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Customer Discussions > Fantasy forum

Don't we need strong MALE characters as WELL as female?

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Showing 1-25 of 247 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on May 16, 2015, 12:52:03 PM PDT
Well put. I think the first thing a writer (even a writer of superhero fiction) should aim for is motivation. Why is the character doing what they're doing and how far will they be willing to go to make it happen? Do they have any personal obstacles to reaching that goal or are they external?

With fantasy fiction in general it seems like people substitute moral "alignment" (in the D&D sense) for motivation. The good characters do good things because they are basically good. Boring (and a bit redundant as well, ha ha). I think the best writers are so invested in their characters that they allow them to make bad decisions even if those decisions derail their heroic plot. Basically, characters shouldn't follow a "plot" at all. They should create the story with their actions. The writer's job is to make sure that the story they want to tell can even be told by the characters they created or you end up with something that feels less than believable.

Posted on May 16, 2015, 11:28:56 AM PDT
Robert Brady says:
Taking what Brian just said - look at the new Avengers, Age of Ultron.

The acting is good (I don't think they could have POSSIBLY done better than James Spader for Ultron), there is plenty of action, they are ALL strong characters.

It just doesn't work. They don't overcome a single thing. Every character is the same at the end as in the beginning with some very minor fluctuation. Even Ultron - in fact (spoiler alert) when they make the second creature, some of them want to, some of them don't, deus ex machine in comes Thor with 'the solution' and there you go.

To paraphrase 'Lorne' from 'Angel,' "I can hold a note a long time - hell, I can hold a note forever, but after a while, it's just noise. It's the changes you're listening for."

Posted on May 16, 2015, 10:43:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 16, 2015, 11:00:45 AM PDT
I think strong characters are great. But believable characters are better. This can be a difficult balance when writing the protagonist. You want strength, yet you need flaws. Male or female, the hero must somehow overcome obstacles. But it must be in a way which grows the character in a manner which the reader can relate. This can be a moral, spiritual, or growth in relation to other characters, when dealing with a hero with pre-existing skills. Or a more fundamental growth when writing a young, inexperienced character who must learn the skills they need.
The latter is more difficult. You can't have a hero go from an incompetent child to a glorious champion overnight. And yet you can't spend ten novels allowing them to learn enough to be a believable hero.

Posted on May 15, 2015, 12:56:05 PM PDT
Kelly says:
I'm sticking with it is more important we have good, well-written characters than if they are male or female. i think most MEN (not boys) can enjoy a book with a well-written strong heroine at least as much as some poorly written superman male. Maybe he prefers the well written man to a well written woman, but that's OK.

Posted on May 15, 2015, 11:18:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 15, 2015, 11:19:15 AM PDT
Donna says:
Yes, I think I said I prefer to read about strong female characters too. Strong inside and out, and I think of them as attractive also. All I said was that many teenage girls are self doubting.if you weren't then you were probably an exception.
I also agree that many 4 and five star reviews don't adequately represent the book. I read the lesser reviews to see what they didn't like and if it is something I that will matter to me or not. I can usually tell in a few pages if the book is written in a way it will involve me.

Posted on May 15, 2015, 11:03:05 AM PDT
Speak for yourself Kindle Customer I am a woman and I have never, not even at my most hormonally challenged, ever been self-doubting, self-involved, weak or whiny. I also do not think I am someone special so there are more like me out there. I want strong, complex characters both male and female but I do like to have both. They need not be drop dead gorgeous though I do imagine capable, smart characters to be attractive. I do tend to identify with the heroine, though, so I want her to be competent and intelligent.

I don't want either gender to be objectified in any way and male writers are as bad about writing "manly" men and "luscious babes" as women are about writing "kick-ass" heroines with a choice of bookish intellectual but ineffectual heroes or else gorgeous hunks they can't take their eyes off of long enough to do any kicking at all. If writers write well wrought worlds with internally consistent laws populated by characters with multi-faceted personalities their books will find readers. If they are well written their books will attract word of mouth reviews (and these forums are full of word of mouth reviews) and maybe even written ones.

As for reviews, particularly in the indie community, I tend to disregard 5 and 4 star reviews. Indies do too much soliciting and the reviews all sound too similar. My advise to indie writers is to write an honest, descriptive blurb and discount their books frequently while trying to find readers. The samples on Amazon are often too short to make a good judgement on so if you have a website then maybe sample chapters would be a good idea as well.

