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  1. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Should my protagonists be male or female?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Link the Writer, Sep 17, 2010.

    I'm probably thinking about things too much once again, but something just occured to me: Over all my stories, at least seven of the protagonists (the main ones, not counting buddies) are male. Only three are female.

    I considered making at least one of the male protagonist female, so that way there'd be four girls and six guys. I also did it because the sex of the hero in most of literature are men, so it'd be somewhat of a refresher if most of the heroes in my stories were women.

    Here's the thing: Some of my stories seem to flow better if the protagonist was male.

    Should I keep things as is?

    What should I do?
     
  2. Zombie_Chinchilla
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    Zombie_Chinchilla Member

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    Haha, I'm kind of the same way, only with females.

    I think it depends on the story. If your story takes place in the 1700s and you want to have the perspective of a woman, have the protagonist be a woman. And vice versa.
     
  3. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have the problem most of mine are male - I have four women and a horse in my first book, only one of which is a major character. The rest of male it feels right in that society. I have created more female characters with the story I have set 100 years later.
     
  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    True.

    I think largely its because I don't know how to write from a perspective of a woman. I've always heard that I should write as if she were a man (But referred to as "she"/"her" by other characters like, "Go talk to her" or "She knows what's best"), but just reverse the gender when it comes to romance.

    I guess it depends on what serves the story. But doesn't it seem sexist to say that my Colonial detective must be a boy to serve the mysteries? It would make no difference if he were a girl instead. But my brain goes "Wait, I thought he was gonna be a guy!"
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Your protagonists should probably nearly all be male or female. :)

    When you start out, it's natural for most of your characters to be the same gender as yourself. As you grow as a writer, though, you will want to experiment with characters of the opposite sex, and gain skill and confidence in making them plausible.

    Don't fear that challenge, and don't be discouraged if your first attempts don't work out. Keep your eyes open, and observe MOTOS in their native habitat as often as possible without being creepy.
     
  6. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    My chars tend to be male (at least the MCs), because I am fascinated by the way most men hide their emotions, including yours truly :) I like the challenge of bringing out the emotions in my male chars. Put them in a situation where female chars will most probably cry, and think of ways to express their emotions.
     
  7. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you should try. It all you can do and it sounds you feel like doing it.

    Add loads of books with female protagonist to you reading list. Both females written by females, and females written by men. Analyse the books as you read them.

    Study the women in you life, and don't focus on the chest area.

    Read books written by women, with a female audience in mind.

    I got the impression that you like hi stoical fiction, later then medieval? And fantasy? If that's the case I would recommend Jacqueline Careys "Kushiels" trilogy, and Robin Hobbs "Liveship" trilogy.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm a guy, and I mostly write about guys, and I'm not ashamed of that. I'm comfortable writing about guys because I understand them better than I understand women.

    I can't imagine selecting the gender of a protagonist based on the genders of the protagonists of my previous stories. "Wait a minute. Looking back, I've written three in a row about guys, so I'd better change the gender of the MC in the story I'm working on now just to balance the scales. Steve, you are now Stella." That kind of thinking doesn't work for me.

    If a female character emerges in your creative consciousness and starts involving herself in a story, then write her as she is. If you feel you have to change a male to a female to balance the scales, well, that's not a good reason, IMO.
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    Don't make gender selections based on trying to keep a balance. It will end up forced. Use the gender that fits the character's role in the story (i.e. if you need a mother or a girlfriend versus someone's dad/son/etc), and if either gender would work, write what you're most comfortable writing.
     
  10. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Agree - it's noble of you to want to include equality, but you shouldn't be doing it just for balance. If you write better when writing guys, stick to guys for the time being. Do shorts and stuff like that with female characters and get into the feel for writing them on a smaller scale where it might not matter so much if you screw it up a bit, and only move on to dedicating whole novels to them when you're sure you're not going to be so hung up on writing a woman character that you're forgetting to focus on anything else.

    I found it helped not to jump into first person; I rarely 1st person'd a guy for a long time, preferring to write them third person if they were the protagonist, and kept their interactions largely either scenes on their own, or scenes with enough women around to stop the need for guy talk. As I grew up (and left my girls' only school!) I got to know more guys than just my brother and now I'm writing a whole novel 1st person POV... Though, he is awfully sissy and vain. It's all just part of his character, and I THINK, or at least really hope, that he still feels like a guy, even with his sissy-ness. :p
     
  11. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Write the character that's in the story. Don't force the story with a character it doesn't have!

    You can always try to write female characters to get practice writing for the opposite sex. But I think it's important to point out that differences in the sexes have a lot to do with our expectations of them. To be a female in most western societies means that you grew up playing with dolls, instead of trucks, and are expected to be a lot more emotional than your male counterparts. Once you realize this, it becomes easier to see how the opposite sex acts and writing comes easier.

    At least that's what worked for me. :)
     
  12. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    I had a similar issue some years ago, when I realized that most of my main characters were male; I concluded that the books I was reading at the time had similar set-ups, and eventually decided that I should just keep gender in mind when writing, but that I shouldn't go back and change everything I'd already written just because of the epiphany.

    It bugs me less to have, say, seven main characters and only two of them female, than to have a balanced main cast but then all the important secondary and tertiary characters are male. And this happens a lot in novels.

    Just be aware of the situation you're setting up. If your main characters were all male, but the worlds they lived in were more diverse, I would be satisfied (if I were in your shoes, as the author). As it is, frankly, three out of ten isn't bad. Not great, maybe, but not bad. Many authors do worse.

