- Swapping genders
Many writers prefer to write characters of their own gender, including myself. One way to become able to write any gender of character and even non-human characters is to bring out the human aspect of the character. We can do this by forgetting about their gender (to some extent).
Of course their sexuality and gender will have an impact on their romantic interests and perceptions but people are people in the end. To bring any character to life you need to care about them and treat them like people with thoughts, feelings and emotions. Imagine Sherlock Holmes as a woman or Scarlett O’Hara as a man.
2. Removing Limitations
Most of us have grown up with and been influenced by gender stereotypes. Our view of the opposite sex is corrupted by various notions that society says are true.
Although, we now have less of this in the world around us, it is still there, deeply ingrained in our culture. It’s difficult to write without wandering into some form of stereotype but one way to do this is to remove all perceptions of gender limitations. While there are certain physical limitations in gender (childbirth etc) keep an open mind about your characters. Not all men are big and strong and not all women are good at cooking and cleaning. If you still walk around believing the traditional stereotypes (or hoping for them) you will be sorely disappointed. People are not cardboard cut-outs of gender and your characters shouldn’t be either. You can still have big, strong men or women who are domestic. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just allow them to be more than that. If you really want to push the boundaries you can remove the physical limitations of gender as well.
One problem with creative writing is that so much has already been written. There are many male and female archetypes out there. The hero, the villain, the wicked step-mother, the bad boy etc… Instead of going out and memorizing these or trying to avoid them don’t worry about it. Again, just write your characters as people. That’s all it takes.
Think of your friends and family and all the complexities of their characters. Think of all their nuances and traits. It would be difficult just to sum all of that up into a simple category. Most people fit across several. People will even wander in and out of roles throughout their life. Give your characters the same complexity.
To practise you could take a famous scene or one of your own scenes and reverse all the gender roles. Scenes including physical description of the body may not work but anything else will usually go.