How I Write Male and Female Characters

Over on Purple Ink Writers blog, my writer’s group has been chatting about the topic about how to write good characters of the opposite gender. It’s a funny topic to me, because some writers are genuinely convinced that they are terrible at writing the opposite gender. Yet if you’re writing fiction, you pretty much have to write both men and women, don’t you? I think some writers psych themselves out, worrying so much about gender that they forget that people are so much more than that.

I won’t repeat what I said on Purple Ink. You can cruise over and read that post here.

But I will say that the reason I write, in general, is that I find people in situations fascinating. I just like to know how people act and what drives them and why. Hence, I’m constantly watching people to see what they do. I’m constantly asking my friends, in the middle of their story about how they were feeling, “What about the other person? What were they doing?” This probably drives my friends crazy. But it’s not that I don’t care about their feelings. It’s that I love to know how everyone, EVERYONE, is acting. I want the entire story. That’s probably a necessary part of a writer’s brain.

It’s probably also what helps me write believable characters of both genders. We’re driven not so much by the fact that we’re men and women as by our values, our beliefs, our expectations, our needs, our strengths and weaknesses, our nationality, culture, how we’re raised… Gender fits into that larger package, but really, I believe people boil down to their motives. What they do. Why they do it. If you can nail down motivation, you can write believable characters of both genders.

Period.

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