So...a little divergence for a moment from writing into the land of my personal insanity. First off, I have a shaman named Steve. He's full-blooded Navajo, I just find it hilarious to call him Steve. Now, why a shaman? Well I was raised by hippies, and I am also a licensed therapist. Knowing all the tricks of therapy kind of ruins it, so for my therapy I turned to Navajo shamanism, something my parents touched on in my childhood.




With a childhood that looked like this is it any wonder I retreated into the world of fiction? Just try to imagine the smell...


 
Now Steve and I have known each other a long time. He's almost as much a smartass as I am, but being he has the power in our relationship, he wins the arguments. Recently I passed otter medicine (our main animal totem has lessons to teach us, a quest to satisfy, and in doing so and learning we call it medicine) and was in need of a new totem. He gave me 2 to choose from: goat or swan, and both have lessons I badly need, but costs I don't quite want to pay. I chose swan at last though the price is I have to find a serious, committed, long-term relationship within 2 years. Yup, to me that's so undesirable I really thought about choosing goat.

I'm not as commitment-phobic as I used to be, saying I have to find an LTR doesn't make me scream. But it does make me sigh. You see, I just don't have the time.  And frankly, being in Chicago, I'm damn sure the pool here is so shallow tadpoles could stand up in it, so dating is about as attractive as doing my taxes right now.




A simple thought that explains it pretty damn well


 
So last night I had 2 homework assignments to complete and 1 conversation that led me to this post, which will deal with writing in a moment. First, my shaman has made me keep a profile on OKCupid, which, like all free sites, is utterly useless. My first assignment was to go through my proposed matches (which with OKC seems to only filter out those who have been deceased longer than 6 months) and list why I rejected them, if I did.

Here's a portion of the list, in order, unabridged:

#12 - Creationist
#13 - Drinks raw milk & offered to sell me some
#14 - So far in the closet he's finding Christmas presents
#15 - Most likely a creationist
#16 - Militant vegan who thinks bacon eaters should be cannibalized
#17 - Bad toupee & only 27
#18 - Misspelled his own name...twice (3 times correct)
#19 - Morbidly obese but listed self as slim
#20 - WTF!?! Who takes a picture with a fleshlight in their hand?

I think you can see why I haven't had a date in some time.These are my choices. Between them and my left hand...what the hell, there are enough free porn sites to keep me happy for years. So you have my frame of mind for real world dealing of the sexes.

Now the conversation I had was with a friend of a friend who keeps offering to fuck me. I know, I know, romantic, but meh, something without commitment could be okay. He kept offering to come by and seemed frankly shocked when I explained there is no force on earth that would make me have sex with someone I just met. He legitimately asked why I wouldn't do that, and actually listened when I explained why sane, mature women without daddy issues don't. It does boggle my mind that after 12 years of legal adulthood he really didn't understand.




Living proof porn sucks...men seem to actually think these women have no psychological problems at all


 
Then my second homework assignment was to write a short story from the viewpoint of a random man meeting me on the street. Combine all this with this insanely awful book my friend loaned me (Domination by Michael Cecilione) which, as far as I can tell, is a man writing about lesbians, and it it hit me: it is almost impossible to write POV of the opposite sex well.

Seriously. I confess, if I could be a man for a day the first thing I would do is find some snow and write my name in it. In cursive. Then I'd masturbate and try to do it a few times in a row and probably get frustrated at discovering what a refractory period feels like. I'd spend a few hours using my dick & balls as a puppet, and then I'd spend the rest of the day trying my damndest to get laid. In short it would be all about the dick. Body hair, more muscle mass, being seen differently...fuck that shit, it'd be dick, dick, dick, dick and dick. Oh, and ok, 5 minutes  of jogging without having to worry about bouncing tits. So, as a result when I write from a man's POV I am ever so completely tempted to write about his dick. Seriously, a body part that moves and changes of its own volition? How the hell do you people live with that?

Anyway, that's the main problem with writing from the other gender's perspective. You get hung up on what you most want to know about, and it's always the fun bits. George R.R. Martin writes female characters in his Song of Ice & Fire series, and he always mentions them thinking about their breasts. Seriously, the only time I think about my tits in an average day is checking to see when I need to readjust them because bras never seem to fit properly. And thanks to my male friends I know that if they ever got to be a girl for a day they'd spend the entire time playing with their tits and discovering how fantastic it is to not have a refractory period.




Movies like this are only good to watch to take notes on what NOT to do


 
And as such that's one thing guaranteed to annoy your reader. In Martin's case his plots and characters are otherwise so compelling you have to forgive him, but in Cecilione's case it only adds to the problems of a confusing plot, piss-poor pacing, and 2-dimensional characters. So bad gender-switching won't kill your story, but it won't help it.

How can you write it well? First protip: don't write about genitalia unless it's a sex scene. Think of it this way (fair warning, if you've never given serious thought to being the other gender the following will gross you out), how often do you think of your own genitalia? Seriously, for women it's at most three times a day, and only that much during our periods or a really hot summer day. Usually our only thoughts are: is that a normal smell? God that itches. Am I bleeding/how fucking much am I bleeding? I don't know exactly about men, but I'm told the usual thoughts are: why is it pinched? God that itches. Go down, go down, go down, not now, not now, not now. Seriously, who wants to read about that?

