Aug 27 2011

Red Flags for Female Characters Written By Men

Published by at 4:00 am under Character Development,Writing Articles

1. If something would be boring and/or undramatic for a male character, it would probably be boring and/or undramatic for a female character.  If you’re writing a female character (particularly in a major role), I’d recommend thinking about whether you’d want to read about a male character in that situation or with that trait.  If not, then you’re probably boring your readers.

 

2. The character is useless.  Have you made a main character more or less helpless for most of the story? Does she watch as the story happens around her?  Does she get repeatedly saved by other characters when the going gets rough? Please think back to #1.  You’d probably be bored reading about a more or less helpless guy, right?  Your readers will be just as bored by a helpless female.

 

3. The character’s only defining trait is being hyper-smart or (more rarely) a total ditz.  That’s fine for one character among several, but if she’s your only significant female character, it’ll raise questions about your ability to handle female characters at a more relatable level of intelligence.  If you’re having trouble with more relatable female characters, I’d recommend checking out some Meg Cabot books, Mean Girls and/or Pride and Prejudice.

 

3.1. The character is totally pure.  A character that always does the right thing and has no motivations besides being friendly/agreeable/nice is probably pretty boring.  100% pure characters strain the suspension of disbelief, are less relatable and usually less dramatic.  For whatever reason, these types of boring characters are almost always women.

 

4. The author has not read any female main characters written by female authors. Yes, editors can tell. If you don’t have the firsthand experience of actually being a female, being well-read is probably the closest you’ll get to seeing the subtle distinctions between most women and most men in terms of perspective, dialogue and actions.  Conversely, when I’m reading manuscripts, the easiest way for me to pick out male characters written by female authors is when 1) the character is hyper-introspective and collected (even in a crisis) and the author doesn’t realize that’s unusual, and/or 2) a male character notices far too many irrelevant details, such as eye color and hair color or clothing brands, which (presumably unintentionally) makes it sound like the character’s writing a fashion review or ogling somebody.

 

5.  The character is a love interest that doesn’t have a role outside of romance.  She’ll probably be a more interesting love interest if she has something else going on.  For example, Lois Lane is (occasionally) a competent reporter whose investigations sometimes tie into Superman’s work. Pepper Potts figured out who kidnapped Tony Stark by breaking into Stane’s office.  Ramona Flowers from Scott Pilgrim had a penchant for awesomeness and a mallet.  Also, she was a ninja courier for Amazon.
5.1. The character is defined by her physical attractiveness and/or sex appeal. If you consider physical attractiveness one of the three most interesting things about a major character, I would recommend rethinking the character’s development because most likely the character is a love interest that is interesting only to the author. (Think back to #1–you wouldn’t want to read about a guy whose main trait was his handsomeness, would you?) Also, please bear in mind that most of the professionals evaluating your submission will probably be ladies, so you won’t even have the titillation angle working in your favor.

 

6. The character has no substantial goals besides going along with other characters and/or getting in bed with somebody.  If you’re going to bother writing in a character, I’d recommend giving him/her some sort of independent effect on the plot.  If not, why bother having the character?  Fortunately, you don’t need to give a character much space to give her/him a role to play.  For example, Neville Longbottom had around a page of dialogue (~350 words) in the first Harry Potter book and he still managed to raise the stakes for the protagonists by growing a spine at absolutely the worst moment.  (Dumbledore’s recognition of his badassery was probably the highlight of the first book for me).

 

7. The character is mute. In general, I think the mindset behind this decision is “I’m having a lot of trouble writing dialogue for females, so I’ll just make her mute.” In this case, muting a major female character will only draw attention to how bad you think your female dialogue is. I’d strongly recommend practicing your female dialogue instead–the practice will help, and at least you’ll get out of instant-rejection territory.

 

Dishonorable Mention: The character’s main purpose is to get raped and/or tortured. 

119 responses so far

119 Responses to “Red Flags for Female Characters Written By Men”

  1. NicKennyon 27 Aug 2011 at 5:32 am

    4′s a bit of a burn on JK Rowling. Feeling bad now for Hermione and Luna.

