Tag Archives: challenges

Authors Answer 116 – Writing the Opposite Sex

Authors need to write from many different points of view. Men, women, children, and even animals or other non-human characters. It makes sense that a male author can write a male character more easily, and likewise, a female author can write a female character. But what about writing the opposite sex?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 116: What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Beth Aman

Hmm, I’m not sure. I haven’t done it much, partially because I don’t want to get it wrong. But it’s something I’m trying out in my new WIP so it’ll be interesting to see how it goes.

Cyrus Keith

The first thing is to remember that although there are differences, they aren’t as drastic as you might think. Not all women are crazy about pink. Not all of them are aware of the way they walk, and all women are NOT damsels in distress. The same way as all mean are NOT born mechanics or knuckle-dragging troglodytes who only care about sex and beer.

The hard part is writing not through your filter of how you see them, but as they are, as real people. Humans.

This is when the writer becomes a researcher. Sit in the mall and just observe how men and women, boys and girls, interact. And I mean SEE it. How do they walk together? What do they do with their hands? How do they hold their bags? Where do they focus their eyes? What do they talk about? Look for the ones away from the crowds. Are they pensive? Sad? Happy? What makes them look that way?

I’m sure there’s a second thing, but I’m not sure what it is.

H. Anthe Davis

I don’t think I have problems anymore, since I’ve been writing men for ages and ages.  In fact, I had more problems with writing women, initially, than I ever did with writing men.  I read a lot of male-centered fantasy during my formative years — adventures like the Elric books, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser books, Vlad Taltos, the Amber series, Belgariad, Chronicles of Thomas Covenant — where almost all of the female characters were on the sidelines or obnoxious.  It took me ages to learn to write female characters that felt like human beings, instead of girlfriends or obstacles or tropes — female characters who reminded me of myself and my friends.  My biggest problem is still writing romantic relationships, but I have that issue on both sides of the gender fence.

Paul B. Spence

I’m not sure. I don’t seem to have a problem with it. I write people. People are usually not defined by their sex or gender. Sometimes they are, but not usually. Culture is much more important. It defines gender roles. I have degrees in anthropology, the study of humans. Take a few classes, learn about the people you are writing about. If you can’t afford classes, then read Marvin Harris. I would start with Pigs, Cows, Wars, and Witches, then move on to Our Kind. Trust me, it will change your view of the world.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I haven’t written much from a male perspective, aside from a few drabbles and very short stories, but I’m currently working on a project that would be a full-length novel from the view of a male character, and honestly, I don’t find it all that difficult. Perhaps I’ll get torn apart by readers who tell me that I’ve got no grasp on how a man actually thinks, but I personally feel that I’m doing okay, and that if I gave a chapter to someone without them knowing I wrote it, they wouldn’t be able to tell whether the author is male or female. If I ever get around to finishing it and publishing it, you can all tell me whether or not I did well. XD

Gregory S. Close

Whenever you write from any unfamiliar perspective, be it race, gender, religion etc. then you have the challenge of presenting something that is fundamentally alien to you in a way that it seems second-nature.  I want to make sure I do everyone justice without too much pandering or cliche.  Beta readers are really important for this, I think.

Elizabeth Rhodes

I actually don’t have a problem with writing male characters. If anything, I have more trouble writing women. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a house full of guys and with few feminine influences. When it comes to women, I think I have trouble with striking a balance between creating a realistic woman and avoiding stereotypes. Thankfully it’s 2017, and the line between masculine and feminine things is becoming all the more blurred.

Jean Davis

I like writing both sexes so I guess my biggest challenge would be the proper word choice and phrasing. We speak and think differently so my brain is hardwired one way and it takes thought to make the opposite sex sound natural.

Linda G. Hill

I actually prefer writing from a man’s point of view. I’ve never been much of a girly-girl myself, and I’ve had very few female friends in my life. If there is one difficulty I face, it would have to be the obvious. Luckily I have a man as my best friend, with whom I can discuss the body parts I lack… like a beard. Get your mind out of the gutter! 😉

D. T. Nova

Honestly I think I’m better at writing female characters than male ones.

One exception would be writing heterosexual romance from the female character’s perspective.

C E Aylett

It definitely depends on the type of person they are, more than the gender. I don’t buy into the idea that because someone is of a different gender they are more difficult to write — we’re all human, we’re all emotional entities. I look for writing about a human before a gender. Our common ground — emotion, motivation, fear, desire — transcends gender.

