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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Writing Between the Sexes by Leigh Michaels

Let’s say you’re wandering through the bookstore, you flip open a book by someone called Chris Smith, and you read this:

Joe had spiffed himself up by putting on a tie, a silly one decorated with the Three Stooges. Elizabeth was still wearing her tan suit, but she’d removed her jacket, revealing a holstered .38 and two holstered 36 D’s.

Now from the name our author calls himself, Chris Smith could be either sex. But I’m betting that from those two sentences you have a pretty clear picture of Chris Smith – and a strong opinion on whether Chris wears boxer shorts or underwires.

How about this one? Is the author male, or female?

Reluctantly turning off the tap, she reached for a thick amethyst towel, winding it around her hair, turban-style. Wrapping another around her torso, she stepped from the shower and surveyed her steam-filed bathroom with a sigh. In the mirror, she saw the blurred reflection of a tall, slender redhead with very pink skin. I look like a lobster, she thought.

Or maybe this one?

Her eyes narrowed. “Does this have anything to do with my being sick?”
Warily he asked, “What do you mean?”
“Are you trying to get me to rest more?”
“If I am, do you have a problem with that?”

Men and women think, act, and talk differently -- and vive le difference! But when women write the actions and dialogue of male characters, those guys often come off sounding like gal pals. And when men write the actions and dialogue of feminine characters, those gals come off sounding like tough guys.

Why is that a problem? Because when readers encounter a guy who doesn’t sound masculine, or a woman who doesn’t sound feminine, they stop believing in the world the author is trying to create. You might get by with that if your audience is the same sex you are – but if you’re aiming to broaden your readership, here’s a place to sit up and pay attention.

I hope you’ll join me for WRITING BETWEEN THE SEXES. In this four-week workshop, we’ll look at the behaviors and traits which most commonly lead us to tag someone as feminine or masculine, and how to use those behaviors and traits to create realistic -- but not stereotypical -- characters of the opposite sex. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!  Here's the link to sign up:  http://my.rwa.org/e/in/eid=23

About the Author: Leigh Michaels is the author of more than 100 books, including historical romance novels, contemporary romance novels and non-fiction. She is the author of On Writing Romance (Writers Digest Books) and teaches romance writing at Gotham Writers Workshop. Her next Regency-period historical romance, The Birthday Scandal, will be released in September 2012 by Montlake Romance.

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