SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board

Gender switch in follow-on

Discussion started on

New Poster
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
Hello everyone! Really hoping you can help me with the following conundrum...

Basically, I saw an article on Twitter just now detailing the new Children's Laureate's concerns about boys not wanting to read books with girl main characters. I've written a book with a boy main character, and nabbed an Agent for it, and am currently working on a follow-on (not a sequel exactly because it's set in the same world but with new characters). It makes sense to me for the main character in this book to be a girl - for various plot reasons - but now I'm worried that if book one is read and enjoyed by a lot of boys, they'll want to read book two as well but be put off by the main character's gender.

What do you think? Do I risk losing half my audience?
#1 - June 07, 2017, 07:36 AM

Reader, reader, reader...
Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region rmc
That's a good question. Is this middle grade? I'd say you have a better chance for that age group of getting boys to read about girl main characters, but it's always a risk. When my son (who loves to read) was in grade school, he read books with both male and female MCs -- and he still does. But I've noticed many of his friends (who also love to read) have narrowed down their reading to only include male MCs now that they're older. That began in middle school and has only gotten worse in high school. There are a few who will read any book they love, regardless of MC gender, but many teen boys don't want to give the impression they're reading anything that isn't 'manly.'

That said, many younger readers read 'up' -- so I think if the first book captures enough of their attention, even if it's YA, the boys may continue the series anyway...?
#2 - June 07, 2017, 08:54 AM
Robin
Teen Books A Guide for Families (Vol. 1&2): https://www.amazon.com/s?field-keywords=robin+prehn
My Blog: http://robinellen.livejournal.com

Member
Poster Plus
Two summers ago, my son read Stanford Wong Flunks Big Time and loved it. When I showed him that it was actually a sequel to Millicent Min, Girl Genius, he had zero interest in reading it. Same characters, including Stanford Wong, but my boy would have none of it. It was summer, so it's not as though he would have been seen in school toting a book with a girl on the cover (if that was an issue....).  His only explanation was he didn't want to read a book about a girl.

It's possible some of your Book 1 audience will shy away from Book 2 (like my stubborn boy did with Lisa Yee's), BUT it's also possible that girls who may not have been drawn to Book 1 will eagerly read Book 2.......and then want to read other works by you, including Book 1!!!!

Please don't worry, Mary. Have you shared your concerns with your agent?

Best, best wishes!!!!!

 :hug

Edited to add: Oops! Cross-posted with Andracill.  I agree with her.
#3 - June 07, 2017, 09:22 AM
« Last Edit: June 07, 2017, 09:25 AM by carrots »

New Poster
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
Sorry, forgot to say - yes it is middle grade. Thank you both for your replies.

It would be possible for me to change the main character of book two to a boy as I haven't started writing it yet, but it really does work better as a girl as that is the way I've envisioned it from the start. The plot is all practically planned out now to fit around a female MC. Such a shame that a lot of boys don't feel they can read books with girl MCs.
I hadn't thought of it before but young readers do tend to read 'up' don't they. I certainly did. That could either be a plus or a minus I think...
 
I haven't shared my concerns with my Agent yet as she is on holiday. I sent her an outline of this particular book a while back and she didn't comment on the change of MC gender, but I suppose she may have more to say when we start to focus on the follow-on.

Thanks again!
#4 - June 07, 2017, 01:35 PM

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • **
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region carolinas
It's possible some of your Book 1 audience will shy away from Book 2 (like my stubborn boy did with Lisa Yee's), BUT it's also possible that girls who may not have been drawn to Book 1 will eagerly read Book 2.......and then want to read other works by you, including Book 1!!!!


Good point.

Yeah, my experience has been the same as Carrots in that my son prefers boy MC and my daughter, girl MC, though she'll also put up with boys. I think if boys like your first book and trust you to deliver a good story, they might stick around for the second book too, even with a girl protag.

Both my kids loved Millicent Min and Stanword Wong, neither liked Emily. So sex of the MC had nothing to do with it, rather it was all about the story.

I hope your agent is able to guide you through this and all the best wishes for writing your sequel. And do put the title in your signature.
Vijaya

#5 - June 07, 2017, 04:33 PM
TEN EASTER EGGS (Cartwheel/Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 40 books and 60 magazine pieces

Global Moderator
Poster Plus
  • ***
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Moderator
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region longislandny
Here's another take. If a girl main character works better, the book will be a better book with her. A better book is more likely to hold the audience from book one than a book that doesn't quite work as well. Do what the story needs.
#6 - June 11, 2017, 09:28 PM

New Poster
  • *
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI Region britishisles
Thank you Vijaya and Debbie for your advice.

My Agent is finally back from her holidays and I have mentioned my concerns to her. She agrees that changing to a female lead character is not such a good idea, particularly because the first book is likely to attract a large male readership. She has decided though that I should send her a synopsis detailing my current plans for the follow-on before we make any concrete decisions.

#7 - June 12, 2017, 04:40 AM

Administrator
Poster Plus
  • ****
  • SCBWI Member
  • SCBWI PAL
  • SCBWI Region wisconsin
New!
One place I've seen the switch done successfully was in Susan Beth Pfeffer's The Last Survivors series (also known by the title of the first book in the series, Life As We Knew It.).  However, the  MC in the first book was female, and male in the second, so that might actually reinforce the Poet Laureate's point. (Similar discussions happened around the time Hunger Games took off -- but the MC remained the same in all the books.)
#8 - June 12, 2017, 06:24 AM
« Last Edit: June 12, 2017, 06:27 AM by AnneB »

Members:

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.