Posted in Character Development, Writing

How To Write Characters from the Opposite Gender

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that boys and girls are different. We’re different physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I’m a girl and have no idea what goes through the mind of a boy. Boys have no idea what girls go through. We pretend we understand the opposite gender, but we really have no clue.

With that being said, it’s much easier to write in the female point of view if you’re a female yourself.

how-to-write-characters-from-the-opposite-gender

When I first started writing my mystery series, George Florence, the main protagonist was George himself. It was all in first-person, but some things just weren’t clicking with the rest of the story.

I eventually changed the point of view to third-person with George still in charge, but even that didn’t work out. With the help of my writer’s group, I came to the conclusion that even though George calls the shots for the plot, his colleague, Lilah, wants to tell the story.

I ended up rewriting the whole story, still in third-person, but as Lilah. And it is the best decision I ever made.

Why is it the best decision, though? I think it’s because Lilah’s personality is similar to mine, in certain ways. That, and she’s a girl. I can relate to her more. It’s easier for me to write her thoughts on what’s going on.

That, and I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that George is a detective and Lilah and I are not…

How to choose which gender your protagonist should be.

It’s easy to choose your own gender because you have that extra knowledge, emotionally, mentally, and physically. But, is it really what’s best for your story?

I chose to write in George’s point of view because I thought that was best for the series. Who wouldn’t want to follow around a fired detective who then decides to become a private investigator in spite of everyone else?

No one, if you can’t get his personality right.

It turned out, gender aside, Lilah is the best fit for my novel because she’s more relatable.

But what if Lilah was the detective and George was the student? George would then be more relatable to myself and everyone else. Then I would have a male protagonist on my hands and how in the world do I write as a 20-something male?

How to write as the opposite gender.

I can’t exactly tell you how to write as the opposite gender, but I can’t tell you how to research the opposite gender. Does that work?

Yeah, let’s skip this one.

How to research the opposite gender.

It’s going to take you a while to write as the opposite gender. It will only get better with practice, but in the end, you’re still a girl, not a boy. Or you’re a boy, not a girl… Either way.

However, you can do the best you can and that’s all anyone really ever asks for.

Read

Read books written in the male point of view if you’re a girl and vice versa. Pay attention to how the author wrote their protagonist. You can learn a lot from seeing what other authors have done, to a certain point.

Talk to people

Ask a family member or friend of the opposite gender about what they would do in a certain situation. Or, just ask them how they felt when they were teenagers, when they first went to college, or any other major life event.

Follow (or don’t follow) stereotypes

When people think of a teenage girl, they think of her standing in front of the mirror for long periods of time checking her hair and fixing her make-up. They’re spending all their money at the mall on new clothes, purses, and the like. Some teenage girls are like that, yes, but not everyone.

For example, I wore jeans every single day, the only day I’ve ever worn make-up in my life was my sister’s wedding, and at the age of 23 I still don’t have a purse. I carry a backpack.

With that said, stereotypes are okay to a point. However, it all depends on one thing.

Personality.

If your teenage girl doesn’t want to wear make-up when all of your female friends are saying that’s all they cared about, then fine. Your character doesn’t have to wear make-up.

Remember, this is your character. You created him/her. You know what they want and what they don’t want. You know the basic outline of how they think and act.

So, research the opposite gender. It won’t hurt you. In the end, though, just do your best and let your character be him/herself.

How do you write as the opposite gender? Are most of your characters the same gender as you? Let me know in the comments below!

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Author:

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Rachel Poli is a writer and blogger. She has an associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a bachelor’s degree in English Studies. She enjoys writing young adult novels, middle-grade, and children’s picture books. She is currently working on her first novel.

32 thoughts on “How To Write Characters from the Opposite Gender

  1. It’s definitely difficult to write from the opposite gender. Most of the time my main characters are male. I have very few female main characters, and when I do I usually reference my sisters since I grew up around them. But I don’t know what they think or feel or interpret situations as women.

    Although I’m saying this as a guy, Stephen King writes female characters really well for a guy. I wonder how he does it. I hope he’d be able to reply to that question to me one day haha *looks wistfully into the future

    1. I know what you mean. Most of my characters are female and I only have two sisters. Aside from my dad and seeing the occasional cousin here and there, I was never really around men much.
      There are some authors who can write from the opposite gender really well. But I guess that also comes with a lot of practice.

