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  1. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    Protagonist Gender

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by ellebell16, Jun 28, 2011.

    How would you recommend that one goes about writing in the voice of the opposite gender? I'm very interested in my main character being a male, but since I'm a female, it's hard to relate.

    Also, should female authors stick to writing female protags, and vice versa for males, or is it perfectly acceptable to write both? I know one of the most famous book series of all time was written by a female with a male protagonist (Harry Potter), but how does one really get in the other gender's head?
     
  2. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's probably not as hard as you think. Start by writing your characters as individuals, and worry about masculine/feminine traits as they become relevant to the storyline. I think the reader will interpret a lot of things as masculine if they know the character is a man, and vice versa.

    Men and women have different expectations on them. Men are expected to be strong and self-sufficient. They don't get help if they don't ask for it. They're often in competition with other men, while women are friendlier to them. They're expected to be polite to and protective of women, but not always to treat them as equals.

    Men easily get distracted by feeling physically attracted, especially when they're between 13 and 30 years of age. The feelings can both come and go very quickly, depending on the situation. A man who tries to be friends with a woman often needs to suppress those feelings.

    Men are often afraid of appearing weak, feminine or homosexual. For many men, it's hard to use beauty products, like hair balsam or make-up. To touch other men, they often need to disguise it as friendly jabs. For some men, it's hard to back off a conflict with another man.

    And all these are generalisations, and there's a lot of individual variation, of course.
     
  3. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    I'm a guy and my main character is a woman. As long as the genre is not something heavily involving gender (like, say, if I were to try and write a story about a former swimwear model who decides to run for government, for example) then it does not make that much of a difference. If you look at Harry Potter, during the first few books at least, his gender has little bearing on the plot or his actions. I would say that it's less about the gender of the main character and more about how people react to their gender. People may be more confrontational or accommodating to people based on their gender, and that's more important to highlight than having a male protag drinking beer and watching sports.

    What genre are you thinking of writing?
     
  4. ellebell16
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    ellebell16 Member

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    Fantasy, I suppose. It's about people with psychic powers.
     
  5. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    Stephen King writes a lot of female characters. For the most part though, there is no difference, only prejudice. If a reader knows the writer is female then (a lot of the time) they will view it as lesser work. Let along if a woman writes a man it will always be called unrealistic regardless of content. I was reading something by a man who had a female sounding name, and the editor sent the manuscript back saying that it was unrealistic for a man to write like that and she was imparting too much femininity into him - regardless of it being a man writing a man, because someone thought a woman was invelved their opinions changed.

    In other words - haters will hate. And you'd probably be better off asking should I pick a gender neutral name to publish under.
     
  6. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    Ok. Well if it's grounded in the real world it should be fairly simple to create characters based on those around you. If it's a completely fantasy world you can make up your own rules with regards to how different genders are treated and so forth.
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it matters much, in most cases. There are differences between boys and girls, and as a human being, you are already aware of them. But those differences are just generalizations. You can write about a very aggressive, domineering girl, and people won't think you've written a boy with the wrong gender, they'll just think you wrote an aggressive girl.

    Likewise, you could write a passive, gentle boy, and people won't think you've written a girl wearing pants, so to speak.

    My point is that we all know a wide variety of people of both genders, and so readers will accept a wide variety without necessarily thinking "No boy would behave like that!" or "No girl would behave like that!"

    Write whatever you want.
     
  8. WriterDude
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    WriterDude Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a guy, and my current novel has an all female cast. Well, there's three people, but still. And a doctor in the prologue, but we never learns his or her gender. Or name, for that matter.

    I don't think it's difficult to write about the opposite gender at all. It depends a lot more on the character's personality than the gender, in my opinion. A strong, female character like Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 or Ripley in Aliens is far more masculine than, say, Will and that other guy in Will & Grace.
     
  9. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    I prefer writing with female protagonists. Makes it more interesting. It's not as hard as you think. Using friends as framework is always a good idea or you could just ask one of your guy friends ^^
     
  10. Quezacotl
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    Quezacotl Contributing Member

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    ..what Islander said, in essence. A protagonist is shaped by how s/he reacts to the world around them. As long as the character is consistent - or has reason to change - the character is solid and believable.

