Why Most of my Characters are Male

8 Oct

Announcements:

Red Sands Reviewz read Seconds Before Sunrise and wrote, “You know how they say sequels aren’t as good as the first? This is not the case. It was fun to read from the start to finish.” And now you can read her review from start to finish by clicking here.

Krazy Reads reviewed Take Me Tomorrow, and you can read the entire review by clicking here, but this review inspired my blog post today, so I will be referring to it throughout my post! Even then, here’s a small quote, “Unlike most dystopian novels, this one felt the most real to me. Don’t get me wrong, I ADORE all dystopian novels, but for me, this seemed the most likely to actually happen.” Check out Take Me Tomorrow by clicking here.

Thank you, Krazy Reads.

Why Most of my Characters are Male

I’m doing something today that I have sworn to myself I would never, EVER do. I am responding to a book review. (Oh, the taboo!) Don’t worry. I have Krazy Reads permission, and it’s more or less not a response. It’s a deeper explanation that was inspired by a single section she wrote about my latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow:

Most of the characters are male, and while some people may say that seems unbalanced, to me, it fits perfectly. In the novel, the boys are fighting for a cause, they break laws, set bombs, and carry out rescue missions, so having most of the characters male fits, and I like how there are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”

It’s true. I’m guilty. My latest novel, Take Me Tomorrow, has more male character than female characters, and before I explain why, I would like to clarify that I’m specifically talking about Take Me Tomorrow in this post. My other novels are not like this, and there will be minor spoilers throughout this piece. That being said, I am going to have to hold back on some explanations due to the fact that the sequel will deepen many of these explanations, and I don’t want to spoil major parts of the first novel. But I’m going to do my best to explain why I have more male characters than female characters, and I want to explain this because I have received dozens of emails asking me why Take Me Tomorrow is full of boys.

The main reason is, perhaps, the most important one: it was never a conscious decision. It just sort of happened, and it happened naturally. This is the same reason I ultimately never changed it, despite the fact that I had one beta reader in particular suggest it. Don’t get me wrong. I thought about it a lot. I did. I considered each and every character and their gender, but here’s what it ultimately came down to: it was never about their gender. It was about them, and here are the two main reasons, I believe, they were boys in the first place:

Their Past

Although some of the past is seen in Take Me Tomorrow, more is explained in the sequel – Take Me Yesterday (hence the title). But I am going to explain what I can. First of all, a lot of it has to do with how the society works. Even though boys and girls can see each other and go to school together, there are subtle hints the society subconsciously encourages them to be separate. For instance, the boys are more likely to be thrown in military for punishment, while the girls are generally thrown into the correctional houses – and the correctional houses that are blatantly separated by gender. The other subtle part was the dance. Sophia describes it as one of the only instances students from separate schools can meet. Socializing is definitely not encouraged, but let’s get down to physical relationships: Noah and Broden met as children, and although I cannot giveaway their full circumstances, they didn’t just become friends because their parents were friends or that they happened to be the same age. I don’t want to spoil the novel so I won’t explain Tony or the flashback of Liam too much, but those two boys were more or less a reflection of what could’ve happened to Noah if he were older. Pierson is explained in the sequel. (I’m sorry for how cryptic this is.) But I can talk about Miles. If no one noticed, the twins – Miles and Lily – don’t have a father, and again, more details will come in Take Me Yesterday, but I will say this: Miles was very attracted to Broden and Noah, the first two guys that gave him friendship. Lily, too (as explained in the book), but Miles pushed his sister away. I have an older brother. This happened to me. But that’s for my next section.

These are Pinterest photos that remind me of TMT characters

These are Pinterest photos that remind me of TMT characters

My Personal Life

After my mother died, I was practically raised by my older brother. (My dad, too, but he traveled a lot.) So I spent a lot of time with my brother and all of his friends, and – you guessed it – they were mostly guys, especially his best friends. We went hunting and off-roading and ate sandwiches by the lake when we fished. But – during some point – we didn’t hang out as much, and that just happens sometimes. I got friends of my own, but (you might have guessed again) most of my friends were guys. I was comfortable with guys. I was used to spending time with them, and there was no romance there. A girl can be, in fact, just friends with guys. So I think that leaked out with Sophia, but I think it happened because of Lily. That’s right. Because of Lily. Sophia is best friends with Lily, and Lily is the one who introduces Sophia to Miles and Broden. Sophia gets her guys friends by default, and if you read the story, you also might have noticed that Sophia is not a social butterfly like Lily is. Sophia would rather stay home with her dog and read. She was perfectly satisfied with Lily’s company, and Miles and Broden were just extra buddies she gained. And, yes, you will learn even more about all of their pasts, specifically with Broden, Lyn, and Sophia’s mother…oh, and Miles and Lily. Pretty much everyone. But now that we’re talking about the girls…

As an extra, I want to talk about the girls, and I want to start this section off by re-quoting what Krazy Reads said, “I like how they’re are only three major female roles. Even though Sophia doesn’t always understand, she’s strong, smart, and cunning, and often times, she and her best friend, Lily, are the reason the plans work at all.”

