Thursday, March 25, 2010

male or female MCs? (Your Questions continued)

Midori asks, Have you acquired more books with male leads, female leads, or an even number of both? What MCs that are children versus teenagers verses young adults?

Midori, your question called for some personal reflection, and the answer is maybe a little horrifying--with only one exception, the novels I have acquired have had female main characters.

Put that way, it seems grossly unfair. However, I think that if you line up all the editors in the world and take a collective total, the gap would shake out. I tend to be more interested in a genre that is described either as "women's fiction" or "women's literary fiction"--not because I'm trying to be interested in it as a genre, but because most of the books I'm personally interested in tend to fall under those descriptions when they are sold into categories and bookstores. There are, obviously, specialists in other genres.

As for age, most of my main characters have been adults. Again, same logic as above.

So now I turn the question on you--what percentage of the books you READ would you say have main characters of your own sex?

39 comments:

Matthew Rush said...

Hmm, this is an interesting question. I have to admit that the majority of the books I read have a male MC who is an adult. At least that is true lately. Thinking all the way back to school it probably washes out a bit closer to even, when it comes to age and gender, but who knows for sure.

CT said...

I'm a woman. When I read literary fiction, I tend to read male main characters. However, when I read genre fiction, I tend to read female main characters.

I don't know what this means. But it's interesting.

Christi Goddard said...

My manuscripts are always male MCs. I've no idea why. I looked over my book collection, and it seems that I mainly read male MCs. It'd never occurred to me until this morning.

I've also discovered this could be one of my problems when finding an agent. A lot of them say 'seeking strong female lead...' at which point I still submit anyway, just in case they'll settle on a male.

Gamer Girl said...

I'm a woman who reads almost 75% male MC's. This may be skewed because I do not read chick-lit, romance, or literary novels.

Emily White said...

Wow. Now that I think about it, I think I've read a total of seven books throughout my entire life where the MC was a female. Hmm...

Claire Dawn said...

I think maybe the MC's vary by category. If it's adult and it's witty, MC's tend to be female. For crime, fantasy, and sci-fi, they're often male. YA seems to feature more female, as well.

I think the gender of your MC's may be very linked to the genre you prefer.

I read fantasy, YA, and high-level chick-lit. It's an even split on gender.

Anonymous said...

Hi Moonrat,

I was wondering if I could ask a question: at what point before your book comes out should you hear from your publicist?

Thanks!

(And the last five books I read had male MCs)

Soph K said...

Mostly male MCs for sure, but I think this is because I read 90% male authors. I am consciously trying to change this at the moment to try and decide if I really do prefer the male viewpoint. At the moment I think definitely yes, but I don't know if, as a woman, this makes me strange?

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Because I love YA romance , I'd say 98% of the books I read have a MC who is the same gender as me--female. Funny how that happens. ;)

Hazel said...

The only book I've read with a male MC was that famous one about the boy wizard. His name slips my mind, Henry Crocker I think it was. Anyways, the rest have been all females which has made me think I should expand my reading criteria for more male MCs. Oh my, that is embarrassing!

JKR fans chill. I'm on your boat, I just didn't dress for sailing today.

Watery Tart said...

Very interesting question. I'd say it is definitely genre specific, AND decade specific. I like to read classics, but have little patience for the female MCs prior to about 1950, so the old stuff, both male authors and male MCs.

I like thriller, suspense, horror--those seem to almost always HAVE male MCs, though I don't think it's MY preference for MC, so much as what seems to be there.

Mystery or mainstream though, I prefer a female. Fantasy I can go either way.

I think because of the genres I prefer I end up reading about 70% male (I probably WRITE 70% female)--female suspense, at that.

Kerry said...

I actually know a few numbers about this!

There are slightly more novels with female protagonists than male protagonists, but the split is actually not as dramatic as the demographic of the novel-reader as 80% of people who read novels are women. So in spite of the fact that there are more female protags than male, the numbers still aren't representative of the readership.

Also, books with male authors and/or male protagonists tend to get more and better reviews and they tend to win more awards.

So don't feel bad about acquiring all female MC's. You're balancing things out--helping readers get over their sexism one protag at a time! ;-)

Pamala Knight said...

Hmmm... what an interesting question. I read a lot of literary and fantasy fiction where the protags are male but I also read historical and paranormal romances where the central characters are female. But in the romances that stand out for me, I get the point of view of both characters.

Very interesting.

Christine said...

Reading over my Goodreads page, I'm pretty evenly split, but that's because I enjoy both horror and romances - given my two favorite genres - those are split almost completely evenly between male and female MCs.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I think my fantasy reading is close to 50% male/female. MG? YA? Hm. Lots of boys. And mostly MG.

