This blog post is about writing by Chris Cox

This blog post is about writing.

It’s about writing male characters and female characters. It has nothing to do with your everyday life.  Keep that in mind as you go through this post.  (I double dare you to try to keep that in mind. I double dare you to try to separate your writing from your living. Go ahead. Try it! J )


Okay, here we go.  AS WRITERS:

Do we care if there is a difference between women and men?

Dating sites seem to care.  Clothes designers seem to care.  Pregnant parents seem to care, if the rise of gender reveal parties are any indication.

Some of these reasons to care will make sense to you and some may not, according to who you are as an individual.  Ooops!  Nope, not looking at you, kid.  Just talking about some generic writer.


Why do we (AS WRITERS) care?

Because we interact with people differently whether they are gendered male or female.  We make different assumptions, use different words and different body language and make different decisions based on whether we think we are interacting with a man or a woman.

Why do we change the way we interact?  The answer usually boils down to making ourselves understood.  We have learned through trial and error, or through myth and joke culture, or through watching others, that if we communicate a certain way, then we will get our point across.

Let’s be real here.  When we interact differently with women than with men, does that bring us closer or further from being understood?


Here’s an unscientific quiz:

  • Are you insistent that everyone knows whether your puppy is a he or a she?
  • Do you dress your infant daughter in your toddler son’s hand-me-downs?
  • When you see a woman with a hint of a mustache, do you think she is more masculine than other women?
  • When a guy prefers salads to steaks, do you think he is more feminine than other men?
  • Do you use both landmarks and polar directions when describing how to get from here to there?
  • When a guy slings his arm around another guy’s shoulder, does that mean he’s gay?
  • When a woman cries when she is mad, does that mean she is being manipulative? When a man doesn’t cry, is he withholding his emotions to be machismo?
  • Who is better at traditional home cooking, a man or a woman? Who makes a better restaurant chef?

Go ahead and add up your yesses and nos.

Then throw out the numbers.  They won’t give you any real answers.

Some folks might think these questions are slanted. They would be wrong.

The truth is, every one of the questions can be answered with ‘It depends.’

Now, go back through the questions and figure out where your answer is coming from, reality or tradition or myth.


Let’s take the puppy question.

Why is it important that your character’s puppy is a girl or a boy? You didn’t forget that this isn’t about you, right? It’s about a generic writer, not you in particular at all.

So, my character, who I will call Chris, wants a girl puppy.  Chris (not me, my character of the same name), thinks that girl puppies are easier to potty train. Chris also thinks girl puppies listen better and are easier to train overall. And Chris also thinks that girl puppies are better cuddlers while boy puppies might be better stick retrievers. Boy puppies also get bigger than girl puppies, Chris has heard.

What does this imaginary puppy have to do with your writing? Maybe the author is using the puppy as metaphor and symbolism for relationship development in the character’s life. How much deeper can this story be, how much better understood, if the author knows why he picks each word, each action and reaction, each status quo or challenge to stereotype and each confirmation or revelation?  Those, my dear writer, are the books that communicate to us, loud and clear.


What? You thought this was about life?  Nope, just fiction. Nothing to do with real life at all.

Love this?

Check out Chris’s next class at SavvyAuthors:

When Sean Loves Rusty
A Sean and Rusty short story and novella collectionBest friends since grade school, lovers since high school, Sean Delahunt and Rusty Duchene thought nothing could ever tear them apart. Then Sean graduates college and his world changes, while Rusty’s stays thesame.

Job offers that take them away away from nurturing family, old insecurities and new friendships threaten their relationships as they transition from their college life to their adult life.

Money, moves and men…will this longtime love last forever or will life in the big city destroy their young love?

Robert E

Questions 8 and 9 are poorly constructed if not 'scientific'. However, getting an answer to any question is the subject of scientific inquiry. ;)

"When a man doesn’t cry, is he withholding his emotions to be machismo?" Impossible to answer because his 'machismo' is unknown. There may be another reason for why he isn't crying.

"Who is better at traditional home cooking, a man or a woman? Who makes a better restaurant chef?" Again, impossible to know. The person answering the question doesn't have enough data. And there's the problem of what 'traditional' means to the person answering the question. The same problem with Part B.

Answering these questions becomes a matter of opinion. Whereas the other questions are YES/NO questions and can answered YES or NO. So even if you didn't intend for it to be scientific, you've made it difficult for people to respond. Ok, you say 'it depends' is the answer to these questions but you expected people to answer from their perspective - I gave YES/NO answers to the first 7 questions. Questions 8 & 9 were too ambiguous to even try to answer.

For example: "When a guy prefers salads to steaks, do you think he is more feminine than other men?" I answered NO.

You said 'this isn't about me' but you want me to apply these ideas to my characters and writing. The first thing that came to mind was Romance writers - they deliberately write stories that stipulate who is who and who isn't and who's doing what to whom. Their reasons for doing this are not artistic but predacious - they want to sell books and make money.

If they applied your 'culture busting' activity to their writing, that would be the end of Romance. I'm not a Romance writer so I don't give a damn if its dies. But I'm sure it would upset a lot of book buyers.