POV Can Defy Gender Rules

mystic-city-theo-lawrence

When I read Mystic City, I couldn’t believe the point of view was so well-written. Maybe a lot of people don’t think it’s difficult to write from a young adult’s perspective, or from the perspective of a 17-year-old girl, but it might be if you’re a 28-year-old man.

One of the most difficult things to do, and the thing writers mess up a lot, is writing from the perspective of the opposite gender. Even if we think we know a lot about the opposite sex, every now and then some wrong-gender language will creep into the narrative.

So, how do you it well? If you’re a woman, how do you write the perspective of a man? Or if you’re a man, how do you write from the perspective of a woman?

One thing you can do is look up the basic psychology of each gender. In my communication classes, I teach that men engage in report talk and women engage in rapport talk. In other words, men tell us what happened, while women tell us how what happened made them feel. Of course this is just a stereotype, but if you think about it, it’s a valid point. A man, for example, might come home from work and say he had a long day, was really busy, and people complained a lot at the meeting—which drug it out. A woman, however, they talk about “that bitch at work” and how angry this other woman makes her. He may have wanted to give a laundry list of what happened while she wanted to be heard and get validation that she’s not crazy or irrational for feeling the way that she feels.

Some writers are perfectly aware of these personality differences, yet somehow that makes their writing even worse. A great example is in this unconfirmed tandem writing story. Like in the story, a male writer we make the mistake of making a woman too emotional or too much like the stereotype. Similarly, a woman might write men as only being interested in sex or being super-macho.

If you’re like me, and you’re not writing from the perspective of a man, you still might want to know some of this information. For example, in my story, the protagonist is a woman. However, I still need to know what the motivations are of the men in the story. I need to be able to indicate those motivators through their body language or through their dialogue.1290 After browsing at books at a local Goodwill, I came across a book titled How to Succeed with Women. When I saw this guidebook on how to pick up women, including how to land a first kiss, getting them into bed, or the way to establish a relationship, a light bulb went off in my brain. What better way to get into the psyche of a man than to read a book on how to pick a woman up? Not only do books like this explain the female psyche to these guys (so they can use it to get to the woman), it also gives us a glimpse into how men really think or behave before they’re told how to use these methods.

However, this isn’t a book on how to use and abuse the ladies—it insinuates that women are perfectly aware that men are constantly trying to pick them up. In other books, like The Art of Seduction, it isn’t just about how men can get women, but the art of seduction in general—regardless of gender. Either way, it shows the methodology and motivators behind physical and emotional behavior. Whether it’s a certain touch, certain words or phrases used or a specific kind of eye contact, it can communicate something non-verbally or foreshadow things to come. Even if a man hasn’t read a book on how to succeed with women, there may be tactics there that they inherently knew and used. For example, How to Succeed with Women explains ways a man can tell if it’s the right time to go for the first kiss. One suggested method was to first kiss her on the face or cheek to see how receptive she was. If she didn’t turn, pull away, etc., he could go for “the real thing”. Maybe you think that’s ridiculous, but where have I seen that move before? That’s right . . . Here:

It seems to work for Damon, don’t you think?

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