In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2015, 6:18:19 PM PDT
The fact is that only a small percentage of readers leave reviews. This is true for traditionally published authors as well as indies. Example: I've sold a combined total of roughly 250,000 copies of my work and have less than 1000 reviews. But this is typical when take into account that GRR Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire only has just over 7000 and has sold millions.
If you want reviews you must either solicit reviewers or sell books. There really is no other way.

In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2015, 4:59:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 14, 2015, 8:19:57 PM PDT
Donna says:
I agree, about weak self doubting female characters. Add whining and a whole lot of crying to that. I realize young teenage girls/women are almost by definition self doubting, self-involved weak creatures, so I guess I prefer to read about the ones who either have found or do find their inner and outer strength.

Also let me guilt trip you for just a minute about not reviewing books you have read. Many of the authors we find on Amazon are new self-published, indie authors. They only survive to write another story for us to read if we give reviews. How else do we find the book we are searching for that really grabs your interest and your soul? Being a bit dramatic? Maybe not. Why else do we read? We want someone to capture our imaginations and take us on a special journey for a while. Your review makes it possible for readers to find that book and for authors to write them.

In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2015, 4:49:28 PM PDT
R. Wilde says:
" So I want to read about a person I want to be, and I want to be my own gender."

I guess I was always more interested in being able to place myself in the setting, rather than identify with the protagonist quite so closely. My three main "comfort food" books that I ran across as a kid and still pull out every year or so are:

Starship Troopers

I guess I can identify with Rico at some level, but while I did have a bit of a crush on Menolly at one time, I never wanted to be her. :)

Posted on May 14, 2015, 4:10:26 PM PDT
Bibliophyle says:
well I was growing up people (my parents and teachers) referred to fantasy-sci fi as "escapist" fiction. at the time I was a bit defensive. NOW, I admit it. I live a mundane Life and read a book to live (for a time) an exciting one. So I want to read about a person I want to be, and I want to be my own gender. nothing destroys my suspension of disbelief so quickly as the words beautiful/hot/attractive man. (no such thing kids in my book or the book of anyone I WANT to be, it is OK for others to feel that way but I do not want to). so when I want to read I want a book about I want it to be 1rst person, archetypically heroic, male (psychic soldier (fighting the good fight), psionic ninja vigilante, or telekinetic vigilante preferably.) protagonist. not anti-heroic, nor anything else that is weird, because that is what I want to be. so balance across the genre is perhaps nice, but the ones I want to read need not be (though I do like a gorgeous, graceful, dangerous and intelligent leading lady. and murphy in the Dresden files though not the main character did put on the boots in at least on book, despite being a secondary character. the apprentice has also kicked a little and taken a few names. I just wish could search by 1rst person, heroic, preference so I needn't buy a book to find out if it fits my fantasy. I have though read most of those mentioned because it seems that that is what is coming out now and I have been reading 3 to 5 books a week for twenty some years.

Posted on Dec 22, 2012, 7:19:18 PM PST
Fullme7al says:
I'm male and I like reading books with lead female characters, but I just can't stand the weak, teenage girl main characters. Or the male teenage weaklings. I'm all for coming of age books, but sometimes I can't stand all the self doubting.

@Donna I never review any books. My ex-gf said it was rude of me not to. I feel kind of bad.

Posted on Dec 22, 2012, 12:24:03 PM PST
Kelly says:
I think most of the numbers say women are more likely to read a book, but I do not know any that say who is more likely to review one.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 9:18:45 PM PST
Donna says:
I wonder if women are more likely to review a book. I wonder if more women read than men. Just wondering. Statistics only tell one specific part of a whole.

Posted on Dec 18, 2012, 6:14:02 PM PST
Larry Kelley says:
It has taken an hour to read all the posts on this thread--yowee! Ramona I love your comments. Lucid, well thought out, even though I occasionally disagree. Donna's fierce defense of BSG is fabulous. I feel that way about my favorite books. I always recommend Sharon Lee and Steve Millers books, "The Liaden Universe". You might think, reading the first book that it is going to be "another" hero male saving the little lady. Don't believe it. These books have romance without a lot of sexual imagery, humor, a completely built fantasy world, ideas, concepts, and much more. I have reread many of them over and over, not something I have done much of in my 58 years of being a serious reader.

Ramona: I don't know if you have read much of American History of the old west from, say, the 1840's though 1925, but there are so many incredible books written by the women who traveled from being settled to settler-the incredible bravery, just unbelievable to most men--until you read it again and again. Anyone who thinks women are weak, defenseless, are idiots.

