Apr. 27th, 2014

respectorcist: (gael)

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.


respectorcist: (Default)
if anyone asks this is educational

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