Thursday, February 4, 2010

Teen Angst - It's Not Just for Girls

I started writing a new novel about two months ago. Because I'm a total pantser, I started writing the very first second I heard a new character's voice in my head and I spent about a month and a half writing non-stop with no idea where I was going. I now have about 45,00o words. The scenes I've written surround a group of friends, and so far I've written chapters from six of these characters points of view.

I'm now at the point where I need to start writing my real story. Which means I need to figure out what my story is actually about. Who is the narator? What is the plot? What is the point? These are the questions I've been asking myself for the last couple of days. Don't worry, I'm not going to keep all six point of view characters. That's just way to crowded and messy.

I thought I might tell the story from Haley's point of view. She's a major character, I like her a lot, and many of the scenes I've already written have been from her point of view. Also, given what I've already written, Haley's clearly the primary female character. The problem is that while Haley does grow and change over the course of the story, nothing that happens to her is all that profound. Her life seems blessed. I really like Haley, but I feel like an entire book about her might be kind of boring.

Then there is Kyle. I love Kyle. He's a total mess, which makes me love him even more. A novel told from Kyle's point of view could be really fun to write. And I think it would have a better chance of engaging/captivating readers than a story written from Haley's point of view. The only problem is that Kyle is a boy. And this story is YA. And everybody knows that only girls read YA, right?

I was discussing the idea of writing my story from Kyle's POV with a writer friend. When I said that this could be a "boy book" I was actually laughed at. But I've read some really amazing books with male narators. Many of my favorite books of all time have had male narators. And I've heard multiple people within the publishing industry say that there is a shortage of boy books. So I did a little unscientific research.

First I looked at amazon. Based on their sales rankings 53 of the top 100 YA novels have a male main character. 53%, more than half, how can that be possible? Is this because there are fewer books with male protagonists available, so they end up selling better than their female counterparts? Or does this mean that the myth that only girls read is truly a myth?

I decided to look further. Next I examined my own reading habits. I am a little OCD and actually keep a detailed list of all the books that I read. Of the last 200 novels that I read, 86 had male protagonists. 43%, less than half, but still a lot. But I read from a variety of genres, so I limited my permiters. 102 of my last 200 reads had a protagonist under the age of 20. Out of those 102 books, 42 had a male protagonist. 42%, almost exactly the same as the stats for all genres.

But these statistics might be a little misleading. Of my 42 books with a boy MC, 7 starred a guy named Harry Potter, 5 stared a guy named Percy Jackson, and six stared a guy named Artimis Fowl. And out of the 60 girl books on my list, only 4 stared a girl named Bella Swan and 3 stared a girl named Ever. So 72% of the Paranormal/Fantacy books I've read recently have had male MC's, and 22% of the non-paranormal YA books I've read have had male MC's.

I don't think this means that boys can't appear in YA novels though. Cause "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian", "The Awesome Adventures of Fan Boy and Goth Girl", "King Dork", "Sleeping Freshman Never Lie", and "The Misfits" are all really good books. I read them all and loved them all. And I expect that there are a lot of teenage girls that have also read them and love them. And I also think there are a lot of teenage boys who like to read, and they are so desprate to find novels they can relate to, that they have forced 53% of the books on amazons YA best seller list to star boys just like them.

So that is that. I'm convinced. I'm writng a book about a geeky boy named Kyle, who I totally love, and nobody can stop me.

Joke of the Day
A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter.
The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

1 comment:

Noelle Nolan said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only one who starts writing chapter after chapter and not knowing where I'm going with it. I only hope that I will find the direction sooner than later.

Love you blog. I'll check back often. :)