the difference between writing from Kitty’s point of view and writing from Cormac’s

November 6, 2013

I was asked this at one of my signings earlier this year, and it’s a great question.  Specifically, I was asked about the differences in gender, and if it was different writing a male character versus the female one I’ve been writing.  I expect I’m going to get asked this a lot when we get close to Low Midnight’s release date (which I don’t know yet, alas), so I thought I’d throw the answer up here.

What I answered:  no, the difference in gender is not a factor when I write about Cormac.  Because the biggest difference between Kitty and Cormac is not, in the end, their respective gender identities.  It’s their dispositions and their entire outlooks on life.  Kitty is a chatty idealist.  She wants to think the best of everyone and everything, she believes it is possible to make the world a better place.  And she talks. A lot.  Cormac…doesn’t.  Cormac is a cynic.  A borderline sociopath.  He would rather shoot you than be friends with you.  He knows the world is a brutal place and you either eat or be eaten.

That’s the kind of thing I was thinking about while writing Cormac.  Just like when I write Kitty I’m focused on her dialog, her philosophy in life, her goals, her loyalties.  To define them according to their genders would essentialize them in ways that I think would make them less interesting.

I’ve written male points of view before — a number of my short stories have male points of view, and half of Discord’s Apple is from the point of view of Greek soldier and spy Sinon.  Again, I wasn’t so much focused on him being male as I was on his more relevant personality traits:  his loyalty to Odysseus, his identity as a Greek soldier, his sense of fatalism that never quite edges into despair.  Writing the Cormac novella several years ago convinced me I could, in fact, write an entire novel about him.  And again, I focused on his cynicism rather than the fact he’s a guy.

Seriously, don’t think of it as writing good male characters or female characters.  Just write good characters.


5 Responses to “the difference between writing from Kitty’s point of view and writing from Cormac’s”

  1. It honestly surprises me how many people think that you need some special insight to write a character of a different gender than yourself, as if there’s some arcane unknowable gulf between the experience of a man and the experience of a woman. And there are writers (I hesitate to call anyone a bad writer, but honestly what I’m about to describe is bad writing) who think that the way to address this is to make everything a character with a different gender does informed by their gender.

    I think this interview segment with George R. R. Martin is particularly on-point:

    Essentially, when you write ANY character, the way to write them is to write a HUMAN BEING with certain goals, motivations, and personality traits, NOT ‘I am writing a man’ or ‘I am writing a woman’. Not to say that gender is irrelevant to a character, but it should never -define- a character.

    If you’ll allow me to give a bit of praise in that department, I’ve always felt you handled that masterfully, Carrie.

  2. Sherri Says:

    I would love to get a Cormac book, I was intrigued with him when he showed up on the scene and the changes to his life during/after prison have only made me want to be able to spend a little (or a lot) more time finding out about what is going on with him.

  3. Denis Farr is a white, androgynously gendered, TAB, German-born and U.S.-schooled, male-sexed queer person (with a penchant for other male-sexed queer persons) who started writing about games at Vorpal Bunny Ranch (in other words, he’s loquacious). He has continued with this endeavor, expanding his writing to both and here at The Border House. A strong proponent of expanding diversity in games, his focus is often on how characters are depicted in games, and exploring the language we use to explicate games themselves.

  4. […] or a reluctant heroine, one that can drive some folks crazy with her waffling.  In her blog, Vaughn describes Kitty as “a chatty idealist.  She wants to think the best of everyone and […]

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