Writing From The Opposite Gender’s Point Of View

There have been quite a few people whom I’ve spoken to about writing, either writers or non-writers, who have asked me if I find it difficult to write from the male perspective as a main character. My answer is always no and they seem surprised at this.

There are a lot of authors who do write from the point of view of the opposite sex, so I find it interesting when speaking with other writers that some of them do find it a challenge and wonder how I’m able to do it. A lot of people describe me as very “feminine” or “girly”, but that’s just what they’re seeing on the outside. On the inside, I’m much more “gritty” and I feel almost genderless.

My answer to them is pretty simple: We’re all just people. I’m not silly enough to claim that there is no difference between men and women, but I do believe that there are differences within each gender that are greater because of personality types, different cultures, opposing ideals, etc. I’m probably more different, on some levels, than many other women than I am from a lot of men.

I guess that the best way to simplify my point to this post is that I relate best to those who are damaged in some way, but who are also idealists and enjoy talking/thinking about random, commonly viewed “useless” topics. This personality type can be difficult to find in real life, no matter which gender you are looking at, but they’re easy for me to write about.

It would be very challenging for me, at this point in my life, to write about a 40-something family woman with a glamorous career. I’d probably throw her into some sort of thriller scenario that would challenge her privileged sanity, but I still don’t think I’d get her down right. Not yet. The same would go for a man with a totally different persona from me, such as a sociopath business tycoon who likes to kill those who won’t close a business deal with him. But I’d like to get there one day maybe.

Right now, I’m all about writing for the under dogs, the near-suicidal wrecks or the bullied, traumatized young people who are trying to do the right thing and keep going. But I do want to be at the level where I’m open-minded enough to take any random character and be able to write them believably.

When writing as a dark, brooding male character, I can imagine that I am him as easily as I can imagine myself. I put on a different hat, as any writer does when they write about any character, and I become him as I’m writing.

So, this is my long, somewhat off-the-beaten-path answer to the writing in another gender question. I really don’t think we are all that different from one another – men and women, I mean. If we are different, it’s probably more of a personality/culture/socio-economic thing than a gender thing. That’s my belief, anyway.

In conclusion, I would say that as writers, it’s most important that we keep writing about what we’re passionate about. It’s good to challenge ourselves, of course, but write what you love, and if you love writing in one gender more than the other, stick with it! Don’t feel bad if you’re not into writing about someone of the opposite sex as the main character, but don’t rule it out either.

Do you find it difficult or easy to write in a different gender? Do you tend to stick with a certain theme for your characters? Be heard. 🙂

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Why I Write Scary Stories – It’s Not What You Think

An_Eye_for_Horror_by_thenumber23

“You are an optimistic, nice girl. Where does all this dark stuff come from?” said a co-worker of mine four years ago, after I told him about the sort of things I write about.

Some of my stories wouldn’t be described as pure horror, but all of them contain significant elements of it within them. So, what does make people want to write books that contain graphic and horrific content? It’s probably not what you think.

I am speaking for myself. Maybe other writers will disagree, but this is how I feel about writing horror.

Horror’s sole purpose is not, or should not, be to simply scare the hell out of people. Good horror writing’s intent should be to send a message, to make people think. To use the negative events to set ideas to flight.

There will always be the torture porn and the mindless “Scare them. Kill them. The End!” stuff, but obviously there is not a lot of craft in that. Imagination? Yes. Skill? Not really.

Like any other book genre, a well-written horror story should contain fleshed-out, complex characters (That you will actually care about when they, um, die, or when they suffer from some other terrible outcome) and a well thought out plot (Or, at least a sensible one!). It also needs a unique idea to set it apart from all of the other horror books that have been written in times past.

I’m not going to say that writers who partake in the art of horror writing don’t have messed up, even twisted imaginations (Because we actually do). Perhaps a concept formed in a writer’s mind as a result of some tragic experience, or from reading or hearing about one. Other times, a writer will look inside of themselves and write out some of their worst fears. All of us are afraid of something, and sometimes what we think are irrational or strange fears, turn out to be more widely regarded as scary than we thought.

Writers, if you want to pen a truly terrifying tale, you’re going to have to dig deep into your own psyche to explore your own anxieties and those nightmares that you’ve tried to forget. Writing always needs to be honest, from the heart. Otherwise, the story will seem forced. Forced is boring. And peoples’ attention spans are short enough as it is.

A lot of my stories contain horror elements in them in large part because the antidote to horror is, essentially, hope. I just love the satisfaction of a character overcoming obstacles of a more dramatic scale. I don’t receive much enjoyment from writing romance, because it’s just too simple and linear for me. I want the character to experience a lot of hardships, go on a journey or two, and then develop as an individual. If there is a hint of romance in my books, it will be destroyed at some point.

Sometimes, characters will need to die in order for a point to come across or for the message to really settle into the reader’s heart. While many things do work out for the better in life, sometimes things do not get better. They get worse. Why do they get worse? Because of “evil” in the world – the diseases, the corrupted world leaders, the warfare, the natural disasters, the rape culture, etc.

