I’ve been writing fiction since age 12 (if not earlier), and I’ve almost always written from the female POV. In my early years, I attribute it to a couple things: one, a leaning toward “write what you know” (i.e., as a girl, I found it easier to write from the POV of my female characters); and, two, my desire for fantasy books featuring strong female leads. I had a strong hunger for novels by writers like Tamora Pierce and Marion Zimmer Bradley. I realize that I was writing the kinds of books that I wanted to read, and those books involved strong female leads.
Considering that I grew up with two brothers and am married to a man I’ve known more than a decade, I assumed writing from the male perspective would come more easily. I often find myself pausing to think, “How would this man (character) approach this situation?” Our cultural upbringing has led us to communicate differently; where one places value and sees importance, how one handles a given situation, how one approaches conflict or strong emotion is driven not only by personality but also by gender. It varies from person to person, and gender is a part of that equation.
Getting inside my guys’ heads is always interesting to me; I often worry that I might fall into the trap of writing a male POV in a female voice. Since my novels and short stories are written from both the POV of the male and female protagonist, I don’t want to fall into the trap of writing the man’s perspective in my female lead’s voice. I strive for the depth and complexity that I know is in each character; I want them to be alive—deep and rich and passionate and electric. I want each word and phrase to hum with the energy of that character.
Perhaps because my latest character, an elf-investigator in a short story, is so different from me, I’ve found him a more challenging character. This is perhaps what I love most about him, that he’s somewhat of a mystery to me, that he isn’t just telling me who he is and is leaving me to figure him out. I find myself following him through his life in his world, trying to discern what motivates him, what his pet peeves are, his mannerisms, his thought processes. More than any other character before, he makes me try hard to get into his head and find his voice, his spirit. It’s a great challenge. I find that he’s one of those characters who will challenge me as a writer and that, even if I only get to spend a short story with him, he’ll be in my head for a while.
Writers like Cheyenne McCray and Sherrilyn Kenyon have provided me with examples of strong, well-developed male leads with wonderful voices, so I’m sure in the days to come I’ll be pouring through the pages of some of their works. McCray’s Keir in Wicked Magic has always fascinated me; there’s something about the tough male character whose ability to work as a delicate artist (whittling in careful detail) hints at an inner gentleness. The edginess of Kenyon’s character Dev in “No Mercy,” his temper combined with an off-the-wall sense of humor, makes him a fascinating read (I never know what’s going to pop into that man’s head next!). So here’s to hoping that this character can speak to me with the same strength that I’ve seen in other works, and that I can have the same dialogues with him that I do with some of my female characters. *cough “Zoe” cough*