Thursday, August 16, 2012

Boys vs. Girls

by Rachel Coker

Rachel Coker is a homeschool student who lives in Virginia with her parents and two sisters. She has a passion for great books and has been surrounded by them all her life. When she is not writing or playing the piano, Rachel enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Interrupted is her first novel.


Okay, so this is not a new topic. In fact, I am a total copycat right now, because I only started thinking about this topic a few days ago while reading a thought-provoking entry on author Shannon Hale's blog. It's an age-old debate, and one that there really is no correct answer to. The big dilemma in question: Should authors write about boys or girls? Tricky, right?

I guess I can't really give a balanced answer here, because I've only ever written female protagonists, but this debate has really got me thinking. Why have I never created a male main character before? I'm not really sure. To help balance my thoughts on the issue, as well as answer any questions you may have on the strengths and weaknesses of males and females, I've decided to do the one thing I do best: Make a list.

Make two lists. One in defense of male protagonists, and one in defense of females. Then we can sum up everything we mentioned and come to our own conclusions! Ready? (Imagine me staring at you with blank Dora-the-Explorer eyes) Okay, then! Let's go!


MALE PROTAGONISTS:

There are a lot of strengths to creating a story from a boy's point of view. In many ways, you really can't go wrong. For starters, pre-teen and teenage guys are going to be one hundred times more likely to pick up and read a book about a boy than they are a girl. You can't find the statistics. It's really hard to market historical romances to teenage males. Virtually impossible. Really the only teenage guys that I know of who have read my book are ones that I know in real life and did it just to get on my good side. Which is great, but it's hardly a good percentage.

Truth be told, if you want to widen the market of your book, make it about a guy. In addition to guys wanting to read about guys, girls don't mind reading about guys either. This is something that's really interesting to me. As a teenage girl, I have absolutely no hesitation picking up a book about a teenage guy and reading it. If it looks good, and semi-interesting, I'll read it. Females don't have the same complexes that guys do about reading books based on the opposite gender. So books with male protagonists appeal to both males and females, which is a huge plus.

Also, you can be much less gushy and romantic if you're writing about a boy. I may not necessarily know from experience, but I don't get the impression that guys are as sentimental as girls. This is very, very appealing to people like me who feel uncomfortable writing romantic scenes. I'll take, "She was really cute and I kind of liked her," over "My heart absolutely melted over the weight of his gaze" any day. But that's just me.


FEMALE PROTAGONISTS:

Ah, but what about the lure of the ever-appealing female protagonist? I'm not going to lie. I love writing about girls. I love it so much that it would be really difficult to switch to male main characters. I might be able to, due to the reasons above, but I still think there are many unique strengths to writing about females.

For example, being a girl makes me relate to girls so much more. As much as I try, I will never fully understand how guys think/work. However I would consider myself a total expert on being a teenage girl. I know what it's like to deal with friends, jealousy, crushes, and siblings and I feel completely comfortable writing from the perspective of someone my age and gender. My guess would be that most of you are in the same boat. And writing about what you know always offers a huge advantage, and that should never be too quickly overlooked.

Girls also seem to be much more willing to express their emotions than boys do. This makes for more powerful and emotionally compelling scenes. While males definitely go through the same heartache and pain that females do, I think women are more vocal and dramatic, which definitely makes for a more addictive read. So some of the things we hate about girls in real life, makes books about them that much more interesting! Make sense?

Anyway, in the end, it's a tough call. My first two books were both based on teenage girls, but what do you think? Is it time to go with a male main character? Do you relate better to male or female protagonists? I really can't say yet, but it's definitely something I'll be struggling through on my own!

As always, you can visit me on my blog or like me on Facebook!

48 comments:


  1. I usually write about girls because well... I'm a girl. I have a hard time writing from the point of view of a boy. I have no clue how the male mind works, so my guys tend to sound very girly. But if the guy is a secondary character I have no problem. Weird, right?

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    1. Makes perfect sense, Hannah. =) You're used to interacting with guys, after all, so you can show them from your heroine's POV pretty easily. Diving into THEIR minds though... ;-)

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    2. That's how I've been feeling for a long time, Hannah, and it's the main reason why I've written about girls, too. :)

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  2. A debate I love. =) Because I write historical romances, there's an expectation that the female lead will be the primary protagonist. But I always give my hero pretty much equal billing. Maybe 49/51 instead of 50/50, but very close. I love writing the hero's POV . . . perhaps because I think like a guy (for a girl, that is, LOL). I never really claim my books are marketed toward men (hello, historical romance!), but in recent months I've started hearing from male readers about how they appreciate that they're well balanced. Pretty cool!