Horror asks the gripping question: Who will win – the evil forces or the main characters? Hope or fear? Violence or peace? And, why did they win?

Most of my more recent works have an anti-war or anti-violence theme. Ironically, one needs to show the terrible effects of pain, brutality, and lost lives in a story in order for the message to have a full impact. Show people what life in a third world country entails for a young girl. Emphasize the atrocities and their effects on those people who are subject to war crimes, human trafficking, starvation, cruelty… whatever it is!

Suzanne Collins did not write The Hunger Games, a dystopian novel, with the intent of glorifying violence. She showed the tragedy of teenagers forced to kill one another in a sick game of survival as a symbolism for today’s violence-accepting world.

Many genres have horror components in them. Fantasy, thrillers, dramas, etc. can contain their fair share of the nitty gritty reality in the world.

My opinion is that writing containing horror is an excellent way to tell a lesson or a truth. Often when I have something very bold to say, my writing inevitably channels into the realm of horror.

Character Spotlight – Amelia

I mentioned Amelia in a past blog post and I wanted to add her to my “character spotlight list”.

Amelia represents the promising, smart individuals who are subject to unfortunate circumstances and become depressed.

She is emotionally unstable due to her inability to communicate with her mother (Who never comes to see her in the hosptial after her suicide attempts) and she feels lost as to how to overcome a past astrocity that was done to her.

Her journey is beautiful and tragic. Her suicide art project is her way of crying out for help. Doing this is her way of dealing with what has happened to her.

Her art professor is upset when she shows him part of her project, which is an artistically done video of her suicide attempts.

“It’s not finished,” she insists.

“How does it finish, Amelia?” he asks.

Later, she realizes as the blood flows from her slit wrist into the water she is submerged in that she is not ready to die and she needs to seek help of some sort.

She admits herself into the hospital. A kind janitor spots her sitting alone in the hallway and offers her amazing perspective. He tells her that there are people waiting to meet her, that there is something to live for.

She leaves for home, still broken and sad. She is about to finally kill herself once she is in the confines of her apartment again, until a stranger breaks into home with the intent of killing someone across the road.

She then sees that life – even her life – is truly worth something – and she gains the strength to stand up to the man. She escapes with her own life, walking out into the night as a new person.

Accents and Dialects in Writing

I have always wondered how to properly convey an accent or dialect in writing without sounding too over the top. I stumbled upon the Bookshelf Muse blog where it is so amazingly explained. It is so simple that I almost smacked my head reading through it. Haha.

Basically, you do not need to figure out how to write how a sentence would sound in Irish (For example) within the dialogue portions of a story. You can describe the character’s background and how they sound when they speak in a sentence or two to tip the reader off. Pretty cool!

So, writers, what are your thoughts on this? Happy writing!

Character Spotlight: Ivy

M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Village got a lot of bad feedback, but I enjoyed it on so many levels. Setting aside the fact that I think Shyamalan is a visionary, the main character in The Village caught my interest. Ivy Walker.  She is a blind “tomboy” – a paradox. I found her so intriguing and inspiring. A blind girl who would not allow life to pass her by just because she couldn’t see. Some people give up on life for smaller things.

“I see the world, Lucius Hunt. Just not the way you see it.” – Ivy Walker

Her innocence does not stop her from wanting adventure, always wishing she could be brave enough, but not quite there yet. Though, who could blame her when the village elders have everyone believe that red-cloaked monsters will storm through the city if anyone tries to venture out into the woods?

“How is it that you are so brave while the rest of us shake in our boots?” – Ivy Walker

Ivy’s fiance, Lucius, is suddenly stabbed by a former, jealous friend. Her horror and grief are overshadowed by determination. She decides to go outside the village to get help from people her father said were dangerous and mean-spirited. She goes, despite her blindness and inner fears, and returns with the medicine.

I love unconventional storylines. Ivy became Lucius’ hero. She set aside her fears and did the bravest thing that she could do. I love her character for that. Lucius would do no less for her, but bravery came naturally for him. Ivy had to use every ounce of inner strength to go on that quest.

Ivy, you may have been shaking in your boots, but you outsmarted that real-life monster with wit and courage.

What is a character you find so memorable or inspiring from a book or movie? What drew you to them?

Character Spotlight – Baby Doll

Baby Doll

Characters fuel our stories. Some are the selfless hero types, while others can be very selfish or disagreeable, but a good story will ensure that each one is complex and real.

One character that really stands out to me is Baby Doll from the movie Sucker Punch. She absolutely inspires me. She is a self-sacrificing, caring girl with the courage of a warrior, despite her brutal past. Still, her strong will to live is overshadowed by the love that she has for her friends. Oh, and she clearly has an amazing imagination.

Baby Doll almost gives up near the end, fearing that her plan to escape their hell-hole of a living arrangement might get her friends killed. She isn’t entirely sure of herself or her plan, which most of us can relate to. But her friends, influenced by her actions, pick her up and they continue on. Until Baby Doll has to make the biggest choice of all.

Sucker Punch is full of crazy cool action scenes, but the underlying story is very dark and sad. Still, whenever I watch it, Baby Doll gives me a fresh outlook on life.