Sure, the guys appear to be running things, but sometimes, as an author, I struggle to understand whether certain aspects are forgotten just because gender gets focused on. For instance, Miles is so terrified in the beginning, that he runs away, and Sophia – a girl – takes his place. That’s just one instance where the girls come to the rescue, and yes, there are more rescues and reasons, but sometimes, I worry that literature has trained us readers to focus more on boys rather than girls, which is no one’s fault. I’ve been guilty of it, too. But just because there are more boys does not mean that boys are more important, and in Take Me Tomorrow, they definitely cannot survive without the girls in their lives.

In fact, even though there are more boys in the novel, the numbers should not take away from the importance of Lily, Sophia, Lyn, and later on, Rinley. I wish I could explain what these girls do throughout the novel, but those pesky spoilers prevent me. That being said, these girls – as well as more girls – are seen in the sequel. (And, yes, the boys will be there as well.) But Take Me Tomorrow isn’t about how many boys or how many girls are present. It’s about drug use, abuse, addiction, immigration, tragedy, love, and war. And everyone can go through that, no matter what their gender is.

But – just for kick’s sake – here’s a list of reasons I have more male characters than female characters:

I was true to story.

~SAT

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18 Responses to “Why Most of my Characters are Male”

  1. Sierra October 8, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    You do you! It’s funny because I did have a moment where I thought to myself while reading Take Me Tomorrow that there were a lot more male characters than female, but… it didn’t bother me really. I think people are quick to jump on books (and movies) that don’t give equal time to female characters in the name of “feminism” and “equality” and whatnot – which I think severely shorts what feminism is actually about – without realizing that not every single piece of media out there has to be about a balance between the genders.

    I think the story you wrote fell into place the way it did for a reason and that there is nothing wrong with that and furthermore, your explanation for why you favored more male characters makes perfect sense. And as you explained, it’s not like any of your female characters weren’t capable. They were clever and completely self-sufficient, so I say power to you if this is how you want to write the story!

    I literally just finished reading the book, by the way, as this article popped up on my Twitter feed, so that’s why I’m now spamming you with my comment, haha. I ended up not being in the mood for the other books on my shelf this week, so I decided to hit up TMT and will start Minutes Before Sunset soon. 🙂

    • Shannon A Thompson October 8, 2014 at 12:21 am #

      I agree with what you said about the debate over balance and feminism and everything in all types of media. I understand the want for a balanced cast – I do – but sometimes, peoples’ lives aren’t balanced exactly 50/50, and Take Me Tomorrow was one of those cases. That doesn’t mean I’m anti-female characters. (I have more coming in the sequel, after all). It just happened to happen that way for various reasons and circumstances within everyone’s lives. But I’m glad to have your comment! Thank you for taking the time to read and write out your thoughts. I hope you enjoyed the novel as well! And happy reading with Minutes Before Sunset. :]
      ~SAT

  2. Charles Yallowitz October 8, 2014 at 7:23 am #

    Interesting insight into your books. Thinking about other stories, there does seem to typically be more males than females. For example, most of your main characters in Harry Potter were boys. Yet, I think there is a trade-off with some authors. The female characters are fewer, but more memorable. Personally, I enjoy writing female characters more than the boys because I feel like there’s more ‘meat’ and flexibility to them. They can move into more varied roles without hindering their personality for some reason. So a heroine may be outnumbered in terms of gender, but readers will remember more of what she does.