I recently read on Quora some answers regarding this very question and someone even ventured to state their idea of the differences between men and women, one difference being that men are not emotional beings and women are. This, of course, is not true, but more to the point, I think that as a writer this is a highly dangerous approach to take. If you write characters from the point of view that they must fit into our preconceived ideas of gender you run a high risk of sounding like a sexist (both ways) or, at minimum, writing to flimsy and outdated stereotypes. That can come across as lazy characterising.

In my first novel I found it more difficult to write the female lead than the male one, even though I am female, because firstly she was American and the male lead was British. Plus, she was into basketball and I hate sports (except for pool, if that even counts), so I had to do a lot of research that I didn’t really enjoy and only used about a third of it anyway! The novel series I’m starting to revise this year will have a football fan in it (that’s soccer to our US readers), so I will have to research that. Luckily my partner is a fan so I can tap him for info. That’s the hardest part — giving them character traits of stuff I’m not particularly interested in. But the world is made up of all sorts and you can’t ignore that just because it doesn’t suit. And especially not in this case where the football fan side is actually a small yet deeply significant part of the setting and politics.

It probably also helps that I have a lot of brothers and hung around a lot with the lads when I was younger, Well, still do! So I just write how my mates talk and act. I’ve also met enough wrong-uns in my life that the more villainous characters don’t feel like a chore, either, just natural.

Eric Wood

The hardest thing for me is hearing their voices. What does she sound like? What would she say?

Jay Dee Archer

My current work in progress features a girl as the main character in her teens. But she’s from a different time and far different circumstances than anyone has ever experienced. I think that makes her easier for me to write. However, for the average female character, what’s difficult for me is writing dialogue between her and other female characters when men aren’t around. I generally don’t get to hear those conversations, other than what’s on TV or movies, but they’re completely scripted.

However, I think that because both men and women have so many variations in personality, there isn’t a typical female or male character, so however I write that person, that’s the way they are. If someone said that’s not how a woman behaves, I’d just say that’s how she does.

How about you?

If you write, what do you find difficult about writing the opposite sex? Let us know in the comments section.


Sometimes I think about where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and then what will come in the future. I know they’re my memories and my view of my future, but they seem so unreal.

My childhood was a long time ago. That’s what it feels like. I am a different person now than I was back then. So much has changed, yet a lot is the same. Many of my interests are the same, but through my experiences, successes, failures, and disappointments, I’ve changed. I’ve become who I am today because of past events. My childhood, high school, university, my old call centre job, and even my first few years in Japan feel like another life.

Some things changed slowly, others were dramatic and sudden changes. My first days in university, my final days in Victoria, my last few days in Canada, my first day in Japan, the bankruptcy of my first company in Japan. Those were big changes that feel so long ago. My daughter’s birth feels like my current life. That’s where I am now, a Canadian father living in Japan with his wife and daughter. That’s what makes the next step seem so unreal. I’ve been at this stage of my life for a while now, and I’m about to go through yet another life-changing event.

The future is less certain. Canada is a real thing, but feels so foreign to me now. I expect to feel like I don’t belong, at least for a while. People I know have changed. The city I once lived in has changed drastically since I left eleven years ago. It will be strange being back there to live. Then what will my life in Japan become? Another unreal stage of my life?

I remember the feeling when I first came to Japan. It was surreal. It felt unreal, even while I was in the moment. Everything was so foreign and exotic. Now, I can’t imagine it being foreign at all. I’m so used to it. The first days in Canada may feel like that. It’s been more than five years since I’ve been there. We’ll first go to Vancouver Island, which I haven’t been to since 2001. Fifteen years! I understand the feeling I have right now, knowing I’m leaving a place I love. I went through it when I left Victoria. I got over it, of course. I will get over this after a few months.

And then there are new challenges. My daughter is starting school this year. That seems so crazy. How did she become four years old? What happened to the baby I held in my arms? She’s a walking, talking human being who has her own opinions, sense of humour, and likes. The changes are so unreal. I can’t imagine her when she’s six, eight, ten, a teenager, and an adult. That just does not compute.

I have gone through so many changes, and many more will come. I feel like I’ve lived several different short lives, each one feeling foreign and impossible to go back to. But life goes on, and the experiences can only make me wiser and stronger. I was a shy child who couldn’t speak to a stranger at one time. I ran away from the spotlight. Now, I don’t hide from it. I’m not shy any longer. That still feels unreal.

Authors Answer 20 – Writing Is Challenging

Writing doesn’t always come easy.  In fact, it’s a rather lengthy process that is hardly easy at all.  Everyone has something they’re good at and something they find very challenging to do.  This week’s question was asked by Amy Morris-Jones.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 20: What element of writing (setting, characterization, plot development, etc.) do you find most challenging?

