How to be a Transvestite (on paper)

One of the questions that crops up a great deal, at least on the writing websites that are dominated by young women, seems to be how to write convincing male characters.  Stepping in to an unknown world of life experience and cultural expectations is daunting. Young man biting his nails and pulling his hair over how to write female characters appear to be less common.   Although that probably has more to do with the websites I frequent.

While trying to come to terms with my own dose of paranoia on this issue the following were useful,

1) Talking to men helped.  Not necessarily launching in to full-scale interview of their most intimate life details. However, one of the key habits encouraged in writers is nosiness and general observation and chit-chat is harmless enough.  If you’re feeling brave also dip into men’s magazines. Take a pinch of a pinch of salt with you though.   GQ is about as representative of the male sex as Glamour is for women.  Relationship books also helped, but only so far as reassuring me that a male character would, by and large, feel exactly the same way about something as a female character would, although they would probably react differently.

2) Realising that it can be done. Some of my favourite male characters are written by women. I love Gideon Jukes and Orlando Lovell in Rebels and Traitors by Lindsey Davis. They are polar opposites but both interesting, detailed and full of life. On the other side Ardee West in Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy may not have much page time but she is as complex and vibrant as any of the men he writes.

3) By far the most obvious thing to remember though is that male characters are still just characters. They still need a goal, conflict and motivation to make them readable.  Sort that out and anything else is just decoration.

How about everyone else? Has anyone else had issues with something similar?


4 thoughts on “How to be a Transvestite (on paper)

  1. I did have this problem. I started running lines or asking my husband how he would react to something. Another writer, who is the only female in a house of 5 males, gave me some insights too. In my soon to be published MS, the hero is a football player, so I went and talked to co-workers who played in high school and college to get a little more insights into the conversations and interactions. My male POV’s have become stronger and more believable because of it. Great post!

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