In my head, my novel had two protagonists, a woman and a man. Part of the draw of the novel was supposed to be the relationship between those two characters. After all, one of the things that keeps me reading the excellent Ruth Galloway series is the relationship between Ruth and Nelson. I’ve been struggling though. My female character voice has come quite easily, the male less so.
You’re probably aware of the hoohaa currently abound regarding cultural appropriation. The Guardian has a really interesting article on that here. And I started to wonder whether the reason that I was struggling to write my male protagonist is because I’m not male. I can’t get inside his head because I don’t really know what men think. I’ve read books about male characters with male thoughts, and I’ve got a husband… but I don’t really know for sure. I started reading a book the other day and I’m not going to name names but it was bad. Really bad. And one of the reasons that I found it so abominable was because of the preoccupation of the male protagonist with women’s bodies and sex. It was a female writer but as a female reader I found this unbearable. But maybe this is what goes on in men’s heads all the time? Maybe she’s right and I’m wrong?
But then realistically, the only person’s head I’ve ever been in is mine. And is that what I need to do? Just write about me and my experiences? In which case, where does the fiction element come in? I’m making up a lot of my book! That’s the point of fiction. It’s based in truth as far as possible, but the rest is all my imagination.
And if I can imagine being a police officer, or a Forensic Linguist or part of a murder investigation, then why can I not imagine being a man?
I don’t know! But I’ve been struggling with it. And so I decided to have a go writing him as her, having a virtually all female cast. I’m not sure yet if it makes it better or worse but as a writer I think I have to play around with different voices and different ideas, irrespective of whether I have direct experience of that scenario. Otherwise my fiction will be decidedly uninspired!
Have you ever struggled with the gender of a character? Do you feel confident writing as a member of the opposite gender or do you prefer to stick to your own?