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Author Topic: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists  (Read 14233 times)

Offline Lanko

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #60 on: January 26, 2016, 05:46:32 PM »
Directors/writers/designers who feel forced or just want to commercially appeal to someone are probably the worst lot of all, because whenever they do it, it usually doesn't (or never at all) work.

Because then one group will complain about the pressure of some groups to include diversity just for the sake of it (sometimes they are not wrong), when in reality, most of the time it appears to be a job poorly done by whoever was leading the project.
And the group who wants more inclusion will also complain about they making yet another cliche/caricature or whatever poor representation happened.
Slow and steady wins the race.

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Offline Nora

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #61 on: January 27, 2016, 12:14:45 AM »
I don't have a problem with a character being a minority for no reason, unless it doesn't have the appropriate impact and/or make sense within the wider context of the story. For example, a female soldier in an entirely male army would be out of place, so if it's not ever confronted during the story or explained via backstory it'll stick out to me and feel wrong. Same goes for, say, a Chinese soldier fighting in the War of the Roses - makes no sense, needs to be explained.

A great example of this kind of thing done brilliantly imo is the Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler. One of the protagonists, Winter, is a female soldier (pretending to be male). She has a valid reason to be there (running from her past), her gender affects the plot and provides both opportunities and obstacles, and it's explored from loads of different angles throughout the series so far. The fact that she's also homosexual is well done too - in the first book it's noted but irrelevant (exactly as it should be), in the sequels it becomes more important. After the first book, and the shift in focus from an army campaign towards a revolution, a whole raft of other strong female characters are introduced, and the theme of gender equality becomes even stronger.

Come on, you can't be thinking that this is what I was implying are you? I'm always presuming that the Author is writing something sensitive, in an intelligent way.

Of course a female soldier is fine in an army like ours nowadays : we have plenty of female soldiers to make it normal, if not average.
Of course the war of Roses wouldn't have a chinese soldier. But why not a chinese explorer? But that'd be a completely plot warping idea, it would define the story and its uniqueness.

Of course I meant that gender and skin colour doesn't have to matter in the limits given by your own settings. No point discussing this in historical fiction!
If you're writing fantasy in an other-worldly setting, it's not the same story. I think the idea behind the complaint mostly is that fantasy in such other-worlds is often too white-male populated when it has license to be everything else. Historical fiction obviously isn't as free. Your choices have to make sense.
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Offline Raptori

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #62 on: January 27, 2016, 12:30:35 AM »
I don't have a problem with a character being a minority for no reason, unless it doesn't have the appropriate impact and/or make sense within the wider context of the story. For example, a female soldier in an entirely male army would be out of place, so if it's not ever confronted during the story or explained via backstory it'll stick out to me and feel wrong. Same goes for, say, a Chinese soldier fighting in the War of the Roses - makes no sense, needs to be explained.

A great example of this kind of thing done brilliantly imo is the Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler. One of the protagonists, Winter, is a female soldier (pretending to be male). She has a valid reason to be there (running from her past), her gender affects the plot and provides both opportunities and obstacles, and it's explored from loads of different angles throughout the series so far. The fact that she's also homosexual is well done too - in the first book it's noted but irrelevant (exactly as it should be), in the sequels it becomes more important. After the first book, and the shift in focus from an army campaign towards a revolution, a whole raft of other strong female characters are introduced, and the theme of gender equality becomes even stronger.

Come on, you can't be thinking that this is what I was implying are you? I'm always presuming that the Author is writing something sensitive, in an intelligent way.

Of course a female soldier is fine in an army like ours nowadays : we have plenty of female soldiers to make it normal, if not average.
Of course the war of Roses wouldn't have a chinese soldier. But why not a chinese explorer? But that'd be a completely plot warping idea, it would define the story and its uniqueness.

Of course I meant that gender and skin colour doesn't have to matter in the limits given by your own settings. No point discussing this in historical fiction!
If you're writing fantasy in an other-worldly setting, it's not the same story. I think the idea behind the complaint mostly is that fantasy in such other-worlds is often too white-male populated when it has license to be everything else. Historical fiction obviously isn't as free. Your choices have to make sense.
That was more in reply to the posts just above yours actually, didn't have the time to re-read them and quote the right ones!
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Offline CryptofCthulhu

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #63 on: January 27, 2016, 09:58:12 AM »
I don't have a problem with a character being a minority for no reason, unless it doesn't have the appropriate impact and/or make sense within the wider context of the story. For example, a female soldier in an entirely male army would be out of place, so if it's not ever confronted during the story or explained via backstory it'll stick out to me and feel wrong. Same goes for, say, a Chinese soldier fighting in the War of the Roses - makes no sense, needs to be explained.