H. Anthe Davis

I think creating a coherent and controlled plot is my biggest problem.  My characters are basically people, so I’m rarely concerned about them, and I’ve been working on my setting for more than a decade so could probably detail it down to individual blades of grass if pressed.  But actually figuring out how to push all the characters into one place, keep them there, and make them do something dramatic and purposeful, can take me a long time to get right.  My first book spent a decade being rewritten until I finally figured out its plot, and even now my book 4-6 notes mostly concentrate on focal scenes and character arcs, not any coherent storyline.  I think maybe I’m the sort of writer who puts the plot together on the second draft.

S. R. Carrillo

Apparently, I have a problem with setting. My stories are always very character-focused, and so setting is the last thing that gets polished out of my brain and onto the paper. I’ve been getting better about it in recent months since it was brought to my attention, though.

Amy Morris-Jones

All of them! Maybe that’s why I wrote this question… I tend to focus most on character, so I’d say plot development is toughest. In particular, I HATE endings. They always feel so false, which they have to be. Life goes on beyond the “the end,” but as a writer, I have to decide when I’ve taken the characters as far as I can (or want to). I often think that’s why writers choose to write a book series—they don’t have to write endings as often!

Jean Davis

Setting is my downfall. I think this comes from reading too much fantasy in my teens. Long paragraphs of setting were the things that stood between me and what happened next. I skimmed many a well-described meal, festival, special gown, town history, pastoral portrayal of the surroundings, details of why the magical thing does what it does, and family history. So pretty much all those detailed bits that set the scene and build the world. And that’s still me to this day. Give me some tidbits to go on and my brain will fill in the rest. If only readers were also in my head, I’d be golden, but alas, I’m forced to go back during editing and put those details on the page.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

I’m going to have to go with setting. Characterization can have it’s issues, but I usually don’t have too much trouble with that, and plot is something that I generally just figure out as I go along and somehow it manages to work out. Setting, however, is the bane of my existence. I have a bad habit of forgetting where my characters have been and where they’re going. World-building is just something that I can’t seem to wrap my head around – my mind works in terms of “mountains…ocean…forest…” – so I rely on beta-readers and critiques to remind me that it’s impossible for a human character to walk 30 miles in an afternoon, and that the air gets thin on the top of a mountain, so my characters shouldn’t be running any marathons up there.

On a similar note, I find it difficult to describe places, even though I’ve got this perfect image in my head of what it looks like. I’m not sure why that is, exactly, but while I can handle descriptions of people, feelings, events, battles, and psychological incidents, describing a physical place is one of the most frustrating things I ever have to do as a writer.

Elizabeth Rhodes

Worldbuilding, while rewarding is definitely the most challenging part.  Bigger picture aspects are easier to nail down.  Subtleties in the fictional universe are just as important but not often thought about.  Effective worldbuilding is time consuming because worlds aren’t meant to be small.

D. T. Nova

Definitely setting. With real settings, it’s so easy to have a research failure on something I’d never even think about, but a reader would notice. And inventing a setting that actually seems real is very hard work.

Caren Rich

Do I have to pick only one?  Grammar is always a challenge. Even when I do it right, I second guess myself and fret over every comma and apostrophe.  I have flashbacks of middle school, walking to the black board, and having to diagram a sentence.  I hated it and I am now scarred for life.

Paul B. Spence

Dealing with it when I find out halfway through a book that one of my main characters has been lying to me.

Linda G. Hill

Hmm… I think the hardest two things for me are describing facial features and, even worse, fashion. Clothes are a challenge for me in real life, so it’s no wonder.

Jay Dee Archer

I have difficulties with several aspects of writing, but I find that my most challenging thing to write effectively is character descriptions.  I have trouble integrating descriptions into the narrative without it sounding like it sticks out.  I need to work on that a lot more.

How about you?

What do you have the most difficulty writing?  Let us know your answer in the comments below.

Hugo and Nebula Awards Challenge

I’m starting a new challenge for myself.  Actually, two challenges.  I’m going to attempt to read all of the winners of the Nebula and Hugo Awards.  There is no time limit.  In fact, they can’t end, as there are new books added every year.

The Nebula Awards are for the best science fiction or fantasy novel published in the United States in the previous year.  They started in 1966.

The Hugo Awards are awarded to the best science fiction or fantasy novel published in English or translated into English in the previous year.  They started in 1953.

Any other awards I should challenge?