Writing that Appeals to Both Genders


* NOTE: I think I’m coming down with a flu (headache/etc, sigh), so please excuse the slightly disjointed nature of this post…


I like to write stories that appeal to both genders (men, women, boys, girls). I also like to write about characters with “alternative gender labels” [though that’s another discussion for another time :)].

Editor Morgan Bishop writes:

It’s shocking, how few articles there are on the topic of writing a book that appeals to both genders. I’m not sure whether that means people don’t know how, or don’t want their book to appeal to both genders, or think it’s unnecessary because appealing to both genders is easy, or what.

Incidentally, I was recently chatting with Matt Posner, author of the School of the Ages series.

matt posner

Matt Posner on the subject:

I think a good way to appeal to both genders is to have plot lines of every type. That’s why I mention that my book (School of the Ages) has both action and romance. This probably works for me because I use an ensemble style of characters (like a TV series) and they all have their own subplots.

With regards to romance, I think both genders enjoy and can appreciate a love story (I define a “love story” as being something more than two hot guys in a love triangle with a Mary Sue female protagonist).

I went through a brief male-bashing phase during my early to mid teens, till I one day came to the realization that’s kind of like reverse discrimination (i.e. either gender bashing the other is not really going to solve any issues or make the situation any better).

The above was my debut back in mid-2009 (EyeLeash: A Blog Novel). It’s a coming-of-age story set in the digital era, written from the point of view of a 17-year-old girl.

I suppose it appears to be a book “for girls” but for some reason it attracts male readers also (and a mixture of ages too). Maybe because it’s unapologetically “sexually charged” (after all, we do live in a culture that’s “sexually charged”).

I’ve mostly chosen not to associate EyeLeash with a “feminist” label, because that might suggest that the book makes or supports openly hateful anti-male statements (such as those listed on this blog post — horrific!). Which isn’t really what any of my projects are meant to be about.

In the end, both genders have good and bad points, and my personal approach is to appreciate what each gender has to offer. In stories, I like to focus on authenticity more so than gender stereotypes (and I like to send the characters on some kind of evolution in terms of personality or outlook on life. I can get violently agitated with stories that feature one-dimensional cardboard characters who don’t somehow either grow as people or discover anything worth knowing about themselves!).

I was reading one of Matt Posner’s interviews, where he says:

“[My] work for young people deals with death as well as many other crucial themes (love, family relationships, teaching and learning, friendship).”

I guess I follow the same kind of perspective.

It is universal themes, not genre conventions, that give a story real substance. That is something that can be valued regardless of  a person’s gender.


SHORT UPDATE on Darker Side of Life:

dark elf

* I’m currently “enhancing” (a lot more work than it sounds, lol) the love triangle plot in The Darker Side of Life (I want to keep the appeal to both genders, which is a bit tricky when the love triangle is prominent, but I’ll do my best ^^).



* Matt Posner is a creative artist at heart with some real ambition to make a difference — be sure to check out his surreal/atmospheric story, Wheelchair Fights, in the upcoming Kindle All-Stars anthology. There’s also a KAS Interview where he talks about the inspiration behind Wheelchair Fights. ***

* “Real Love Versus Romance” | jessINK (informal essay by Jess)

* “Romance Novels can be as Addictive as Pornography” | KSL (article)

* Gender Stereotypes (Sins07 Guest Post by Jess | Oct 2010)

* Male Emotions in the Media (Jess’s guest post for Femmedia | March 2012)



3 thoughts on “Writing that Appeals to Both Genders

  1. Joe

    I like to address gender issues or feminist ideas in my books by weaving the concept into the background or the bedrock of the story, instead of making it the focus of a character or plot line.

    So in a book like The Burning Sky, the plot is your standard thriller chase action story and the MC is your standard civilian-turned-heroine, but in the background, all of the important leaders and businesspeople just happen to be women. Some readers have commented that they like how subtle the subversion is.

    Good luck with your love triangle!


    • That’s one clever way to do it :P! That’s one of the best aspects of creative work (how it allows for issues and ideas to be addressed in all kinds of ways, which combats all sorts of harmful/negative stereotypes and prejudices).

      I think that’s something many readers will appreciate in The Burning Sky (that the important leaders “just happen to be female”). There’ll be little social progress if harmful stereotypes (gender/sexual/racial/religious, etc.) are constantly perpetuated, whether in life or literature.

      Thank ye — I’m keeping the love triangle emotional > sappy…


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