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My novel so far only contains female main characters. There are some male characters, but they are few and far between, and only play minor roles.

Obviously it's hard to predict if any book is going to be successful. I just feel like if I include more male characters in it, it might be more accessible to young male readers (my book is probably going to end up as a YA novel)

However, anytime I try and come up with more male characters, it just feels forced and unnatural.

I feel like most responses might be along the lines of "if you're forcing it, then don't do it!" which is fair, but I noticed that there was a lack of diversity with my characters so I forced myself to make a character gay that I had originally envisioned as straight, and I'm okay with doing that.

So maybe I should just suck it up and throw in a few more boys?

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I'm not sure that gender diversity directly makes you more marketable to a certain gender.

You are already aware of certain points, so I'm gonna skip the very valuable advice "if it feels forced, don't do it" and the equally valuable "don't maim your plot for the sake of making it more marketable".

You mentioned that your book will probably be published under the YA umbrella term. Sure enough, it's probably good for a young reader to have a character he can identify with of the same gender.

Yet, genre and theme are more important than gender diversity when it comes down to marketing a book. There are plenty of male characters in the Twilight saga, for instance, yet it is clearly marketed at girls.

A lot of japanese medias have an overabundance of female characters, while being marketed at a male audience (yet, I feel like I am cheating here; at the moment I can't recall a female-dominated book marketed at boys, putting mangas aside).

There is an underlying assumption in the market that boys will be interested in your classic action and adventure stories, while girls will read anything that has romance in it. I personally think it's stereotypical crap, yet the assumption is still valid in the publishing market.

If you want to make your book more accessible to boys, it's probably better to discuss it with your editor and with whoever will be in charge of marketing it. Your publishing house will probably come up with a strategy to advertise your book, and they could even ask you to change details in the story accordingly.

So, all things considered, it's better to finish the story you want to tell now and worry about that later.

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Rather than gender diversity, I'd worry whether my characters are interesting enough to my readers. Suspension of disbelief, where well supported, would make anyone enjoy just anything.

Do your characters show conflicts and struggles that feel honest and believable?

Does your female cast interact in ways that anyone would feel natural, reasonable and interesting?

If yes, then you're on the good track and there is no need to season your plot with stock gender characters.

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The conventional wisdom says you need males. The conventional wisdom can go jump in a lake.

The conventional wisdom that I've heard says that girls will read anything, but boys only read stories with boys in them.

As a YA boy (about 10 years ago), I don't think that the gender of the protagonists was ever a major factor in choosing the books I read. There were undoubtedly some books that were marketed towards girls that I avoided because of it, but just having a female cast alone wasn't something I (consciously) noticed.

Now, I was a bit of an extreme bookworm, and probably not a representative audience. But even if the conventional wisdom is true, I don't think it's one that we should be encouraging. The conventional wisdom was that YA books couldn't be much more than 200 pages until JK Rowling sold a couple million copies of Order of the Phoenix, and now that rule is cheerfully ignored.

You'll probably get pushback from publishers on the matter, but if you can honestly say that you've experimented on the matter and that it would actively make your book worse, then I think that it's a fight you will win.

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Maybe. Or it could make it even worse.

As writers we need to focus on the point and goal of the writing. - Why are we writing a piece, what is that piece's purpose, and how do the elements of that writing come together to achieve those goals?

Be wary of falling into a trap of "Write by Checkbox", as it has become one of the fastest ways for a piece of media to feel flat and lifeless. A character added just for the sake of having said character with a given trait or attribute is likely to drag a piece down more than improve it. It can feel exceedingly fake and forced because the Write by Checkbox method has the bad habit of accidentally 'demanding' that the checkbox be overplayed to ensure it stands out so that no one misses that you've checked the box...

Does a character or element exist in your story for the purpose of ticking a checkbox off a list of mainstream media inclusive brownie points? Then think long and hard about how you're writing and interacting with that character, and whether or not your should actually tick that box.

  • Shallow and lifeless characters don't actually improve media inclusiveness if we as writers insist on making a mockery out of including them. Do not do the disservice to your characters by painting them as something for no other reason than to have painted them as such.

In life there are groups of people where no one will have some given trait - Not all stories need to include people representative of every single human on earth. There are billions of us, and there is no human lifespan long enough to read a story with a character set diverse enough to have not 'excluded' at least someone.

Write what you know, write what you dream, and write what holds truth to yourself as a writer.

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You already mentioned it, but I will say it anyway - don’t since it would be forced. Listen to your instincts and be true to the tale you are telling and the characters you create.

I would rather read a book with interesting characters that are nothing like me but engage my empathy and curiosity than a story with a long list of different characters that were added so that different audiences could be pandered to.

Does your story need more characters? Do you really want to be writing a book that contains characters just to represent a segment of the population but otherwise clutter your novel?

Please avoid adding characters to please imagined readers and make your story good enough to be universally interesting. Ask yourself - why did you make that character gay? If the answer is just because they were all straight, the token character might be more offensive than being silent on orientation and allowing readers to bring what they will and add what they wish to the characters.

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Strictly in the terms that you asked the question: No. Adding a token male character is unlikely to make your book more successful.

It's true that people do like to see themselves reflected in the work the read. But most people can get past that. Although there may be people who are likely to have no interest in a book with no male characters, there are also people who are likely to have greater interest in a book with no male characters. Writing is often a niche art anyway, it makes sense to target yourself towards the audience you most resonate with. Better to have a more passionate group of fans drawn from a smaller potential audience than a larger group of people who are completely "meh" about your work.

In general, I think work with more diversity is more intrinsically interesting, but there are plenty of exceptions to this rule. In particular, it's not common to see writing in an all-female context, so that could be interesting --to both male and female readers --if you make it interesting.

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