    In relating to the character, try to go about putting yourself in the protagonist's perspective. Define the character's past, his opinion, and how he became the person he is today. Write the character in a separate universe and just play around with your ideas, you might find something you can connect with.

    It's perfectly acceptable for an author to write a book from the perspective of the opposite or the same gender.
     
  11. MRD
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    MRD Senior Member

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    Writing from the vantage point of a character with a different gender than yourself shouldn’t be too difficult, as long as your character/s are well developed. Males and females both have the same array of emotions and the same environments, it’s all about how they react to those emotions/environments/situations. And that’s not down to gender, but individual characteristics.

    For example, let’s say that Jack and Jill are both teenagers, both beginning to admire members of the opposite sex. Jack may become your stereotypical teenage guy, constantly eying woman that walks by, whereas Jill may fantasise about her knight in shining armour. But not necessarily, it could be Jill who has a healthy appreciation of the male physique and Jack who daydreams about love.

    Point is, it’s the characters and not their gender that react to those situations.

    Of course, if you’re more interested in the more “technical” aspects of a male perspective, it may be better to consult a male friend directly. (Say your characters decided to go camping trip, you can expect reliving one’s bladder would be a tad less dignified for one gender than the other.)


    Many Fantasy Fiction authors tend to write from the perspectives of multiple characters (male and female), so if you're still worried then just pick up a book and see how others do it. (Trudi Cadvan, Brent Weeks, Peter V Brett, etc.)
     
  12. Bobbyking
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    Bobbyking New Member

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    i must admit it is tough, at least for me (guy) to write a female protagonist. However, learning about a woman through my wife and three daughters at home helps a lot though...
     
  13. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    Last night, I wrote a short beginning to a piece (would have written more, but I was trying to get to sleep and only wanted to get it down so I wouldn't forget it), and the main character is a female. I've never written a female main character before, but I like to think that I know how women think.

    Being emotionally screwed over by a chick when you don't understand what's going on and why you can't just be going out sort of leads to introspection and retrospection and all that, so I've started getting a pretty good handle on how girls think, especially with the large number of female friends I have versus the small amount of male friends.

    So yeah. Wish me luck with Jane. :p
     
  14. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe I go about it in the wrong way but the truth is I consider gender secondary.

    Whether the character is male or female I treat them as a human first. Everyone is unique and therefor not all guys are going to be into boobs, explosions, and beer. Not all girls are going to be into muscular guys, shopping, and uh the female equivilant to beer.

    Some guys are more feminine and in touch with their feelings. While others would probably drop you for even hinting at such a thing. Some are complete aholes towards their girlfriend/boyfriend while some guys are complete gentlemen.

    Men are as varied as they come and so are women.

    Again maybe I go about this all wrong.
     
  15. Kaynic
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    Kaynic Member

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    I certainly don't think female writers should stick to female protagonists and males to male protagonists. Honestly, I've found I've had absolutely no trouble with writing from the POV of either gender, though it might be due to my own characteristics; despite being female, I have many character traits society deems masculine, yet my female characters do sound as if they are female, at least to me. To most other people they come off as gender-neutral at first until their gender is revealed, but I credit this to the expectation that female characters will think and speak with the characteristics society has come to expect.

    As for advice, the best I can give you is listen very closely to the different speech patterns of males and females and even ask your male friends to describe their thought process, their way of thinking, how they memorize information, how they solve mental problems, etc. You'll want to delve into their psychology in a way; reading memoirs written by males may also help you, as it has with me.
     
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  16. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well ... first of all, I would jump at the opportunity to disagree with the assessment that Harry Potter is one of the most famous book series of all time but ... that's for another day.

    Now, as far as getting into the other gender's head? You can observe behavior but that is external. You can't get inside someone's head so easily. Daydream offered a great bit of advice. Lean on your mates of the opposite gender. Pass on to them scenes or chapters and, after they read, ask them if it is believable. Why or why not? Along each step of the way, you will learn more and more about your 'adversary' and understanding the purportedly un-understandable will become easier.
     
  17. PastPresentNFuture
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    PastPresentNFuture Senior Member

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    To be honest it dosen't really matter, I know some guys who seem rather "feminine" and some girls who seem rather "masculine". But if you want to write about male characters ask the male members of this forum what they think, myself inculded.
     

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