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Hermshark
05-14-2007, 10:57 PM
Just finished a YA/fantasy novel with a 15-year old male protagonist. Upon querying, one agent told me that she needed to see a "strong female character," because girls buy many more books than guys do and editors would be looking for that.

And, in truth, while looking around at all the hot titles around, it seems to me that every protagonist except for Harry Potter is female. Stephanie Meyer's Twilight and New Moon, for example. Buffy, Charmed, etc. Tamora Pierce's stuff. I could go on but you don't need me to list off books for you.

Do I really need to change the gender of my characters to catch someone's eye? My novel is decidedly a boy book - the protag plays HS football, throws fire from his hands, flies around, fights a war against aliens, has a tough time asking out girls... nonstop boy-styled action. Is there really no market for that kind of stuff?

Thanks a ton,
Seth

Soccer Mom
05-14-2007, 11:02 PM
Every agent blog I've seen lately says they are looking for more boy friendly fiction. Don't change your story based on one agent.

Legionsynch
05-14-2007, 11:34 PM
Good question, I'd been thinking of asking something similar.

I'd say wait it out. Get a few more responses back before you consider reworking. As far as I've noticed, there is a strong bias towards strong female characters - it's annoying for people like me who want to see someone like themselves in the main role. ;)

Harper K
05-15-2007, 12:06 AM
I've heard several children's and YA editors speak recently at conferences, and all of them said they were looking for good "boy books." I'm writing a YA novel with a male protagonist, too, so I was excited to hear this.

Girls will, generally, read books with male protagonists and female protagonists. Boys, however, will not usually read books with female protagonists. If editors don't acquire books with male protagonists, they'll more or less be shutting boys out of the world of YA literature. And that's just not good business sense, seeing as there are a lot of kids -- boys and girls -- who've been reading Harry Potter and other middle grade stuff (fantasy in particular) and will soon be moving up to YA books. The publishers will want to hang on to those boys as readers.

I agree with Soccer Mom -- one agent's opinion shouldn't send you back to your computer to rework your book. Query around and collect opinions. Chances are you'll find an agent (or maybe 2 or 3!) who are enthusiastic about your use of a male protagonist.

RainbowDragon
05-15-2007, 12:16 AM
Strong female character doesn't have to be the protagonist. Does your book have one somewhere?

romancewriter
05-15-2007, 01:50 AM
The story I'm currently working on is about twins, one boy and one girl. I chose boy/girl twins with the sole reason of appealing to both boys and girls. I hope to turn it into a series, although the first story is more about the female character. I hope that won't turn boys off the story. Anyway I'm just starting to shop it around, so I haven't had any feedback yet.

But for what its worth - I too have heard editors are looking for more stories about boys.

Turtle07
05-15-2007, 02:13 AM
Keep ur story. It's true, most books I've been reading have female protagonist (And I love Tamora Pierce's and Stephenie Meyer's work.) and I have to admit, most of my work (in progress) have female protagonists too (Altho I just got hit with a new idea with a male protagonist. I'm wondering whether or not I should write it...). I find writing a female protagonist easier since I'm a girl myself and it's easy to relate. But many are looking for books with male protaginists.

Just cuz once agent said that doesn't mean u should change it. Like everyone else said, there's other agents looking for books with lead male characters. Just do what u wanna do! besides, I think changing ur character to a girl would call for some major changes. Good Luck!

Shady Lane
05-15-2007, 02:42 AM
All right, here's my terribly sexist opinion:

I'm sixteen, female.
I can't write female protagonists to save my life.
I have no desire to write about girls.
I don't read books about girls.
I rarely even read books written by girls.

I know this is awful. But I'm sure I'm not the only one.

I'd say, honestly, that this agent is wrong. Books with male MC's appeal to a much larger group. Especially in fantasy. Female fantasy is such a niche market--Tamora Pierce and all that.

Zoombie
05-15-2007, 03:14 AM
Can't you have both? Most of my stories has a boy/girl fighting monsters/mutants/9 foot tall space lizards with swords/guns/magic/ low yield nuclear ordinance/a spoon and so on. Seems to work just fine.

Elektra
05-15-2007, 04:37 AM
All right, here's my terribly sexist opinion:

I'm sixteen, female.
I can't write female protagonists to save my life.
I have no desire to write about girls.
I don't read books about girls.
I rarely even read books written by girls.

I know this is awful. But I'm sure I'm not the only one.


Ditto. I have real issues writing about girls. Boys (especially at a younger age) are so much more straightforward.

Jordygirl
05-15-2007, 04:51 AM
I'm a girl, and I don't think I could write a guy protagonist. I think like a girl and I writelike a girl. It's too hard to get inside the head of a guy. I think I'll try a guy MC eventually, but right now I like to write what I like to write, and that's girl stuff.

As for changing your novel, DON'T DO IT!! Especially becuase of just one agent. There are plenty more out there... keep fishing.

Hollan
05-15-2007, 07:05 AM
All right, here's my terribly sexist opinion:

I'm sixteen, female.
I can't write female protagonists to save my life.
I have no desire to write about girls.
I don't read books about girls.
I rarely even read books written by girls.

