Some Thoughts on Sex…

by M.M. Gornell

My post’s title[i] was intended to garner interest, and if it did get your interest—hope it’s not too much of a disappointment that I’m referring to having a protagonist with a different gender than one’s self.

I recently had a “writing surprise” on my winding writing-trail-adventure. Which in turn led to my gender thoughts… And here’s the path of how I got here:

  • I’ve been working over a year on a third Rhodes novel, finally finished it, but during rewriting/editing several weeks ago, decided I didn’t like it. This is a completely new writing-happening for me. Especially at this point in a work. Why didn’t I dump it a long time ago? What was this new perspective that turned me off? Most probably, I will revisit one day with these very questions, but for now, Rhodes – The Caretakers is now a lonely file on my backup drive—maybe never to be seen again.

It’s a strange feeling, having really enjoyed writing the story for so long—then dumping it out of the blue. Nonetheless, I’ve moved on to a new novel.

  • Rosemary Lord’s post on de-cluttering a month ago really hit home when I tried to open a file cabinet drawer, and it got stuck on the hinges because the drawer was too full with to-be-filed “important stuff” jammed into it. Then an hour (exaggeration) down the road later of wrestling with it, accompanied with a few choice words, I finally got it open. As it turned out, the offending paper contained notes from a panel G.B. Pool invited me to participate on back in 2012[ii] (I think at the Burbank Library).

The notes I found sounded good, but I can’t remember what I actually rambled on about (get nervous and have a hard time trying to speak and think at the same time—and can’t rewrite and edit like with writing) I do remember having great panel compatriots who were very kind, gracious, and carried the panel through quite well.

  • Here’s the convergence back to sex on this particular winding road. The novel I’m working on—after abandoning The Caretakers—has a female protagonist. And, the novel is written by a fictitious male ghostwriter (who has promised his client to write from the female protagonist’s POV since she is supplying him with the novel’s material.) POV shifts are rather tricky, but it’s fun-so far…

The overall writing impact—some of my favorite male protagonists written by women(outside of my Writers in Residence female writing friend’s wonderful male protagonists), are Adam Dalgliesh, Hercule Poirot, Tom Barnaby, and Roderick Alleyn. So what is the key to P.D. James, Agatha Christie, Caroline Graham, and Ngaio Marsh’s successful portrayal of the opposite sex?

Talent, artistic writing ability, or learned craft? [iii]. Right now, I’m thinking it’s the ability to get inside a character’s head, then convey how they’re seeing the world to a reader—no matter their sex. Seeing the world and experiencing your story from inside, looking out…rather than the perspective of looking from the outside at the events occurring around them.

Said in another and hands-on way, I wrote a sentence recently in this new novel, reread it, then said to myself—wow, that sounds like Leiv (former male protagonist), not like my new protagonist, LydiaRose. So what was wrong with it? I ended up deciding nothing. For in this particular scene it was a typical windblown desert day—and looking out—it would be the same, no matter the character’s gender. I’m thinking writing this book is going to push me as a writer, and getting it right isn’t something I can get from reading a writing book—rather, from writing experience.

I guess, my bottom line here is, trying something new is an excellent way to further hone your craft. And writing from opposite sex perspectives might be an excellent topic to think about…

As always, would love to hear your thoughts about writing, and heading out into new writing adventures.

Happy Writing trails!


[i] Last week, G.B. Pool wrote an excellent post on titles!

[ii]It was a mystery writer panel with Robert Fate, Mike Mallory, G.B. Pool, Kate Thornton, and moi. All panel member wrote a main character of the opposite sex.

[iii] Art vs craft is a topic I’ve also often heard discussed among potters.

23 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Sex…”

  1. Good post, Madeleine. It’s always good for us to spread our wings and try something new. Though from the title I was thinking maybe I was coming to Playboy article or something that Helen Gurley Brown might have said 😉 .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. GB Pool got me in the “title” thinking mode! I thought about using gender instead of sex–but it just wasn’t an evocative enough of a title! Yes, if you don’t push one’s self, and if it’s something you really want to do, you don’t get better. Thanks for stopping by Paul.

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  2. Mad, Again you have me think deep inside myself about these characters we create. I write both male and female protagonists. They have similarities and differences. The one thing I try not to do is let the women have super-human traits. I see it in TV shows all the time. The writers try to make them men. Hey! We’re different. I try to show that. And I look to the numerous male role models in my life for male traits. Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So agree, and if they do have super-human traits, they need to be an identified super-human like Wonder Woman. Though I didn’t much watch that show–I like ordinary people facing unusual happenings in their life. I owe my title and my thoughts on my new writing challenge to you! (your post and your panel). Can’t believe that panel was so long ago…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It was a good panel. Each of the authors did admirable work crafting their main characters of the opposite sex. I learned a lot from the talk, mostly that it can be done if you get to the heart of your character… and know their limitations and strengths.

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    2. Thoughtful post, Madeline. I was delighted that you addressed the issue of gender depictions in writing. It is indeed a challenge for writers to create strong characters that go beyond stereotypes and that are also realistic.

      I applaud your willingness to accept that challenge and take an entirely different path after rethinking certain characters.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit and comment, Frank! And as always, thanks for your supportive pep-talk–great having an encouraging friend! Sending the same positive writing encouragement and energy back your way!

