Writing Characters of Opposite Genders

I’m pretty sure we’ve all had that experience: We read an author who attempts to write about characters of the opposite gender than theirs and they horribly and often ridiculously fail. Now as a female writer who usually writes from male PoV’s I’ve always been a little paranoid of said failure to convey an authentic male voice. Honestly between the first and the second draft of Light I feel like I’ve improved a lot in this aspect, but I’m sure there is the one or other section that doesn’t come across as entirely authentic (can I get some more male readers to take a look at let’s say the first three chapters, pretty please? Volunteers, just drop me an email and I’ll be more than happy to send you some sample chapters!)

Of course there’s the question of what exactly qualifies as an authentic portrait of a male/female voice.

Personally I’m not a believer in gender-stereotypes and don’t think that they are what define gender. When I’m looking at who some authors fail or accomplish to create a realistic picture of a character obviously not of their own gender I often find that those characteristics are much more subtle than general stereotypes. It definitely isn’t easy to do and as a writer I often find it hard to know if I succeed at giving a realistic image of my male protagonists. The fact that I’m writing about gay/bisexual male protagonists who are occasionally introspective only adds to me trying to write about them in a realistic fashion. Seriously, nothing bugs me more than the fact that many people automatically associate a certain degree of femininity with gay/bisexual men and the other way around with women. Needless to say that I’m pretty much expecting the sexuality of my protagonists to put off some readers, but that’s their karma I suppose 😉

Anyway, I’m curious: What would you say is characteristic for a realistic male/female voice and what experiences did you make writing characters of the opposite gender? Comment away 😀

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In which the author is incredibly sleepy and droopy-eyed…

Yes, it’s been an incredibly tired day (what was that about trying to make it to bed a little earlier tonight? *checks clock* never mind…)

Anyway, today’s word count: 694 and the first Ares scene of Five is finished 🙂 I’m actually quite happy with it and once again Damian just gets pissed. I wonder why :p

Right now I just really looooove rewriting. I feel like I’m more and more getting the hang of things like my chararacters’ voices, the general atmosphere and shiny main plot events 😀

And with writerly happiness I shall venture off to bed now.

Procrastination: A Writing meme

Okay, so I’m sitting here ready to start working on the rewrite of Five and what do I see? Yes, I tend to randomly run across meme’s at times. This one’s from Writing on Wednesdays

Do you write fiction or non-fiction?  Or both?

Definitely fiction. Urban fantasy in this case 8)

Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?

This blog is my writing journal, but other than that I have two notebooks, one of the first book of what I’ll try to make into a duology, though it might turn out to be a trilogy in the end. We’ll see. The other one is for book 2 of the same series, which I’m planning to kick start during this year’s NaNoWriMo.

If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?

I usually start out with a general idea, though my characters and their backgrounds/personalities tend to be there first. In the end plot and character are totally inter-related and there’s no way to do one without the other. If you’re asking me whether I keep super-detailed outlines? No. My notebooks are full of general thoughts and ideas that often are the skeleton of a chapter, but the actual writing itself often happens quite spontaneously. And no, I don’t know how the series will ultimately end yet. I have a vague idea, but that’s about it. It’ll come 😉

I read a couple of different books on writing and honestly, I’m pretty neutral about them. They usually give you some tips and hints, but you’re often just as well off without them. If you’re looking for some structural help, books like Make a Scene or How Not To Write A Novel are definitely helpful – and the latter one is just a hilarious read, but honestly I’d be writing the same way as I am now if I’d never read them. In the end my own inner critic as well as the help and advice of fellow critics helped me to figure things out and work on an overall improve of my writing.

Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?

It depends. There are days when I constantly think about the novel and just can’t get a scene out of my head until I sit down, but then again there are days like that when I simply don’t get to sit down and focus on writing. Right now I’m trying to work on the novel every day. I don’t have a set word limit, but I try to get something down every day to stay on track.

Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time? .

Again, it depends on the day. Sometimes I manage to get some writing done during work or finish a chapter faster than expected, but I often spend a couple hours straight in front of the laptop. Of course there’s internet to distract me, but it usually works really well.

Are you a morning or afternoon writer?

Honestly, I’m a NIGHT writer. Don’t know why, but there’s some pretty awesome stuff that you can crank out of my caffeinated brain at 3 AM and thereabouts. But then again I pretty much write whenever I get to it. which is often at night, but sometimes in the morning or afternoon at work.

Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?

I’m really particular about having the right music to write with. Sure, I can write in silence and I really like to sit in my favorite coffee shop and just write a few hours away, but I definitely like to write with music. Current favorites are anything by Seether or Apocalyptica, mostly whatever suits the mood of the scene I’m writing.

Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)

Uh. Laptop. I loooooove my little 13″ carry-everywhere laptop and not I bought a little tiny flashdrive that goes wherever I go. Yes, O Laptop I love thee!

Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One?  Or do you let the story evolve as you write?

See my answer to question 3? Honestly, I know jack-shit about the ending when I start a novel. And yes, not knowing how it will ultimately end sometimes drives me nuts. Ah the woes of a writer’s life!

Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?

No. Really. If it would I’d write cheesy vampire novels without any content or bad language.

INSTEAD I’m having fun with what is hopefully turning into publishable material: Dystopian futuristic setting with a medieval backlash, two gay/bisexual protagonists who are really quite unsympathetic at times and really don’t want to get involved in issues like politics or moral justice and in the end their suffering is long and emotionally traumatizing and oh so infinitely pointless (as far as book one is concerned at least)

And yes, since you ask, I prefer my characters to be complex, edgy and morally ambiguous. Oh and they have motivations other than being eternally in love with Brainless Hero of the Godlike Looks (TM) You get the idea. If you’re looking for mainstream-adherent fantasy, Light is the wrong book to read. Though of course I’d want you to buy and read it anyway :p

Editing/Revision – love it or hate it?

Right now I love it. I love how much this is improving and how much new stuff I’m adding to make the novel so much better. I’m really hoping to get most if not all of the second draft done by the end of the year. It would be awesome. And then the third draft/polishing comes 😉

Worldbuilding: Illyrian Pantheon and Calendar

‘Officially’ the Empire of Light is a monotheistic culture, mainly believing in Helos the God of Light, whom the City of Helos is named after. However, the Illyrian year follows the four major Gods and Goddesses. There are no months as such, but the year is divided by its seasons:

Spring = Gaea (Goddess of Dawn and Life)

Summer = Helos (God of Sun and Light)

–> Summer Solstice: Sun Dance (celebration of the Longest Day, celebrated on the day of the First of Helos)

Fall = Artume (Goddess of the Moon)

Winter = Nys (Goddess of Night and Darkness)

–> Winter Solstice: Darkest Night (the celebrations on this day are similar to our modern Carnival etc., celebrated on the nigh of the First of Nys)

Minor Gods and Godesses (officially their cults are all but extinct, but some of their Temples survived the Unification Wars):

Eyrenna – Peace

Aeres – War

Naegar – Water

Aerya – Air

Phaeron – Healing

Merwyn – Spirit

Except for Merwyn, who is commonly shunned by the Empire for his supposed connection to the Curse, all the other minor deities are just minor references in the novel. I’m trying to keep religion relatively simple. The Illyrian year completely focuses on Helos who is the only male among the four major deities and is perceived as superior all-uniting God by the Empire of Light. While Sun Dance on the First of Helos is generally a bright festival of Light, Darkest Night is celebrated to defy the darkness of winter.

Protected: Four

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Yay for progress!