    • Shannon A Thompson October 8, 2014 at 1:20 pm #

      That is true! I wanted to talk about Lord of the Flies and other novels that are predominantly male, but I was afraid it would come across like I want novels to have mainly male characters and that’s just not the case. Like I said, my other novels are not like Take Me Tomorrow. They are more balanced in terms of gender, but I don’t see anything wrong with having a novel that isn’t balanced as long as all the characters are important and memorable (like you said).
      ~SAT

      • Charles Yallowitz October 8, 2014 at 1:29 pm #

        It’s a tough topic to broach without feeling like you’re taking a stand. I don’t really focus too much on the gender beyond it guiding some of what they can do and wear. After all, having the towering barbarian warrior in a sundress wouldn’t work. Fun to do as a gag on beta readers and editors, but that’s just about it. 😀

      • Shannon A Thompson October 8, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

        So true! I’ve been wanting to write about this for a long time, and this topic is rough both in fiction-writing and blogging about my experiences. Your joke reminds me of when I was contemplating changing one of my male characters into a female after a beta reader suggested it. Every time I considered one, I ended up with the strangest scenes (like your barbarian warrior in a sundress). That’s when I knew focusing on getting a balance of gender just for balance-sakes was oh-so wrong.
        ~SAT

      • Charles Yallowitz October 8, 2014 at 2:09 pm #

        I had that suggestion a few times too. One person wanted me to change the main character into a woman, but not switch the gender of the love interests. Not really sure if they knew what they were pushing for there.

        It’s great to tackle the topic though because it helps you get your thoughts straight and touch on something that seems to be a hot button issue lately.

      • Shannon A Thompson October 8, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

        I have to admit, Charles, it’s nice to know other authors have gone through this before. I mean, I figured I wasn’t alone, but it is a different experience being able to speak with fellow authors about what we – and our work – goes through. No wonder us authors stick together so well. Thank goodness for the all-mighty internet.
        ~SAT

      • Charles Yallowitz October 8, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

        The Internet surely is a beautiful and terrifying thing. I agree it is nice to know other people have had these odd suggestions. I guess it shows that some people have interesting preferences and desires for a book. I think many also feel like if they have an author’s ear, they can make a push for something they’ve always wanted to see.

  3. Mishka Jenkins October 8, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    A great post to explain this, but as you say, it shouldn’t need explaining anyway! Characters are characters, and they are whichever gender it needs to be. Having more than one or other, shouldn’t detract from the characters, their roles, and their strengths throughout.

    Brilliant post!

    • Shannon A Thompson October 8, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

      A wonderful summary of all of my emotions! Thank you for reading and commenting!
      ~SAT

  4. helloiammariam October 8, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

    Hey Shannon!
    So I’m maybe slightly behind and some of this post didn’t make sense to me because of me not having read your novels but I’m definitely intrigued to read it now! I like dystopian novels so I think I need to add this to my list. I don’t feel like a characters gender needs to be justified, I just think that women/girls can be stereotyped and that is something I don’t really enjoy reading! But I all sounds hopeful so I will let you know when I have got my hands on your book!

    • Shannon A Thompson October 8, 2014 at 6:22 pm #

      I’m sorry for the cryptic parts of this post! I tried to make it as understandable as possible if someone hadn’t read the book, but I am glad you enjoyed the post despite that. I hope you do check out Take Me Tomorrow, and I hope you enjoy it. If you write a review, please let me know, and I’ll be sure to share it around. :]
      ~SAT

  5. Michelle Proulx October 8, 2014 at 6:13 pm #

    I sometimes think about writing a story and giving all the characters unisex names. Then, when the whole story is written, romances have played out, bad guy defeated, etc., go back, take a coin, and flip it for each character to see what gender they are. Change the pronouns and related anatomy accordingly … and see what happens 😀

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. October Ketchup | Shannon A Thompson - October 30, 2014

    […] Why Most of my Characters are Male: I wrote this after a Take Me Tomorrow book review was posted, mentioning the controversy that’s […]

  2. Take Me Tomorrow by Shannon A. Thompson | A place to write, read, discuss and explore the literary world. - March 21, 2015

    […] It’s difficult to say why I write more about males than females, but on top of being friends with more males, I was also (mainly) raised by males. My mother died when I was eleven, so I spent most of my teenage years with my father and my brother and my brother’s friends, so I gravitated toward befriending more males. So, yes, I think growing up around males has affected my writing in the sense that you will see more males around the females, and you will see males that are simply just friends with females (no romantic feelings), not just because I feel comfortable writing stories that way but also because I think it’s important to show those relationships in fiction since male-female friendships get a lot of judgment in society. On that topic, I wrote an article called Why Most of My Characters Are Male: https://shannonathompson.com/2014/10/08/why-most-of-my-characters-are-male/ […]

  3. #SATurdate: The White Rose, Man in the High Castle, Burt’s Bees, and Sweets. | Shannon A Thompson - December 5, 2015

    […] were more boys than girls. I actually addressed this directly after a high demand in my article Why Most of my Characters are Male. I mistakenly thought I hinted to it enough, but this time around, I’m going to blatantly say it. […]

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