  2. Chihuahua0on 27 Aug 2011 at 8:24 am

    4′s is really hard to avoid, balancing between the ditzy female and the down-to-earth female, which are two different sides of the coins. I’m having trouble with what to do with my protagonist’s girlfriend, whose only purpose is to act as a nicer foil–which is already covered by the co-protagonist. I’m thinking of putting her in book 2.

    In contrast, I’m doing okay with my otaku character. She’s smart but obsessed with her manga, and she’s one of the character’s that have a clue about what’s going on with the protagonist.

    Do you have an article about subverting gender roles yet, for both genders?

  3. Contra Gloveon 27 Aug 2011 at 9:35 am

    4 is not hard to avoid at all. I have a female main character, and I manage to make her quite down-to-earth without going off into super-intelligent or super-dumb.

  4. Danion 27 Aug 2011 at 12:51 pm

    If I can offer one other piece of advice: a woman lead does not mean a guy in drag. For example, Electra (not movie) is portrayed as a hard core, kill everything woman. Yeah…that is not the normal case. Women, on the whole, tend to be much more indirect because we know a normal guy could win a direct fight. So keep her slightly girly just maybe less unicorns and rainbows.

  5. Brian McKenzie (B. Mac)on 27 Aug 2011 at 2:37 pm

    “4 is really hard to avoid, balancing between the ditzy female and the down-to-earth female…” Hmm, I’m not quite seeing why it would be extremely hard to do some (probably most) of your characters (female or male, but I think this is an issue more often with females) at a fairly average level of intelligence. Could you explain a little bit more?



    For example, on the X-Men and Avengers, some of the men are brilliant (Beast, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner and maybe Xavier) and at least one is an idiot (The Hulk), but most fall in between.

  6. Chihuahua0on 27 Aug 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Actually, for both genders, my characters either look and are intelligent or look dumb but are actually intelligent. I find dumb core characters quite unappealing.

    It’s more like my characters across works fall into certain types (the typical hero, the snarker, the girly boy, etc).

  7. ekimmakon 27 Aug 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Why is it that when I read 3, I immediately thought of the webcomic I’ve been reading, Amya?

  8. Jonie Legaspion 27 Aug 2011 at 7:42 pm

    A good way to avoid too much purity is to see if she is above 15 years of age (or equivalent) and never swears.

  9. Brian McKenzie (B. Mac)on 28 Aug 2011 at 3:17 am

    “My characters either look and are intelligent or look dumb but are actually intelligent. I find dumb core characters quite unappealing.” Well, “intelligent” could be somewhat relatable. I think there might be more concern if pretty much every protagonist in your story were incredibly smart, like Reed Richards. I think that’d probably raise eyebrows unless the plot somehow justified having a much smarter than average cast. (For example, Eureka’s set in a town of super-scientists, Ender’s Game is set in a military academy for miracle prodigies, and conversely Idiocracy is set in a future where everybody is incredibly dumb).

    Also, I think a character doesn’t have to be dumb to not be smart. For example, Captain America isn’t notably intelligent (although some stories have played up his grasp of battle tactics), but he’s consistently pretty well-spoken and articulate, especially compared to the Hulk. My own Agent Orange is somewhat scholarly, but he’s sometimes missing SO much context about human life that he probably could not be counted upon in most mental situations (e.g. mistaking squirrels for squatters). If I asked readers to list 3 characteristics about AO, I could see a lot of people coming up with mental traits like wacky, jingoistic and confident, but I doubt that most people would mention scholarly/erudite. In contrast, for most hyper-intelligent characters (think Reed Richards), it’d be pretty much impossible to list 3 traits without mentioning some variety of intelligence. (Tony Stark is a refreshing counterexample).

  10. EvilpixieAon 30 Aug 2011 at 5:34 pm

    I think the lesson here is that male and female characters aren’t all that different from each other. Sure, we’re not the same either, but a lot of problems that arise from one gender writing a character from another gender revolve around us painting people into certain roles.
    Eg, some women frequently write male characters as super collect, distant and brooding but with a passionate softer side or an overly male stereotype.
    likewise, some men write female characters as generally purposeless, a damsel in distress, overly girly or as a man with breasts.

    Basically, avoid the stereotypical identities.

