Aug 31, 2011

A Male Perspective

If you had told 15 year-old me that it was difficult for a man to write from a woman's perspective, he would have told you "Not for me, I can write anything!"

15 year-old me still had a lot to learn.

This topic comes to mind as I look at stretching the limits of how I've written before. Despite writing urban fantasy, a genre usually featuring female protagonists, I generally write male protagonists. Quite simply, I can write from a male POV much more confidently than from a woman's. However I've decided this just won't cut it. That's one reason why in Silent Oath, the character of Cynthia Keller becomes more important and this book features more of her POV than the first.

I have to grow as a writer. Constantly strive to improve myself.

Looking ahead at future book ideas, and the ongoing story of Nathan Shepherd, I can see many more areas where I'll need to be able to show a believable female perspective. Generally, I have been more comfortable talking to women than to men. Most of my closest friends are women, but until recently I have never considered how to train myself to look at things from that female perspective. Sure, there are plenty of things I get, plenty of things I understand are different for women than for men, whether due to genetics or societal influnces. But now I need to learn how to apply these differences, fairly, in my writing.

Thankfully, as we as my wife to ask for advice, I also have two great crit partners who are women, and several female beta readers.

I do think a man can write from a female point of view, and do it well. Just as a woman can write from a male point of view. It does, however, require a certain amount of self-awareness and ability to not only ask the right questions, but listen to the answers.

What about you? Do you think a writer should stick to protagonists of their own gender? Are there some things men and women simply will never understand about each other, or is it a more individual matter, that some men and women are just more open to understanding differences?


  1. True enough...
    guys can write better about women
    as much as girls write better about men..

  2. I like that: "the ability to not only ask the right questions, but listen to the answers." As for understanding each other, sometimes it might just come down to accepting instead...but I do think it's good to stretch both as a human being and a writer. :)

  3. I don't think that male and female viewpoints have to be that different unless playing up the "classic gender traits" is a part of the character. Go nuts. :D

  4. Ellen Smith: That about sums it up, all right.

    Linda: I think a lot of our differences come from how we're raised and the society around us, more so than any inherent differences between male and female. Certainly I know a lot of women with very male attitudes, and plenty of men whose attitudes i just can't understand.

    Sadhbh: That's a fair point. I'm just very conscious that if I don't at least have as much knowledge and understanding as I can gather, I may not do justice to the characters.

  5. I've read some fantastic books written by authors of a different gender than their MC. Most notably--Memoirs of a Geisha. So it can absolutely be done.

    I'm writing in a male's voice right now. It is my first ms where I have tackled this--and it is both challenging and fun. I'm very glad I made the leap.

    I do think there are differences between the genders and how they express themselves in language...not in what we want, but it how we go about getting it.

  6. I think some authors write cross-gender Rowling with Potter, for example.

    For me, though, I'm not as comfortable doing it. I *can* do it, but it's not as easy.

  7. I wrote my last ms in a male POV. What helped me was having a male crit partner, but I still spaz if I pegged it.