I know this is awful. But I'm sure I'm not the only one.

I'd say, honestly, that this agent is wrong. Books with male MC's appeal to a much larger group. Especially in fantasy. Female fantasy is such a niche market--Tamora Pierce and all that.

I agree completely. I too only write male protags. They are much easier for me to write b/c, like Elektra said, they are much more straight forward. I also tend to enjoy reading books w/ male protags. Female fantasy does seem to be very nichey (is that a word? Oh well). . . . I think the more male protags the better, ne ^_^

Elektra
05-15-2007, 07:31 AM
I've also found that when I'm writing girls, it's much, much easier to fall into Mary Sue territory. I think maybe because I tend to be unforgiving with myself, so I don't like being lenient toward my female characters' flaws, either.

TrickyFiction
05-15-2007, 07:35 AM
Strong female character doesn't have to be the protagonist. Does your book have one somewhere?

I'm seconding this statement and question. It sounds like the agent just wanted to see one strong female character, not that they wanted you to change the gender of your protagonist.

Hermshark
05-15-2007, 07:51 AM
Thanks for all the feedback guys. Good to hear it, I was getting nervous.

Just Me
05-15-2007, 05:43 PM
I may or may not be having a similar problem. I've written a YA science fiction story with a male main character, but it seems like most of the agents I research have a noticeable bias towards female main characters and/or "girly" stories. The descriptions on Agentquery or wherever don't always specifically say it, but when you look at what they've sold or what they represent, that's all you see.

I can also relate to how Shady Lane feels. I'm a woman and happy to be one, but I'm not particularly interested in reading about them. This is especially true when it looks like all the most popular girl-centered YA (fantasy in particular) revolves around -- to me -- annoying May Sues.

In other words, yes, I'm pretty sure there's a market for it (even among girls/women!), but finding the right agent to get you there might be a tricky process. I could be completely wrong, though; it might be easier for you than it's been for me. Either way, don't make drastic changes to your story just to suit what's "in." By the time your book hits the shelves, the "in" thing could end up being exactly the stuff you dropped.

~JM.

myscribe
05-15-2007, 07:58 PM
Boy readers are elusive, and yes, editors are looking for strong fiction written for boys. I've heard it in person from three editors in the last couple of months. It does not mean just having a boy protagonist though - there are other things they want in this kind of manuscript (action-oriented, faster pacing, etc.).

And like satori said, the general industry idea is that girls will read books with female MCs and male MCs - but boys will only read about boys (generally).

SilverVistani
05-16-2007, 12:18 PM
This is an interesting discussion. Especially for me... Why, you ask? Well, to me... it really doesn't matter. ^_^() So I guess I fall into that stereotype of girls who will read both male and female protagonists. Thing is, I tend to write both/either as well. It intrigues me to think that people would have issues with male protagonists...

One way or another, I would definitely say not to change your story. Especially not right away. I know I'm not saying anything new that hasn't already been stated in past posts, but I know that sometimes it helps to have more people saying the same thing. So...

Good luck!!

justpat
05-17-2007, 08:00 AM
Did the agent tell you specifically that the strong female character had to be the MC? Harry Potter has a strong female character even though she is not the MC. Just don't ask me to spell her name.

I think that girls probably don't mind reading about boys, but boys don't want to read about girls. I have a 12 year old son who would never read a book with a girl MC (thats just gross).

TsukiRyoko
05-17-2007, 08:07 AM
It's true that (at least, from what I've seen) the majority of YA readers are female. However, I don't think that a nook's character needsto be a certain gender in order to be a character that the reader can relate to. YA fiction is YA fiction, not Women's fiction. Tell that editor to ram it up his/her can (no, don't really tell an editor that).

While I can definitely see why works with a female MC would be a little easier to market, I don't feel that gender contribute to an editor not being able to see a story's true potential. When I was younger, I'd read anything so long as it was good. I recall reading many stories with male MCs and it didn't bother me one bit.

OverTheHills&FarAway
05-21-2007, 01:33 AM
Let's just face it. Writing boys is so much more fun.

And, if you're of the manipulating, female, evil-genius type, downright dangerous.

I'm a girl, and my stories have always been about boys. Most of my friends are boys. Boys are just more fun to be with.

Now, if we could only get them to read more. . . .

I hope what those editors say is true, about wanting more stories about/for boys. Because my YA has three in it. Not so much girls. In fact, I had one--a girlfriend--but wrote her out because she added too much touchy-feely estrogen-filled moments.

Melanie Lane
05-21-2007, 02:37 AM
I don't read books about girls.

I'm half that way. I don't read books about girls who whine and are all like "Save me John Doe, save me, I can't tie my shoelaces!"

I've been noticing more and more of that in the books I've been reading lately, and honestly, its ticking me off.

As for my WIP, I have a dynamic duo of a boy and a girl fighting evil. They come across as equally important in the story, giving wiggle room.

And, yeah, boys are just easier.

