Friday, May 21, 2010

Switching genders?

By Lonnie Cruse

This one's kinda for writers, but I hope you readers will weigh in as well. Please, feel free to do so, in the comments section!

Writers, do you write only female or only male characters? Think you can't write a character of the opposite sex? Think it won't be believable? No one will want to read it? C'mon, don't be chicken!

Even if it's just a short story, why not try writing a character who is totally different from you? Different gender, different ethnicity, different job, different spouse, different family, different beliefs, different everything you can imagine. Why? Because it will stretch you as a writer. Stretch your thinking and your abilities. It will probably force you to do more research. More thinking. More imagining. And you will learn a lot, about what other people are like, what they think like. How they got to be who they are.

Getting to know why people are who they are can be fascinating. Mind you, I do not believe our background is always an excuse for our adult behavior. Yes, many people are severely damaged in childhood. That doesn't mean (to me) that we should pat a serial killer on the head and send him/her on their merry way because they had a very bad childhood. There are ways to get help and survive that. But it IS fascinating to hear about the backgrounds/childhoods of various individuals to see what helped shape their adult lives. And maybe to write about it?

Stretching yourself as a writer can lead you in amazing directions. You learn more about what makes people tick, you learn more about yourself, about your talents, etc, and you learn whether or not you can move into other, different areas of writing.

It's scary, but moving in new directions is also exciting. I've gone from writing one series with a male sheriff lead character to a female retired teacher as my lead character to writing non-fiction self-help for women. Each stage has really helped me understand myself and others and led me into a new career.

How about you? Time for a change? Want to be somewhere else in your writing life next year or in the next five years? Just something for you to mull.

Okay, readers, weigh in. Do you like it when a favorite author branches out in a new direction? I know you hate it when a favorite author stops writing your favorite characters, but will you follow that author into a new direction? How loyal are you, and why? Your thoughts? And thanks, as always, for stopping by!


Dru said...

I'll follow an author if they branch out and read their work, especially if I like their writing style, as long as it's in a genre that I'll read.

Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

I second Dru.
Also, I used to do text roleplaying on Yahoo! Groups...sometimes I would play multiple characters in multiple groups...and I had a nice mix of canon characters, male characters, female characters, and my own original characters (both male and female). I never had a problem with it and loved it! Also we just needed to do that because the majority of us playing were female.

Sheila Connolly said...

When I first started writing, I produced a suspense with multiple POVs, both male and female. It was an interesting exercise, although I have to say I haven't tried writing from inside the head of a male since (and the book hasn't sold).

I think I'm more likely to read a book written by a woman from a man's perspective, than vice versa. But as no doubt everyone will say, if it's well written, it doesn't matter.

signlady217 said...

Back in Shakespeare's day, all the actors were men, so they had to play the female roles. From what I've heard, some of them were really good at it.

Now we have actors like Dustin Hoffman (Tootsie) and Robin Williams (Mrs. Doubtfire) who can pull this off very well, too.

Off the top of my head I can't think of female actors who have played a male part, but I'm sure there are some.

If the writing is good, I don't really care if it a man or woman writing, or from which perspective it is written from. I just want a great story.

Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

Was it Cate Blanchett whose character disguised herself as a man to act in Shakespeare in Love? Whoever that was, that's one!

Lonnie Cruse said...

Great comments! Thanks, everyone!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

If you scroll down from Lonnie's post, you'll see mine from yesterday in which I mention some of the male and not-me female protagonists I've written into my mysteries. Short stories are a great way for writers to play with voice. And it was Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love. She won an Oscar for her portrayal of a young woman playing a young man playing a young woman.

Mare F said...

I read an author for both their style and their characters. I'm all for any of my favorite living authors to branch out. This gives me more to read and a fresh set of characters to meet. No matter how good a series is eventually the relationship is bound to become strained and then where is the fun?

Kaye George said...

Woman playing a man's role? Didn't Vanessa Redgrave play at least one?

Liz was on a panel with me at Malice where Harriet Sackler asked us about writing from a male POV. Until I saw the question, I never thought anything about it! Maybe because I grew up with brothers, no sister, and lots of boys in the neighborhood.

E. B. Davis said...

One of my favorite authors, Susan Rogers Cooper, wrote a series having a female protagonist. I was ho hum about it, but then she started her Sheriff Milt Kovak series and I absolutely loved it. Milt's a great guy, who evidently is based on an amalgum of her male relatives. Cooper is one example of a female author writing, in my opinion, a better male character than female. Although I am not yet published, I don't think I have a problem writing both sexes. How does anyone write a novel without writing both?

Amber at The Musings of ALMYBNENR said...

Ah, yes! Thanks Elizabeth!

Mary@GigglesandGuns said...

When I read a book and it draws me in I forget the author until 'm done and it's time to get another book.
Julie Andrews did one of those routines in a movie.
Giggles and Guns