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An Undercover Agent in the Gender Wars (Creative Writing Exercise)

This week we’ve talked about some of the special challenges of writing cross-gender, and it’s certainly not an easy thing to get right. It’s a challenge worth facing, though, because if you can succeed, you can automatically double your market share. That’s some pretty impressive ROI.

So your assignment is to craft a scene showing a strong character of the opposite sex. Give us 300-900 words, and show your work. Whatever aspect of gender writing troubles you, face it head-on, and then polish it up until you get it right. Or, as close to right as you can manage, anyway. A couple hours getting into that character’s head could make worlds of difference in your writing, and help you connect with readers who wouldn’t have given you a chance before.

If you don’t already have a challenging scene waiting for you, here’s your prompt:

Ellen, a local village girl, has been caught sneaking food to the POWs in the occupier’s nearby camp. Your scene starts with Ellen being brought to the office of the base commander, the refined but cruel Lord Harris.

As you read that, you’re probably already up to your eyeballs in rich characterization for the one who matches your gender, but shift your focus, and make a story that focuses primarily on the other one. Pretend you know what you’re talking about, and make it feel real.

Of course, maybe you’re an old pro at this. If so, save yourself some time and just share a scene you’re particularly proud of. We can all give you feedback, let you know how well you did, and learn from the things you did right. Everybody wins.

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