Share the Birthday Love Blogfest: Do girls want to read books with a male protagonist?

Posted March 11, 2011 in BOOKS / 13 Comments

This weekend, Sari Webb is hosting a Share the Birthday Love Blogfest to celebrate turning 24 (congratulations Sari!).  If you haven’t entered get on over there and do so because it’s really easy to take part and there are some fab prizes on offer including a choice of three awesome books and a WiP critique by Sari. You can choose whether to enter the blogfest or the competition or both, and I decided to do both. For the blogging part, the idea is to post about something you need help with on your writing that you think other bloggers can help with. One thing springs to mind straight away for me.

As you may or may not know, my current WiP is a YA paranormal adventure/romance. The plot and characters are sorted and things are going well, but now I’m faced with a dilemma: should my protagonist be my main male character or my main female character? By protagonist I mean the main character that the narration is focused on. I haven’t decided whether it will be in first person or third person yet, but either way it will be from either his perspective or her perspective. The male character is the one that undergoes the biggest transformation in my novel-he is the one that is knew to the fantasy world and has to make discoveries as he goes along, which is why I originally wanted the story to be seen through his eyes. The female character is portrayed as somewhat mysterious and I don’t think this would come across if the story was from her perspective. However, I’ve noticed that the majority of YA fiction, particularly paranormal romances are centered around female characters (eg. Twilight, Graceling, The Hunger Games, Paranormalcy). This is probably because more girls read this genre than boys, and they want to be able to relate to the main character. So now I’m struggling to decide whether to stick with my gut instinct and keep my male character as the protagonist, or to try to shift it so it’s from the female character’s perspective (which might mean having their roles completely reversed) to make it appeal to the target audience. A third possibility is to have it alternate from one to the other.

So, what do you guys think? Do girls want to read books with a male protagonist?

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13 responses to “Share the Birthday Love Blogfest: Do girls want to read books with a male protagonist?

  1. Either switch the character arcs so the male is mysterious and the major change happens to the female [if you want the female as lead], or keep it as you have it.

    Or, I've seen romance use both POV's – male & female.

    But think about who your audience is, too. I don't think I've been any help. Sorry. πŸ™‚

  2. Hmmm… not sure I should comment because I'm not really part of your target audience. (Though I've been thinking of checking out more YA out of curiosity about this phenomenon.) But my instinct tells me that girls are more comfortable reading about a male protagonist than boys are with reading about a female protagonist. It's entirely possible therefore that if most YA tends to be written from the female perspective, those authors are in fact limiting their audience.

    But my opinion is always that the story must come first. If you've written your story so that the male character has the most at stake and changes the most over the course of the story (as it sounds) then I would say stick with him as the MC. Changing the genders around is a big thing and would probably alter your story in more ways than you can anticipate. Go with your gut.

  3. Tizzy, I write for older children, and my books so far have had male 'heroes'. The girls keep asking me when will I write a book with a girl lead, so in my next book, out in April, I've done exactly that.

  4. Have you read "Impossible?" Not my favorite book, but definitely hard to put down. I believe it is written in third person, but it switches between the main male and female protagonists, although with more emphasis on the girl.

    Don't change your book to suit a target audience. Write YOUR story. Let the publishers work out how to market it. It sounds to me like you should stick with the male protagonist as the lead — it's different, but it will still appeal to girls, but might even broaden your audience. Either way, if you write a good story, your audience will find you. That's just my two cents πŸ™‚ Thanks for the encouragement and advice on my query!

    ~ bess

  5. Really with me the gender doesn't matter, it's the story line. I think that most stories have female MCs because, for many reasons, like the authors are female. Also, there's so many more forbidden things to girls, so there's so many ways to explore a girl's head. Since in the past it's guys who get most of the attention, girl-kind's history really isn't written. Who knows what we could do? If you could switch one of these around to a guy, I think it would work. Like the characters won't let him do things or all of the famous people are girls and guys don't get the credit or something. Well, good luck and keep writing!

  6. hmmm tricky question there,

    i would probably go with the above and write from the male lead, BUT you still need to make it appeal to the girls. I would suggest a strong female 'second lead' as you have stated you have, that can help balance the story a bit. But that is just me.

    hard call. i don't know what i would do.

    good luck

  7. Hey Tizzy, really good question! I would say (and I know it can get annoying to hear) do what's best for your story. From your description it sounds to me like the male is the MC because he goes through the most change. Who has the most to lose? The highest stakes?

    I also love reading books from both male & female POV, so that's definitely a possibility (if you don't think it will ruin the mysteriousness of your female character).

    Have you read The Replacement? I haven't read it myself, but it's from a male's POV so maybe you could check it out? Here it is on Good Reads.

  8. Personally I prefer female narration, I think I find it easier to identify with BUT based on what you've said I think it should be the male protagonist.
    From what you've said it sound like the better option in relation to the story and in the masses of female protagonist POVs having a male one will make you stand out – in a good way. πŸ™‚

  9. From the sound of it, your male lead has more of an arc, and I don't mind if the lead is male or female, I love character's with solid arcs.

    For me, story is all about transformation. And if I feel like a supporting character goes through a bigger change than the lead does, I find myself caring more for that character than the one I'm "supposed" to care for.

    Though I don't consider my story to be in the YA genre, I do read a lot of YA and generally I like male leads more. The YA market is saturated with female leads (since the audience is mostly made up of girls)and after so many books of female leads I feel like they're all very similar.

    Writing from a male perspective can be hard though. Whenever I'm working with one of my male characters I have one of my guy friends read my stuff to verify whether or not the character is behaving in a gender-appropriate way.

  10. I agree with Lindz. If the character is good, I'll read the book.

    However, if you really think it's best to have the POV from the girl, then give the male role to the boy.

    On the other hand, I've read a romance book that switched POV, but the boy and girl were both in different situations. Nonetheless, it was good.

    If it all fails, experiment. And remember – there is no right or wrong answer.

  11. Write what feels right. If the male POV seems right and natural do that if the female POV feels natural then do that. I don't think it should be forced wither way, if you try to force it then the story will not flow or feel like you want it to.

  12. Have you read BEAUTIFUL CREATURES and BEAUTIFUL DARKNESS? They were told from the POV of a male and – as far as I can tell – those books have been pretty popular.

    If you're writing in the third person you could try switching between the two, though it seems (just from the books I've read) that an author will focus more on one character and only write occasionally from another character's POV. It can make it very interesting though (and refreshing) to have your story world seen through more than one set of eyes.

    Hope that helps πŸ™‚

  13. I read somewhere that you should not write to trends because the publishing process is long and by the time your book comes out, that trend will be over. I think that to some degree this should apply to audience.

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