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    1. That's great that you're hearing positive feedback from male readers, Roseanna! That's part of the reason why writing about boys has caught my attention. Guys are much more likely to read even a historical romance if they don't think of it as overtly girly!

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  3. Excellent post! Honestly, I think it must come down to a matter of comfort level. Usually, if I've come up with a story idea, it's through the eyes of a female main character. Honestly, I don't know what to say about where I'm at now. I have two alternating point of views. One's male and the other female. Wasn't necessarily intended to be that way at first, but my guy quickly proved to be much more important than my other secondary characters and his side of the story needed to be told from his eye-view. Halfway through the manuscript? I'm ecstatic that I decided to. He's become my favorite character.

    And I've noticed the same thing: How I can pick up books with protagonists of either gender and not bat an eye, when, all a guy has to hear is that the main character is a girl to be turned off. I wonder why that is. You'd think that if guys didn't want to read about girls, we wouldn't want to read about guys.

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    1. Great thoughts, Kelsey! I think it just comes down to the fact that, in our society, it's considered normal for girls to be able to do both girly and non-girly things. But boys want to still be men, and they can't stand people thinking they're even slightly feminine. I have no problem reading about a boy, but lots of my guy friends hate reading about girls! It sounds like you've come up with a really happy medium---settle for both! :)

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  4. I write both. I write about teen girls and teen boys. I've even got a short story about an adult guy, and me, my writing buddy, and my sisters think their great. At first I was finding it a little difficult to get in the mind of a boy, but I grew up with virtually no girl cousins, so if I wanted to play with someone I had to adapt, so I actually know a good deal about how boys think and react, which was a huge help. Also, my cousins have no qualms with talking to me abouttheir girlfriends, so I get in on the emotional side of things as well. I really like both. For my two favorite books, one is a girl, and one is a boy. I love it how girls will read about guys, but guys wont read about girls. It is so wierd. I had a friend who saw me reading a booka bout a boy and he freaked out at me. It was funny. Thanks for the post Rachel, it was great.

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  5. This is a question I've struggled with a lot. My problem is that I like writing in third person, so my main character may be a guy but the narrator's voice has a tendency to lean towards the flowery/emotional. Then I had a problem where (I was writing in first person) and my entire workshop group thought my main character was male until she mentioned going dress shopping with her mom. What?

    Anyway, thanks for another thought provoking post Rachel! You're the best!

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    1. That's so funny! Well, it's all about personality. If that personality fit your girl, then why change it? ;)

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  6. This was such a great post! :D

    I usually write from the girl's POV but I try the guy's POV so I can just have a variety I guess. I like to learn. Unfortunately for all the guy's in my life, I always ask them questions xD

    From what I've found, guys aren't too different from girls. We're all different people, some are more passionate, dramatic, others are less detail oriented and direct I guess. Some are calm, others are spastic. It just depends on the person, not the gender.

    Like with my brothers. My older brother would be the type to be blunt, out going, cool, suave- the real bad boy type of guy. His mindset would be sarcastic and at times inappropriate. My younger brother is more of that gentleman type, thoughtful, kinda like a young Charles Bingly.

    This post helped a lot! :D Thank you so much for dedicating time to us readers <3

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    1. I totally agree with your comment about how similar guys and girls are. I have some guy friends that are very sensitive and emotional, and some girl friends that are blunt and unsentimental! Either gender can be the backbone for a really great story. :)

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  7. Great post! Love how you compared male and female protagonists!

    I write from a girl's perspective because I'd like to think I have girls figured out - as much as we can be figured out, anyway ;)Plus, I'm the oldest of four girls (I've got two sisters pretty close to my age and a little 2-year-old sis), so growing up I was always immersed in girl-world.
    For a writing assignment once, I did try writing from a guy's viewpoint. It ended up being a really good writing exercise because I had to get creative in deciding how to portray his thoughts.

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    1. I'm the oldest of three girls, Anna, so I totally get where you're coming from! ;) I relate to females better, too...

