Boys vs Girls – who to write for?

Boys or girls?

I’ve been doing quite a bit of reading lately on differences between books for girls and books for boys and what appeals to different children. From what I’ve read so far, my kids are definitely strange.

In general, boys like books that have more action and adventure in them. My kids, both boys, enjoy books that are calmer and don’t necessarily have action and adventure. They do, however, like fantasy and detective type books, oh and anything that is gross.

Thinking about this research, I’ve started to wonder if I need to change the main character in some of my stories from a boy to a girl, and then have girls in mind while writing the stories.

It’s been fun playing with a couple of scenes to see how they would translate if the main character was a girl. The main reason I’m doing this is simple – whenever I tried to add in some action, the story sounds forced and doesn’t flow as well. There are also some extra elements that can be added that boys don’t necessarily notice, that when I tried to comment on them with a male character they didn’t work so well so I deleted those lines.

I’m still not completely sure whether or not the main character will change to a girl, but it’s been fun playing around with it. I’m hoping that my boys will still enjoy the stories, after all, they are my best critique partners.

Would it be strange dedicating a book about a girl to two boys?

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  1. It’s a tricky question isn’t it? One can only ever really speak in generalisations as your sons’ reading preferences attest.

  2. I think you have to write the character that is in your heart, and the story that’s in your heart. There are all sorts of boy readers and girl readers. Plenty of boys like “quieter” books and lots of girls love adventure stories. Anything you force or superimpose on the story won’t be as effective; it’s like deciding to put a football scene in your book because football stories are really big this year. If you write YOUR book, the rest will fall into place.

  3. That is a great idea, switching the gender of the characters. Even if it’s just to test it out or see if anything changes or maybe even just finding a new way to see a character. My goal for the summer is to read some “girl” books with my son. I tend to think he won’t find them interesting — at least the really “princessy” ones. But, you know, he’s never read a princess book so I don’t know why I decided that for him 🙂

  4. Hi Melissa
    An excellent questions. When I first started researching writing for middle grade what I found was that agents and publishers were often asking for Male protagonists.
    I took this on board, however, I felt the character in my first book had to be a girl so I chose to ignore the advice. I was concerned that boys would therefore not consider reading my book, however, what I have found is that boys and girls have both enjoyed it. I suspect it is because it is sci fi and I am quite the nerd in it.
    My next project before I publish the last book in my trilogy is actually a little boy detective in sort of tween crime scene investigation style. I started writing it with a female protagonist named Frankie, then I remembered what I had researched initially and I decided to switch to a male.
    We will see how that one is received.
    Thanks so much for joining us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop and great to see another Aussie on board.
    Cheers Julie Grasso

  5. Oh, I’ve just been thinking about this question myself and I almost wrote up one of my Kid Lit Questions of the Day about this very issue. I agree with what others above have said. Write who you see. In my most humble opinion, gender does matter and it is rare for a book to appeal across both genders equally I would think. Great question!

    Thanks for linking in the Kid Lit Blog Hop! 🙂

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