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  1. MissPomegranate
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    MissPomegranate Member

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    Male vs Female Protagonists

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by MissPomegranate, Oct 14, 2010.

    Forgive me if this question is a little confusing but...do male protagonists simply appeal more to the general audience than female characters do?

    The reason I ask is because I tend to write female MCs, and I want to know if they would be considered a more "girl-oriented" novels simply because of the MC's gender.

    I often see girls reading books with female protagonists, but I rarely see males reading those books (unless it's for school, and in school I've only read one book with a female MC as an assigned novel).
    However, it seems to be the norm for both guys and girls to read novels with a male protagonists. Are they just easier to relate to? Do more authors just write male MCs? Do guys tend to steer clear of female-narrated books, or is it just a random coincidence?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's the twenty-first century. You can have badass female protagonasts and emotionally vulnerable male main characters.

    Many of the novels I read have female protags.
     
  3. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I am not totally sure. It could be that female protagonists are often written FOR females whereas Male protagonists tend to be written towards a more general audience. In other words, female protagonists are made to appeal to females and thus the stories written for them might not be appealing to males whereas male protagonists aren't necessarily geared for males.

    I write a female protagonist in my current crime series and I guess the way to test my theory would be to say if males would ever read my books should they get published as I dont feel I write her to please females at all.
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes.

    Women are learned to identify with both men and women, in fiction and men are learned to identify with just men to much bigger degree. In general.

    This having the effect that if you have a female protagonist you will lose lot of the male readers.

    Edit: A lot of market as well as gender research has gone into this, and it is a sad truth, twenty first century or not.
     
  5. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on your age group but for teens or junior fiction it would be very rare for a boy to take a girls book out of the library whereas a girl will take a boys book out.

    Also think it is more important for boys to have that identification there with them struggling more in education. When I was writing a teen book it seemed sensible to choose a male antagonist especially if I didn't want it to have a pink cover lol

    I made him sexy for the girls :) and the boys I guess :)

    EDIT: My intention is to introduce a major female character in my fifth book then the sixth tell it from her perspective.
     
  6. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    I think there's definitely a "women can wear pants but men can't wear skirts" social norm going on here, especially with younger readers. Girls can read books staring boys, but not the other way around.

    I think it's sad but true, however, if writers keep buying into it, it won't ever change. We need a flood of gender neutral books with female MCs to actually change these conventions. That, or wait 20-1000 years for every last inaccurate gender stereotype to finally fade from the public's collective unconscious.

    I know a big thing that got me into reading was the Animorphs books. It was probably a good move on the author's part to have the first book focus on a male character, and then start dividing the books more evenly between the characters. I think that was a big reason why I wasn't MC gender biased when I was younger.

    I wonder what kind of influence it would have had on the reading youth if every other Harry Potter book was from Hermione's perspective...
     
  7. Zombie_Chinchilla
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    Zombie_Chinchilla Member

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    I completely agree with Cogito. Just because the MC is female doesn't mean she's emotionally needy and the damsel-in-distress. Many of the stories I've read that have female MCs have them as badass and strong.

    The same goes for male MCs.
     
  8. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have never had a problem with reading a story with a female main character. Though looking back I don't remember reading to many books as a kid with female main characters. But some of my favorite books had female main characters and enjoyed thoroughly.

    As long as the main character is someone I can enjoy reading about, then thats all that matters.
     
  9. Cecil
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    Cecil Member

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    I agree that the MC's gender does not have to determine his/her personality. I think the real concern is how many male readers will see from the cover/blurb/first few sentences that the MC is female, and immediately disregard it based on the inaccurate assumption that it will be a "girly book" with far too many "feelings" and not enough monster trucks.

    The fact that the MC might be a female monster truck driver/enthusiast is irrelevant.

    Obviously, the "eww... the is a girl book!" reaction would be more common in younger male readers, but I bet even adults make little unconscious decisions just based on the front cover. It seems to be tragically common that "for everybody" books have male MCs by convention, while female MCs are almost exclusive to books who's target audiences are female. The result of this tragic misconception being true most of the time, is that readers assume it's true all the time, and judge books too quickly by the MC's gender.
     
  10. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think it will be a problem selling a book with a female protagonist. You may get some men who won't touch it for this reason, but I don't think it will be enough to harm your sales.

    Best of luck!
     
  11. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    If there really is a sentiment out their about strong female protagontists that men just plain won't bother picking up, I'm doomed! :eek:

    My protagonist is a teenage girl, and her best friend-- also a teenage girl-- gets a lot of viewpoint time. My manly swordsman doesn't even enter the story until about a third of the way through. Crap! No guy with his man-card intact is going to pick up my book if I manage to write it well enough to get published!

    Or will they?

    Cog said it best. In this day and age, the ladies can be just as strong-- or stronger-- as any male. It may not always have been this way, and surely we've got a ways to go, but we're getting there.
     
  12. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Atlas Shrugged is read by lots of guys, and it's a very successful book. (I personally love it, but some people don't because of political stuff) The main character is a woman and she kicks ass. It's all about the character portrayal.

    Likewise, I'm a woman but can relate to guy characters. It depends on how you portray them.

    What I *do* hate is reading books that are filled with gender stereotypes and the author seems to think they're all true.
     
