Tim Marquitz is the author of the Demon Squad series, the Blood War Trilogy, co-author of the Dead West series, as well as several standalone books, and numerous anthology appearances including Triumph Over Tragedy, Corrupts Absolutely?, Demonic Dolls, Neverland’s Library, and the forthcoming No Place Like Home and Blackguards.
The Editor in Chief of Ragnarok Publications, Tim most recently compiled and edited the Angelic Knight Press anthologies, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous and Manifesto: UF, as well as Ragnarok Publications’ Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters.
by Tim Marquitz
There are some male authors who just can’t write from a female perspective, and it’s often a struggle to read it no matter how talented the author may be. I think a lot of the issues for this stem from the concept that men and women are touted as being so different that there’s an automatic challenge in writing from the opposite perspective. I call bull on that, however.
Writing isn’t about gender, it’s about character.
I never concern myself with the gender (or sexuality, or ethnicity, etc) of a character I’m writing. It isn’t about that; at least not early on. While those aspects most certainly play a role in the overall creation of a story, they’re more in line with decorating the home after it’s built. It’s the foundation that matters most.
To explain, we’re all human. That’s the foundation I’m referring to. While societal differences help to create the idea that we are polar opposites, we’re really not. We all feel pain the same, emotions, use our imaginations the same, suffer and feel joy the same way on a biological level before nurture is introduced. From the ground up, we’re the same in the basic makeup. As such, it doesn’t require the concept of gender to create a good, relatable character.
What a writer needs instead is a character grounded in the reality of their faux existence. Write about a character’s dreams and hopes and sorrows and failures, not their gender. What do they need to overcome, what is their background that helps or hinders them, what experiences do they have? These are the things authors should focus on. Create a complex being from your own experiences, regardless of gender, and then, only then, add the window dressing of your specific character by placing her in the role you need her to play for the story.
No matter what her place in the tale is, that underlying foundation will always be there. Let it create contradictions, let it add strife to the role because that’s exactly what happens with real people. We’re not bound to a specific mindset even if we’re bound to a specific role. A woman who is a queen might well have different societal expectations than a woman who works at a fast food restaurant, but deep down, they both have an idea as to who they are and who they want to be. Neither will be what we expect from the outside looking in, the complexities too extreme between the role the play and who they really are or feel they should be.
If you keep all that in mind when writing a character of a different gender (etc), then there won’t be any complaints about the character stemming from the age-old idea that men can’t write women characters or vice versa because in the end, it truly isn’t about gender. It all comes down to how real the character is.