Friday, April 08, 2011

It's Raining Men

Male characters occupy a slightly unusual place in my fiction. The majority of my characters are female, and typically, I find that the women in my cast have larger, more distinct roles. This used to be a ridiculous ratio: in fact, I had a collaborator who said to me, "I know why the villainness wants my character: he's the only male left!" I've since achieved more balance, but I have a bias and I'm aware of it. (In fact, when writing Scylla and Charybdis, I realized I had chapters in the supposedly male-dominated region that were shy on men, so I gave one of the characters a sex change. My editing notes thus include the observation, "Make sure Justin is male. No, really.")

I also find that my male characters tend to fade into the background or simply fail as interesting figures more frequently ... but when they work, they form a high percentage of my best creations.

From "The Sintellyn Medallion," main character Tieruko is a figurehead king who realizes his past as an evil overlord's unwilling apprentice isn't entirely over. From "Journal of the Dead," foreign ambassador Razentis Ara-Anaxiar treats the deadly politics of the novel like a game, but still manages to be an engaging and likeable ally (I hope). From "Scylla and Charybdis," the Tweaker named Flick comes on like comic relief, but soon proves himself to be fiercely loyal with an immense heart. And in my novella / novelette "Shadow Play," narrator Irun is an expatriate legal representative who has lost his faith in the world ... almost.

Not sure what accounts for the dichotomy. Maybe it's the freshness of it: when a male character works, really works for me, it's uncommon enough that inspires me. Does that mean some day, I'll lose this aspect? I hope not.


Leslianne Wilder said...

On the bright side, you pass the Bechdel test :)

I will say in a male dominated society, often, if you're in the head of a female character you'll get lumped in and closeted off with a lot of other women pretty naturally, so that might be a little bit of what was going on.

It sounds like your really important male characters work well- are you having central ones that fail, or is it just peripheral ones who you may not have as much time to develop past initial spear-carrier stereotypes?

Lindsey Duncan said...

It's just if there was an opposite gender form of the Bechdel test, I'm not too sure I would pass THAT. ;-)

No, it's generally peripheral characters that give me issues, and not all of them. Part of it may be that certain personality types don't interest me, and when I go for roundness, I get in trouble.