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Gender matters


When I first started writing my main character was male. I didn't think much about it, or question why, I just wrote about him. The idea of writing a female main character didn't occur to me. So many of the books I'd read, especially in sff, had male main characters - Paul Atreides, Sparhawk, Aragorn.... Sure, I'd read books with great female characters - Scout, and Scarlett O'Hara and their ilk - but very few in genre. So, setting out to write my book, my main character was a genre character - a bloke. To be fair, not a terribly macho bloke, but still he had all his bits in appropriate places and he had a male voice with a male outlook.

Somewhere in the long line of early beta readers one suggested that I should have had my main character's sister as the focus of the book, as my female point of view was stronger, and I pooh-poohed the notion. I didn't write females. I didn't know how to, despite being female. Books in my genre didn't have stories focused around female povs in my experience and, besides, I knew my male pov and it was a strong one, suitable for the genre.

I wouldn't say I was wrong in retrospect. The main character, Kare, is the focal point of the story and it is his story, not his sister's. The same for my other male main characters - they are the reason for the story and I love them all.

But, over four years and a few books, something has shifted. I still write male povs and enjoy them, but my main character in my last book is female and my current work in progress has a female first point of view.

So what changed? My thoughts on this are non-scientific and based on nothing other than my own instinct, I should stress.

I'd like to say I read more widely and found the female characters, and I did. Jo Walton's Among Others has a great female pov, and Katniss came to the fore as a viable sff lead. But it was more than that. I grew more confident in what I write. I'm more confident in being the character and, as a woman, my interest often lies in answering the 'What if...' question with a female focus. I've started to write stories which are less genre-bound and more intricately tied to what goes on in our minds, to intuition, to growth. I still love my male characters, and have several of their stories I want to write, but I find the answers to my questions are found more often in my female ones. I see my genre world more and more though female eyes, and less through the eyes I was given as a child, when males had the fun parts and the challenges to face and women supported them and cheered them on. (Thank the lord for Servalan...)

In short, in finding my voice I'm finding it more and more a female one. Which makes sense, given where all my bits are....