In a recent garden photos post, I complained that I couldn’t think of anything to say about writing and asked for suggestions in the comments. Priscilla Bettis wondered how I deal with writing from a man’s or a kid’s point of view, and Elizabeth Merry offered some thoughts on her approach to this.
And I thought–why haven’t I posted about this before? So now I’m doing it.
All my novels have first person narrators, and several of those narrators are men. One of them is gay, and part of one book deals with that character’s childhood. Since no one (fellow writer or reviewer) has noted any serious problems with my portrayals of those male characters, I have to conclude that I did an at least adequate job in writing them.
To be honest, it’s also a challenge to write from the point of view of a female character more sophisticated than I, or who has had a more adventurous or difficult life.
Dwelling on these challenges can have a paralyzing effect. In fact, thinking too much about any type of writing challenge can be discouraging. Instead, consider the following:
- Writing exclusively from one’s own type (middle-aged-verging-on-old woman in my case) is way too limiting.
- People have more in common than not. Everyone was a kid once. Everyone has occasion to talk with and observe all kinds of people.
- Writers are good at creating from their imaginations. We can do this.
Here are some practices and techniques that I have found helpful in writing male characters, children, and other characters unlike me–present-day me, that is.
- Drawing upon conscious and unconscious observations made over a lifetime.
- Drawing upon the results of a lifetime of reading, as well as listening to and watching different kinds of people in media and movies.
- Deliberately seeking out writings by or about people like the character I am creating. This is a form of research–filling my brain with concepts, outlooks, and turns of phrase used by people different from me. Having primed the pump, when I go to write those characters, I set myself aside and let the other persona gush forth.
- Free-writing from the character’s point of view, but outside of the main work-in-progress, is a low risk way to experiment.
- Recognizing when I’m not capable of creating an intended character, due to lack of information or empathy. I can remedy that by further research, or replace the character with one I feel capable of writing.
- Asking critique partners and beta readers to look out for problems with characters different from me.
In the end, though, fiction is artifice and our characters are artificial people. Close to real may have to be good enough, if we have approached character creation responsibly and respectfully.
So, fellow writers, how do you approach writing characters who are different from you?
Featured Image by icsilviu from Pixabay