respectorcist: (gael)
[personal profile] respectorcist

I'm working on two projects, both genre novels, both with female protagonists. But I'm having a problem. I don't know how well I can write a female protagonist. More truthfully, I don't know if I can write a suitably charming female protagonist, one that the reader will like, from a first person point of view.

By rights, my own personality type is an NT Rational. Rationals make up only 12-15% of the total population, and 2/3 of all Rationals or more are male. Basically, society is comprised of non-Rationals who interact with other non-Rationals. People aren't accustomed to a female Rational. And that's what I feel most confident in trying to write.

To a reader, though, I know such a woman will come off as cold, possibly even unlikeable, and not intentionally. Even if she is written heroically, the readers might find her objectionable. In fiction, Rationals tend to be pigeonholed. A Rational, if heroic, is likely to be The Spock, rarely the lead. Possibly the Ecentric Mentor, if they happen to be an ENTP, or a Big Good if an ENTJ. If non-heroic, they are almost always an Evil Mastermind or Evil Scientist. And they are also almost always male. As people, Rationals don't do feelings, we chiefly admire competence, and are pretty much only good for providing support for others if you need an aloof and slightly distracted shoulder to cry on. Even ENTPs and ENTJs are only charming until you get a glimpse below the smooth 'people-person' exterior and at the calculating mind beneath. If these people are being nice to you, it's because they respect you, or because they want something from you.

Kind of a hard sell, as a first person protagonist.

I'm not saying it can't or hasn't been done. I really like Burying The Shadow by Storm Constantine, which contains two central protagonists, one of whom is probably an INTJ by my typing. But her opposite protagonist is not a Rational, and allows a small break from that character, allowing the reader to 'rest' on a more nurturing, more feeling female for periods of time in the narration.

I know that I can write a male protagonist of almost (almost) any type fairly well; I know that I have that kind of range. But being a female myself, I find that there is less of a division between 'my experience' and 'my character's experience.' It is harder to completely remove myself from an idea of 'how would a woman react to this?' Which is silly. There's no such thing as 'a woman.' Even saying 'this woman' in my head doesn't quite remove the issue from, at base, the concept of her gender. Women are all types -- including Rationals like myself. And yet, there is still a voice in my head that worries that readers may be judging the femaleness of my cisfemale protagonist. That readers, being from an ultimately sexist social structure, might find a less warm woman to be more off-putting than a less warm man.

Which is ridiculous! Of course it is! I should write as I see fit, without worrying about the prejudices of my readers. As long as I know that I am being a responsible and earnest writer, why should it matter?

And yet it matters to me enough to make me reconsider the use of a female protagonist when I know that genre fiction is so sorely, sorely lacking ... and that there is no reason that I, a woman myself, ought not to be able to write one well.

I am a woman. There's no way that I 'can't' write a woman.

And yet ... there's still the worry that she might come off as intolerable.

Date: 2014-04-28 06:06 pm (UTC)
di: (Default)
From: [personal profile] di
I should write as I see fit, without worrying about the prejudices of my readers.

If selling is the concern, I'm sure there will be plenty of publishers/editors/what have you who would ask whether or not a story should or can be retooled with a male rational at the helm. Stop worrying about appeal if this character is one that you want to write. It's so much easier to adjust a story to be more appealing later, rather than compromise your vision and creativity from the get go.

Date: 2014-04-30 02:45 am (UTC)
di: (Default)
From: [personal profile] di
You might be underestimating how much people like the cynical protagonists these days. I mean, TFiOS has two cynical leads, one of who considers herself quite the rational.

Date: 2014-04-29 08:38 pm (UTC)
brontesaurus: (Anne Brontë)
From: [personal profile] brontesaurus
Rayojini is so INTJ it hurts.

Anyway. Anne Brontë and I call shenanigans. I think fiction is in need of more women who are "masculine" but not in the sense of "oh look, she knows kung-fu." One of the things I always liked about Storm Constantine books is how it's pretty much a theme for her characters' reaction (usually the women, the men tend not to think about it) to children to be "lol nope."

Though I think the best way to think about this is to remember that even the most rational people aren't rational all the time. Rayo definitely has Feels. She has lots of them, she just pretends she doesn't, and/or she expresses them differently. Hell, look at her and her mother. There's no doubt in my mind that Rayo thinks the world of Ushas, but the way she expresses that is very much Rational. There are moments where she wishes she wasn't so tall and skinny, moments she acknowledges that she's a bit of a cold fish and some people find it weird, and even once when she's high as a kite she tells Aniti how she sacrificed having close personal relationships in order to do her job. But she continues to do it because she loves her work and to her the trade is more than worth it.
Edited Date: 2014-04-29 08:50 pm (UTC)

Date: 2014-04-29 09:22 pm (UTC)
brontesaurus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brontesaurus
Also I just finished this which isn't unrelated and might be an interesting read:

Date: 2014-04-30 04:32 am (UTC)
brontesaurus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] brontesaurus
One of the fun things about fiction is that people we'd want to punch in the face in real life are likeable, even loveable, as characters. It's doable. Even though yes, sometimes I wonder what in the world possessed me to send Rayojini into play first (and then I remember, it's because the other character I was considering is basically Angry African Jesus). I know I as a reader even though I love my characters who are extremely cute/caregiving/sweet (hi Corbie), there's always something affirming about seeing characters who are like me. I'm going into teaching and I love my babies very much, but I've got quieter ways of showing it. Probably another reason I like Storm's characters. (Also what other things have you read/are you going to read?! :O I must know!)

I think you should just go for it and see if the character needs to be adjusted later. If you try to make a character that people immediately gel to, you're just going to end up with the same protagonist we always get because everyone knows it always works.
Edited Date: 2014-04-30 04:34 am (UTC)


respectorcist: (Default)
if anyone asks this is educational

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