B is for Boy Protagonists

My MG Fantasy has a boy protagonist. I normally don't write in a male's POV simply because I'm not very confident I can make it work. Wait, I should clarify: a teenage male POV. All too often I worry he'd come off too girly or overly macho because I'm trying to compensate for my own lack of testosterone.

So, the question of the day is: (actually three questions. My bad.)

If you're female, do you write in a boy's POV?
If you're male, do you write in a girl's POV?

Or at least, ATTEMPT to?

My boy protagonist is a 12-year-old orphan who's searching for his sister to save her from slavery. This is Fantasy, so it's set in a world of my own making, which is not totally out there as far as geography is concerned, but does have fantastical elements and creatures that I created from the bowels of my noggin. Now, while I don't have a problem writing this boy's POV, I sometimes wonder if I have the guts to make him older. As in, have him be a teenage boy and do...whatever it is that teenage boys do. I'm not actually planning to change him. This is more of a hypothetical question.

See, we already have Harry Potter, of course, and J.K. Rowling made it work (though Harry did start out as an 11-year-old so it was MG-ish before it became YA). The other book written in a boy's POV by a female writer that I can think of quickly is Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement. Again, it works, though as I am female myself, my perception is flawed. Do actual (read: real and alive) teenage boys read The Replacement because it has a male protagonist, and does it make them think the voice is authentically boy? See, I wouldn't know this, and as I don't know any teen boys around my neighborhood and have none of my own (my son's into Thomas the Train at the moment), I wouldn't be able to conduct a study.

(And vice versa for male authors writing in a female's POV)


Do you worry about misrepresenting your characters, too? Or have you gotten it down to a T? Do share. We'd all like to know.

Btw, here's a list of some MG and YA books with male protagonists, in case you're interested (written by both male and female authors).

  1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
  2. Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
  3. The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney
  4. The Monstrumologist series by Rick Yancey
  5. Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
  6. Percy Jackson/ The Olympians series by Rick Riordan
  7. Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld
  8. The Missing series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  9. Maze Runner series by James Dashner
  10. Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini
  11. Leven Thumps series by Obert Skye
  12. Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
  13. Ender's Saga by Orson Scott Card
  14. Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
  15. Tunnels series by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
  16. Pendragon series by D.J. McHale
  17. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  18. Anything by Gordon Korman (e.g. Schooled, The Sixth Grade Nickname Game, Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America, etc.)
  19. Holes by Louis Sachar
  20. Neal Shusterman's books (e.g. Unwind, Downsiders, Bruisers, etc.) 
I'm sure there's a lot more to add to the list. If you have favorites, please share with us. Thanks!

Oh, before I forget, I'm also guest posting on Angie Sandro's blog. If you'd like to read about how my cultural background--in this case, I talk about FOOD!--affects my writing, click here.


    Connie Keller said...

    I'm a woman writing a male's POV in first person and my MC is 17. I was a little anxious about trying it. But when I started my three boys were all teenagers, plus I know all their friends really well, so I thought I could give it a try. And according to the boys, teens, and men that have read the book, I got it right.

    Actually, I have to admit that I LOVED writing from a teen male's POV. So I'm doing it again.

    cherie said...

    That's cool, Connie!

    Krista McLaughlin said...

    The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - mostly male characters, there's very few females in the story.

    I have the same problem. My current WIP is written from a seventeen year old male's POV and I'm not sure that it is accurate, but I'm trying. When I finish, my goal is to have some guys read the book and tell me what wouldn't be accurate from a male perspective and how I can modify it. Hope that helps!

    Anonymous said...

    Funny timing! I was jsut listening to a podcast about men writing female protags. There are some good boy characters out in literature. A favorite in my family is the MC in Frindle. (What's his name??)

    Liz Fichera said...

    I do love writing (and reading) YA from a boy's POV. I'm currently reading TWISTED by Lauri Halse Anderson and, so far, she's totally nailed the POV, IMO. It's also very different from her other books like SPEAK and WINTERGIRLS.

    Kate said...

    My favorite book (lately) written from a boys POV is YOU AGAINST ME. Jenny Downham did an amazing job writing a complex, flawed, but ultimately lovable and heroic boy.

    Ashley Nixon said...

    I write from a male's perspective and I've been told that that you can't tell I'm a girl writing it. HAHAHA. If I am writing from a female's perspective I usual have them a little more tomboy-ish...and hardcore, cause I want my female characters to be strong.

    Cristina said...

    great post. I think in "The Replacement" the author did a pretty good job with male POV.

    I try to pay attention to how male authors write male characters. One thing they don't do as much is focus on the physical details of emotions. they are more action oriented. Of course you want your MC to be 3 dimensional and have depth, but you have to balance it with some testosterone :)

    J. A. Bennett said...

    I totally worry about that which is why I haven't even tried to write from a Male point of view. You are one brave lady, but I also think you're good enough to pull it off. good luck!

    And yes, I am feeling much, much, much better. Thanks for asking!

    Stephsco said...

