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.