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Writing protagonists of the opposite gender to you

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Something I have noticed recently is what seems to be a trend towards writing protagonists of the opposite sex to the writer. JK did it, I've done it (just thought I'd juxtapose myself in there, dont'cha know?), and I see alot of forum posts here and elsewhere where the author - horrible though I am at asserting peoples' genders online - is a different gender to their creation. Why do people think this is? Why do people do it? What effects might there be? Where do you LGBTQIA+ writers (and your characters) sit along this switch?

 

I'll weigh in with my thoughts later. Just curious what others' opinions are for now :)

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To be honest I don't pay attention all to much about the difference in sex and/or gender of the author vs the MCs because for the majority it doesn't matter, people are people and there is only a few things which make us different. I like it when those of opposite sex do get the nuances right however, and I think to do that they get beta readers who are of that sex to help them. I suppose it depends on what needs to come up, and I can think of more male author female MC "problems" like how boobs like to get in their way and do their own thing.

 

Now where genders come in is where it can get tricky, because gender identity can be a minefield even for those trying to work themselves out. Sex and gender are two different things :)

 

As for why people might be doing it? Perhaps they are challenging themselves? For me, I just go with the characters, they create and pick who is in control, I'm just the writer-down-er  :P I've had cisgender characters, an agender character (one who has no gender), I've only had male and female sex characters so far and both have been MCs and I've written from their POV first person. I don't think I have quite cracked a more masculine voice, but I'd like to think I'm getting there. I'll definitely need feedback on that :P

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I'm with Sheepy, it isn't something I plan or pay that much attention to. That said, I usually default to having the protag be the same sex as me. I can't really describe the process, it just depends which character strolls into my mind to attach themselves to a story idea.

 

My current WIP has a male protag, but I'm not writing him any differently than my female ones. If anything, he is slightly easier to get into because I can separate myself from him more easily than in my other current WIP, which has a younger girl as a protag. Her voice so far is pretty bland but my male MC is more entertaining.

 

I don't really have a point I'm trying to make, just rambling my thoughts lol.

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I am a female and tend to write males a lot myself, but I'm not super sure why. Honestly I worry more about whether I'm creating a unique character voice than how well I'm portraying gender. I'm always a little terrified that all my characters really just sound like me! I ascribe to the advice that if you write characters as people, you shouldn't have to worry over much about writing their gender correctly, and that focusing too much on doing it "right" can lead to over-doing it.

 

That character voice thing though. Ack.

 

Makes me interested in Penguinball[/member]'s comment about the younger girl protag with the bland voice, versus the more entertaining male MC. Also, Sheepy-Pie[/member], you said you've written first person for a male and for a female character.

 

I don't want to divert the theme of this thread though! Perhaps I'll create my own more about voice.

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The majority of my main characters are female even though I myself am male. The only reason I can think is that I was raised in an all-female household and ... I suppose I just got to understand women in many ways better than I did men. If I have to write a real manly sort of voice I struggle. I would struggle to be interested. My male characters tend to be rather elitist and, I dunno, you might say rather "posh". But then - what is a "male" voice? What is a "female" one? My characters are individuals, with their own voices. I have a couple of queer characters too - they, both males, just happened to be that way. It's never stated outright but it would be interesting to see if readers pick up on it. Slightly worryingly they both die in book one.

 

kherezae[/member] it's interesting what you say about your chars sounding like you. I often worry that people will view my writing as one massive explosion of vitriol...

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Most of the time when I've written stories in the past, they've been with female characters as the protagonists because I'm female and I know how females think and act and all that. It's what I was comfortable with. Then...over two years ago? (wow) I started writing a submission for one of the writing challenges here on the forum and that story had a main female character but the two characters who really stood out to me in the two scenes I wrote in it were actually secondary characters, and they were both male. I ended up being really drawn to them and I wanted to explore their story, which meant challenging myself to write a character whose gender is opposite from mine. I was definitely concerned that I wouldn't get it "right," and I think I actually made a post at some point expressing that concern, though I can't really remember what it is anyone told me. I loved writing those two characters. I have a whole complete mess of a novella draft that I wrote about them.

 

I've had three people read the draft so far and none of them have said that I'm terrible at writing male characters, so I must have done something right (hopefully).

 

I think it's good that people challenge themselves to write their opposite gender or sexual preference or whatever the case may be. But there definitely needs to be...research? And they need to be represented a certain way - i.e. what Sheepy-Pie[/member] said about women having big boobs and such.

 

Edit: I also don't really pay much attention to it, really. Mostly, it kind of "feels" a certain way to me? Like, it felt like my story with Arris and Merek should be written with two male POV characters instead of changing it to two females. With my NaNo, I have two male POV characters and two female POVs planned (haven't gotten to the second female yet, really, though when I eventually edit I might end up taking her POV out because it really won't impact the story much either way), but I didn't do it that way because I WANTED to be diverse in the POVs or whatever, I did it that way because that was how I ended up planning the story, with it being in multiple character POVs/genders instead of just one, though being diverse with those things is definitely important.

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I am a man who writes mostly female protagonists. It's the same reason I tend to play female characters in those RPG games where you can customize your character. If I'm going to spend a lot of time with a character, they might as well be someone I'd like to look at. Plus, I find it fun to draw my heroines.  :D

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I have characters of both genders. Sometimes I have males, because they are the ones the story requires (pirates, soldiers, sailors, etc.) I have novels where the main character is a woman (the 4 I already published) and I wrote them in first person, but for the men I write in third person (and the short story collection has more men characters, and the novel I am writing for NaNo has a man and a woman as main characters, since it is a romance, but I guess it is more the man).

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Jedi Knight Muse[/member]  I definitely saw no problems with you writing males. Of course, I'm female, so maybe I'm not the best job, but after years of reading fantasy with MCs of both genders I'd think I'd have some idea.

 

Which is perhaps a decent point? If we read a ton and have lots of experience with the stories of characters of both genders, shouldn't we have some feel for what it's like when done well? Maybe we just need to trust ourselves more! :p

 

Elena[/member], I think it's interesting that you wrote your women from first person and men from third person, if I'm understanding you correctly. I really enjoy writing first person, but it makes me more nervous about whether the voice sounds too much like me. I don't really have that problem with third person! Maybe that relates?

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When I wrote in my youth, it felt more natural first person. I think I first experimented with third person in a longer novella (because short stories were written from the third before) in 1991, and most novels were written in the years 1983-1988. There had been a time afterwards when I didn't write novels anymore, but the new ones I am writing are third person. I am not very conscious of my voice. I am trying to give each character's voice and this is it.

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I'd have to make a concerted effort to really think about how many male vs female protagonists I've had.  I've been writing since I was 12, and I'm 39 now, so that's 27 years to look back over.

 

Just off the top of my head, I'm guessing that most of my MCs are male, but only by a small fraction.  A lot of my stories come from dreams, and for some odd reason I'm just as likely to be male in a dream as female.  Try not to read too much into that though; I'm firmly female both by identity and by the genetics I was born with.  But since most of my main characters come from dreams, I just tend to stick with whatever gender they manifest as.  This is usually because my brain simply accepts that THAT is who the person is, and I don't tamper with it much.

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