One of the most intimidating parts of writing from different POV’s are the different genders and ages a character can be. Both of these strongly influence how the story is told and lend towards different details.
It can be overwhelming to attempt to write from a man’s perspective if you’re a woman or vice-versa and it can be difficult to write in the simplicity of a child’s POV. So today, we’re delving into that trickery and hopefully, this post will give you a few jumping off points to guide you as your write your characters.
This is the third post in our Ultimate POV Guide series!
In the first post, we delved into the different types of POV, complete with examples, and explore what sorts of POVs are good for what kind of stories. We also took a minute to discuss tenses.
In the second post we talked about using multiple POVs to tell your story, with some pros and cons and examples of good and not-so-good uses. We also talked about the uses of letters and journal entries as forms of storytelling.
In this third post, we’ll talk about the differences between different perspectives, like male vs. female vs. queer, and child vs. teenager vs. adult.
In the fourth post, we’ll wrap up with the ins and outs of deep POV, what it is, how and when to use it, and some tips and tricks.
Before we get too into these issues of gender and age in POV, I want to make one bottom line very clear:
First and foremost, you’re writing a person.
All people feel similarly, and while there are some minute differences in how different genders and ages think or react, stay true to your character and how they would act and speak throughout the story. At the end of the day, we’re just people with feelings and thoughts like everyone else around us. You’re aiming to write a creative and dynamic person, not a caricature.
For the sake of this article however, we’ll break down genders and ages into two things: perspective and desire.
Gender as a Guide to Perspective
Perspective is dictated by your character’s life experience up to the start of the story. This experience is greatly influenced by their gender and how they interacted with others and were interacted with throughout their life.
Please note, these are very general notes on writing from the different gender POVs. There are variances to it. Use this as a starting point and allow your character to drive you. Avoid stereotypes because real people aren’t stereotypes. Your characters will be as three-dimensional and dynamic as real people. Don’t let gender and age hang ups hold you back from writing the character you need to.
Females are generally raised in society to carry the emotional baggage: remembering birthdays, crying during movies, talking about everything and anything under the sun. Generally females are more open and more compassionate.
Women will think from their hearts and do what feels right, but can also solve problems more logically by finding a solution that covers all sides. Women also generally cry more.Women will use more words to describe their thoughts.
Additionally, most women carry themselves with a layer of protection. Living in a world where women are harassed and abused on the daily makes female characters more aware of the world around them. This awareness is handy for storytelling, but it’s important to remember that men are just as observant, but with a different perspective.
Men are more taught to be driven by solutions. Their decisions will be driven by the need to find a solution, even if the means are questionable. As well, men are emotional but it takes quite the trigger to get them to cry. Men will use the fewest possible words. Men are more susceptible to feeling defensive and their body language will be bigger to reflect that.
It’s important to note that guys don’t actually think about sex all the time. Some of the time. Not all the time.
Additionally, males do understand feelings and cope with the same emotions women do. However, women know what to do about emotions, whereas men do not. For themselves or for others.
Of course not every person or character will fall under the male/female spectrum. Maybe they’re trans, maybe they subscribe to neither gender. The same bottom line rules applies: know your character well enough to write their experience and their preferences as they would. If they were born a different gender than they actually are, write that into their story. It will color how they see the world and interact with it and it’s your job as the author to portray that carefully.
Age as a Guide to Desire
Now writing in different age groups can be tricky… writing a story from the perspective of a five year old (like the Room) is entirely different from the perspective of a thirty-something adult. What’s important here is to focus on the desires of your character.
When we’re younger, we want simple things: to play, to love, to have fun, to laugh, to explore. We want to understand too, but to a lesser extent than our teenage and adult selves. As teenagers we want to figure our own selves out, we want to understand who we are, where we’re supposed to be going, and what the hell we’re supposed to be doing.
As adults, we take on the worries and desires of others, as well as strive to support ourselves and any dependants. There’s more on our minds, more emotions and problems and situations to balance. This can allow for deeper stories, with more layers and subplots.
Don’t be intimidated by age and gender. Remember that at the end of the day, people are people. You’re writing people with emotions, hopes, dreams, failures, successes, experiences, and things to learn. Focus on who they are and the rest will come naturally.
See you next week for our fourth and final post: Deep POV!