I love a strong, kick-butt female lead. They're hard to find outside of fantasy. Have to crack open Esther Friesner's books soon. I'm ready for a strong female lead in an historical YA. I suppose they're fantasy, too, though.

Stephanie L. McGee said...

I think it shakes out pretty even for me. I read books that follow two MCs, usually a brother and sister, books with female leads, with male leads, etc. And while I tend in my reading toward the adolescent MCs, there are some in there who are adults.

And I'm writing older MCs in my personal work.

It all evens out in the end.

_*rachel*_ said...

Read? Hmm. I was going to say 50-50, but I just realized I read SFF, which--I think--tends to have guy MCs.

Write? Girls. If I ever have a guy as an MC, it's almost never first-person, and chances are he's sharing the role of MC with at least one other person (and that other person is probably a girl).

michael said...

Always adults. Even when I was a child I hated the teen characters (Batman vs Robin).

I read mainly mysteries, sf, and fantasy. I am a male but tend to find the female characters more interesting (maybe the experience of a different POV). But, much like Terry Pratchett novels that seems to bounce between male and female MC, I read both equally.

Diana said...

Oooh, interesting question. I'm probably pretty even as far as gender - I can sit down with a Jesse Stone novel by Robert B. Parker just as easily as something by Nora Roberts. But I almost always prefer to read books from an adult perspective, or at least books featuring teenagers with old souls. (I was one of those.)

Sonya Bateman said...

As a woman who has a debut novel releasing in five days (!!!) with a male protagonist, and who has heard around the interwebz that "people" don't read male MCs... I love you people. *G*

And off the cuff, I'm about even in my reading habits - I like either/or, and both. Also, more transvestites and asexuals, please!

Ken Hannahs said...

Being completely honest: I haven't read a novel with a female MC in the past... two or three years, maybe? Hrm...

This is confounding because for those years, I was in college, where I was taking countless English and Great Books classes (more evidence that colleges teach the Dead White Guy curriculum...) and I think the last female protag I read was in my junior year with Becky Sharp in VANITY FAIR, which was probably one of my favorite MCs ever... in fact... *pulls book from shelf, deposits on nightstand for later*

Now where was I? Oh, right. I write male MCs, but only because I'm scared to try and write a female MC, especially in 1st person. It feels all wrong -- like I don't have the RIGHT to do that... I dont know. Maybe I'll write a short story, or something.

-Ken
(Addendum: I read HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy last summer. Lyra was awesome!)

Ken Hannahs said...

Sonya,

Congratulations on your first novel! I like your call for more transvestites and asexuals. I think that would be a fantastic avenue to take a character in.

I think another area where fiction is still lacking is the presence of homosexual characters. For as liberal as most of the authoring population is, we sure to enjoy our straight-laced, monogamous, heterosexual relationships!

-Ken

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I prefer to write and read male adults. But I'm reading a chick one right now that I like, military SF.

MJR said...

Most of the novels I read have female MCs, but I really enjoy "mangst" and "lad lit" novels, too (especially if they're funny and over the top).

Joe Iriarte said...

I read SFF and YA SFF. SFF written for grown-ups skews toward male protagonists; SFF written for young adults skews toward female protagonists. I've definitely read more male protagonists than female ones total, but in the last year the vast majority of the books I've read have featured female protagonists.

So I'm gonna call it 50-50.

:-p

lale said...

Hmm... I'd say 80-90% female. The only books with a male lead I've read recently were 'Gone' by Michael Grant and also 'Beautiful Creatures'. I found them quite refreshing! :)

michelle said...

I don't read any romance, or chick-lit, or literary fiction, so I actually read a fair bit of male MC books- probably because I like fantasy (for the adventure!), mystery (esp adventure/travel mystery), and YA (the more adventurous the better!). I seem to be read WAY to many male protagonists! Bring on the female adventurers!

Anonymous said...

Almost always adult female MCs for me, except for the last two books I've read--The Road (I finished it without slitting my wrists! Woo hoo!) and now I'm re-reading Great Expectations.
--WendyNYC

Laura said...

The first thing I thought when I read your question was, "Oh, I definitely read more with female MCs."

Then I took a second thought, and realized that's not exactly true. Paul Atreides, Ender Wiggin, Bean Delphiki, Odd Thomas, Johnny Tremain, Nick Ryves, Robin Hood . . . there are a plethora of male characters that I regularly sink into. So it's actually about 50/50, I think.

