Writing Gender

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Don't all writers start out readers?
Cedar, the non-male author.

The first half to this is here.

As I am writing, I check in with my co-writer from time to time, mainly to work out issues like the example that follows. You see, I’m writing a male perspective, and I am very aware that although I like guys, know many, am friends with more guys than women, probably… I’m still not a guy. In writing this very male character, I rely on my male co-author to get the nuances right. In the first scene, two men are discussing the heroine of the tale, who is not present. When I first wrote it, it read like two women were talking, based on speech patterns and body language.

“We underestimate, you, Lom.”

I was surprised. The royal we, and the gentle tone were unlike him. “Sir?”

“Sending you on tasks, thinking you are simply a mercenary, and only bound to us by family needs.”

“All true, my King.” I grinned at him, and he smiled back. 

“But you are truly loyal to us, are you not?”

I met his eyes squarely. “There is only one other whose opinion I value more highly.”

“Ah.” He sat back, and beamed. “Now, that I did not know. I never give credence to the Court gossip, lad.”

My turn to wince. There had been stories going around about Bella and I. “My King, she does not know, and will not know. She deserves much better than this old beat-up warhorse.”

“I will talk to her. And I will be gentle.”

I sighed. “Sir… she is not familiar with our customs. She did not want to come Underhill, hell, she threatened to shoot me if I came back a second time with the papers.”

“Really?” He was amused, now, the corners of his eyes crinkling. 

“Yes. She just wants to go home, and she’s going to be very unhappy finding out she is a prisoner. She will blame it on me, and you know what? She’s right.” My mouth drew back in a rictus of a smile as the full import of it sank in, and the bitterness fully hit me. “I brought her here, and I taught her what little she knows about magic. So whatever she started to feel for me…” I remembered the kiss, and felt unaccustomed moisture spring to my eyes. “It’s dead, sir, and I don’t blame her. Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do.”

I got up, and out of the room, before he had a chance to say a word. I didn’t care if I’d angered him. He needed me. All of Underhill needed me, which is why the one person I cared about in it I couldn’t go to when she needed me. Not that she was going to want to see me ever again.

So we brainstormed on what two men, relaxed and informal despite one of them being royalty, would say to one another, based on a long-term working relationship with overtones of parental fondness on the part of the King. Following is the reworked scene.

 “We underestimate, you, Lom.”

I was surprised. The royal we, and the gentle tone were unlike him. “Sir?”

“Sending you on tasks, thinking you are simply a mercenary, and only bound to us by family needs.”

“All true, my King.” I knew I could get away with sarcasm, and frequently did with him. 

“But you are truly loyal to us, are you not?”

I met his eyes squarely. “You’re the best man for the position. You’re screwing up right now, though.”

“And why is that?” he demanded indignantly. 

“Because you removed our best asset from the game.”

“Ah.” He sat back, and looked amused. “Now, that I did not know. I see that you want her for more than a toy, and with her power she does have potential.”

My turn to wince. There had been stories going around about Bella and I. “She is much more than a mere toy.”

“I will talk to her. And I will be civil, but she is far too dangerous to allow unchecked Underhill. She’s a loose cannon.”

I sighed. “Sir… she is not familiar with our customs. She did not want to come Underhill, hell, she threatened to shoot me if I came back a second time with the papers.”

“Really?” He was really amused, now, the corners of his eyes crinkling. 

“Yes. She just wants to go home, and she’s going to be very unhappy finding out she is a prisoner. She will blame it on me, and you know what? She’s right.” My mouth drew back in a rictus of a smile as the full import of it sank in, and the bitterness fully hit me. “I brought her here, and I taught her what little she knows about magic. So whatever she started to feel for me…” I remembered the kiss, and felt unaccustomed moisture spring to my eyes. “It’s dead, sir, and I don’t blame her. Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do.”

I got up, and out of the room, before he had a chance to say a word. I didn’t care if I’d angered him. He needed me. All of Underhill needed me, which is why the one person I cared about in it I couldn’t go to when she needed me. Not that she was going to want to see me ever again.

Subtle changes, perhaps, but even though a reader might remain unconscious of it, gender in text is as subtly delineated as that. I’m enjoying writing from a male point of view, and I have been learning a lot from it, which I plan to transfer to future stories, even ones that are not first-person.

How do you handle writing the opposite sex from the inside out? Have you ever attempted it, and what made it hard, or easy, for you to do?

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