Aug 27 2011

Ladies, What Would Hint a Female Character Is Written By a Male?

Published by at 3:30 am under Character Development

What are some giveaways that would suggest to you that a female character is written by a male author?  I’m writing an article on female characters for male authors and would really appreciate your help here.

10 responses so far

10 Responses to “Ladies, What Would Hint a Female Character Is Written By a Male?”

  1. Danion 27 Aug 2011 at 1:07 pm

    If slave Princess Leia in ROTJ wears more clothes than her. If she cannot make a decision such as what route to take without consulting a male lead. If she is only a mindless bulking woman who kills for the sake of killing ala Electra. If she would go save the world but she just put a roast in the oven and the kids are still awake but her superhero husband can go without that thought crossing his mind once. (LOL Actually, that last one sounds like a good plot.)

  2. Snowon 27 Aug 2011 at 4:42 pm

    Well, Maximum Ride bothered me because she claimed to be the “mom” of the group, but she really didn’t do most of the “mom” things that needed to be done. Like, she couldn’t cook. I don’t recall her patching anyone up. She didn’t discipline any of the kids, she didn’t really have rules. She hardly made sure that they all stuck together.

    So, I guess what I’m trying to say is that Patterson tried to say that she fit into a certain role without really knowing what the role would entail to a female mind, or at least the mind of a female that has taken on such a role.

    That’s sort of incoherent, isn’t it?

    (PS, B. Mac: I had to go to two different libraries to find Twilight. I should be able to post soon. Sorry for the wait.)

  3. Mynaon 27 Aug 2011 at 6:36 pm

    Women who are said to be independent, all-for-herself types that then end up becoming dependent on guys. Women who need guys to make decisions, or cling onto the shoulder of the male lead while the action’s going on. Women who are supposed to be the heroes (assuming they’re the MC) who turn out being sidekicks.

  4. Jonie Legaspion 27 Aug 2011 at 7:35 pm

    If there is only one woman in a setting that would allow more. Double points off if there IS another woman but they never talk to each other. Triple points off if there is another woman and they talk, but about their looks/men/female biological functions.

    If she mentions/complains about her period more than once. Double points off if PMS is mentioned more than once, for more than one character. Points restored if a man mentions PMS and they call him out on it.

    If she is tomboyish, but turns out to have learned stuff from her eight older brothers. Double points off if her mother is dead.

    If she looks exactly like their mother. Double points off if her mother is dead. Triple points off if she is constantly told that she is a living reminder of her mother.

    If, when she fights with another woman, they scratch/slap/call names/tear off each others’ clothing. Points given back if they start doing that, but start kicking/punching/shanking later.

    If, when she fights with another woman, she wins, but against a man she loses. Points restored if she was faking injury to catch him off guard.

  5. Contra Gloveon 27 Aug 2011 at 8:06 pm

    @ Jonie Legaspi

    If she is tomboyish, but turns out to have learned stuff from her eight older brothers.

    I don’t see this as all that problematic. It makes sense that a girl who shows interest in “boy things” would learn from boys.

    If, when she fights with another woman, she wins, but against a man she loses.

    Again, I don’t see the problem with a female character beating a woman but losing to a man. She can’t win against men all the time, while only ever losing to women; the story would become real banal, real fast. This comment reminds me of scenes I’ve seen in various TV shows and at least one novel: Some disreputable man teases a woman for wanting to do guy stuff; usually some kind of physical contest. The woman gets offended. The guy challenges her. The woman beats him.

    This scene is a cliché on its own.

    Don’t take this as a personal attack. I’m just pointing out that two of your items aren’t as bad as you make them out to be.

  6. Brian McKenzie (B. Mac)on 28 Aug 2011 at 4:40 am

    I agree that it would be a problem if a female character could not do anything on her own, especially if she were (supposedly) a main character. However, I also agree with CG that it’s a bit cliche for a disreputable guy to try challenging a woman and then he ends up getting thwomped.

    Any time a guy challenges a woman to anything, my first instinct would be that the writers are setting him up to lose because it isn’t usually very likable for a man to challenge or confront a woman and, generally, viewers would be disappointed if too many unlikable things happened.

