1. Writersaurus

    Writersaurus Member

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    Theory on choice of protagonist gender

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Writersaurus, Jul 30, 2018.

    A while ago I read this article suggesting that men are more likely to write a male lead and women are more likely to write a female lead. Contradicting this article, my main characters do tend to be women - the only time I've ever had a male lead is when I've written 'Doctor Who' fanfic.

    I'm curious to know what others think of this theory.
     
  2. DK3654

    DK3654 Active Member

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    It seems pretty straightforward to me. People often write characters with similarities to themselves because it's easier or because of subconscious reasons. Lead characters are the most dominant, most personal and often most liked characters so naturally they are often some of the most self insert characters. What's an obvious self insert trait that isn't excessive? Gender.

    In opposition, I suspect people sometimes choose the opposite gender for the sake of avoiding self insert, trying to distance themselves from the character. I know it's a thought that's occurred to me with my four different female MCs. And I suspect there is an influence of sex appeal, creating your lead character as a desirable partner, largely subconsciously.
     
  3. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    I’ve always heard “men use male characters, women are more 50/50.”

    I’ve heard male writers say that they don’t identify with women and don’t know how to write female characters. I’ve even seen women say it a couple times.

    On the other hand... I’ve never heard a female author say “I don’t identify with male characters and don’t know how to write them.”

    JMO, though.

    ETA: My MCs are 90% male, but that’s because I write gay romance novels. If lesbian romance novels were more popular, I’d write them instead.

    My husband (who is a dude) prefers female characters by a wide margin.
     
  4. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Member

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    I am a woman and I tend to have absolutely no problem writing from the PoV of male characters. It just depends on what's "right" for the story I'm trying to write.
     
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  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I'm an asexual/aromantic virgin who's planning on dying a virgin, and two of my favorite female protagonists that I've come up with have been bloodthirsty serial killers :cool:

    That would make sense. Women are constantly flooded by a mainstream culture that's supersaturated with examples of leading male characters to learn from, but men have to work to find more than a handful of lead female characters to learn from.

    Like how I'm white and queer, but would have an easier time convincingly writing a character who's white and straight than a character who's Black and queer (or even just a character who's white and a different kind of queer, like gay or bi) because that's the kind of person that I've had to spend my entire life learning about.

    Do you at least read lesbian romances even if you never feel you have a chance to write any?

    No! Really? :D
     
  6. BlitzGirl

    BlitzGirl Member

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    Hey, the only way that "lesbian romance novels" can become more popular is if more people bother writing good ones! ;)
     
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  7. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    For sure. There are a lot less to pick from, though. I’d like to read more but I often find myself coming up empty-handed.

    I probably will have my first lesbian romance (that I’ve written) coming up, though. One of my characters desperately needs her own book.
     
  8. @theunheardwriter21

    @theunheardwriter21 Member

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    It depends on roughly what I am looking for in that character, and if a male or female would better fill that position. I have even gone as far as rewriting an entire storyline, flipping the genders in different combinations to find that perfect fit.
     
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  9. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Madman with a pen in hand

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    I don't really choose a gender perse, it just sort of happens. And typically I'll have a team of male and female MC, the won't be a little more pronounced than the other.

    And sometimes it'll depend on the parent to father daughter and mother son sort of dynamic. And of course the spousal dynamic husband wife

    And sometimes it's a wild card, for instance I have an MC who is female and is the daughter and second child of my current MC. Her mother, my current MC, prefers boys to girls and favors her son over her daughter. So this leads to the daughter MC to prove herself to her mother
     
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  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I had this problem for a long time. (I say "a long time" even though I've only been writing fiction for a short time, because I was doing a lot of roleplaying before that.) I had to depict a lot of male characters from "outside" before I finally felt I could see one from "inside".
     
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  11. CoyoteKing

    CoyoteKing Good Boi Contributor

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    Why do you suppose that is?

