Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blog Chain: Gender Bender!

Sandra starts our blog chain off this round. She asked:

Have you ever created a character different from yourself in some significant way, such as (but not limited to) different gender, race, ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation? If so, what, if any, research did you do to portray these differences?

Was this character a main character, secondary character, or walk-on? Did these differences have an impact on the story?

Gotta love these questions!

In my first novel, LEGACY OF THE EMPRESS, one of my two main characters is a dude--Torin. Writing his dialogue and character was very natural about 90% of the time. HOWEVER, there were definitely moments where I'd stare at what I'd just written and think "Something's.... off." These were usually the moments where, unbeknownst to me, I'd made Torin react to a situation like a lady. Poor Torin..

In these scenerios, I turned to my Resident Man Expert, or RME for short (my husband.) I'd force him to read a scene, or even just shout "What would a dude do in 'blank' situation??" Once I found out that instead of crying, a dude would actually punch the ground. Hence the scene feeling .. awkward. Once I had Torin punching stuff dry-eyed everything made a lot more sense, and the other character's reactions felt much more natural. Thank you, RME!

In HOLLOW LAND (the novel I'm currently working on), I have a few east asian characters as well as a Jewish female lead. This is definiely going to require not only a trip or two to the library but also for me to consult with some non-whitey whites. The good thing is, not only am I friendly with several nice Indian folks at work whose brains I can pick, but there is something wonderful we have now, called The Internet. I've started following a few blogs from the countries my characters originate from to get a feel for the culture. I'm hoping I can eventually get some beta readers of the same religion/culture to help me out and make sure I'm not being a dork about some detail or another.

If I had any advice for you guys, it's to be brave :). Don't be afraid to write a certain character just because they are outside your immediate frame of reference. Learning new things is what makes this fun! Go for it, and get excited to learn about other cultures, sexual orientations, and even how the other sexes think.

What do you guys think? Have you ever written outside your comfort zone? How did it turn out?

Don't miss Shannon's answer coming up tomorrow!


Michelle H. said...

Great post. Getting beta readers familiar with the foreign culture we might write about is something I never considered. I'm jotting that tidbit down into my mental writer handbook.

These were usually the moments where, unbeknownst to me, I'd made Torin react to a situation like a lady. Poor Torin..

Don't ask me why, but the moment I read that part, the song lyric, "Dude looks like a lady..." popped into my mind.

Dawn Embers said...

I almost always write characters who are different than me. Of all my novels at this point, one series has female main characters. The rest are all male. Well, one is both male and female but I haven't started that one yet.

It's a little easier to write the males for me, but they don't have to always act "male". Not that they are femme, but they are almost all gay. Okay. They are all gay, bi and the one trans. Even the female is a lesbian, though it's not known till the end of book 1.

I guess, out of my comfort would be straight female/male. And I promised my mom I'd write a romance novel for her based on her own idea. That will be out of my comfort zone for sure.

Christine Fonseca said...

Great post, Rebecca. You did a reat job with your first one...and I'm sure this new WiP is going o be great as well.

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I too had the "Dude looks like a lady" moment.

Great idea to follow blogs of people from the same backgrounds of your characters. I have to try that!

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Be brave is great advice!

Rebecca Knight said...

Haha, thanks, guys! :D It's good to be back and blogging again, too.

nomadshan said...

Hah! I love that once Torin started punching the ground, everything got groovy.

Thanks for reminding us to write bravely. That can't be said enough.

Cole Gibsen said...

Excellent post. And I agree with the trips to the library. Without those, I'd never have been ablet to understand my 15th century samurais.

Sarah Bromley said...

Great post! Definitely use beta readers from the culture you're writingg about. When I was writing my last project, one of my betas was my Spanish translator and helped make sure my Mexican characters were authentic to their culture. Use whatever tools we have access to, right?

Shaun Hutchinson said...

"Be brave." I love that advice. So perfect and true. Awesome!

Mandy said...

Excellent post, Rebecca! I especially like your advice to be brave! TOTALLY! In my new WIP I had to use 3rd person multiple POV to pull the story off the way I wanted and whenever I had to write from my male protag's perspecitve, I worried. Can I pull this off from a male POV? But I plowed ahead, unafraid, and I don't think it ended up too shabby! :D

B.J. Anderson said...

That is such awesome advice! And "non-whitey whites" had me on the floor laughing. :D Great post (sorry I'm late to comment!)!