A great example of this kind of thing done brilliantly imo is the Shadow Campaigns series by Django Wexler. One of the protagonists, Winter, is a female soldier (pretending to be male). She has a valid reason to be there (running from her past), her gender affects the plot and provides both opportunities and obstacles, and it's explored from loads of different angles throughout the series so far. The fact that she's also homosexual is well done too - in the first book it's noted but irrelevant (exactly as it should be), in the sequels it becomes more important. After the first book, and the shift in focus from an army campaign towards a revolution, a whole raft of other strong female characters are introduced, and the theme of gender equality becomes even stronger.

Come on, you can't be thinking that this is what I was implying are you? I'm always presuming that the Author is writing something sensitive, in an intelligent way.

Of course a female soldier is fine in an army like ours nowadays : we have plenty of female soldiers to make it normal, if not average.
Of course the war of Roses wouldn't have a chinese soldier. But why not a chinese explorer? But that'd be a completely plot warping idea, it would define the story and its uniqueness.

Of course I meant that gender and skin colour doesn't have to matter in the limits given by your own settings. No point discussing this in historical fiction!
If you're writing fantasy in an other-worldly setting, it's not the same story. I think the idea behind the complaint mostly is that fantasy in such other-worlds is often too white-male populated when it has license to be everything else. Historical fiction obviously isn't as free. Your choices have to make sense.

Everything seems to be too "white-male" in society these days, according to the typical groups of naysayers. Funny, given the greats in the legacy of Fantasy are all white and have had the greatest influence. Let's just say I strongly disagree with this kind of condemnation and keep it at that. I don't want to derail the topic with political arguments.

We all have our tastes and in the end there is no real right and wrong, only what is popular and what isn't. We all identify with different types of characters. As long as freedom of expression and speech is alive and well, I'm sure a variety of influences will be welcome. If something is in demand but not represented, then it's up to the writers to fill that demand.

Fiction brings joy, enriches our lives and is a welcome escape from the harsh reality of our world, so the more people that can find solace in it the better. I'm all for diversity in literature, as long as people take pride in maintaining some standard of quality.
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #64 on: January 27, 2016, 10:44:24 AM »
Writing white male characters because it's "safe" is genuinely the worst reason I've ever heard. Writing anything because it's safe is lamentable, but I also think it's incorrect: I'm not the only person in the world who posts reviews saying, "ugh, all white males, shame about that." The bottom line of creating is that you're never going to create something that no one dislikes. Yes, it's about story quality over cast diversity, but you're going to write a good story anyway, right? Why not write one with a diverse cast too? The two aren't mutually exclusive, and indeed I find a variety of views in a story increases its depth and my enjoyment.

I must also admit to being disappointed in the "white male is the norm and doesn't need to be defended" reasoning. That is exactly the sort of thing that perpetuates it as the norm. It needs to be challenged because of that. Flip your thinking: is it important that the character be white and/or male? Then why can't they be something else?

Characterisation, like everything else in storytelling, is always a choice. Consider why you're making the choices you are. Because you enjoy it is totally a valid reason, but consider if perhaps you enjoy it because society has conditioned you to think those stories are more important, or because you feel ill-equipped to tell other stories - the latter of which can be remedied by engaging more with that sort of story, and will broaden your storytelling range!

Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #65 on: January 27, 2016, 11:18:08 AM »
Everything seems to be too "white-male" in society these days, according to the typical groups of naysayers. Funny, given the greats in the legacy of Fantasy are all white and have had the greatest influence. Let's just say I strongly disagree with this kind of condemnation and keep it at that. I don't want to derail the topic with political arguments.
Okay, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt on that statement and assume you were trying to say the characters in the greats in the legacy of Fantasy were all white, rather than the authors, since that could easily be taken the wrong way. But it's still completely wrong (unless you want to claim tales like Arabian Nights all star white people) and ridiculous reasoning anyway. Lord of the Rings isn't considered a classic because of the colour of its characters. It's a classic because of its storytelling and worldbuilding. Most similar classic fantasy novels are considered classics in spite of being largely white-male centric, not because of. And, as a generation more aware and embracing of other cultures and diversities, we can and should improve on that. 
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Offline Nora

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #66 on: January 27, 2016, 12:06:34 PM »
Everything seems to be too "white-male" in society these days, according to the typical groups of naysayers. Funny, given the greats in the legacy of Fantasy are all white and have had the greatest influence. Let's just say I strongly disagree with this kind of condemnation and keep it at that. I don't want to derail the topic with political arguments.
Okay, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt on that statement and assume you were trying to say the characters in the greats in the legacy of Fantasy were all white, rather than the authors, since that could easily be taken the wrong way. But it's still completely wrong (unless you want to claim tales like Arabian Nights all star white people) and ridiculous reasoning anyway. Lord of the Rings isn't considered a classic because of the colour of its characters. It's a classic because of its storytelling and worldbuilding. Most similar classic fantasy novels are considered classics in spite of being largely white-male centric, not because of. And, as a generation more aware and embracing of other cultures and diversities, we can and should improve on that.