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  8. I normally write about girls, as I'm a girl, and can relate with them better. But I also have two WIP that feature Guy MCs. Its actually not that hard to write from their POV. I just still prefer girl MCs. But some plots just call for a guy to take the lead. ^.^

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  9. I'm more comfortable writing from a guys point of view Not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with liking to write myself not as myself in my characters and just generally liking boy characters in books better. Also I guess because my little brother is so easy to study.

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    1. That's so interesting! It's nice to hear of a girl who actually prefers writing about guys. That means there's hope for the rest of us! ;)

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  10. My novel has four point of views- two teenage boys and two teenage girls. I've never really had a problem with writing in the male's point of view, but whenever I have a question, I ring up some of my guy friends and ask for their imput on the situation.

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  11. I'm pretty much fine with both. But, I find it easier (believe it or not) to write from a guy's perspective. It's just so much easier for me to make guys funny! I love having humor in books, and I just can never get it as good from a girl's view. Which is weird, 'cause I have 6 hilarious sisters, and only two brothers. Huh.

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  12. Great post Rachel! I have to WIP's. The one I've been working on the longest stars a main character, and it's my favorite. I don't think the story would work as well if it were a girl.
    And the other novel I'm working on stars... a girl. So I'm at both ends of the spectrum! Not sure which I like more, truthfully, since I do often tend to lean towards girls, but I do love my male MC...

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  13. I'm actually writing a book where the two main characters are best friends, a boy and a girl (their relationship DOES go further at the end) but I bounce off each chapter from first person point of view to each, so the readers gets both a boy and a girl perspective throughout the book. I'm hoping this will make it appeal to guys and gals alike! Unfortunately I start off with kind of a...poetic opening, with the girl's voice, and I hope I do not deter guys with it! :P

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    1. I've thought about doing that exact same thing, Sarah! You'll have to let me know how it goes. ;)

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  14. Definitely girls. I tried writing in the POV of a guy once, then I added a girl, then quit the book. In ALL my other books, its girls. Mainly because I can relate better to them and get inside their heads. With guys (I don't really have any close guyfriends so that makes it SO much harder) I just can't get into their heads, so it makes it harder to write.

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  15. Guys! Guys!! At least for novels. Truthfully, I love writing from a male's POV. First of all, my favorite characters in any fiction are pretty much always guys, and if my MC is female...she's not going to be my favorite. I'm not going to care enough about how she thinks and feels and acts and looks. But with a guy, my interest will never end. Second of all, I feel like when the MMC finally feels or shows a ton of emotion, it's so powerful and special because he's been hiding most of it. Those little moments of feelings are precious because there are so few of them. But emotional moments from a girl...are just everyday and ordinary.

    Anyway, thanks for the post!! It's always interesting to hear thoughts on this debate.

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  16. Interestingly (or weirdly, whichever way you want to look at it), I actually understand guy minds better than girl minds. Part of that is that I don't have many real life girl friends, but my two older brothers are always doing things with their friends, and I usually get to participate, so I get a first hand peek into the minds of boys. :) Also, I've started writing in MMC POV, and now I'm addicted. Sometimes I try writing from an FMC POV, but it feels weird and unnatural now. However, I shall keep practicing the FMC POV, because it's a good writing exercise. :)

    Thanks for the post, Rachel! ^_^

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  17. I'm homeschooled too :)
    I only started following GTW last month, so this is the first post of yours I've seen. It's great! Thank you!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Amanda! Welcome to GTW! :)

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  18. Awesome post, Rachel. Thank you! I like the way you presented both sides ... and your Dora-the-Explorer moment. Priceless. :)

    In my main WIP I knew from the first it was going to be from the POV of a guy - not sure why. I realize now it was overambitious. I've done a lot more serious talking with guys since then, and realized there's a lot I need to learn about them to make my story more real. Hopefully I'll be able to improve him.

    Then I got another story idea, necessarily about a girl, and in writing bits of it it's been strangely relaxing to be writing a girl. I can make her stress about her hair, cry if I would, and all that good stuff. It's great. :)

    So, I'm better at writing girls, but not against writing boys, either.

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  19. I write from the povs of both, my main wip being from the pov of a guy. I'm not sure if I think one or the other is better, just some journeys are right for a guy to go on and others for a girl.

