What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
It’s something that I’m mindful of. There’s a balance—a “literary sweet spot,” if you will— that you need fall into.
First, I feel you need to acknowledge that there are things that you absolutely do not and will not understand of the opposite sex. Just come to terms with that. Rest your head on a pillow at night and don’t let it haunt your dreams. Trying to solve everything that makes one “male” or makes one “female” (and even locking it to within those binaries) is something that writers have been exploring for decades, though very few—if any—have the lifespan to fully answer. So I say: don’t. Be aware of the differences, write responsibly, and pen your characters based on who they are and not what they are expected to be.
Since most of my writing focuses on social constructs and cultural habits, I usually define my characters, male or female, by what their adversity looks like and how they are able to cope. I write on the train and I see it all the time. Trust me: the NYC transit system teaches you a great deal about gender norms and sexuality.
You can easily sidestep tropes of writing the opposite sex by keeping in mind how a character would react in stressful situations. A male or female character saying nothing and doing nothing are primarily the same. There’s no pressure to be who they are, no approaching threat to challenge them. But a woman going to buy milk at a supermarket experiences the event completely different from a man. Even if it’s the same time of day, same supermarket, same carton of milk—the nuances and micro aggressions bombarding them as they push through this dimension attempting to satisfy their dairy quotient are worlds apart. For instance, of the six or seven characters I’ve developed in And Then There Were Crows, each one would react differently to, say, almost getting hit by a bike messenger when crossing a street or finding a finger in their hotdog. Then, factor in not just gender, but also age, race, values, experiences…and it gets even more complicated. My motto is that if you know the string of decisions that have led a character to this given point in time, and you truly understand their stressors, then you can build credible experiences and—even in worlds of the fantasy or absurd, believable characters. Treat every character on their own merit. What song would she listen to? What would be her social media post for today? Once you have this in mind, always know that it’s not enough to write a female character different from a male character. You also need to make sure that you’re writing her different from all of your other female characters. You have to be mindful of each character’s story.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Wait, people don’t believe in writer’s block? I do, absolutely. Stephen King had a really great philosophy about writing while creating the Dark Tower series in that writers look through “doors” into other dimensions. Sometimes the door is wide open and we can see/hear/smell/sense everything in that world and connect with it. Sometimes it’s barely open. Sometimes it’s shut. I’ve always thought that writer’s block is the act of a writer banging their knuckles bloody on a door that might open tomorrow, fifteen years from now, or never.
I feel like it’s possible to search for another door until the one you want reopens. Last year, I published over twenty pieces [of writing] both online and in print. I wrote four to six hours per day. I hopped genres and styles: poetry, non-fic, fiction, horror, satire, politics. I wrote without breaks for nine months and never stopped chasing a new narrative. This is what we in writing, both in culturally creative circles as well as in the foundations of academia, unaimously dub “maniac.”
Writer’s block most definitely exists, but if you know yourself and put your energy into your strengths, it doesn’t have to put out the fire in your gut.
Preorder Alcy's upcoming book here.
We are excited to share that Alcy Leyva, author of the upcoming And Then There Were Crows, will be speaking at this year's Bronx Book Fair in Bronx, NY.
Launched in 2013, the Bronx Book Fair is dedicated to engaging and growing the community of poets and writers in the Bronx and to connecting literary artists to readers and book lovers of all ages. Through readings, workshops, and presentations our goal is to engage the community with a variety of literature and programs that will broaden access to Bronx literary artists, increase library usage, and encourage a love of books and reading.
Check out the event here or on Facebook and come snag an early copy copy of Crows!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Shades of Hell Series, Book One:
About the Author
Alcy Leyva is a Bronx-born writer, teacher, and pizza enthusiast. He graduated with a B.A. in English and an MFA in Fiction from The New School. His personal essays, poetry, short fiction, book reviews, and film analysis have been published in Popmatters, The Rumpus, Entropy Mag, and Quiet Lunch Magazine. Follow Alcy on Twitter, and Instagram.
ISBN (print): 978-09997423-2-7
ISBN (ebook): 978-0-9997423-3-4
Pre-order And Then There Were Crows today from Black Spot Books or on Amazon.
ADVANCE REVIEW COPIES OF AND THEN THERE WERE CROWS AVAILABLE ON REQUEST AND ALSO ON NETGALLEY.
What do you have to do?
We’ll send you the books (either print or ebook). For one day, on your scheduled date, all you need to do is post an original decorative picture like the one above, along with the content you provide in your caption. You will also need to add a preorder link in your profile.
Again, this is one day only. It must be posted by 10 am EST and it’s must remain your most recent post for at least 3 hours. While it’s not required, it would also be great if you shared the post on your story during that time!
If you’re interested in participating, send us a quick email with your Instagram handle and date of choice between March 1 and May 30. We will contact you by email if selected!
Thanks so much and we look forward to hearing from you!