    Yet there are some differences:
    Women generally are more aware of the details of people around them and more likely to infer things from those. They are more likely to talk among each other and want to talk about problems. Often, when a girl is angry with another they will not show it at all around the other girl, often even when fighting. Snide or nasty comments, sometimes, but glaring and snarling etc, not so much. So, girls calling each other ‘bitch’ unless they’re out of there head isn’t that normal, in my experience. Unless in play of course.

    Men generally think on one thing at one time, more likely to seek solitude when they’re unhappy and talk less among themselves. Less likely to notice usual things about their environment (such as the people around them in a mall), but more likely to notice something immanently threatening or different.

    Hope that helped, even if my thoughts were a little fragmented. Being a female myself I know more about women and how they behave than I know about men.

  11. TJon 31 Aug 2011 at 3:19 am

    I think problems arise when the author fails to realise women are people.

  12. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 31 Aug 2011 at 5:09 am

    “Often, when a girl is angry with another they will not show it at all around the other girl, often even when fighting.”

    I can vouch for that. When I’m mad, I often get passive-aggressive, or I say things to people like “I’m going to (bleep)ing kill that horrible jerk”, but I never tell the person I’m angry at that I want to kill them.

    When I’m angry, I make it clear with how I walk – I sort of stomp instead of striding, and by slamming doors or slamming things down. That way, I don’t have to say how I feel – people can tell by my actions. I also lose my temper more easily when something else is annoying me. Say I couldn’t open a jar of Vegemite when in a normal mood, I would sigh and keep trying. If I was mad, I would swear, call it a (bleep)ing piece of (bleep) and put it down as hard as I could without breaking the glass.

    I think it’s hard to write any character realistically. We all have influence from people we know, and we all have ideas of what is cool or interesting. When we apply them to characters, it doesn’t always work out into a realistic person. I think a good way to make a character is to look up what some people’s pet peeves about characters are, find the most common, and then try to avoid them or twist them a bit to make something new and good from something annoying.

  13. B. McKenzieon 31 Aug 2011 at 7:22 am

    “I think problems arise when the author fails to realise women are people.” That would be a problem, TJ. Do you have any ideas for authors that aren’t sure whether their women are sufficiently humanized?

  14. Helenon 01 Sep 2011 at 8:34 am

    I’m not a comic book writer, but one of my cool Twitter recommended this post. So agree with your article. That was one of my major complaints about the show Walker Texas Ranger (I know, don’t hate me. It used to be my little bro’s favorite show, and I’m from TX.). His girlfriend always needed him to save her!! It made her seem needy and shallow (although I assume the point was to make him look good. He gets the bad guys, and saves the girl). But it really will get on readers nerves after a while. Just my two cents. Keep on keeping on :) .

  15. B. McKenzieon 01 Sep 2011 at 8:46 am

    “I know, don’t hate me. It used to be my little bro’s favorite show, and I’m from TX.” When I was 10, I liked Batman & Robin. I’m in no position to judge anybody, particularly regarding their tastes in the 1990s.

  16. [...] McKenzie of Superhero Nation has a great list of red flags for female characters written by men (and women, [...]

  17. julieon 04 Sep 2011 at 12:21 pm

    Dead giveaway–if she’s displaying cleavage or thigh to get info or otherwise manipulate a guy, she’s definitely written by a man. If she’s worried someone can see down her blouse or that maybe she’s gained 5 pounds and her skirt’s too tight, she’s the real deal.

  18. B. McKenzieon 04 Sep 2011 at 12:40 pm

    “if she’s displaying cleavage or thigh to get info or otherwise manipulate a guy, she’s definitely written by a man.” I’ve seen some women in real life wear strikingly revealing clothes. Do you think they have some reason besides trying to attract/influence guys and, if so, what? (Perhaps impressing other women?* Expressing their confidence? Letting people know how hard they’ve worked at the gym? Enjoying the feeling of the sun on their skin and/or getting a tan?)

    *I’ve heard once that one difference between women and men is that men typically dress up to impress the other gender, whereas women dress to impress their own gender. Personally, I can’t think of any reason I’d want another guy to notice my clothes. If I wanted to waste money on frivolous status symbols, I’d have more fun with a sports car or a graduate degree.