With the start of university looming ahead, I made it a point to work on Light every day. Work including structuring, outlining etc, but I tried to at least write something every day. Sure, some days this works better than on others, because writing backwards i.e. wielding the delete key in wild abandon isn’t always exactly what you’d call productive progress. But this way, taking some time every day to completely focus on writing, I want to make sure that I don’t let it slide once university stress kicks in. 18 credit hours paired with a 33-hour work week will be way time-consuming, but I really want to get this somewhere. Right now I’m shooting for being ready to submit sometime in 2009, maybe even being able to finish the second draft by the end of this year – if things go optimally.

Reality is that I just finished Four and from there it’s still quite a way to go till I hit the chapters that I’m merely editing to fit in, instead of completely rewriting them. As it is, I wasn’t really excited about Four to begin with, because I felt sort of ambiguous about that whole flashback idea, but it was one of those chapters that I needed to be there and right there as far as the plot goes. In the end I did have quite a bit of fun with it, especially given that this is Ares’ first interaction with both Valyr and Damian. Needless to say that the Ares/Damian section was hilarious. All in all it’s a very dark chapter that hints at a bunch of stuff, but there were some parts that were plain fun and I think that made it a better chapter overall – even though it turned out about 500 words longer than I’d planned originally.

Today’s progress meter shows a solid and shiny 1000 words and I’ll go over the chapter again in the morning before posting it. Yes, by now I’m so totally breaking the ultimate NaNoWriMo rule and edit as I go. So far it worked out quite well.

Again, I’m really glad to have added Damian, because of how simple he makes things appear at times. Where Ares rants and raves, Damian just shuts him up and does so quite efficiently. That said, the last line of today’s chapter speaks of genuine Damian logic:

“No idea what Orpheus wants with you, but since you asked, the name’s Damian and you’re a godsdamned idiot.”

Anyway, I’m happy about the shiny progress 😀

Words written today: 1,011

Useful wordcount of the second draft so far: 12,767

Nominal writing

Yes, I’ve been working on editing throughout the last week. No, I haven’t written a single word beyond completing and editing Three. Yeah, let’s face it, I’ve been procrastinating and being right in the middle of moving apartments hasn’t really contributed to my time for writing either.

Then again I’ve been going over chapters Two through Four of my original first draft, trying to figure out what to keep and what to scrap. Honestly? Of almost 15,000 words, all I’m going to keep is one scene. Yes, there is a lot of superfluous wordy junk there and whenever I’m reading sections of the first twelve chapters, I get that eerie feeling that either I’m a damn schizophrenic or someone else must have written those chapters, because my writing has improved so much since then. And it’s not even been a year. I guess development can come in spurts 😉

So what’s the outcome of this editorial rampage? I basically decided to condense those original three chapters of flashback into one chapter. That one scene (which is a really cool one I might add) will serve as a great opener and then I’ll go from there. The basic frame of the chapter is pretty clear as is its result, but I really don’t want to get all tangled up in backstory and flashbacks, because those distract horribly from the main plot.

I suppose that’s one of the things I’ve learned about editing so far: cutting. Really. If a scene doesn’t contribute to your plot or character development, it’s gotta go. And let’s face it there’s a great number of those scenes all hidden sneaky-like in every kind of first draft just waiting for some thorough editing. I’m not saying trash it altogether, for there still might be some helpful and contributing bits in there, but you can always ‘recycle’ those scenes later or use those tidbits and drop them into the ongoing plot as casual asides.

So here I am, working on the problem flashbacks. I knew before that I’d run into problems with this section, but didn’t really know what to do with it. In the end it took me a couple of months of letting it simmer and a heightened sense of self-criticism to be able to part with most of it and figure out how to rewrite it instead.

Right now I’m rather amused by Damian’s suggestion of him knocking Ares out at a certain critical point. ‘Shut it up first and then deal with it later’ is so totally a thing Damian would do. So far he really likes the idea even though he already knows he’s never going to live that one down. I guess in the end we’ll see if the solution will be quite that drastic or not 😉