Somehow I have found myself one of the only male members of a local writer's group. I didn't intend to do so. I was looking for a group to join and tried several out. This one showed itself to be exceptionally warm and accepting and I kept coming back. Although this group calls itself Ozarks Romance Authors (which should have been my first clue it would be all women), they write and share works of all genres. From reading their works, I have learned a lot about what the female gender thinks.
Admittedly, it feels very strange for me to spend Saturday mornings in a room full of women. I had this fear that a man who hangs out with women will be regarded as, well, you know. (Holds hand horizontally and wags it in a gay sign.) However, I've found that once I got over the fear of what others think about me being there, it's been a healthy experience for me as a writer.
I can't even begin to count the number of times in my life I've wondered how 'the other side' sees things. I've spent the last nineteen years trying to understand how my wife thinks. As to understanding my thirteen-year-old daughter, forget it. The odd thing is finding out what is in the opposite gender's head is as simple as reading what women write.
What's most surprising is, for the most part they really don't think that different from men. A mystery or young adult story written by a woman reads much like a similar story written by a man. There is one difference, however. Women seem to go for Romance stories with greater vigor.
In reality, I don't think you have to be a woman to enjoy a good Romance. The members of ORA have read several good Romance stories and I relate just as easily to the interaction between lovers as any woman. I think the big turn-off for men is fear of being seen holding a book with a picture of a hunky man with a chest the size of a garage door and muscles bulging out from every square inch of his torso. Once I got over that fear of being thought of as 'one of those', I found Romance stories quite enjoyable.
I'm glad I decided to hang out with a bunch of women one Saturday morning a month. Now that I can see the results of my experience, I would encourage everyone to step out of their comfort zone every now and then. It's a great way to grow as a writer.