  19. Comicbookguy117on 04 Sep 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I’m glad this discussion got started. I am a full-blooded, heterosexual guy and even I’m getting tired of how superheroines are handled. All the time when I see group shots of Justice League I see Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern and Aquaman in full-body costumes. But there’s Wonderwoman, Zatanna, Vixen and almost every other female in DC with exposed cleavage and butts. Now I’m not saying I can’t appreciate a sexy woman. But see in Mavel, they’ve got Rouge, Jean Grey in full-body costumes and they’re STILL sexy as hell. I don’t know why this bothers me. I guess it’s because it seems like we’re getting beaten over the head with their bodies. We know they’re sexy. But you can cover them up and still have them be strong, sexy and powerful. It just seems that superheroines, in some ways, still are totally equal with superheroes. And that’s sad to me.

  20. Bethon 04 Sep 2011 at 10:12 pm

    “Do you have any ideas for authors that aren’t sure whether their women are sufficiently humanized?”

    Another red flag is if you have an ensemble team that’s gone “Smurfy.” Like, you have the DPS, the Tank, Heals, and the Woman. What does she do? She’s, er, Womanly! …No. Woman is not a character class. Woman is not a role. While being female will likely inform a great amount of someone’s character, the exact reaction will differ.

    Some women are very nurturing and embrace the role of caretaker of all around them. Some women are repelled by this expectation and may overcompensate by being “one of the guys.” Some women aren’t overcompensating when they’re “one of the guys” — they just get along with “guy” talk for some reason. Some women want to be protected. Some want to be the protectors. Some want both, sometimes even at the same time, and isn’t that complex! Some women are constantly afraid of other people, just a little, and are timid. Some compensate by being aggressive. Some are alert and always making sure they know where the escape routes are. Some women are oblivious to danger, relying on a mindset of “if I think nice things, nothing bad will ever happen to me.” Sometimes this appears to work!

    Some women like to dress up sexy. (Superpowered women may indeed go through a phase of “wait, I can beat up people in my nightie? BWHAHAHAHAHAH! YES!”) Some women don’t want to be thought of as sexy. Some women like to dress up nice and be given a smiling look, but no, they don’t want to vamp anyone. Some women have learned that vamping people gets them what they want.

    I think a large issue is… Is there only one Woman Character? If so… That’s a huge load to bear, and probably isn’t making the job of humanizing her any easier for someone who wants to do justice to the character, and make her as “real” as her male counterparts. It’s actually easier to make characters seem realistic if you have enough of them to show the range — timid, bold, smart, average, ditzy, disorganized-but-smart/average, pretty, average, unattractive, plump, really plump, skinny, lopsided, aggressive, jealous, nurturing, grieving…

    Which leads to the next issue: Are all the women the same woman? Or picked from a small stock selection? Do they all think roughly the same thing? Do they all swoon over the same guy(s)? (Because… we don’t. My mom ogles legs. I bite my lip for cheekbones. Other people watch the six-pack abs.) If you write a scene and could substitute any woman character’s name in it, interchangeably, they need some rattling up.

    Try writing out a scene, then switch all the pronouns. Or randomly re-assign pronouns. (Especially for bit parts. You need a cop, right? How about a woman cop? How about a male secretary? How about a woman taxi driver?) Seriously think about how little might have to change with Clarice Kent instead of Clark. (Lois could stay Lois… Or change to Louis.) How little do you have to change Bruce Wayne to get Brenda? If something seems like it can’t stay the same… Why not? Consciously look at what’s being changed and see if there’s a way to justify not changing it. (And look at what the change would be. Does little Clarice get scolded for jumping off the roof, even though her hang-time is great, because she’s wearing a skirt? Would Superwoman wear cargo pants because in the back of her head, her fostermom is being shocked by the spandex? Or would Clarice glory in the freedom of tights, while wearing ankle-length dresses the rest of the time?)

    Sorry for the long comments from someone happening by on an interesting discussion. But, well, making people seem human is complicated. Like being a human is complicated.

  21. [...] Red Flags for Female Characters, Superhero Nation [...]

  22. Lauraon 05 Sep 2011 at 11:10 am

    This isn’t a comic book example, but I think the tv show on sci-fi, Sanctuary, does a great job with realistic, complex female characters.

