Friday, December 6, 2013


My current w-I-p is the only the second time I've used a male protagonist. (The first time was a (rightfully) never-published fantasy featuring an anthropomorphic tweenage rat-like character so, yeah.) The voice came to me quite clearly. It is supported daily by living in a house with three teenage boys (and their friends). Still, it is scary crossing the gender line. I feel like I need to use extra caution. I am deleting and changing more lines because they don't feel "boy" than I tend to do when I write girls. I feel a strong sense of obligation to do this correctly so that the final product doesn't feel like an abstract, non-gendered narrator but truly like a guy. (I won't cite any specific works here but I have read several novels in which I get this sense of "stock" character and not rich, specific masculine individual.)

Sometimes, when I feel extra terrified by the task upon which I have embarked, it is helpful to see that it can and has been done before. This Publisher's Weekly article has a list of adult titles of this type. Looking over my own reading list for examples, I invite you to read Kendare Blake's fantastic ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD, Megan Whalen Turner's THE THIEF, Melina Marichetta's THE PIPER'S SON, Philip Pullman's delightful Sally Lockhart mysteries and, of course, John Green's Hazel in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS for a start. This list of male protagonists from The Faculty Lounge includes a few other women who have risen to the gender challenge work (um, J K Rowling!). 

Have you tried writing across gender lines? Do you have another title to add to my reading list? Do you think this type of writing requires more care and, if so, what kind of care?

Thanks in advance for your advice!


Caroline Starr Rose said...

Me too! (though my first, unpublished wasn't a rat, just the nephew of a cookie-baking eye doctor. When Sarah Weeks published the beautiful PIE, which is 100 times better than what I was trying to do, I knew I should officially shelve it).

I'm hoping living with two boys will rub off on my manuscript.

Bonnie @ A Backwards Story said...

Good luck!! I think the fact that you're being so careful means that it's going to be fantastic!

Hmm, and have you read Brigid Kemmerer's series? All male protagonists. Um, maybe not the first book, now that I think...or was it half? *thinks*

Stasia said...

Caroline, I SO want to read your eye-doctor-nephew ms! Wonder how it'd hold up against my rat? :)

Stasia said...

Thanks for your encouragement, Bonnie. Will check out Brigid K books--even if only some are male protags ;)

Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

When I started writing Pity Isn't An Option, I didn't really *plan* on doing a guy as one of the main characters. His voice was just in my head. His frustration, his sense of losing control. I felt what he felt, and I had to share it from his point of view. I think that if we overly stress it and try too hard, the male characters don't sound as genuine. And it's important to remember that, just like female MCs, each character is different and has their own quirks and personality traits. I'm sure that, as long as you stick with who he is, it will work out just fine! :)