We've all seen the cringy dialogue. The weirdly stereotypical and awkward situations. The sheer effort of the script writer, the novelist, or the comic book writer to write someone they don't know: a woman, or a man.
Too often the problem is very stark when comparing character designs and interactions of the characters who are the same gender as the author vs. the ones who aren't. The ones with the same gender are more likely to have a wide range of traits and variance in personality. The ones whose gender is different are more likely to have their gender be the personality.
Sometimes they're as familiar with genders other than theirs as the dude who painted this lion was with lions.
That goes for the “strong female” or “progressive/sensitive male” trope characters: the woman's personality will be a concoction of cliches of ‘I Am Female But Talk, Act, Behave Like a Man While Using Derogatory Expressions About Women’s Stereotypes' while the “progressive/sensitive male” will have the standard personality of “Look At Me I Can Cry And Appreciate Pink” in various iterations.
While there's nothing wrong for characters to have such traits, the problem lies that these traits become ALL they are. They're a walking battery of hamfisted lines without nuance or personality beyond these traits.
The reality is that both men and women have a wide range of personalities. They are people before they are men or women (when it comes to gender roles). So writing them should be approached in a uniform way initially- not unlike how we start off in the womb. They should be designed as a person with a core personality and tendencies, wants, desires, inhibitions, strenghts, weaknesses, talents, and flaws.
The gender comes after, and should only be used as just one more lens through which ALL of the above elements are projected in various ways.
There can be really tough women fighters that like frills, and there can be really effeminate men who are genius mechanics and love to watch boxing. And everything in between.
There can also be really powerful, strong women who are completely conforming to traditional gender roles, or who use these gender roles to transcend into more power (see Theodora or, even better Wu Zetian) so they can break them.
There can also be really manly buff men who love to cook or have a soft spot for kittens or like to do macrame in their spare time. Everything and anything goes. They are people first, men or women (or anything else) after.
So instead of trying to write the other gender like they're an alien species, just write them as a person, and watch how society treats people and how people react to society when it comes to gender roles and dare I say, even sexualities, though I don't feel qualified enough to talk about that to such extent. It feels like it must be, though ;)
That's really all there is. People watch.
How do you write your men, women, and everyone in between?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 31, 2021
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