Friday, February 17, 2017

Two Cent Musings: Male Protagonists

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I’ve made a stink on social media about the lack of male protagonists in historic fiction and it’s fair to say that my comments ruffled a few feathers. A number of authors jumped to defend themselves and while I feel a little sorry for issuing an unintended insult, I have to admit the rebuttals I’ve heard do not come close to emulating the kind of fiction I want to see in the mainstream market.

  • Not to put too fine a point on it, I want Ernest Hemingway staring down the barrel of a shotgun, weighing his options and considering his legacy.

  • I want Winston Churchill in ankle deep mud, seeking atonement for his involvement in the planning and devastation of Gallipoli.

  • I want Michael Collins serving as aide in the Easter Rising, hearing his mentors have fallen, and committing himself to continuing the war they started. 

  • I want Gad Beck, marching into a deportation camp for his lover knowing that if he were caught, he’d be incarcerated for both his faith and sexual orientation. 

  • I want Henry Flipper facing down intolerance as he fought to graduate from United States Military Academy at West Point.

  • I want Clark Gable working his way through a string of lovers only to be blindsided by woman he never expected.

We’ve enough militaristic alpha males and aloof bachelors of good fortune to last a lifetime folks. I want men with depth and complexity, men who struggle, men who are the solo stars of their own stories, men with personality, men with purpose, and men who are in some way, shape, or form emotionally vulnerable.

So what are you waiting for?

Get writing.

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Melisende d'Outremer said...

Hi Erin - is there any author you feel comes close to meeting your requirements. I mentioned once that the male protagonist of one noted author came off as a bit of a sissy cry-baby (and copped an earful as a result - hence I now avoid said authors books like the plague).

Currently looking at my own bookshelves as I type and realise that a lot of male protagonists occupy the "non-fiction" shelves (SKP, Edith Pargeter, Jack Ludlow, Stewart Binns aside).

Others' thoughts ....

Martha Ann Kennedy said...

Read my books. All of them have very male protagonists. Martin of Gfenn, Savior, The Brothers Path (that has SIX male protagonists and it works!!! To learn about them go to

My novels are NOT romance novels. They are not time-travel/time-slip novels. They are traditional historical fiction. All three have won the IndeBRAG Medallion. Martin of Gfenn was named Editors Choice by the HIstorical Novel Society Indie Review.

I'd love to have you read them and let me know what you think. They are available on Amazon, for Kindle, on iTunes. The Brothers Path is also available from Masthof Books in Morgantown PA.

Erin Davies said...

I know several authors who can write convincing males, but few have written them in a starring role so it's hard to recommend. I will note there are several males leads in A SONG OF WAR that stood out to me. It's war fiction, but many of the authors tapped into emotional and humanistic issues in their shorts.