Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Boys and Girls

In a recent interview I was asked how I am able to write in the voice of a teenage girl, as I did in How to Steal a Car, Sweetblood, and my soon-to-be-released love story (from both the boy's and the girl's perspective), The Big Crunch I said something like this:  "I start with the assumption that boys and girls have almost everything in common.  Boys and girls are not really that different from each other."

To expand on that thought, consider this: An alien life form arrives on Earth.  This alien is a silicon-based crystalline intelligence about the size of a mustard seed.  It derives energy from magnetic fields and communicates by means of UHF waves. 

The alien observes both a mouse and a stalk of corn, and determines that the two creatures are identical:  Both are enormous, grotesque, carbon-based entities that feed upon each other.  The differences between the two—one is motile, the other is not, one contains a higher level of silicon, one squeaks while the other rustles, etcetera—are of no importance to the alien, who leaves the planet believing that Earth offers only a single life form of little or no interest.

The DNA of chimpanzees and humans is 96% identical.  The fact that we regard chimps as being vastly different from ourselves has to do with the relative importance we place on a few minor variations having to do with body shape, hairiness, climbing ability, and so forth.

So it is with boys and girls.  We all eat, sleep, love, cover ourselves with fabrics, feel pleasure and pain…the list of similarities is nearly endless.  Those differences upon which we place so much importance—slight variations in communication techniques, body shape, reproductive equipment, and taste in movies—are relatively minor.  But those minor differences are, subjectively, major.

When writing from the point-of-view of a female character I rely upon a lifetime of close observation, in-depth studies of scholarly texts and laboratory experiments, reading chicklit, and extensive interviews with a variety of female simians.  Then I show my work to Mary Logue and she tells me where I went wrong.

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