    One way to invert this that I have not seen often would be to have a female character challenge a stereotypically masculine guy in something that isn’t stereotypically masculine–maybe she assumes that he’s useless outside of a fight, but he was actually selected for SWAT training because he had an amazing ability to resolve critical incidents without shooting the place up. Or maybe she assumes he’s dumb because he’s a soldier, but he graduated from Harvard… or dropped out because he was getting bored.



    “This comment reminds me of scenes I’ve seen in various TV shows…” For some reason, I feel like the guys on television are far more likely to be unlovable, idiot losers than the women are, particularly on sit-coms. (EG: Homer vs. Marge Simpson and Bart vs. Lisa, Ray vs. his wife on Everybody Loves Raymond, George and maybe Seinfeld vs. Elaine, the Dallas Cowboys vs. their cheerleaders, etc). Both Bones (a female scientist) and Booth (a male FBI agent) have flaws and endearing traits. Bones is smarter, but Booth is still better at some non-violent things (like social situations).

    One theory I’ve heard regarding the portrayal of men on scripted TV is that a lot more women watch most scripted shows, so it wouldn’t go over well with the target audience to show women in as negative a light. However, that may be too simplistic. I think the audiences for reality television are mostly women and my very limited impression is that they work harder to cast nutcase women than nutcase guys.

  7. Brian McKenzie (B. Mac)on 28 Aug 2011 at 5:22 am

    “Triple points off if there is another woman and they talk, but about their looks/men/female biological functions.” This reminds me of the Bechdel Test. To pass it, a work has to have at least 2 female characters that have at least 1 conversation about something besides men. Very, very few superhero movies pass. (X-Men: First Class is the main one that comes to mind, but even then, only barely).



    (Personally, I would add a separate pass condition for the Bechdel Test: if two women engage in combat over something besides a man. I think conflict can be an effective way to develop a character’s goals, motivations and personality even if words are not exchanged).

  8. Chihuahua0on 28 Aug 2011 at 5:36 am

    “I feel like the guys on television are far more likely to be unlovable, idiot losers than the women are, particularly on sit-coms.” For some reason, I like the inverse (having the male being more down-to-earth than the girl) more appealing, since the boy-girl trio with the latter being more down-to-earth is getting a bit cliche. For example the Kyon (savvy, snarky, cynic) and Haruhi (energetic, brash, optimist) dynamic in Haruhi Suzumiya. I’m also having it with two of my characters in my current project (the protagonist and the otaku, as mentioned in the other comment), although it’ll be put in center stage if I write a sequel.

  9. Brian McKenzie (B. Mac)on 28 Aug 2011 at 5:38 am

    Myna said, “Women who are supposed to be the heroes (assuming they’re the MC) who turn out being sidekicks.” Oh God, yes. I think this is the very definition of a useless main character. In 90%+ of cases where a main character doesn’t have enough of an impact on the story, I’d really wonder whether it’d be better to get rid of the character or give him/her more to do.*

    *In the remaining few cases, I think a useless main character might be acceptable if he/she contributes something to the story besides affecting plot events. For example, in The Great Gatsby and Heart of Darkness, the point-of-view characters do a lot more witnessing than actually influencing or shaping plot events, but it mostly works because their perspectives are interesting.



    Chihuahua said, “I like the inverse (having the male being more down-to-earth than the girl) more appealing, since the boy-girl trio with the latter being more down-to-earth is getting a bit cliche.” I agree, but personally I’d be okay with a female character that was more down-to-earth as long as all of the characters have flaws and endearing traits.

    Alternately, in some situations I enjoy casts of “protagonists” that are all unlovable losers (like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, 30 Rock or the Cleveland Browns), but I’d like to see that applied regardless of gender.

  10. HatiChantheWolfHogon 05 Sep 2011 at 12:12 am

    If the characters outfit is more stylistic or sexual than practical and this is not consistent with the characters characterization and or combat style for example.

    Then we compare it with a male character in the story if the male character is consistent and well characterized while the female is not the gender of the writer is obvious.

    If both are equally inconsistent then the person regardless of gender is a crappy writer.

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