  2. I haven’t have got my hands on a protagonist of opposite gender. Not because I didn’t want to, I definitely want to do that, but just because I haven’t payed much heed to that call.
    Your suggestions will definitely help me out in writing from a male’s perspective. 🙂

    1. I don’t think I have, either. George was my first try and Lilah wanted to be the spotlight instead… So I guess I still haven’t written from the male POV.
      Good luck when you do. It’s tricky, but fun.

  3. It’s HARD to write from a male point of view. I spend a lot of time watching the men in my world. They tend to do some stupid and funny stuff, which is great for a character, but getting into their heads is difficult.

  4. Hi Rachel. I am working on a couple posts for MY blog about reading, book clubs, etc. If you have a minute, I would love to know what the best book was that you read in 2016. And if there are any you are really looking forward to in 2017. Thanks!

    1. Hello!
      Hm… I think my favorite book from 2016 was The Selection by Kiera Cass. As of right now, I don’t have a book that I’m super looking forward to in 2017… Not yet, anyway. 😉

  5. My current novel has two protagonists, one male and one female, so I switch between their first-person voices. It’s definitely been interesting, but I don’t know that I’ve written them differently based solely on gender. I approached each character with a strong sense of who they were as individuals, and then built their stories, decisions, mannerisms, etc around that. It has definitely helped to read female characters written by female authors, however. Katniss in The Hunger Games sticks out as having a very distinct, female voice.

    1. Every character has their own voice and personality, so that definitely has to be put into account. Some females might not act girly, depending on their personality. Authors know their characters best.
      I still have to read The Hunger Games… I read the first book a long, long time ago, and I remember it being good. But I have to give it another shot.

  6. Nice post! The main character of my current project is male, written in third POV (though I may change it to first). The premise of the story has a certain character in mind. So I crafted someone who I felt would stand out and would best carry out this story. In the end, I decided on a male, though I knew it would be a challenge. Could it have easily been a female? Yes. But I think it’s about creating an individual who best tells the story or their story (unless their gender is pertinent to the plot). Who or what is the story about? Whose voice needs to be heard?

    1. That’s awesome! That’s what I did for my story. I thought George was the best bet for my story and that was not the case. But it’s all good because Lilah is easier to write, lol.

  7. After reading your diversity post I feel kind of obligated to point out that gender is more fluid than just boy/girl. There are all kinds of people who are in some transitional journey in one direction or the other, or identify as both or agender.

    I don’t feel that men and women are not all that different, it’s just that the ways we’re socialized tend to be, right down to the separate toy aisles in Target that are color coded blue or pink. The main character in the novel I’m working on now is a guy, and a lot of what he does is determined by how he was raised, the expectations placed on him by everyone in his life and particularly his father. If you can brainstorm what those expectations would be and how anyone, as a person, would react to them, that helps.

    Actually, I have the opposite problem in some ways… I find it hard to write women who, for example, consider makeup important. I never really “got” makeup, mostly because I hate the feel of it on my face. Purely a texture thing. Also, I can’t do mascara without flinching and it never turns out well. People who have tried to do my makeup for me have given up in frustration, and my mother never understood why I refused to wear any except when I had my arm twisted to look nice for prom. I know there are a lot of women who think of makeup as a source of empowerment and devote lots of time and effort to their metaphorical war paint, but I’m not sure I could ever convincingly write someone who felt that way.

    1. Oh, definitely! I totally agree with you. Gender is much more complex than just simply being a “boy” or being a “girl.” But, for simplicity’s sake, it was easier for me to explain just boy and girl.
      As for the make-up, I hear you. I can’t wear mascara, either. Or any kind if make-up, either. I feel as though we were made to look a certain way and that doesn’t include makeup. 😉

  8. I find it very hard to write from the male perspective and most of my MCs so far have been female. I do agree with what you said about research. The only time I worked with a dual POV, one involving an adult male, was for a fanfiction piece. So I think that apart from books, you can observe actors on TV to see how they behave and then describe that in your own words.

    1. Research frogs. But then the personality will be all up to you because we can’t really learn how frogs think, but you can research how they may act in certain situations.

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