  23. Stephen Swartzon 05 Sep 2011 at 11:17 am

    Once upon a time I wrote a novel with a female protagonist, telling the story in 1st person. That seemed to be a no-no according to recent female writer friends’ comments.

    But back when I wrote it, female writer friends seemed to like it and think the character was believable. My secret? I had the opening chapters read by the young woman upon whom the character is based and she OKed the portrayal or suggested that she would not say that, do this, think that way, etc. She was Ok with story, even though it was about our actual but brief relationship, probably because I had not yet written the “good” parts.

    Anyway, bowing to pressure (that I put on myself from the remarks made), I switched the 1st person to 3rd person, which gives me a little more filter distance between reader and character. Seems to work better for a man writing a female character. By the way, the female readers “hated” the male character; that is, they thought he was well-written.

  24. B. McKenzieon 05 Sep 2011 at 12:36 pm

    “How about a male secretary?” I think very few guys would accept a job with the title “secretary” (unless it’s a Cabinet position). “Administrative assistant” sounds more gender-neutral. At one point, one of my female characters wants to be in a combat position, but congressional statutes limit (preposterously dangerous) field agent positions to men, so she gets the Cloudcuckoolander in Human Resources to make a Battle Receptionist position. That way, the field team is set if it needs any transcription work done… with a Chicago typewriter.

  25. jesseon 05 Sep 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Adding to seven, I think having a female MC with a singular goal is a mistake. The best female characters, and people, usually have multiple goals that pull them in diff directions, like Katniss’s from the Hunger Games. She wants to win, and stay alive, but she’s constantly balancing that with her love for others and distaste for the Capital… Internal conflict rings true, and makes for better reading.

  26. [...] Kathryn Rusch; – Most Common Mistakes Series: Is Nothin’ Happening in Your Scene?, no WordPlay; – Red Flags for Female Characters Written By Men, no SuperHero Nation; – Fact vs. Fiction: Writing Outside Your Life, no Writer Unboxed; – Order and [...]

  27. Michael Chapmanon 22 Nov 2011 at 4:27 am

    I am creating several characters for my novel, and I have found that it would be weird if the entire team was men.
    I figured out decent personalities, quirks, origins and relationships for the women, but it was incredibly hard to come up with dialogue.
    I now have someone working with me to try and give me inspiration for their lines.

  28. B. McKenzieon 22 Nov 2011 at 7:16 am

    “I have found that it would be weird if the entire team was men.” Possibly. I think it depends on the context of the team. If it’s military commandos or something like a SWAT team, I think something closer to all-men would feel more believable/natural than 50-50 unless there were something unusual going on in the premise.
    –If humanity or the country in question is in an utterly desperate situation, then it’d make sense if it were all hands on deck, men and women alike. Some examples include Battlestar Galactica, Terminator, the Matrix, zombie stories, etc. For a vaguely related modern-day scenario, Israel has traditionally been more receptive to women in the armed services than most other countries.
    –Alternately, if it’s far in the future, maybe gender roles have softened enough that it’s just commonplace. (In Justice League International, a male time-traveler punches a villainness in the face after explaining that people in his century treat men and women equally).
    –Maybe scientific advances like physical enhancements or powersuits have minimized any discrepancies in upper body strength.

    Also, if there are only 2 or 3 people on a more standard superhero team, I think that it would probably feel less out of place if there were no [insert demographic group here].

  29. FVE-Manon 22 Mar 2012 at 4:01 am

    On a related topic, is it an unspoken rule that a story has to have important female characters? There are a few females in my book, but they’re mostly bit-parts, and few of them have much impact on the plot overall.

    I also have one woman who undergoes sudden mood swings and personality shifts, as a side-effect of trialling risky drugs on herself. Now I’m thinking… does this sound sexist? I’m afraid people might misconstrue this as some reference to “the Pill”.

  30. N Kraston 22 Mar 2012 at 8:44 am

    I don’t believe there is any such rule unspoken or otherwise. Developing characters to be ‘strong’ or otherwise should be about the role the character plays in the story. If they don’t have any real importance in the basic plot other than a few randomn text bubbles, I’d ask myself if their pressence is even needed, or if I should flesh out their character more so they have greater impact on the plot and the readers.