CJ Cherryh has always written of strong women, both in Sci-fi Matriarchal (sp) societies such as the Chanur novels, and many of her earlier novels. The men may seem weak in her books--but they struggle, they overcome, they contribute. Her female characters are not all heroines--many times if they are heroines that have some very real weaknesses. I think her "Faded Sun" trilogy is one of the best written in Sci-fi. I believe, without real proof, that her early novels were a deliberate attack on the weak female role, an expression of feminism but with a balance. Someone in early posts mentioned the Herris Serrano books by Elizabeth Moon--you are certainly going to find some very strong female characters there, and some excellent writing. I hail David Weber as a best selling author for his Honor Harrington books--but I got tired of all his tactics and politics so I haven't read the last 4 or 5.

I will stop here or will be recommending books all night. I will just say that over the last 20 years, reading all forms of mystery, thrillers, sci-fi, fantasy, westerns, autobiographies, AND romances--I am absolutely delighted with the arrival of strong female characters as heroines of any of these genres--and there are now a legion of female heroines available in virtually all of these genres.

Posted on Dec 18, 2012, 5:34:48 PM PST
Kelly says:
lets recall we are talking about general tendencies - they do not always apply. As noted, 18% of male-authored book reviews WERE of woman authored books. So some men ARE reading women-authored books. And some men WILL write strong women characters, and some women write strong men. But some people do perceive that - supposedly a reason Rowling used her initials in the Potter books, though I think that was the publisher's idea. certainly why James Tiptree used a male name.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 5:13:04 PM PST
Reader79 says:
Let's not indeed! As I posted it is very difficult to find statistics on this and apart from whatever anecdotal evidence one may bring up this seems like a factual approach to the discussion. Certainly there are examples of men who write female characters and vice versa. One of my favorite heroines is from The Rook by Daniel O'Malley. However in my own personal fantasy reading experience many female authors feature female protagonists. Furthermore, many of these female protagonists are interesting but not all would qualify as "wild":)

Posted on Dec 18, 2012, 4:41:49 PM PST
Robert Brady says:
Let's not confuse 'books by women' with 'books featuring strong women.' Apples and oranges.

Morgan Llewellyn, for example, doesn't usually write about women. Mercedes Lackey tends to make her men gay or bisexual (not all, but a lot).

I wrote two books in the last year where the main character was a woman.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 4:35:11 PM PST
Reader79 says:
Goodreads has a 2011 article that supports Ramona on this. Here is the link if you are interested in reading it in its entirety: posted by Patrick.

Here is one statistic from the article: "Oh, but we do have the statistics! We have data on how many books by women are read by men and vice versa. In 2010, of all the reviews posted by male users on Goodreads, only 18.3% of them were of books written by women. In contrast, 38.6% of the reviews posted by women were of books written by men. You don't have to be Bill James to see what this means -- last year, women were more than twice as likely as men to read and review a book by an author of the opposite gender."

I tried to find some other stats that indicate who is buying what, but found most research is based on proving/disproving that women read more than men.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 4:25:15 PM PST
Robert Brady says:
Ha! What gave you that idea?

Seriously, so long as the girl is wild, men will read about her

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 3:56:05 PM PST
Kelly says:
Ramona, while that certainly was true in the past, I think that men are more open to female authors and characters than the past. They may prefer male authors/characters, but it is opening up a bit.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2012, 11:20:05 AM PST
Peridot says:
Ms Lawrence, men are reluctant to read tales with female leading characters. That women are willing to read stories with either is the reason strong female characters are fewer in literature.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012, 10:11:58 PM PST
And to answer your question: maybe. It depends on the story the author wants to tell. Strong characters of either gender are not necessary for every story, and sometimes that's part of the message. For me, the gender of the character isn't nearly relevant as how well they're realized. You need weak characters: people who struggle with their weaknesses and fail. Imagine lord of the rings without gollum or the covenant series without Thomas covenant. Sometimes the point is exactly that the character is weak.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012, 10:05:45 PM PST
Complex, realistic, and potent male and female characters? Read Erikson's Malazan series and possibly Frank Herbert's Dune books, if you can get past the sometimes over the top sexual imagery.

Posted on Dec 17, 2012, 2:33:02 PM PST
As a female, I like strong female characters (Wheel of Time is a good example), but I am also fine with a story containing mostly male characters.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2012, 10:28:18 AM PST
nextrick says:
Try reading, The Pain in the Ass Dimension with Dagon Jamm and mebella Sabeil.
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