Well, you also have to take into account that the world changed. Writing LOTR along WWI means that you're writing for british people, and eventually, maybe, if you get super popular somehow, maybe the french, the americans, maybe even the germans and italians...
The publishing industry was widely different, the internet wasn't a thing, and the world still had to see its biggest migration waves.
Now we're in the internet age, living in countries full of people of all nations with various degrees of assimilation to our own culture. As writers we just don't have such excuses to write all male, all white characters. Early century "classics" certainly have that.

This entire issue is like the Lovecraft awards, where people suddenly rose up against the idea of using a notorious racist as an award figure.
Lovecraft lived with his time, we can give him some berth, without condoning. We don't have that anymore.
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Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #67 on: February 04, 2016, 03:38:07 PM »
I will be honest and say I do not care at all what flavor a protagonist is as long as they are well written and are not silly brats as some can be. Otherwise I don't pay any mind...

Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #68 on: February 08, 2016, 07:24:30 AM »
So this discussion has gone in a really meaningful and interesting way.

What I was trying to get at when I first posted this was sorta selfish-- I'm trying to hone my own manuscript while thinking about some of these issues-- but I didn't really give enough context.

I start out with a total fantasy cliche-- a rogue joining the party of a knight in shining armor on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess from an evil wizard.  With the exception of a female antagonist mixed in, the beginning of the book is dominated by mostly male protags.

But... once you get to Chapter 17, you realize the princess is not really interested in getting rescued at all.  In Chapter 24 she uses her new connections to the rebels, gained during her "captivity", to orchestrate an attempted coup against her father.  In the final parts of the book, when you realize who's pulling all the strings, you see that the men of the book have had virtually no agency and the maneuvering throughout the book has largely been a battle between 2 women and the king.

My concern was that, starting off the way I do, I'm going to lose the very readers that would appreciate the twists I had in store.  I was trying to find a way to make the beginning a little less masculinist (and in the process maybe a little less cliche), while still delivering my misdirection.

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Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #69 on: February 08, 2016, 09:46:28 AM »
So this discussion has gone in a really meaningful and interesting way.

What I was trying to get at when I first posted this was sorta selfish-- I'm trying to hone my own manuscript while thinking about some of these issues-- but I didn't really give enough context.

I start out with a total fantasy cliche-- a rogue joining the party of a knight in shining armor on a quest to rescue a kidnapped princess from an evil wizard.  With the exception of a female antagonist mixed in, the beginning of the book is dominated by mostly male protags.

But... once you get to Chapter 17, you realize the princess is not really interested in getting rescued at all.  In Chapter 24 she uses her new connections to the rebels, gained during her "captivity", to orchestrate an attempted coup against her father.  In the final parts of the book, when you realize who's pulling all the strings, you see that the men of the book have had virtually no agency and the maneuvering throughout the book has largely been a battle between 2 women and the king.

My concern was that, starting off the way I do, I'm going to lose the very readers that would appreciate the twists I had in store.  I was trying to find a way to make the beginning a little less masculinist (and in the process maybe a little less cliche), while still delivering my misdirection.

Ah! This is a little hard to advice upon having not read the book but at the same time... From what you have said it sounds like the seemingly male driven beginning is a important part of the miss-direct.

Not only that but from a readers point of view it makes sense the beginning of you novel would be mainly driven by your male characters. As they would feel like they are in charge of what is going on in the beginning so if fits that if the story is following them/being told by them it would not really include not thought on the princess or anything to do with her until they start to realize that she is up to something. To me it sounds simple like a natural unfolding of the plot rather than a lack.

I would also not worry about losing readers.. If your novel is well written it should cause not issues as I have never stopped reading a book for lack of women characters were I have stopped reading a book because of bad writing lol.

Anyway your story sounds good!

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Female Fantasy Readers thoughts on Male Protagonists
« Reply #70 on: February 08, 2016, 12:50:22 PM »
Sounds fine to me. As long as you make the plot interesting enough, it should keep readers' attention.