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  3. Madeline, your first sentence made me laugh. Mention sex and you’ve got everyone’s attention. I don’t even want to think about what that says about our society. LOL
    As to trying new things in writing, yes! For example, I wrote all five of my Malone mysteries in the third person. My newest release is first person. But with the sequel I’m currently working on, I’m using a combination: the main character’s chapters will be in the first person but the chapters with other characters will be in third. So far, it’s working out well and turning out to be a lot of fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Patricia! Using a combination of POVs is interesting. And first person for protagonist and third for the other characters sounds intriguing. I’m glad you’re having fun with your new WIP. I think that’s a key ingredient(fun) to success with something new.

      Though probably down the road a bit before you’re finished, but will love to read!

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  4. Hi Mad- Your thoughts hit home with me too. I’m most comfortable writing in the first person with a female protagonist (even though my latest, Name of the Game is written in 3rd person). However I’ve toyed with writing from the perspective of the male protagonist. Honestly – that scares me, but I plan to try it when I feel more experienced. As for sex, as you know I have some pretty graphic scenes, natural but primarily from the female perspective. A male reader of my trilogy, read them, wrote to me and said he loved the scenes, and it gave him some inside knowledge of how a woman thinks in those moments. That woke me up to how difficult (for me) it would be to write similar scenes from a man’s view. I know you only used “sex” to grab our attention, but it led to me thinking about the above. Thanks for the good entry!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by Freddi! Having read your novels, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble with a male protagonist, because you have plenty male supporting characters, and they’re all done excellently. Interesting on the sex angle from the male reader, an angle I’ve never thought about. Hmm…

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  5. I’ve never tried writing a story only in a male POV, but your excellent post got me thinking! I do write in the hero’s point of view, and the heroine’s, too, when I’m writing romances in third person, so I have attempted to figure out what men think. Thanks for your sexy post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad you enjoyed my sexy post! Yes, after the comments so far, I’ve been doing more thinking myself. Funny how one idea keys off another, and down the writing road we go…

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  6. Great post. Sorry to hear you’re not releasing another Rhodes mystery. I really liked both of your stories. I’ve never considered writing in a male point of view. But it’s food for thought. Sometimes, as writers, we need a change of perspective. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know if it’s me on Rhodes, or the work itself. I think time and distance will come up with a good answer. It is a strange feeling though. Thanks for stopping by, love hearing from you, Evelyn!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Enjoyed your post as always. Writing in the perspective of a different gender poses a challenge for many writers. I’ve stopped reading a series by a well-regarded female author because her feminine voice pervades her male detective, like she’s whispering what to say in his ear instead of letting him speak for himself. Then again, a few men in my writing groups have turned out laughably bad scenes with women – you ‘d think all we talk about is our body parts and underwear!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So interesting (and funny) about the men in your writing groups! And yes, if the opposite sex author doesn’t do it right, can be a real turnoff. Thank for your kind words, Miko.

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  8. Yes, Madeline, the title grabbed my attention! But so did the rest of your post. I also have a novel, also third in my series, that I don’t like. It’s languishing on my hard drive. I’m sure a good editor could vastly improve it, but I don’t know if I feel it’s worth it to shell out the money. I haven’t ruled it out. I’m also thinking of carving it up into short stories. At any rate, I’m now working on three different short stories.

    Speaking of shorts, I published one with a male main character, in third person. It was a departure for me and I liked the result. It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, so it might not matter if I’m being totally accurate in my portrayal of the male. I would advise anyone creating a realistic character of the opposite gender to get beta readers of that gender. I’m a beta reader for a male writer who’s otherwise very good, but he writes terrible sex scenes! I’ve tried to be nice in my critique and am happy to say that he has improved.

    A thought on the authors you mentioned with great male detectives: during that Golden Age of detective fiction, the emphasis was on the story and not so much on the characters. Contemporary authors create more 3-D characters. IMO! A good example is JA Jance’s Beaumont series.

    I loved this post, Madeline. Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great suggestion (like with Miko’s writers group), have a beta reader from the opposite sex. Very interesting about the sex scenes with your fellow writer. I never get past hand holding, so not to difficult!(smile) Sounds like you’re very busy writing wise, sounds wonderful. Used to love shorts, but haven’t had an inspiration lately. And I agree with you about the 3-D characters! Ah to write the perfect novel plot wise, setting wise, well developed and interesting characters, and all the gender characteristics on the mark! Easy, right?

      Thanks so much for your taking the time to visit and offer thoughtful comments!

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  9. Great post, Mad! My books are written first person, female, but there are men in the stories and they speak and react. Surprise, surprise. Men speak. When it comes to the male perspective, I try to think of how certain men that I know would think or react. I think it’s worked so far, but that’s just my opinion. I don’t know if I could write a first person, male protagonist or not. Time will tell. Thanks to your post, I’m taking a second look at a male protagonist.

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  10. Thanks for stopping by, Marja! I think that’s a good idea trying to think what men you know are thinking. So far, haven’t had problems (anyone has told me about!) writing from a male POV (protagonist) in the third person, but not sure I good write first person male either. In my latest, it’s all third person, but POVs change….hmmm…will see how all of this will work out, but it should be fun and challenging.

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  11. A wonderful post, Maddie. It’s always good to stretch ourselves for our craft. I applaud your decision to put away the third Rhodes book. Tough decision–I’ve done it, pulled it out, re-worked it, put it away again. The cloud is a good place for that story. Kudos for the courage, girl!

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    1. Thank you, Thonie, for stopping by! So good to hear from you. And it makes me feel better, knowing you’ve gone through the same experience with one of your works. Hoping, that like you, I’ll take a look again… Thanks for your kind words, so much appreciated!

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