Writing female characters has become a pretty hot topic in the writing community. It's sometimes brushed off with "I write characters, female or male, it doesn't matter" and it seems rather taboo for anyone to even admit that they struggle with it. But the fact is, it's an issue. The overwhelming majority of books that are not typically targetted at women (ie. romance) are a male-only club.
I wanted to share my view on the topic. And the first thing that comes to mind is that it's hard. It's definitely difficult and out-of-comfort-zone. But the second thing is that it's not that hard and it can be done easily with some training.
A couple of reasons. I'd like to blame it on the fact that the writers who struggle to write female characters are predominately male (which makes sense) but honestly, that's a cop-out. As someone said on the internet (and I have no sources): "Are you a magician? No? But you write about wizards. Are you thief then? Or a cop? Or a starship captain? No? Then how do you write these characters but struggle with a female character?"
I think the biggest and easiest pointer for blame is the fact that the lack of (multi-dimensional) female characters in popular media is what makes it difficult to get them in there in the first place. Basically, the majority of books that we read have shallow female characters, throwaways, plot twists but not characters of themselves. They're just shadows. Reading is where we learn to write. And the best-sellers on the market want us to keep perpetuating what's already out there.
The fact that the majority of the big sci-fi movies, tv shows, and books have male leads with no females (other than romantic interests and passing fillers) is what concerns me. Reading a lack of diversity leads to writing a lack of diversity. Since most of the books I read have male leads who are "coming of age", it makes sense that my own "coming of age" book will have a male lead character that fits the mold. My own writing suffers.
What makes even more sense is that many of us, hobbyist or semi-professional writers, don't write for our work to become a long-standing piece of literature to be one day discussed in high school classrooms. More often than not, books are reflections of our lives, ideas, and ourselves personally. So male authors end up with male heroes.
Here's my confession: every time I write, I fall into tropes and cliches. I'm sure we all do. And it's very apparent in my characters. Not only are the female characters bland but my male suffer from the same ailment unbeknownst to me.
Because there are plenty of characters to model from. You're not writing in a vacuum and things aren't as dire as they seem. A great way to "cheat" and get yourself used to writing female characters is by basing them off the very famous ones. And there are plenty to choose from:
With minimal effort, you can find a basic structure for your character from any of these shows or books and model them for your own story. Just like we already model our male characters on other stories we've read.
It's kind of a cheat but it gets you started. And once you get started, you'll find yourself including these characters left and right because it'll only feel natural. I know that's how it felt for me.
Let's say you wanted to stray away from reusing someone else's writing. Good choice. Here are some common pitfalls to watch out for with female characters:
If you can think of any others, shoot me a message.
I've mentioned all of these pitfalls so you're thinking, "Alright, so wtf do I do?" and that's how I felt at first. It felt like, "Don't write a woman like a stereotypical woman, write her more like a male character but not too much". And I was just all Urgghhh about it.
I'm not an expert on any of this which is why I suggested pretty much copying what already works. One of the examples I provided, using Game of Thrones characters, should be a study in itself because George R. R. Martin created a plethora of female characters all having some female aspect to them but not falling into the common pitfalls.
If you haven't, I'd dive into the series and really analyze these characters. In fact, I feel like these books should be mandatory