Posted by: oneyearbook | April 1, 2009

Gender swap

One of my characters is considering drastic action: either dropping two years in age, gaining two, or switching genders. The problem first began with the recognition that I have never been a 15-year-old boy, and never will be, and was struggling to write a believable one from 1985. Some discussion with someone who was, in fact, once a 15-year-old boy revealed that while there are probably situations in which they might act as I had mine acting, they were few and far between. My conversation partner suggested that one who was 13, or 17, would be more likely to behave in the way I was describing, and, on the end of that, I thought, but at 15 I … and then realized that, yes, a girl might fit the part better and even work better with some of the themes I am working towards. I haven’t decided yet which of those solutions I’ll embrace.

Wednesday progress – standard day of writing, not much to say beyond that. Word count thus far: 31,501.



  1. Not much “standard” about switching genders!

    • Ah yes, but I haven’t actually done the gender switch yet – just considered it. When it happens, that will be a more specially marked writing day.

  2. haha You just have to channel your inner teen boy.

    I’m a forty-something man and my main character is a thirteen year old girl.

    • Yeah – if the main problem was simply that I feel like I don’t know anything about 15-year-old boys I’d probably go and do some research (maybe sit at the local skate park and observe how they interact?) – after all, my main character is, for a major portion of the book, 75 years old, and that’s something that I don’t know all that much about either. Mainly it’s that I think, upon reflection, that no 15-year-old boy would act the way the character is going to act.

  3. Hmm. While I do generally think it’s better (or easier?) to write what you know, you can’t populate a whole book with females from the late 20th/early 21st century. I’d say, just keep researching 15 year old males, the same way you’re researching people from the 20s, etc.

    Then again, if what you’re getting at is that you want the character to do/say/feel certain specific things, which your research is telling you teenage boys wouldn’t do/say/feel, then by all means, switch that particular character.

    I have to say though – I have a lot of difficulty imagining what could be happening that would make sense for a 13 year old OR a 17 year old, but not a 15 year old?

    • Yeah it’s the second thing.
      Seventeen doesn’t work as well as 13, which is why I probably won’t go that way, but according to my boyfriend, 15 is a time of pulling away from family ties and the strengthening of friendship bonds, etc., as well as the onset of interactions with the opposite sex in a serious way. I need the character to be very focussed on what’s happening in his/her family – someone 17, with a bit more maturity, on the cusp of adulthood, could care again, while someone at 13, still within the bosom of the family, will very much care.

  4. I agree with the boyfriend. Though 17 might even be pushing it… from what I’ve seen it’s more like 19 to 22 for most guys, though there are exceptions.

  5. A 15 year old boy would be closer to family stuff in the 1980s … in some areas organized sports were a lot less organized at the time, there were no cell phones, no texting, no email, a lot of the time, friends were friends at school and after school time was spent at home with siblings, watching TV, doing chores … you could also make the boy less social by making him more studious or giving him braces, glasses or red hair – something that would make him less accepted into the social circle.

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