    Eta: to clarify. You’re the first writer, male or female, I have actually seen say they had trouble writing male characters.

    Why do you suppose you had this weak spot?
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    It was definitely an issue with empathizing with them, but that just moves the question a quarter-step.

    I didn't feel confident that there wasn't something, or several somethings, that made a man's mindset, in particular in interaction with other people, different in a substantial way. Like there's the common statement that a woman is afraid for her safety far, FAR more often than a man is.

    If I had to verbalize the issue back then, I'd probably have said that I didn't know if there were a bunch of things like that for men. Is it true that men tend to hierarchically rank themselves into groups? What's the reason behind the stereotypical idea that men don't ask for directions? Why did my guy have so much trouble saying, "I don't know" and does that reflect something that's true of men in general? Blah de blah.

    Then that issue mostly just faded away. Henry, of my Henry and Emily vignettes, was the first man that I felt I was writing from the inside, and now it's really not an issue. Except--I feel that I have that same bar to empathizing with small boys. Adults of either sex are fine, small girls are fine, small boys...somehow they have that same wall around them.
     
  13. jannert

    jannert Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've never really thought about it much. I know my novel has two main characters, one male and one female, and I didn't have any particular difficulty writing either one. But in retrospect, I was more in tune with the female than the male in certain respects. Maybe it's because I have always looked at men and boys from 'outside' while I am a woman and know what I am like inside. But it doesn't take too much imagination to put myself in the place of a man when I write.

    Part of what helps is that I have been reading fiction (and nonfiction) voraciously since I was about 5 years old. I'm 69 now. That's a lot of years spent immersed in both male and female POVs. I guess when it comes to stories, I can put myself in either place most of the time. I've shared their lives, and both of them feel familiar to me.

    I have not read as many books written from the POV of a character who is ethnically different from me, though. Or from the POV of a person who is not openly heterosexual. So maybe that's why I think I would struggle to portray people of a different race or gender orientation from myself. I'd have to ask a lot of questions, and read modern fiction a lot more widely I reckon—to get a feel about what matters to them the most.
     
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  14. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    When I was a kid, I wrote female MCs, but gradually wrote male MCs more and more to the point where I now write basically exclusively male MCs, for no particular reason. I have no trouble writing females and have several female POV characters, but somehow I simply enjoy male MCs more. I think it's got something to do with sexual attractions - I like to fancy my character a little bit. I guess it makes sense since I'd be spending a significant amount of time in his head and in his life :bigtongue: I don't feel the same interest in dwelling in a female POV as I do in a male POV. It's still interesting to write female POV characters - I enjoy them - and sometimes that makes me wonder if I shouldn't deliberately write a female MC just to see if I'd feel differently, if I'd feel the same amount of interest when the character's put into the spotlight.

    As for my choice of whether an MC is male or female, it's actually entirely arbitrary for me. I just kinda pick one and go with it, and I always pick male.
     
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  15. Laurin Kelly

    Laurin Kelly Contributor Contributor

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    I'm also a writer of m/m romance, so my protagonists are inherently all male. There have been more than a few times that I've bounced things off Mr. Kelly to get a male perspective on things outside my experience, or that I just don't feel like I'm getting right.

    In my short story, Kneadful Things I had a scene set at a crappy bar with my MC Adam and his friend, both average guys from a working-class rust belt town who are not particularly close. Adam starts getting sad about his job with his romantic interest ending soon, and I was trying to figure out a natural way for Adam's friend to tell him to cheer up so they can get back to enjoying their night out. I ran it past Mr. Kelly and he said if one of his musician pals (who are very much the casual acquaintance, dive bar crowd) was getting emotional and it was awkward, he wouldn't tell him to cheer up as much as he'd bee more likely to just change the subject. "Hey, did you hear The Lucky Strikes kicked their drummer out? Man, is he going to be hard to replace or what?" So I used that tactic and I think the scene read much more authentic.
     
