I’ve been thinking about my female characters. Or any male author’s female characters, for that matter. Commonly I, and perhaps everybody else, as well, see what we want to see. Some ten or fifteen years ago, on a sunny spring day, I walked through a small town. Having walked through the whole town, I thought that there seemed to be a disproportionate number of females in that town. Unusually attractive as well, I thought. Strange. That didn’t seem statistically correct. So I walked the same way back, but this time with my eyes a bit more objective. It wasn’t true, of course, there were an equal number of women and men, and there were, of course, all kinds of beautiful and ugly, just like everywhere else.
How do we portray people we never see? How does a man portray a female character and vice versa? Supposedly men are from Mars and women are from Venus and we don’t even speak the same language. When it comes to me, I don’t really understand any human being fully. But then again, I’m from Earth. The point is: who are these people? What do they not tell me and what do I not see?
So, how do I portray other men and women convincingly? Do I really have to understand all the motions? Or can I just simply describe what everything looks like to me and hope that it is close enough to get away with?
I’m a man. I do not have a vagina and I cannot give birth. I’m raised as a male, and all what comes along with that. As a boy all my friends were boys. However, I had a mother and I have a sister, and have had a few girlfriends and a wife. I have three daughters and most of my friends are female. Still, I know less about the female mind and of women’s true feelings, than I know of the male psyche. Or so I believe, anyway.
In an attempt to rectify this, I read a lot of female authors these days and preferably literature where the main character is female. I need to know the character I am writing about. I cannot write about someone I know nothing about. Well, I know some things, but not nearly enough. So I study.
Meanwhile, I’m still writing her. I will get her right sooner or later. It may, or may not, be a fairly accurate account of a woman, but she will be there.