Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Male vs. Female: Reading and Writing Protagonists

See the intro post for more information on this blog series!

The Pilgrim Glass is my first published novel, though I've got three more completed (which you'll see over the course of the next few years ☺) and I have two more in draft. Of the six novels, four have male protagonists (including Jonas in The Pilgrim Glass). I can't really say that I have a preference one way or the other, or set out to write one or another; it's just how the stories have shaken out. I feel the same about reading – I don't really have a preference, I'm more interested in the story.

I hesitate to talk about this, because I'll just end up jinxing myself, but on the whole, writing male protagonists feels very natural for me. When I write female protagonists, I put extra pressure on myself: am I being true to the character, or do I have an agenda? Am I speaking through them, or letting them speak for themselves? I feel like I have to watch myself, to make sure I'm letting them be who they are, rather than some kind of avatar of Strong Feminist Woman.

When I write guys, I just let them be who they are. Isn't that a sad commentary?

Now, when you take the protagonist label out of the picture, writing male and female characters is pretty straightforward – they're just individuals with their own unique goals and quirks.

What weird pressure I put on myself.

So, when you write or read, do you have a natural preference for writing/reading male or female protagonists? I'd love to get your thoughts.

Check out what Heather Domin and Rima Jean have to say on this topic!

Don't forget: commenters on all three blogs during this series are eligible to be entered in a drawing for our books in March!


  1. My first novel has a female protagonist, but I do switch POV with one other male character and one female character. I'd say the easiest one to write is the secondary female, as character wise, she has more in common with myself. The lead female is the hardest to write as I have to work at it to get into her head and identify with her motivations.

  2. I'm not sure, probably more women than men, but not an overwhelming measure. I wonder if our generation of women will always feel some strain when compared to men; I'll ask my daughters if they feel any pressure.

    Looking forward to gripping another Julie K. Rose novel!

  3. This is interesting because your question made me recognize for the first time that my male protagonists seem to be fairly divided between:

    - whiny fellows who know far less then they think, claim more for themselves in terms of achievement than they've earned and understand women and other people little;

    - golden fellows who are competently athletic and easily liked, though not necessarily emotionally acute;

    - very intelligent observant men who tend not to be rewarded as they deserve;

    - effective secondary leaders who learned very early not to crave the primary role

    - fussy fellows;

    - artists

    They all come as naturally as do the female characters. But if I have strong narrrative voice, for example, who addresses the reader fairly directly, as a storyteller for instance, that voice is always female.

    Love, C