Heroines, Heroes and Picking Your Main Character by Christine Duncan

http://www.amazon.com/Safe-House-Christine-Duncan/dp/1936127008/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1257712524&sr=8-2This may sound a bit weird but I never read books where the main character is a man when the writer is a woman. You don’t see the opposite very much. The only one that comes to mind is Thomas Perry’s Jane Whitefield series.

I think as writers we train ourselves to observe the world around us. And yet,… I just don’t trust that authors can be all that accurate about the opposite sex.

Okay, there I’ve said it. You can argue if you like. But I feel that way and I won’t read the books.

I also dislike books where the characters have no flaws–which is why I don’t read romance novels. I’ve heard it said that writers can’t make the protag too unlikeable–the hero/heroine can’t have too many flaws. Maybe you’ve had that lecture. The theory is that readers are not going to want to follow the adventures of someone they don’t like or are just so different from them that they can’t identify with them.

I’m not sure I agree. All right, I wouldn’t like a hero who was a wife or child beater. I would put that book down. But your standard alcoholic (like Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, who I guess is technically a recovering alcoholic) or your average jerk boss (A Christmas Carol)? How about a book with a developmentally disabled guy (Flowers for Algernon) as the hero? Those heroes have already been written and the books are sold. There is a bit of fascination with how these folks got where they are now and what they can do to get themselves out.

But perfect people don’t exist.

At least not in my world. So I can’t identify at all. So how do you choose your hero?

Obviously, I think as an author, it has to be someone we can understand down to their underwear (Another problem I think with cross gender writing. Show me the guy who has worn a backless bra attached to a thong (a kind of body suit used by women who wear low cut backless dresses) and then struggled into shapewear type panty hose on top of it, and then I will believe he understands women enough to write about them. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll hold out until the first guy gives birth.

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2 responses to “Heroines, Heroes and Picking Your Main Character by Christine Duncan

  1. Interesting thoughts.

    I often write (about 95%) my stories from a female point of view. Not sure how that came about, but I feel more comfortable writing like that. Now I can understand how it might be difficult for a guy to pull off that type of cross-gender writing, but I do try my best and I also research as I go along to make sure that I’m as accurate as I can be.

    I do have quite a few female friends who don’t mind when I ask pointed questions about certain things (a memorable exchange took place over the summer when I was asking questions about cup size, breast size and the type of bikini one could wear depending on their specific size), because even though I write fiction, I want my whacked out fiction to have a reasonable degree of accuracy associated with it.

  2. My main characters tend to be evenly divided between men and women. However, I usually write ghost stories set in the past, where backless thong arrangements are rarely discussed. (Susan Hill’s ghost stories, also all Victorian, all have male heroes – but I can’t judge if they’re accurate or not). And I have read male writers who first few women characters have been awful – then some woman has obviously had a word with them, and their future female characters have been highly accurate.

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