This week, I’m on a blog-cation! So I’m reposting some of my top posts. I may be able to sneak some quality WiFi time in when my husband isn’t looking, but probably not. So please feel free to discuss amongst yourselves!
Showing Emotion: Boys vs. Girls (original post April 13, 2011)
First, let’s not stereotype: boys certainly have feelings just as much as girls do, and your character should be true to who THEY are more than what their gender is. But, in general, what boys do with feelings can be quite different from girls, and accurately portraying that in words on a page is the key to a realistic character.
Here’s a girl thinking (Ever in Evermore, contemplating a small lie to her friends):They’re making such a big deal I’m thinking it’s my only way out. Only I can’t. Not to them. Haven and Miles are my best friends. My only friends. And I feel like I’m keeping enough secrets already.
Here’s a boy thinking (Cassel in White Cat, having just nearly fallen off the roof): I laugh with relief, even though I am shaking so badly that climbing is out of the question. Cold makes my fingers numb. The adrenaline rush makes my brain sing.
Here’s a girl thinking like a boy (Katniss in Hunger Games, ruminating about how she didn’t kill Buttercup the cat, because of her beloved sister Prim): But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay…Sometimes when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me. Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.
Girl-like characters tend to think and react in terms of relationships: they ponder (sometimes a lot); they agonize; they contemplate feelings: theirs and other people’s.
Boy-like characters think more in terms of action, cause and effect, connecting the emotion to the outcome, rather than how they feel about it.
These are generalizations, of course. Your Character May Vary. But here’s a back-to-back example of how I would write a scene from a girl POV and a boy POV.
Boy: I sprinted down the street, dodging early morning sprinklers. I was going to be late. Again. Mr. Spencer was sure to give me a tardy, and another note with a fake signature wouldn’t cut it this time. Spencer would kick me out of Trill Academy for sure. I slowed my pace. No sense in hurrying to my doom. I kicked a hose draped across the sidewalk and imagined it was Spencer.
Girl: I sprinted down the street, narrowly keeping out of the sprinkler. If I was late this time, Mr. Spencer would have my head. He’s hated me ever since I pointed out his error that time in Geometry. I clenched my fists. It wasn’t fair. I worked so hard to get in, and Spencer would kick me out of Trill with the slightest excuse. I stumbled over a hose draped across the sidewalk and came to a stop. I wouldn’t give Spencer the pleasure of seeing me come in all flustered and red faced. I straightened my shirt and leisurely strolled on.
Of course, this scene would play differently for different characters with different backgrounds, and I think the most important thing is to stay true to your character.
Do you write boy or girl POV’s? Do you incorporate emotions differently for each?