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  16. ITBA01

    ITBA01 Member

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    Pretty much all of my main characters are girls, though this may be because I have seven sisters, so I have a lot of experience with how they behave.
     
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  17. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I'm female and find it much easier to write male characters. Not because I have trouble understanding or empathizing with female characters, I don't think, but because I truly believe readers have different standards for female characters (especially in romance) and I find myself being far too aware of those expectations. I think I have a bit of a double-standard myself, even, in which I'm too aware of the place my female characters fill in relation to various stereotypes I resent, and I end up being distracted by avoiding stereotypes rather than just letting my female characters be who they are.

    With male characters, I find it easier to just write them without judging them.
     
  18. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Contributor Contributor

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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Doesn't really matter, as long as they fit the story and don't come off as
    too weird then I am good.
    Cause let's face it there isn't really much in the way of a third option,
    outside of AI and inorganic s really. :)
     
  19. Necronox

    Necronox Senior Member

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    I think the old saying that gets thrown about sometimes can be relevant here (bit of a bastardisation, but anyway): “men are simple, women are complicated”

    I think in many ways it is more difficult to create strong and likeable female leads due to the lack of the, in popular media. Even in more fringe areas like yaoi anime it is still quite restricted. Also, at least I far as I am concerned, I have never understood female characters, either real or fiction, as well as I do males. But then again, I do have a lot of signs of psychopathy and Aspergers.... so that might factor in.

    What few female characters I have written (mostly in exercises and practice short stories) as main POV has been largely based on real life people I have met.

    But it seems that across these posts, a concept seems to be similar across the board. Female leads tend to be more scrutinised and judged and held to a different level.
     
  20. ChloeT

    ChloeT New Member

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    I'm the same way. I think it's harder to write them because people have more expectations for female characters, especially these days. I applaud the desire people have for stronger female characters but the demands can be excessively high sometimes. They're closely scrutinized as are their relationships with any male characters. It just makes me nervous.

    Back to the original question, I imagine that those expectations would make me even more nervous as a male writer because people could be quicker to cast judgment on the author.
     
  21. Marthix2016

    Marthix2016 Member

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    I agree with you but I guess I'm on the flipside as I am a male and I find it easier and more fun to write female characters. Yeah I know what you mean about the whole stereotype thing (we discussed also this in my one other thread) and getting caught up in that game. I think it's good to let characters...whether male or female...just be who they are and not worry about stereotypes. I mean a female can be an auto mechanic if that's what suits her interests...perhaps not playing to social stereotypes normal for a female but I wouldn't change your main character based on stereotypes. Same with a male who may want to be a nurse or babysitter. I think as time goes on, social stereotypes are becoming gradually less of a thing. You can have your character be whatever they want to be. I could write my main characters either way but I gravitate towards them being female...I just find it more interesting and fun. But to each their own.
     
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  22. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I'm more the reverse - I'm so determined to have my characters defy stereotypes that I feel like I have trouble letting them be themselves. Like, if a single female character is overly emotional and loves shopping, that's not really an issue for me intellectually - there are lots of women who are overly emotional and love shopping. But because I'm so conscious of not feeding into stereotypes about women, I over-question that specific character and have trouble with her in my mind.

    Whereas if I have a male character who's a stereotypical male, I seem to be okay with that.
     
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  23. Senko

    Senko Member

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    I believe that using your same gender for a main character has the advantage of placing yourself in the mind of your character and be more confident. I´m talking about way of thinking.
     
  24. BayView

    BayView Contributor Contributor

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    I think this would only make sense if gender was the primary difference in the way people think.

    I mean, I'm a woman, but I'd have a lot less trouble placing myself in the mind of an upper-middle class, educated liberal man than in the mind of an uneducated, conservative woman living in poverty. I'd like to think I could write both, if I really worked at it, but I'd have way less trouble with one than the other.
     
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  25. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Digging out my Balzac Contributor

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    Will you be my biographer?
     
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