I know. This is breakthrough stuff. But it’s on my mind, so now it’s on your screen.
Once upon a time, maybe ten years ago, I read a book. This is not news. But the book was nonfiction (rare), and about sports (exceedingly rare). It’s called “The Power of Nice” by a sports agent/lawyer called Ron Shapiro. And it was funny. And a little bit brilliant – or maybe a lot, because there are things in it that I still have in my brain, after one reading.
For instance: Boys and girls are different.
Here’s how. He says (please give me some leniency here, I’m memory-quoting after a very busy decade), let’s say, there’s a soccer coach. He coaches both guys’ and girls’ teams at a high school. If that coach were to go into the girls’ locker room and say, “Most of you are doing pretty well, but there is one girl on this team who isn’t pulling her own. She’s getting sloppy. She needs to refocus. Maybe she’s even put on a little weight,” Every Single Girl in that room would say, “I’m the one. He’s talking about me. I need to change.” And then the coach goes into the boys’ locker room and says, “One of you is fine. The rest of you are out of shape and fat and lazy and driving me crazy,” Every Single Guy in that room would say, “Okay, then. At least I’m fine.”
Do you believe it?
I think I do.
I could spend many paragraphs here talking about raising a boy after three girls, and how they are SO INHERENTLY DIFFERENT, but who cares? Nope. Not me, either. So instead, I’ll talk about writing boys. My Work In Progress has three main boys and a Dad (who was once a boy, if you can imagine). Also two main girls and an accessory girl. Plus a Mom. I’m finding out what they’re all like, how they are the same and how they are different. And I’m trying not to go stereotypical, you know, because that would be Bad. But there’s a reason some things are stereotypes: Because they’re frequently true. So if I have an artist, say, who also happens to be an athlete, does he get the attributes of the artist, or the jock? And don’t they sort of cancel each other out? See? That’s how to avoid a stereotype (simple version).
If it’s easier for me to write girls, it’s only because I’ve been one for a long, long time. It’s not because girls are simpler.
And typically, there are things that girls are supposed to care about (home things, feelings, relationships) that boys aren’t supposed to be too wrapped up in. But what better way to thicken up a character than to give a girl a typically “boy” attribute – like a weapons fetish – along with her more consistently “girlie” concerns, like does this holster make my hips look fat?
So try it. When you’re writing something, or making assumptions about a Real Live Human, make some room for the unlikely. It just may make it all more True.