Writing Across the Gender Divide

Earlier this week I stumbled upon an article in Publishers Weekly by Adelle Waldman: “8 Authors Who Crossed the Gender Line.” Waldman’s debut novel (woo hoo, congrats!), The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., features a male protagonist. Seems straightforward enough. But… apparently not?

The first question I’m usually asked about my novel, “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.,” is whether it was difficult for me, as a woman, to write from the male point of view.

That’s just… an odd question. I mean, maybe it’s a fair enough question to start an interview with — get the ball rolling. But I guess I just don’t understand why.

Why should it be difficult, as a woman, to write from the male point of view? And vice versa — why should it be difficult, as a man, to write from the female point of view? Two of my previous “books” (I use that term loosely, as they’re still in draft form) feature male protagonists. And let me tell you, my current female protagonist is NO easier to write than those two gents were. It never occurred to me when writing those guys that it should be difficult — they’re what the story called for. They’re characters. They’re human. I guess I just assume as a fellow human I can get into their brains.

As Waldman points out — a LOT of authors “cross the gender line.” Off the top of my head, I can think of Chuck Wendig, Cherie Priest, Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham. That’s barely scratching the tip of the iceberg — so many authors write from the opposite gender’s point of view. So why is this even brought up as an interview question?

Now, to play devil’s advocate with myself — I suppose it is possible that authors write from the opposite gender’s POV, and it is STILL a difficult thing to do. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. But speaking for myself… I dunno. I just don’t see it. Every character is different, which means every character has his or her own set of challenges. I don’t think it has much to do with gender, though — the challenges come from personality, history, situation, environment. Not all men think like other men; not all women think like other women. The same is true of their character counterparts. We’re each our own little unique snowflake, or however you want to look at it.

Fellow writers, do you tend to stick to a particular gender when you’re writing? Do you ever “switch over”? Am I wrong in thinking it’s not really an issue? Let’s pile up the anecdotal evidence.

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One thought on “Writing Across the Gender Divide

  1. Hm, this is really interesting. Truthfully I haven’t given it much thought because I find characters are complex no matter the gender. I completely agree that it’s the other stuff (personality, history, environment, etc.) that makes it more challenging. When I think about my own writing, I’ve had a good mix of both male and female characters–one doesn’t stand out more than the other to me.

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