This is probably because although, when asked, I'll say that sci-fi/ fantasy is my genre of interest (specifically YA), I actually tend to read anything that looks interesting, or where I've read the author before and enjoyed their stuff.

So I've got historical fiction, sci-fi/ fantasy (both YA and adult), literary fiction, horror, some chick lit and even a humorous romance novel or two on my shelves. I have favorite books and characters in every genre, and favorite authors who I know to keep track of and check out their new stuff.

It doesn't really matter to me if the MC is male or female. It's the writing that matters. For instance, I normally detest vampire lit (on principal, they're doomed romances from the get-go). But I liked both Ann Rice's Interview With the Vampire and Claudia Gray's Evernight.

Joe Iriarte said...

Oh, I forgot the second part of your question. You know, I really prefer reading about young characters, even when I'm not actually reading YA.

As a writer, I really had to have it pointed out to me that I was a YA writer. I kept writing stories about teen protagonists, but I figured if that was good enough for Orson Scott Card, Anne McCaffrey, and Steven Gould, it was good enough for me.

I'm sure it says something awful about me that I'm stuck in my teens as a reader and a writer. Oh well. :)

Maria said...

Hmm. Probably 70 percent female lead, 30 percent male.

That's a guess, but it's as accurate as I can make it without counting books on the bookshelf. And folks, there are simply too many to count!!!

Tui said...

Tough one. I guess this is why I started recording which new books I read. Erm... over this year and last year, which may not be representative of my lifetime reading, about four ninths of my fiction reading has been books with female narrators, and about a third (three ninths) of my reading has been books with male characters. Two ninths of my reading has been books with split narration that I judged to be fairly even between men and women (for example, I counted Connie Willis' Passage as female narrated, even though there is a good chunk of male narration, because probably two-thirds of the book is female-narrated.)

I would say that I generally tend to read female narrators and depend on genre fiction for my male narrators because they dominate SF&F, but actually on closer inspection that's not quite true - for every Old Man's War I tend to read a Zoe's Tale, and for every Harry Dresden I tend to read a Jilly Coppercorn - even in literary fiction where I would have sworn myself completely biased towards women there's always The Lacuna. However, I think this is really predicated on the way I read - John Scalzi, for example, has written a number of books and they all have male narrators except Zoe's Tale. It's just that Zoe's Tale is a female narrator and I like that so I picked that up and read it first.

Kate Evangelista said...

I stick to the young adult genre and romance since I write along the lines of these genres. Knowing what's out there is part of the job description, I guess.

I do read mostly female leads, but there are times when I think the book would have been better off with a male lead.

Lydia Sharp said...

In reading... I'm thinking of all the books I've read in the last few months, and it's an even mix of both. I think that's because I read what I write, which is an odd mix of sf/f and women's fic. It's rare for me to find a good female protag in sf/f (not saying I haven't, it's just rare). In women's fic, it's almost always a female protag.

In writing... with my sci-fi and fantasy, it's about 80% female MCs and 20% male. With my women's fic, it's 50-50. Figure that one out. *shrugs*

Anonymous said...

Someone here made the comment about wit and women writers-- As a woman reader, I find some male protags very funny and as a writer I find writing men frees me up in a way that I have a hard time doing when writing women. Little Children (Tom Perotta) This is Where I Leave You (Jonathan Tropper) Beat The Reaper (Josh Bazell) I often wonder if there are many women who enjoy these books or if I am in the minority. And the big question, and I'm wondering if Moonie can speak to this-- do you think there is a prejudice regarding women writers writing male protags? Lately I've been frustrated with the press/awards men writers get vs. women writers--(and I saw your FB post on this, Moonie) and it has actually made me consider changing my name to my initials to disguise my sex--thinking that might actually make a difference. A woman writer I know wrote a book with a male protag--and she made the comment that she'd never do it again. I'm confused! As my agent reads my male protag book and I await her comments, and I start another book with a male protag--I'm concerned. What is the reality?

Connie said...

I've written a YA with a male MC. I get a lot more interest from male agents who rep YA fiction than from female agents who rep the same. Weird, sort of.

Bernita said...

I prefer an adult main character but that didn't stop me enjoying Harry Potter and the Belgarion series and the Pridain Chronicles and Narnia . Never noticed the gender particularly, because it's the story that counts with me, but I imagine it's probably split evenly.

Amanda C. Davis said...

These days, not very many! But these days I am reading mostly pulp crime and adventure novels from the thirties. So.

Kevin said...

I probably read an even split. Mostly from the library. But I have noticed that it's rare that a writer succeeds in making both their male and female characters believable and 3 dimensional. I love it when they do though.