    Maybe I’m wierd, but when I saw ‘trial drugs’ I thought anti-depressants not birth control. I might be a little sexist but trialing risky medications struck me as a plot you usually think of males rather than females trying. But as far as entering controversial areas with ‘the Pill’, I would suggest making her part of a ‘study group’ for this pill with group meetings and such (if the meds are corporate made) anything to make it less of a woman taking pills in hiding. Of course, if we’re talking about a shady basement chem-lab she got the meds from, then “the Pill” aspect would be overshadowed by the “drugs are bad” concerns.

    You could try to “Embrace the controversy”? Certainly an option though might be emotionally draining to write about (or read about for that matter). Good Luck.

  31. B. McKenzieon 22 Mar 2012 at 10:21 am

    “Is it an unspoken rule that a story has to have important female characters?” In most genres, I don’t think gender parity is critical.* Even some books that are huge successes with women and/or written by women are not close to gender parity. For example, I’m guessing something like 70-90% of the lines in Harry Potter are delivered by men. Of the 8 most important characters, only Hermione is a woman (as opposed to Harry, Ron, Dumbledore, Malfoy, Voldemort, Snape, Neville, etc). Some bestselling authors have gone pretty much their entire career without writing an interesting female character (e.g. I think the closest Tom Clancy got was Jack Ryan’s wife). In Clancy’s case, though, he was writing in a genre (military action) that skews significantly towards male readers.

    The main situations where I think a major female character would be really helpful would be if you were dealing with a huge cast and/or you wanted a major romance arc (e.g. more than a few thousand words in a novel). All other things being equal, a love interest that’s a major character will be more interesting than one that’s not. Also, a romance between two major characters will be easier to tie into the central plot than one between a major character and a minor one. As for the huge cast, if you’re writing a large team of superheroes, it might raise suspension of disbelief issues if none of the characters are women (unless the team’s circumstances somehow justified that–e.g. military commandos).

    *Especially if your premise justifies a cast that’s almost all of one gender (e.g. see Twelve Angry Men and most submarine stories for men and stories like Sex in the City and Y: The Last Man for women).



    “I also have one woman who undergoes sudden mood swings and personality shifts, as a side-effect of trialling risky drugs on herself.” On a point of political correctness and marketing, I would recommend phrasing this just in terms of personality shifts. Those are not gender-specific (e.g. the Hulk is a guy and Heroes’ Niki Sanders is a lady). However, I think phrasing it in terms of mood swings might unintentionally raise unfortunate implications. Besides that, the character concept sounds workable (assuming the character’s personality is interesting).

  32. FVE-Manon 23 Mar 2012 at 4:18 am

    Thanks guys.

    “However, I think phrasing it in terms of mood swings might unintentionally raise unfortunate implications. Besides that, the character concept sounds workable (assuming the character’s personality is interesting).”

    I originally gave her drug-based personality shifts since she doesn’t have a considerably large role in the plot. In all honesty, I think I just took the quickest and easiest way to make her appear quirky. If she needs to have an interesting personality separate from the drug side-effects, I may as well eliminate the drug trialling aspect all together. Instead, I might develop her as someone who tries to appear harder and more serious than she feels. Or maybe that can be the purpose of the drugs; she’s working on a pill that neutralises the humour-centre of the brain to help herself keep a straight face in serious situations, but the side-effect is that she’ll occasionally burst into giggles at inappropriate times. Thoughts?

  33. B. McKenzieon 23 Mar 2012 at 10:43 am

    “I might develop her as someone who tries to appear harder and more serious than she feels. Or maybe that can be the purpose of the drugs; she’s working on a pill that neutralises the humour-centre of the brain to help herself keep a straight face in serious situations…” Unless this ties into the plot (which strikes me as a challenge for a minor character), this feels like a lot of effort for a minor character’s trait. (E.g. it’s part of her origin and it will take time to explain what’s going on). Unless the trait creates interesting opportunities in interacting with other characters* or developing other characters or advancing the plot, I would recommend looking at other traits.

