Surely you’ve read those romance novels where the hero never swears and is just dying to talk about his feelings. Or how about thrillers where the heroine has no body issues and jumps right into emotion-free sex. While there’s a time and a place for wish-fulfillment-based characters in both genres, most readers like to read about somebody with a little more meat on their metaphorical bones. Which means that authors are stuck trying to get into the minds of characters of the opposite sex.
I wish I could provide male authors with a quick checklist on how to write female characters and vice versa…because then I’d be rich and famous. (Although, guys, please do check out the Bechdel test which recommends that two female characters must at some point in your book talk about something other than a man.) Instead, I’m going to offer something quite simple — rather than engaging in small talk this holiday season, why not delve deeper into the male/female mind at your next party or family get-together?
I took my own advice to heart this past month and begged men and women alike to tell me how many crushes they’d had in their lives. The rules were simple — I wouldn’t tell them the data I’d thus far collected until they tallied up their own number. And they could define “crush” in whatever manner worked for them. The results shocked me. (I’m going to wait to put them in the comments section in case you want to play along. Guess now, then scroll down!)
Questions like this helped me delve deep enough into the male mind that I finally felt confident writing a first-person point-of-view story from a guy’s perspective. The result — Bloodling Wolf — got so much praise that I turned it into a serial. And I have to admit that whether or not I nailed every characteristic, it was amazingly freeing to write like a guy. My protagonist swears, doesn’t mind describing sex scenes, and never takes the world too seriously. Sounds like a vacation to this emotionally-charged female brain!
I’d be curious to hear from other authors. What tricks do you use to get into character when writing as the opposite sex? When you read romance novels and thrillers, do you cringe at those wooden men and women (respectively)? And which books do you feel really hit the nail on the head despite following a protagonist whose gender didn’t match that of the author?
(Oh, and by the way, Happy New Year!)