Tag Archives: gender

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

Hashtag: Diversity in SFF

8 Sep

I know. I know. Who spells out “hashtag?” Well, I did, and I have a purpose for it. On September 4, Twitter blew up with #DiversityinSFF (and, yes, that link should send you to that Twitter discussion as it continues.) While I tweeted once about it, I spent quite a lot of time reading through other readers’ and writers’ tweets. Knowing it’s an important topic to continue, I thought I’d take a shot at it, encouraging others to keep the conversation going on their own blogs and websites.

First: two articles I’ll be referencing: 

1. One of my favorite articles was by The Book Smugglers: “SFF in Conversation R.J. Anderson on Diversity in Speculative Fiction.” If you aren’t familiar with her, she wrote Ultraviolet, and her protagonist is asexual, hence the diversity in speculative fiction. The reason I enjoyed this article so much is pretty simple: I found a lot of readers and writers only talking about race (which is important, of course) but diversity includes an entire list of groups of people living within society that don’t appear in novels as much, including but not limited to gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, race, etc.

2. Mary Robinette Kowal has created a great survey and discussion, and you can read about it here. (I’ve taken it, and it’s very concise and short.) But I will be referencing a comment later on.

Second: Diversity is really important, so why do writers seem to turn away from it? 

I have to clarify that I don’t think people turn away from it as much as they used to, but still: there is not as much diversity as you’d think there’d be with as many writers as there is out there today. This list is simply to discuss the common reasons writers seem to avoid diversity that I could find:

1. Confusion but respect for other cultures: Some writers truly stick with “write what you know.” That being said, adding characters outside of their sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, and/or religion can be overwhelming for some. Yes, you can research, but I think a lot of writers worry about the depth and honesty of that research. I think some avoid it merely on the fact that they don’t wish to misrepresent cultures they are not a part of. However, I think this barrier can easily be defeated because of the internet. There are plenty of places we can read and talk to people of other cultures to make sure we are going around stereotypes and defining a character with more honesty. (Such as R.J. Anderson wrote about Tumblr in her article.)

2. Nervous for repercussions/reactions: As Walt Fisher writes on Mary Robinette Kowal: “I have no quarrel with anyone writing, participating and expressing their viewpoint. I think it should be encouraged for all writers. That being said, I fear an overreaction.” I think this is really important, because I think this can be a huge hurtle for some writers. No matter what kind of diversity they are working with, the writer can be nervous of offending a group of people, and no one wants to offend anyone. But I think we need to remember, as writers, that we aren’t going to make everyone happy–no matter what group of diversity your character is. Some will love them, others won’t quite connect with them, and some might even hate them. You have to remind yourself to be true to your character, and, as long as you do that, the reactions won’t matter in the sense that you know you did it out of the goodness of your heart (and your characters) and not out of trying to make a certain group look bad or better.

Lastly: Something I learned about perspective from anime. 

Confession time: I love anime and manga. (I have to be in a certain kind of mood for it–like everything else–but I’m a fan.) And I came across an article that is now one of my favorites: The Society Pages: Why Do Japanese Draw Themselves as White? I really encourage everyone to read this before I discuss it, but I’ll try talking about it so you can understand it as if the link is broken and you can’t find it.

If you’ve ever come across manga (written) or anime (t.v) then you know these cartoons are filled with diversity, including sexual orientation and overall looks, but a lot of people have wondered why the Japanese draw them as Americans. “As it turns out, that is an American opinion, not a Japanese one. The Japanese see anime characters as being Japanese. It is Americans who think they are white.” The article continues with a vast description of why this isn’t true, allowing readers to readjust their perspective on characters.

This is what I learned from anime: Perspective of diversity matters as much as the creator adding diversity. 

Basically, it’s not entirely up to the writer; the reader has to notice the diversity for it to be present. When I talk about this, The Hunger Games comes into mind (and there’s a lot of articles about this.) For instance, many readers were surprised to find out Rue’s race, despite the descriptions in the novel. This is when it comes down to the reader. We have to stop reading as if every character is cut out of the same cloth. We have to read and accept the diversity as much as the writer who wrote it down. It takes two.

Now what do you writers and readers think? Have you written a character outside of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.? 

I have, although I can’t share all of my examples because they aren’t published yet, but I can admit that it’s easier for me to write as a male than a female (which I am planning on talking about in the future!)

Thanks for keeping the discussion going!

~SAT

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