adventures in dysthymia

Friday, August 05, 2016

Gender, Race, Characters

Is it a mistake for a man to attempt to write in the first person as a woman — or vice-versa? Or, for that matter, would even a third person narrative told more-or-less from the viewpoint of the other gender ever be completely successful? Will it always seem a little 'off?'

Taking it a bit further, can a straight person pull off writing as a gay character? Can White be Black, or Black be White? Irish be French? And so on!

We all are human. We all share a basic makeup, emotions, concerns, thoughts. We all love and hate, feel anger and jealousy, desire and dejection. Perhaps that is enough. Perhaps it is possible to understand anyone, no matter how alien they might first seem.

We must try to understand them. We must empathize, be able to put ourselves in their place. This is how good characters are created, of any gender, any ethnicity.

Eventually, I do intend to attempt a book from a female viewpoint — and in the first person. There is a young, secondary character in my Malvern novels who will tell her own story one of these days. And, just to make it more difficult, she will also be (more-or-less) Polynesian. I have some ideas for novels centered around — but not told by — women, as well.

Now there are major female characters in the Donzalo novels and the story is sometimes told from their point of view. These are written in a 'limited third-person' voice that varies from scene to scene. I think I pulled them off well enough but I did not delve as deeply into the characters as I might using a first person POV. The Lady Fachalana is one of those characters who needs to be explored further.

First, I will probably tackle the first of my sequels to the Malvern Trilogy. This will be a tale told by a man but he will, as the character mentioned above, be Polynesian. If I pull that off to my satisfaction, then perhaps I can tackle the female narrator in the novel that follows it.

I think perhaps the thing is not to make these characters ‘different’ but to emphasize what they share with all humans. Culture, and even gender (the two are intertwined, of course), comes after that. Both men and women fear, love, cry, laugh, and for the same reasons. That is what must be remembered.

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