character being female is the same as a character having blue hair, or a character missing an eye, or whatever. Being female does not necessarily comprise the entire essence of a character - don't bother thinking too much about it.
When I got outside, the purple fog was spreading. I covered my nose and mouth, and ran home.
In general, I think of a character and flesh how it's inner workings and it just naturally comes to mind "Oh, this is a female character"