Inside Each Other’s Heads

For a male writer (like me), it’s difficult to write a story in a female character’s point of view. I’ve read that it’s also difficult for female writers to get into a male character’s head and write realistic stories. Still, we’ve all read books by authors who did this very well. If others have done it; you can too.

writing opposite gender povAdvance warning: this post is full of opinions that may sound stereotypical and sexist. As a caveat, let me say the characteristics I’ll ascribe to women and men are generalizations. Not all men, nor all women, are as described below. There is plenty of overlap in thoughts and behaviors between genders.

Your goal, as a writer, is to produce an entertaining and meaningful experience for your readers. Say you’re female and your lead Point of View character is male. You want readers of both genders to enjoy the story and not get jolted out of it with thoughts of “No guy would think (or do) that!”

Of course, all fiction writing involves getting into someone else’s head, someone different from you. Even characters who share your gender have personalities unlike yours, so you’re always setting your own feelings and motivations aside as you write what someone else would think, say, or do.

Writing from the other gender’s POV is like that, only a bit more so. Think of the following suggestions as tendencies, directions in which to stretch a little without going too far.

For you male writers dealing with a female POV character:

  • Ensure she takes in the appearances of things, and notices minute changes over time
  • Have her look into other characters’ eyes
  • Employ more dialogue, especially small talk
  • Allow her to comment on others’ appearances, clothes, and health
  • Have her care more about other character’s feelings, and to validate them
  • Make her more willing to share her own feelings with others
  • Ensure she talks more about people, their connections, and feelings
  • Show her inner feelings more frequently and more deeply
  • Have her think about people as a network, where each person is on a spectrum between nice/good and mean/bad, and connecting lines between people are strong or weak based on how the two interact

For you female writers dealing with a male POV character:

  • As he takes in a scene, ensure he focuses more on the functions of things, even how he could use or change them
  • Have him look around more at a scene than into other characters’ eyes
  • Make his dialogue more sparse, with less small talk
  • Have him care more about other characters’ problems (and how he could solve them) than their feelings
  • Make him reluctant to disclose his feelings to other characters
  • Ensure he talks more about objects and abstract concepts
  • Have his thoughts move quickly from feelings to action (i.e. what is he going to do?)
  • Have him think about people as being in hierarchies, ranking either higher or lower than him, and how to treat them appropriately

Others have written about the process of creating a convincing opposite-sex POV character. For example, Author Shaquanda Dalton suggests focusing more on the similarities between the genders. She recommends concentrating on dialogue and getting help from opposite-sex beta readers. She also says that the thoughts of fictional characters will focus on the plot problem whether they are women or men, and won’t be significantly different. Lastly, she urges writers to observe real people to get ideas for character actions.

Author A. L. Sowards believes there are differences in the way men and women think, and a writer should keep these in mind. Women, she states, often stew over upsetting things longer, while men get angry but let it go quickly. Women think about many things at once, while men focus on one. She claims it’s untrue that women are more detail-oriented; it’s more a matter of interests. A female character might describe flowers using more specifics, but a male character would describe all the facets of a car engine in the same degree of detail. She advises writers to read books written by and about the opposite gender, and to get to know the character’s personality, strengths, and weaknesses well.

We may try, in our modern age, to dismiss any differences between the genders, but on average, there are some characteristics common to women and others typical of men. You should understand these differences, so you can become capable of writing from the POV of either gender.

Looking back, I’ve only done this with two characters in my published stories— Dr. Anusha Bharateeyanakshatra in “The Finality” and Galene in “Against All Gods.” It’s up to readers whether these female characters were realistically portrayed by—

Poseidon’s Scribe

January 31, 2016Permalink

What a Disaster!

Today I’m exploring the world of disaster fiction. There are many, many stories dealing with disasters, from local misadventures to world-wide calamities. I’ll discuss frequently occurring themes in disaster fiction, as well as the reasons people read it. That might help you decide if you want to write such a tale.

DisasterFirst, no disaster story is truly about the disaster. If you want to write about disasters, try non-fiction. As I’ve said before, fiction is about the human condition, so your disaster story is really about the characters, their attempts to cope with the disaster, and how they grow or change as a result.

I’ll make a distinction between disaster stories and post-apocalyptic stories. In the latter, the disaster has already occurred and people are trying to handle the aftermath. In the former, the disaster occurs during the story. I’ll discuss post-apocalyptic fiction in a future blog post.


Though disaster stories are about people, we can still classify them by the type of disaster that occurs, and there are plenty to choose from. You might think all the best disasters have been taken already and the reading public won’t go for one more disaster novel. You’d be wrong; since the stories are about people, there are always infinitely more stories to write.

Disasters can be natural, as with floods or tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, other significant storms, earthquakes, volcanoes, extreme climate change, asteroid or comet collisions, etc.

The disaster could be an accident, such as a shipwreck, airplane crash, train wreck, industrial accident, etc. A car crash probably wouldn’t count, since the disaster really should involve a large number of people.

There are other disasters that aren’t natural, and aren’t really accidents either. Let’s call them calamities, and separate them into plausible and less-plausible scenarios. The plausible ones include pandemics, terrorist attacks, major wars, economic collapse, and loss of electricity.

The less-plausible calamities (my own risk assessment; yours might differ) include: alien invasion, uncontrolled release of technology (such as nanotechnology, robot uprising, creation of a black hole, creation of a super-disease or super-creature, etc.), zombie apocalypse, “return” of vampires or werewolves, and attacks by menacing (usually gigantic) animals.


You’ll find some common themes in disaster stories. Here’s a partial list.

• Despite how far humans have progressed, we need reminding we are small and weak creatures in a big, dangerous universe.
• As disaster looms, people will react differently, going through the Kübler-Ross ‘Five Stages of Grief’ at different rates.
• A large-scale disaster will collapse the normal societal structure, and other structures will form.
• A disaster brings together strangers who must form a team with a common purpose, such as survival.
• A main character must overcome a personal fear or other psychological flaw and rise to the situation.
• A former leader cannot cope with the disaster; a new and unlikely leader must take charge.
• Often the protagonist’s main goal is either survival (of a group) or rescue of others.
• There are good and bad human reactions to disasters, and the characters who react badly often (though not always) meet a bad end. For example, preparation is better than assuming an unchanging future; clear thinking is better than panic, teamwork is better than uncaring self-centeredness; natural leadership is better than using a chaotic situation to claim power; focusing on the goal is more productive than blaming or finding fault.


Why do people read disaster stories? These are among the reasons:

• It’s a chance to “experience” the disaster in a safe way, without having to endure it for real.
• The stories can be taken as metaphors for how we can deal with the smaller-scale mishaps of daily life.
• The tales can be metaphors for some perceived societal defect, as in H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
• The stories offer lessons in preparation as old as the ant & grasshopper fable.


51aDCvEwjvLI would classify only one of my stories as a true disaster tale. “The Finality” appeared in the anthology 2012 AD by Severed Press. In it, a scientist discovers that time itself is coming to an end, not just on Earth but throughout the universe, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. But just maybe the Mayans were trying to tell us something about that.

May all your disasters be the written kind; that’s the hope of—

Poseidon’s Scribe

November 30, 2014Permalink