Monday, September 6, 2010

Boys are not just girls continued

When you’re a female writer who ignored her younger brother and never had a son and you want to write a book that will appeal to male readers, research takes on a whole new meaning. Or maybe that was an advantage. The teenage females and males had to be realistic and they had to be today’s youths. Too much knowledge might have led me to try utilizing my memory of the way things were when I was younger. Instead, I had to work hard on discovering how kids are TODAY. While I never tried to dress in boys clothing or walk into the men’s room, I spent a month waking up each morning and reminding myself that I was a boy. By that I meant spend the day seeing life as if I were a seventeen year old boy. (And an alpha male at that) It was hard at first, but after a few weeks I really slipped into the role. I even began viewing teenage girls through new eyes. (I promise I’m back to normal now.) I hung around teen boys and mixed groups, flagrantly eavesdropped and especially noted the differences between the way they acted with girls present and without.

Here are some points I used to keep both sets of readers interested:

1. Accept gender differences when building the major characters. As much as we adults may wish our kids were gender neutral, they aren’t. Girl protagonists can be tomboys, boy protagonists cannot be wimps. While it will always be true that girl readers love the hot hunk, they will also take a guy with a “softer side.” Male readers will be turned off.

2. Did everything I could to keep up the pacing and insert micro-tension to keep readers wondering now only how major plot points would be resolved by the end of the story, but, more importantly, the immediate issue of what would happen on the next page.

3. Give the guy strong male friendships. In PULL, I handed the hero two male friends, and they bonded the old-fashioned way, through physical competition. Girls may become BFF’s by talking and common interests, boys usually bond via activity.

4. In addition to being an alpha, my hero is also a tortured soul. He’s a guy who needs the love and support of a good woman—meaning the female reader can mentally insert herself into that role, and the male reader can understand his feelings about the girls in his life.

5. The villain is almost as hot as the hero. As my villain and villain battle for supremacy in school, sports and the heart of the heroine, there is also a not-so-subtle battle in the female reader’s mind over which is the hottest hunk, just to be sure both genders remain interested.

6. Finally, just for the female readers, I handed the hero younger sisters. This gave the added benefit of possibly appealing to MG readers. The fourteen-year-old sister is tough, not butch, but definitely someone capable of being pals with a guy as well as a girl female readers can like and worry about.

Did I succeed in creating a book that both young women and men will enjoy reading? Readers will tell me soon enough when it goes on sale at the end of October. But word from my trial readers were good, at least no one called David a wuss. And I guarantee I received some benefits just from the effort. I’ve learned to love today’s music and found some new teen and tween friends.

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