  13. erik martin
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    erik martin Contributing Member

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    I'm a man, last I checked, and I love a good female protagonist. I read a lot of fantasy and SF and there are some good examples there: Morgaine, Menolly, Aurian, Diana Tregarde, and many others. These are all characters that seem to have appeal to either sex. (I love a kick ass tv/movie heroine too--Xena, Buffy, Janeway, all the way back to Mrs. Peel.) There are some good female protagonists is other genres as well. Westerns are traditionally pretty masculine oriented, but master story teller, Louis Lamour has some strong female led novels in his Sackett line and Talon books.

    Chicks can definitely kick ass.
     
  14. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    While film is a different medium to novels, there are enough similarities (in this regard) between mainstream cinema and mainstream fiction to make this worth thinking about:

    The Bechdel test is a test applied to cinema, though it could also be applied to fiction with similar results, I suspect. To pass the test, a film must:
    1. Have more than two female characters, that
    2. Talk to each other
    3. About something other than a man.

    Sounds easy, but the number of blockbuster and arthouse films that fail to pass is pretty staggering, and seems to show how much of a man's game the entertainment industry still is. So while I'd like to share everyone's optimism, I'm far from convinced that gender has ceased to be an issue. There's a reason Jo Rowling was forced to publish as J. K. . . .
     
  15. Lee Shelly
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    Lee Shelly Member

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    This is a very good point. Her publisher wanted her to appeal more to her target audience, to the point of her making up a middle initial, so teenage boys wouldn't be put off by reading a woman author. Crazy, I know, but that's the way it is.

    As for a female protagonist, I don't really see any issue, as long as it works within the story that you're writing. I have eight main characters, five male, three female, and I give each their equal time, because they all have their own stories to tell. As long as it fits within the story, I wouldn't worry about publication issues until an editor or a publisher makes a fuss about it.
     
  16. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    This makes me cry silently to myself the moment I ever have a male main character. :p I almost wish I'd never heard it because I was getting on fine, but now I almost feel it's compulsory to keep my feminist streak satisfied by introducing more than one female character to every story... And then the troubles I go through to have them talking alone. :p

    Especially sucks 'cause I'm writing romance novels at the moment, so in the end my girl characters had to have a short scene of random discussion that was nothing to do with the plot, because unfortunately it was a gay romance, and they were all minor characters. -___- The next in the series is all about lesbians, thankfully, so there are 4 main characters who are all women, and they are NEVER going to talk to each other about men. :p
     
  17. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think guys mind strong female characters. I wouldn't be surprised if guys would rather read a book with a strong female lead than a sissy female lead.

    Look at superhero comics. They're mainly targeted at guys, with the female characters being voluptous and scantily clad. But they can still kick ass as well as the male chars.

    I don't think it's females the guys are afraid of, it's being sissy.
     
  18. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Plus most junior fiction for girls is very strongly packaged as such that has to have an impact on that generation. Being a strong woman is seen as being feminine which isn't all together a bad thing but fairies, ponies, unicorns, magic kittens abound. My daughters bookcase is full of allsorts of pretty colours mostly pink, St Clares and Mallory Towers (Enid Blyton girls boarding schools) are much more obviously covered for 'girls' than they where when i was buying them at 5 or 6.

    I have brought my kids up pretty gender neutral (don't think twice about dressing boys in pink or putting them in a dress to run round the garden while potty training) - my son has My Little Ponies and Barbies alongside his trucks etc, however he has hit four and whilst my daughter will listen to Cows in Action or the Toilet of Doom or Spy Dog, my son will not listen to the Fairy House or Secret Unicorn etc
     
  19. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    One of the main influences is the age groups of course.

    An example, my nine year old male cousin Jesse won't have a thing to do with anything girly, he won't even touch a book if he learns it has a female main character. He wants a strong bodied male that's the hero and totally kick ass. Whereas my fifteen year old cousin David doesn't mind a female main character so long as she's relatable to a point. Only once has he refused to read a female main character book and that was the main character was so much a sissy, she gave females a bad name.
    Now, my ten year old cousin Carrie really doesn't read stories about guys, if she's force to she will, otherwise she wants a female because in her eyes, and I qoute "Boys are just stupid". My other cousin Rachael, who's almost seventeen I believe, will read female main character stories but she prefers guy main characters that are strong, handsome and play the hero.

    I noticed from my creative writing and library trips that no matter what the age group, most people will often stick with their own gender. Not because of the bias "eww that's girly" or "guy stories have no depth" but because that's mostly what people feel comfortable with.

    As for me, I don't care what gender the main character is, as long as they have depth and the story is good, I'll read just about anything. Even stories about a he-she trying to struggle to fit into society and school while trying to define wha sexuality they really are.
     
  20. pumpkin
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    pumpkin New Member

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    It's not exactly novels but the entertainment medium kinda flows into that, I almost always play female characters in computer games where you have gender influence on character creation. I guess I just like strong/decisive lead female roles. I loved Morrigan in Dragon Age and played a female Shepherd in Mass Effect (and 2).

    Ok end of game talk now.
     
  21. S-wo
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    S-wo Active Member

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    I say yes it's true looking at the most popular and best selling novels out there, the majority of them have male protagonists. This remains true even outside of literature. The most popular and successful super heroes are male, most critically acclaimed and profitable movies have male protagonists, the most popular TV characters are male.

    None of this should discourage you from writing a female protagonist though as there have been plenty that have succeeded.
     

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