I watched an episode of CSI, and the lead investigator shared a story with the detective and a lab tech. There was an auto accident, and a horse was injured. A police officer shot the horse, the bullet ricocheted off the horse’s skull and kills a fellow officer. The commanding officer asked “what color was the horse?” No one knew. Trained observers missed the obvious, what else did they miss?
As writers we watch, we observe, we ask what if? We develop characters, or the characters come to us with the stories they need us to tell. All well and good, except if one of the characters is the opposite gender of the writer. As a man I’m on safe ground writing about guy things. But stories are about people, relationships, conflict. So there are gals in guy stories, and guys in gal stories. How do we write about the opposite gender and make them believable?
I start with good old fashioned stereotypes. Girls/Women deal with feelings and emotions (Being stereotypical, work with me here!) Guys deal with practical and logic. Guys want to see what is on the other side of the mountain, the gal then wants to know what they need to wear and what will there be to eat. Guys vision, gals detail.
Then I begin to work out specifics and move away from the stereotype to what I’ve observed in women and girls I’ve known over the years. What is she like? What does she like? What gets her dander up? What will she be emotional about, and what will she stand up for?
It is a framework. It is a starting point. The characters will let you know if what you are doing is working or not. Just remember to note the color of the horse.