    I think writing opposite gender POV has its challenges, but as long as you have beta readers or a critique group to help you along, you can correct any inconsistencies or unbelievable dialogue.

    Kittie Howard said...

    In my WIP Jacob's a kid. I have to think back to how my brother talked, also pay attention to what neighborhood kids say. Girls tend to go on and on, which I'm doing now, LOL. Great post!

    Cat Lavoie said...

    I have a few pages in my WIP that are from a male POV. I was definitely worried about it being believable ... and I don't think I could pull it off for an entire novel. Great post! :)

    cherie said...

    You guys are awesome! I've been thinking of writing a YA story with both a girl and a boy POV...well, as soon as I get over my fear, I guess. LOL!

    Carrie-Anne said...

    I've always been gender-atypical, more stereotypically guy-like than girly, and still prefer male friends to female. Even though most of my main characters are female, I do have more than a few main characters who are male, and I've really enjoyed writing their perspective. Right now I'm turning a long short story/novelette/piece of backstory and flashback into a full manuscript, and I'm really happy that the MC is a guy. He ages from 14 to just on the cusp of 21. This book is also third-person limited (at least till his future wife shows up), as opposed to my usual third-person omniscient, so that's also something that's a nice change of pace for me.

    Lori M. Lee said...

    When I wrote fanfiction, I wrote almost exclusively from a boy's pov. I like to think I did it well, but that's such a subjective thing lol. My first manuscript, now under revision, is also from a boy's pov.

    Julie said...

    I'm writing a male POV for my WIP and I do worry about this. I think I have it down, but it's so hard to know. Great post, and I loved the Harry "you shall not pass!" pic LOL.

    A.M.Supinger said...

    Cool post and AWESOME Dumbledore/Gandolf comic! :)

    I love reading books with male protagonists, but I've been hesitant to write from that POV. I don't wanna screw it up :P

    Cheree Smith said...

    Great post. I haven't written from a boy's perspective as of yet, but I don't mind reading books about them.

    Anonymous said...

    Nice post. I have written short stories from a male POV and they are really difficult. I found it so much harder to get inside the characters head.

    Stephanie said...

    Half of my recently finished novel is from the POV of a 15 year old boy, and it never occurred to me not to use a male POV. A person in my online critique group flat out told me that as an amateur writer, I should not be writing from an opposite gender POV. I take that as a challenge. I'm not good about being told what to do :)

    If the spirit moves you, jump in and take the risk. Just make sure to get the honest opinions of people who are the same gender as your main character. In the end, you'll at least gain writing experience, which is always a good thing.

    Linda - Nickers and Ink said...

    Interesting question about POV and writing from another gender's perspective. Challenging, but definitely worth the research!

    Popping in as an A to Z Blogging Challenge participant. Please feel free to visit and comment on any of my blogs as well, leaving a link to your own post, so my readers can find you too!

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    Mina Lobo said...

    I agree with Stephsco's point about beta readers - any dudes can give you some pointers from their personal experiences, but remember those'll be *their* personal experiences. Boys and girls (and men and women) are so different from one another as individual people, I don't think I'd worry about writing from the male POV, per se, but just from *your character's* POV. You know what I mean? Maybe some things you feel your character would say/do aren't what a particular male would say/do, but another male might. (That make any sense at all???) :-)

    One of my fave authors, Chris Moore, hung out on teenaged goth message boards (which is less creepy than it sounds) to research his Abby Normal character (a teenaged goth gal) for his comedic vampire trilogy. Maybe you could find some similar online hangouts for boys of an age with your character to get a feel for what's going on with them? However you approach it, best of luck with it!

    Some Dark Romantic

    Crack You Whip said...

    It is so interesting reading all of the A-Z posts!

    I only write about myself, which is pathetically sad, but it works.

    Absolutely great post!

    Sarah Pearson said...

    I've written one YA story and it has a male MC. I don't know if it's any good because I still haven't reread it after finishing the first draft :-)

    Daisy Carter said...

    I think writing across gender lines (or racial lines, or sexual orientation lines, etc) can be challenging, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. Sure, we might mess it up. But, like others have said, if we have beta readers and critique groups to help us along, why shouldn't we go for it? If the story in your heart is being whispered to you in a masculine voice, then write it from his POV. You can do it! And, you know, watch a lot of teen movies/tv shows to get into a guy's head. ;)

    Tara Tyler said...

    i write both, depending on the story i come up with. i like boys, maybe cause i have 3 =)

    R.A.Desilets said...

    I only used to write in a male's perspective up until a year ago when I wrote my first female oriented writing. Since getting back into the female voice, I've found it hard to fall into the male voice again.

    But I'm currently editing my novel Rioss (my MC is a gay male) and there are parts that he sounds too girly/worries too much. I am making him ultra paranoid (he's in a mental institution, so I have some leeway here). But the paranoia sometimes stops being paranoia and borders the worrying line (which I'm trying to avoid).

    Once I'm done editing two times, I'll be looking for beta readers, who will hopefully be able to tell me when my character crosses the line.

    I loved this post by the way, it was very thought-provoking for me - so thank you!

    RADesilets Writer

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