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  20. just out of curiosity... since we are on the topic of genders in writting I propose a poll. I have been thinking about this lately as i open go teen writers and i sometimes find myself wondering how many guys are there interested in writing. I ask all the guys who want to, of course, to reply to this comment so i dont feel alone out here! Oh and i write in a male POV because its how i feel most comfortable, it just feels safe. When it comes to reading however i prefer a girls POV i like reading all those emotional details and so one its just more fun and compelling to read, i like details and thats something male MC dont always bring to the picture. (I'm sorry if my english is bad, i'm portuguese, I speak perfect english but writing, not so much)

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  21. honestly, i feel perfectly comfortable writing from a guy's POV. In fact, most of my main characters have been guys. Maybe it's just because I'm a bit of a tomboy. . . They're a bit more predictable than girls though.

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  22. I absolutely adored this post. Personally, I love writing from a guy's perspective, or choosing a guy as my main character. For some reason, I find it easier to write and am more comfortable. When it comes to writing with a female protagonist things suddenly become more complicated and harder to write. Emotions, thoughts and feelings become much more heavier and can sometimes be hard to get down on a page. The only thing I enjoy when writing from a female's perspective is my ability to be able to relate to the character and understand how she may feel!

    I loved the post, Rachel. I'm homeschooled myself! Woop-Woop to all the homeschool kids, we rule! :)

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  23. Jessica! LOL!

    Rachel, you do lists extremely well. :) Loved reading this post and through all the comments, too.

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    1. Haha, thanks, Rachelle! Lists are such a thing with me. Clearly, I have a problem. ;)

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  24. Great post, Rachel!

    It is SO true about how most girls like reading both POVs, yet guys seem to stay away from a female POV! I personally like to write from a girl's POV. I guess it's because I'm used to the tangle of emotions and feelings the average girl goes through. Especially the fact that they let it out to the world, while guys keep it bottled up inside. :)

    Thanks for the post, Rachel!

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  25. It's funny you should bring this up, because I just recently came up with not one, but TWO book ideas that required a male POV. I was a tad bit hesitant about it, but now I think I'm going to go for it. Thanks!

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    1. Glad it helped you out, Madison! Definitely go for it, and let us know how it turns out! :)

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  26. I write abt. girls because I AM a girl... So I kind of relate to that more. Also because I have no idea how a guy would think, so I have a harder time writing their POV.

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  27. Also, from what I've heard from writer's I've met, female protagonists sell better because, statistically speaking, the majority of people who buy books are female. Not that a male protagonist can't sell, but it's all about the marketing. Not to bring up an exceptional example, but The Hunger Games has done quite well with both genders, even with a female protagonist. I think this is about marketing, too. Vampire romance = not as popular with guys. Battle for survival = potential male/female readership. Balance is great, though.

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    1. That is a good point, and I almost brought up The Hunger Games as a great example of a female protagonists that both boys and girls love! Boys do still read, though. I think most of them just don't think there are enough "boyish" books out there...

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  29. Great post!

    I don't care which gender I read about, but I've noticed that I tend to write female MCs. It's a lot easier.
    However, my current story has lots of male supporting characters - so I have to think a lot about how they'd talk and act.
    It's challenging sometimes, but it really helps me learn.

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  30. I mostly write through females but I did write through an adult male once...different but a good writing exercise :)

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  31. Interesting fact: my latest WIP had two main characters - one male and one female. :P The chapters alternated between perspectives, so it was really cool to write.

    Generally, though, I write from a female's perspective. It's easier for me.

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  32. I can write as males, but only if they're younger than me. I once wrote a book half from the perspective of an eleven-year-old boy, it was easier than I thought it would be.

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  33. Interesting post... I have no idea why girls can read about boys and girls but boys usually only want to read about boys. I guess it's the same with girls can wear pink and blue but boys can pretty much never wear pink, haha. Honestly though, I am a girl and I've always had a hard time writing female protagonists. I always end up making them into boring mary-sue versions of myself, haha. I suppose that may be because I'm used to reading mainly about boys.

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  34. I find it easier to write through a girls POV even though I am a guy. I feel comfortable inside a girls head especially after writing a 600k series with a female MC. I just feel that it is easier to write confusion and emotion with a female lead. A guy doesn't get confused without getting angry and he would often hide his emotions. Most often I would use a shy girl.
    Also I have no qualms with reading through a girls POV or a males.

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