So the first rule is: write them as people without respect to gender. Thinking about them first in terms of gender always leads to writing about naughty bits needlessly. I am only fascinated by penises because A) I do not have one and B) I am biologically programmed to think they're pretty fucking awesome, for the same reason men are so fascinated by breasts, cunts, and asses. Admittedly the ass thing has always baffled me a little bit, but female and male asses are different enough I guess the fascination holds.

Now the basic "trick" to it is to always have it reviewed by a member of the opposite sex and ask them pointedly if they believed in the character, or if it felt fake. Do this after you write your first scene. If you wait until you've written a whole novel you'll go mad, for it takes time to get it right, or in the neighborhood of right.




Almost, man. You need more cuddling, sunbeam, and ...yarn! yeah, women luvs the yarn!


 
This is where having a character bio is super important. The first and foremost thing you need to do when writing a character of the opposite gender is make them real in your mind. Flesh out their personality, turn them from an idea into an actual person with hopes, fears, dreams, desires, and guilt. Stop thinking of them in terms of gender. However, once you've written the basic scene, you have to go back and pepper it with some thoughts unique to each sex.

For example, in an average day, here are thoughts most women have men never, ever experience (or are shocked to know women think about too):
 
1) Seriously, my eyes are fucking up here!
2) Why is my hair so limp? (or if it's curly: why is my hair so frizzy?)
3) Why the fuck do I wear these damn heels?
4) Oh god, I really, really have to belch but there are people around
5) Seriously, anorexia would work in the short term, the trick is to quit when you're ahead
6) If I offer to pick up the check I insult his manhood, if I offer to go Dutch he'll think I'm not interested, and if I let him pay I'm a gold-digging bitch. Fffffuuuuuuuuuuuu
7) Oh those heels are cute! I need a seventh pair of red ones!
8) I wonder if [insert random male celebrity] gives good head
9) Hey, that random dude has really nice hands. Oh, fuck, now I'm horny

Now, I've compiled some common erroneous "thoughts" female characters have when written by men:

A) Her breasts are so big, I wonder how they'd feel...
B) Chocolate! I need, want, gotta have it now!
C) Mmmm, nothing turns me on more than sucking cock
D) Any woman of any breast size can go braless, and will at the slightest provocation
E) Women are naturally hair-free from their nose down and require no constant shaving/plucking/waxing

You can see where when men write about women they focus on the physical being too much. I know female comedians joke about it, but really, women do not think about their bodies in a positive or negative light 24/7. Seriously, we're mostly motivated by the same needs as men: avoiding work, fantasizing about good sex, eating good food, and having fun. That's 90% of all human thought, right there. However notice that women women typically think about clothes/hair but not for how attractive they look to men but how groomed they appear in general. They are also more likely than most men to over-think their actions and how they are interpreted by others. 




Men writing horrible characterizations of women has been the sole basis of this woman's career


 
It's almost worst when women write men. I really am not qualified to write about what or how men think, and I actually hope I never master it. That mystery is part of what makes the male gender so attractive (and admittedly so endlessly frustrating). Well, that and being so delightfully exothermic and able to open tough jars. But here are a few things I do know:

1) Men do not think about sex as often as the media claims
2) Most men are not sports nuts
3) Most men have female friends and they don't want to fuck them

Oh, there's probably hundreds more, these are just the things I know, and notice I didn't phrase them as thoughts. Sadly, the male mind is a mystery to me. This why I only write male POV in short spurts that are usually action-oriented and don't allow for gross introspection. What does a man think about on a date when the check comes? I never stopped to ask as I'm having my own panic attack. So you know what? If I don't know it, I don't write it.

From asking male friends, here's a short list of things the say female authors get wrong:

A) Men are not nearly as obsessed with settling down & marrying as romance authors think
B) Adjusting their "junk" is an unconscious action, NOT a chance to "feel like a man"
C) Men do not require endless fancy lingerie on their significant other, nor care if the bra & panties match; they just don't like granny panties
D) If a man notices your shoes and can describe them in any terms other than "sexy," "old," or "painful-looking" he's gay



Bad women! Bad, bad, bad women! A female "author" and a female screenwriter gave us this slice of "manhood."


 
 So the basics come down to this when writing POV from the view of a member of the opposite gender:


First, flesh them out with a full biography. Second write a short scene and have a member-of-the-opposite-sex critique it for accuracy. Third, remember you do have to put in some things in the show you're aware of the gender of the character. Fourth if you don't know it, don't write it. Fifth take their advice to heart and periodically have them read your work as you go. 

This isn't the most important facet of fiction writing, but it's yet another brick in building a solid foundation. Generally I recommend writing MOS (member of opposite sex) characters sparingly in short scenes. I love J.A. Konraths Jacqueline "Jack" Daniels stories but I knew J.A. was a man from page one. Why? Women don't feel the need to explain the function of their clothes nor do they approach/think about sex as casually as men unless they have serious daddy issues. It's one of the few things that pisses me off about William Gibson's Neuromancer, when he has his razor girl put out for no reason. As Woody Allen said, men need a place to have sex, women need a reason. Damn skippy.

So go ahead and write it, but check, check, check again, and just make peace with the fact not one of us will ever get it perfect. After all we don't have to understand the opposite sex, we just have to accept them. Just remember when you do it poorly it will stand out. there's a reason why male Neuromancer fans grossly outnumber female.



 
It's always a struggle to try and understand the opposite sex. Here's what works for both: we all want to work less and make more, have good sex with attractive people, eat whatever we want and never gain a pound. We all want to be ninjas who never break a bone and be rockstars without learning a chord. We're more alike than anyone wants to admit. Think of how much money is made by keeping us pitted against one another?