    And don't switch a character's gender "just because" if that messes up the story for you. I mean, I have myself switched characters' genders in order to see whether it would work as well, and if it improves the story I keep the change. But I won't make the story worse or less comfortable to write if I can help it, and if switching gender will stop the story, it's not worth the effort.

    ... Yeah, kind of rambly. Part of this, I suppose, is because I've focused more (at least recently) on gender-equal societies, and have let the main characters' genders fall where they will. Come to think of it ... *does arithmetic* ... my recent stories have had slightly more female than male main characters, so I guess I shouldn't worry too much.
     
  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    With all due respect, I disagree. This leads to stereotypes. Not all women are emotional and nurturing, not all men are emotionphobes. As the independent career woman type, I don't like reading stuff that uses the "typical woman" or "typical man" stuff because most of the time it's not even accurate.

    Not trying to be argumentative. Just my two cents. :)
     
  14. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I never said all women were emotional and nurturing, I was pointing out that society has expectations of the different sexes. A girl is treated much differently than a boy growing up by society. If you go to a toy store, you'll immediately see the girl's section is painfully pink with baby dolls, sparkling ponies, and model houses. The boy's section, on the other hand, is quite a bit darker, with action figures, toy trucks, model cars. It wouldn't be surprising if you heard a child say, "That's a girl's toy! I'm a boy!"

    I'm not saying that all women or men conform (or most to any degree!), but that doesn't change the fact of what society expects of them. It's normal in the US for a man to watch sports, play video games, and not talk to their guy friends about their emotional well-being. That doesn't mean that all guys are like that. But that's what *society* has decided is "normal."

    This was one of my favorite topics in my Social Psychology class I took in college.
     
  15. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    Besides, as I almost touched on in my other post, it's a lot more fun to write characters who don't bow to the stereotypes. Writing a guy who confesses by the 10th page he's not cut out for the same kind of task as Frodo Baggins because "I start to cry if I can't shower two days in a row" is hilarious, challenging, and leaves me quite sure I side-stepped all the angst about if he's manly enough that I can just get on with writing the story without hoping I'm not betraying his gender. I already have. :p

    If you're always trying to conform to the generally agreed stereotype of the opposite gender, then you're not going to make the time to develop your character in as many different directions as you can, since you're so hung up on meeting a quota of emotions/tough guy talk that becomes the driving force of the character.
     
  16. viktor
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    viktor Member

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    I think that to "write what you know" is good advice here. I have an M.A. in Psychology and have worked as a barman for nine years, but still I profess no knowledge as to how the feminine mind works. Better to write a string of male prots than include a female who is not developed properly.
     
  17. Naiyn
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    Naiyn Contributing Member

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    My intentions as my novel started taking its current form was for the MC to be male, with POV shifting selectively to the others. Didn't work out that way at all. the two main girls in the story just kept on demanding the spotlight and so I went with it. Turns out the girls were right. The story seems to make a lot more sense since they took over. :D
     
  18. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm a guy, but since I became comfortable with characterisation, many of my characters tend to be strong women, especially when the story takes place in a modern setting. It's come to the point where I worry about the male characters taking up too little space and being underdeveloped compared to the women.

    As I see it, men and women have to adapt to the expectations even if they don't conform to them.

    For example, if women are expected to take care of children in a society, one woman may adapt by gladly staying home with her one child and enjoying the free time, another by grudgingly staying home because she'd rather focus on her career, a third one by letting their husband stay home while having a bad conscience about it, a fourth one by not getting children at all, because she doesn't really like spending time with them, and a fifth one by learning to use her children as an excuse ("I'm sorry I'm late for work again, there were problems at the daycare center", "I really need to skip in line, my baby needs food").

    The expectations are there and affect people's thoughts and actions, but not necessarily in the direction of conforming to them.
     
  19. Annûniel
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    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a good way of seeing it, Islander. Thanks for explaining it better! I have issues explaining things properly. :)
     
  20. Auskar
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    Auskar Member

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    I'm a guy.

    My humorous stories tend to have two male protagonists. I get the humor of a guy better, I think.

    My "adventure" stories have mostly guys as the main characters, but about a third of them have women, and they are usually strong women.

    I didn't go back and change things, though. Sometimes, I purposely made the character female. Sometimes that is just how I imagined it.

    I think I wouldn't go back and change anything (though I think I did once). I would just change things going forward.
     
  21. elite5472
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    elite5472 New Member

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    I have come to the conclusion, after being my friends (both male and female) unofficial psychologist, that most men and women are very alike.

    If they are not very emotionally developed (I assume ANY writer is emotionally developed) it is a safe assumption that their behavior is very similar to what most would expect. However, once you start to deal with people that think well, a lot, things change dramatically. Common sense leads us all to the same place, after all.

    I saw both guys and girls tell me about the exact same things, with nearly the same words. So when it comes to particularly complex characters, their personality profile matters more than their gender.

    Less complex people think just as they seem, and you can expect them to act just as a normal guy/girl would. Mainly because their personalities are highly influenced by their environment, unlike some people.

    In other words, so long as you take in consideration what their tastes are, it's not really much different.

    If you think all males are monkeys, and all women are snakes, you will end with a Zoo.

    This is from a guy who likes romance, doesn't like baseball or football, and is scared of bugs (and yet looks like a thug).
     

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