Random Inspirations

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The Challenging World of Writing About Characters of the Opposite Sex

on April 17, 2014

I’ve just completed final edits of my eleventh eBook, Amish Wedding: Hannah’s Book, which will be released soon! Writing about an Amish wedding was a dream come true for me. I got married last September, and my wedding was so much fun to plan, and the happiest day of my life. For that reason, I had an easy time channeling Amish bride-to-be Hannah, even though her wedding planning process was much more dramatic than mine. 🙂

I guess I’m just hopelessly romantic, because I loooove all weddings, and am intrigued by various cultural wedding customs. Amish weddings are so different from those of us Englischers–they’re much more simple, as befits the plain, pure Amish lifestyle. There are no white dresses, bouquets, caterers, or splashy full-bar receptions. But there is an atmosphere of love, family, and community. The bride’s parents’ house is full of food, homemade decorations (especially centerpieces made of celery stalks), and happiness. I was sucked into my research on Amish weddings, and this made it very easy to channel Hannah.

Now, however, I’ve just started a much more difficult project–I’m writing Amish Scholar: Samuel’s Book, which will be Book 3 of the Amish in College series. Samuel loves his family’s farm more than anything. He receives a scholarship to study agriculture and business at a local university, and plans to bring these skills home to the farm that has been in his family for generations. The only problem: farming is not as popular in the Amish communities as it once was. Up until the 1960s, most Amish were farmers. Today, however, only 10% of Amish are farmers.

Add in the drama of college classes, an English girl who’s totally into him, and Mercy’s pressure to start thinking about their own wedding, and you’ve got one stressed-out Amish scholar! I’m still developing the plotline, and I love to think up new twists and turns as I go, so I think Samuel’s Book should be pretty interesting.

Channeling an Amish farmer is not easy, but it's necessary for Samuel's character to come to life! Image courtesy of http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/

Channeling an Amish farmer is not easy, but it’s necessary for Samuel’s character to come to life! Image courtesy of http://pabook.libraries.psu.edu/

But how to channel Samuel, a nineteen year-old Amish guy? Channeling Amish is not super-easy to begin with–when I first started writing the Amish Hearts series, my editor told me that many of the words and phrases I used were too English, poetic, and “literate” to be used by the Amish, who speak much more simply than the average college-educated Englischer. Since the books are told in the first person, plainer language is a must. But all the other books of Amish Hearts and Amish in College were told from the female perspective. In fact, I’ve only ever written from the female perspective. How do I write like a guy?

I realized that, in order to do this, I’d have to think like a guy, specifically Samuel. I know Samuel very well from the other six books in which he appears, at least in some small capacity. Before I even began writing Chapter One, I reviewed everything I knew about Samuel and filled in any character gaps that I hadn’t yet created. What are his hopes and dreams? What does he love more than anything in the world, and what is his greatest fear? By knowing Samuel inside and out–and creating more dimension to his character inside my mind–I was able to pinpoint not only a skeleton of the storyline, but some conflicts I will throw Samuel’s way, and how he’ll react to them.

Samuel uses simple language as well, and is motivated by different factors than the girls in the stories. True, his love for Mercy drives him, but he is also motivated by duty to his family and appreciation of the age-old Amish tradition of farming. He’s also forward-thinking enough to know that, although he wants to maintain his family’s proud farming history, he must be well-versed enough in the current agricultural and business doctrines to make it viable in today’s world. Being clear on Samuel’s motivations has made it easier for me to get inside his head while writing.

Another great technique I’ve employed to channel Samuel is–surprise, surprise–reading. I’ve been checking out books written by men about male characters, and books written by females about both male and female characters. I’m observing different writing styles, and taking home some ideas of my own in the process.

The last thing that has helped me channel Samuel is researching particular elements of the storyline. Looking into the Amish farming industry, for example, has helped me to better understand male Amish farmers. Just as I saturated myself in Amish wedding research for my last book, I’m immersing myself in Amish farming info while I write this book, and I think it’s helping a lot.

Do you write stories from an opposite-sex point of view? If so, how did you channel your characters while writing? I’d love to hear what you think!

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