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Writing the “other”

Is there an Elephant in the Room?, one of my oldest, longest standing novel series, has two books in it: Is there an Elephant in the Room? and A Little Birdie Told Me. They are written from the point of view of a 18/19 year old boy name Dustin Shier who has massive anxiety and is a little bit odd. He loves music and tends to be more passive than most of his male peers.

I am not any of this. I’m a twenty-something year old female with a love for music, yes, but not an obsession with it. My obsession is my writing. And I’ve been writing the other gender, this other personality, for about four years now. Four years in October, to be more accurate. At first, in the first draft, it was easy, but I also was copying another character’s personality. In the “new first draft,” as I’ve been calling it, I’ve found that a lot more things have become difficult for me to write.

Now, as much as I’m all for throwing your hands up in the air and saying, “who really cares about gender?”, and there’s a huge movement saying that there really isn’t much of a difference, let’s be honest here: there is. There are a lot of differences between the male brain and the female brain. There has to be. We evolved and developed for different roles in society and our species. AND THAT’S OKAY.

look at those different brains
picture hosted at mybraintest.org

But this brings about a problem for us crazy little writers. What do we do when we write the “other?” How do we get to know the other gender well enough to get into their mind and write them as though they were ourselves?

My answer? Ask questions.

I’m not afraid to ask weird questions to people around me about how they would react to something, what they would feel, and what they would think. I get a lot of odd looks from some of them, but they always answer, and I get a good sense of what my character would do in the situation I’ve presented. I take their minds and meld it with Dustin’s. So far? I’ve never had a guy complain about how “girly” or “unrealistic” Dustin sounds.

So, basically what should you take from this? ASK QUESTIONS. Don’t be afraid to sound like an idiot or get weird looks. People will judge you, but your book will be fantastic and your character will have an extra hidden depth to them. Not only do you get a sense of another gender, or sexuality, or whatever, but you also get another point of view in general. Everyone thinks differently and everyone reacts differently. There is no downside. Well, as long as you don’t care about the odd looks you get.


So, there’s my writing tip for the day! And here’s my update on my writing. I’m currently 13/22 chapters into my second to last edit of The First Nine, and after that I’m heading toward publication! I’m going to start doing some blog hops and book reviews to get my name out more, so be prepared for those these next few months. I’m also going to do a cover reveal and start promoting myself (hopefully) to get a following before I publish.

I’m also getting a pretty good length into the new draft of Elephant. It’s great to actually handwrite something for once. I’m 70 pages in, chapter 9, and it feels great to flip through every handwritten in purple ink page. This is going to be a fantastic year for this book! I can tell! Dustin’s being a little brat though and not telling me what he wants. We’ll see what happens.

Dunno about my million word challenge. I’m going to count soon, but I’m pretty sure I’m behind. Finals week and all that. But we’ll see!

Any questions? Comments about writing the “other?” I do love it when I get comments so please don’t be shy!

See you next time!

~Lin

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2 thoughts on “Writing the “other”

  1. Great tip! There’s always so much more for us to learn – especially about the other – and asking questions is definitely a good starting point for it.

    I think as well as asking other people what they would do, observing how people actually react in different situations (and even analyzing your own thought processes when situations arise) can be super helpful to exploring different perspectives and possibilities for how your characters might act.

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