Gender Bending Writing Tips
How would you describe a person if gender did not exist? The author Random Jordan offers some gender bending writing tips to get the juices flowing.
There are two things that people almost always say to me when they discover I’m an author. The first (apparently this is the case for most novelists) is “I’ve always wanted to write a novel”. At which I generally reply with: “Yeah, well… sit down and start bleeding.”
The second is “do you have trouble writing female characters?”, as if I’d find it difficult to embody my character with a gender the questioner believes I don’t match. This question is bizarre to me. The very idea of wrapping my mind around it is frustrating.
I’ve never looked at my characters as really female or male or anywhere in between (or myself). They are just my characters. When I describe them I’m not mentioning their gender or their sexuality because it would be too vague and pointless; knowing a character’s gender isn’t the same as getting a true grasp of them. But clearly people not suffering from my unusual choice of gender do come across problems when portraying characters of various lifestyles, or when connecting to characters that aren’t following their same gender pattern.
This brings me to why I had to write this piece. Oh, there are plenty of articles out there about how you can write women and how you can write men. But they are all bullshit. The truth (or, at least, a very useful and socially proactive truth) is that… gender is an illusion. Much like the world, gender is not black and white. It isn’t even grey. It is… versicolour.
Throw Out the Old Gender Colours When Writing
Way to go, Lady Geek Girl.
There is no correct way to write a man, or to portray a woman. Sure, some people will tell you that a woman tends to focus more on emotional aspects, while men will supply their personal vision toward aesthetic beauty, like mentioning how a dress makes breasts press together.
But all of those sources are from people who have a strong connotation of a white straight female or a white straight male in either the United States or the United Kingdom. They seem to have no concept that there are women out there who love to talk about, grab, and see breasts. Or that an un-flamboyant man can actually obsessively explain how to tell if a Coach purse is fake.
It’s time to think about breaking the stereotypes. For every single aspect you’d be tempted to file as ‘only’ feminine or ‘only’ masculine, someone out there will blow that entire idea out of your mind. There is so much more about gender that we assume and take for granted.
The next time you want to write about a teenage girl with an obsession for shoe shopping, kick yourself in the teeth and see how you can reinvent that character. Give them a twist; don’t just settle for a cliché. Every time you write, pieces of you bleed onto the paper; that includes your world view, and the last thing you want is your worldview to be full of clichés.
Throw out those old black and white colours of gender; it’s time to try on something new.
Bring in the New Colours
Gender bending in writing is actually really simple, and here’s an exercise for you to try out the next time the words come. First, focus on creating the character you want. Do they have a bad attitude? What is their role in the story? What do you think they would wear? As you’re doing all of this, hold back from deciding on a name or gender for the character. Once you have solidly crafted the character in your mind, maybe even written some lines you think they might say (which I always highly recommend doing), then it’s time to choose a name for them. What name goes with that personality you just crafted?
Once you have the name that fits your character so perfectly, it’s time to consider what gender they hold. Remember that there are more than two genders and that no matter what personality the character has, they can, in fact, be any gender. This is a perfect exercise for being able to establish that a person’s gender isn’t what matters, because that person would still be who they are even if genderization never existed.
Think of it this way: If everyone was a single gender, such as everyone being all female maybe, how else would you approach describing a person you know? If you stick to that mentality, you will come to realize that everyone IS a single gender, and also that no-one has the same gender. We are all our own people, and that includes the characters you craft.
Don’t let the binary colours contain you. Be as versicolour with your characters as you are with yourself, and soon you will find your world-view changing for the better.
The first book of the Beyond Ever After series by Random Jordan is out now.