Don't change your book because one agent told you to. Find another one :)

scarletfox
05-21-2007, 11:09 AM
Hmmm, this is interesting. My MCs a boy, but I think the book will be better suited for girls, although I'm not really sure why I feel that way.


Maybe its because I have a VERY strong female as another leading character, while my guy is, quite frankly, kind of a wimp. It's not that he's not capable, he's just not your typical axe-weilding man that you see in fantasy.

glutton
05-21-2007, 07:49 PM
I'm half that way. I don't read books about girls who whine and are all like "Save me John Doe, save me, I can't tie my shoelaces!"

I've been noticing more and more of that in the books I've been reading lately, and honestly, its ticking me off.


Yeah, I hate helpless girl (or guy, for that matter) protags. I usually write female MCs, but most of my gals are such brutes, they wouldn't even look out of place main eventing in the WWE... :D

polleekin
05-22-2007, 10:14 AM
I write and read both male and female protagonists. I don't think I have a preference one way or another-- not a conscious preference, anyway.


I hope what those editors say is true, about wanting more stories about/for boys. Because my YA has three in it. Not so much girls. In fact, I had one--a girlfriend--but wrote her out because she added too much touchy-feely estrogen-filled moments.
Wouldn't it have been more interesting to rewrite her in a way that didn't make her a sappy character who took away from the book instead of just having no girl characters at all? I don't mean this as a snipe, I just think it sounds like a cop-out to say, essentially, "I can't/don't want to write a strong girl character who doesn't annoy me, so I took her out." I'm not sure if that's what you intended to say.

polleekin
05-22-2007, 07:56 PM
I don't think a strong female character has to be kickass/super-tough/etc. At least, that's not what I mean when I say it, so I assume at least some people mean the same. Really, I think it just means that they have to be a person, a rounded character on their own, not an idea of "what girls are like." And, often it means that they probably shouldn't act like a doormat and cry every other scene.

glutton
05-22-2007, 09:53 PM
However, this "strong female" thing has been bothering me lately. Mostly because I don't like kickass women myself; I really can't identify with them. I prefer softer, more sensitive female characters who still have a strong mind, but who aren't, like someone above so amply put it, "brutes". It just seems to me that so often nowadays a strong female is created at the expense of the man -women are portrayed as the smart kickassers and men are made into the less smart wimps/jokesters. I don't like that, so I've tried to create a strong male character instead.

You can have a strong female and still also have a strong male too, you know. Just because your heroine is a hardcore warrior, hardly means your hero can't be one too!

I like my heroes of either gender to kick ass - though in two of my novels, I have had my main male grow into his strength over the course of the story, while the main female started out a hardcore warrior. But the males do end up strong, too - and didn't really start out "weak" so much as, "not as strong". They (the guys) still weren't completely passive from the beginning either, though.

Hardcore 4 life.

Elektra
05-22-2007, 10:00 PM
However, this "strong female" thing has been bothering me lately. Mostly because I don't like kickass women myself; I really can't identify with them. I prefer softer, more sensitive female characters who still have a strong mind, but who aren't, like someone above so amply put it, "brutes". It just seems to me that so often nowadays a strong female is created at the expense of the man -women are portrayed as the smart kickassers and men are made into the less smart wimps/jokesters. I don't like that, so I've tried to create a strong male character instead. Ah, maybe my story's screwed;)

I've been noticing this lately, too. A lot of the strong female characters are too strong. Like you said, they're difficult to identify with, because most real women do need help every now and again.

glutton
05-22-2007, 10:09 PM
I've been noticing this lately, too. A lot of the strong female characters are too strong. Like you said, they're difficult to identify with, because most real women do need help every now and again.

Exactly what kinds of situations are we talking about here? Yes, women need help sometimes, but... us men don't?! Is this excessive strong-ness really unrealistic just for a character of a specific gender, or for a person in general?

Elektra
05-22-2007, 11:05 PM
Good point. It just seems that when writing males, there's less of a need to prove that the character is "strong".

glutton
05-22-2007, 11:26 PM
True enough. But if the character is presented as an *drumroll* EPIC HERO from the get-go, I think that regardless of gender, one would expect them to be extremely "strong" in a certain way.

To clarify, though, I think we may be talking about completely different kinds of "strong" women. I suspect what you are mostly complaining about is the smart, sassy, assertive, confident, independent, liberated, "I control my life" career woman type who can figure out any problem - IOW, the idealized paragon of girl power.

And I too tend not to like those kinds of characters. Too often, they come off as bitchy.

What I've been thinking of is the huge beast who can bodyslam 400 pound men and slay foes by the hundreds, but may still be insecure, emotionally vulnerable, socially awkward, confused, and/or self-conscious (of being oversized/ugly/having too many scars) type - IOW, fun, cathartic pulp-style heroes who happen to be female. When I said they could main event WWE, I meant it literally! :tongue

That being said, carry on. :)

Elektra
05-22-2007, 11:29 PM
As you suspect, our wires were crossed. The first is what I was complaining about. The second just sounds cool.