    *I’m not sure what could be done with this besides having other characters get annoyed/creeped out that she giggles uncontrollably at inappropriate times. She explains that she can’t help it and I think there’s little drama. One alternative with more potential, I think, is if her perspective is so different that her sense of humor is deeply off in some way (for example, maybe she’s seen some horrible, horrible things in her line of work or in her background, so she’s a master of gallows humor). I think this would be more interesting because it’s more of a matter of choice (so it helps develop her personality more than something she can’t control) and would probably require less mostly-extraneous explanation. For example, you might be able to use her unsettling experiences/background to develop other characters or the plot…

  34. FVE-Manon 24 Mar 2012 at 6:14 am

    “One alternative with more potential, I think, is if her perspective is so different that her sense of humor is deeply off in some way (for example, maybe she’s seen some horrible, horrible things in her line of work or in her background, so she’s a master of gallows humor).”

    It sounds like this level of backstory would take even longer to develop. Although maybe I’ve made her out to be more minor than she really is. I can think of three scenes in which she plays a role:

    1) The first is where the Protag is kidnapped by the government Agency that she works for, and he and she enter a battle of wits for control of the situation. He might interpret her as someone doing their best to put on a scary face.

    2) Protag is brought before the male Boss of the Agency. She and the Boss interrogate the Protag, leading to a good-cop-bad-cop scenario. (For comedic value, they also come across as a stern mother and lenient father.) If she were to giggle as the Boss tries assuring the Protag that “Everything will be alright”, it might make the Agency look suspicious, and I doubt she would explain right there that she was trialling drugs on herself (it’s common knowledge to the rest of the Agency, but not the Protag).

    3) In a scene from the Boss’s POV, after the Protag has escaped the Agency, she and the Boss discuss the situation of the planet’s ghost infestation. It’s here that her spontaneous giggles become the most frenzied, and he suggests that she should stop experimenting on herself. (It’s really her own choice to concoct/test the drugs. Perhaps everyone’s constantly telling her to give them up, but she’s determined to get the formula right.)

    Or, as I’ve suggested, I could just wipe out the drug aspect all together and portray her as someone trying their best to come across as a serious, mechanical agent.

  35. B. McKenzieon 24 Mar 2012 at 9:50 am

    “It sounds like this level of backstory would take even longer to develop.” If you were interested, I think it could be handled pretty quickly. For example, maybe the character makes dark jokes about various things she’s seen or makes inappropriate comparisons. For example, maybe she’s supposed to be the good cop, but makes jokes or comments that are really weird and/or unsettling in context. “Do you like coffee? I like coffee. Except for the potential for third-degree burns. You’re sipping your mug, the plane jerks and you won’t soon forget it.” (One possible way to work in the pharmaceutical angle here would be that she has lingering paranoia because of drugs that the agency gave her and/or that she made to make her more alert/perceptive). If we know anything about the agency, I think we can fill in most of the blanks about what she’s seen on our own.

  36. Nightwireon 25 Mar 2012 at 1:01 am

    “If a woman is older than 15 but never swears, she’s probably too pure.”

    I disagree with this. A character’s attitude to swearing should never be an indicator for her Mary Sue-ness. There exists people who don’t like swearing in real life, you know. Most of my lady friends never swear (or just use mild swearwords), and I have trouble seeing how a person’s maturity is reflected by whether they swear or not.

    Also, if I dislike swearing and I don’t wish to include it in my work (or I’m writing something for children), that doesn’t mean my characters are too pure.

  37. YoungAuthoron 25 Mar 2012 at 6:25 am

    “I disagree with this. A character’s attitude to swearing should never be an indicator for her Mary Sue-ness. ”

    while this is somewhat true i have to diagree with you. swearing is kind of like a coming of age type thing. When people are around 12 to 13, I noticed that myself as well as other started to swear. fast forward 2-3 years and there’s a swear in like every five sentances, regardless of gender. almost every girl I know won’t go more than 10 sentances without dropping the f-bomb or three sentances without saying any other swear.

  38. Nightwireon 25 Mar 2012 at 7:40 am

    “swearing is kind of like a coming of age type thing”. I never utter the f-bomb in my entire life (so far). Maybe I’m just a prude. :P

    In fact, I and most of the girls I know have never been seen doing it. Make no mistake, we do swear occasionally, but only with mild swearwords.

    What I am trying to say is, you can write a realistic and interesting character without having resort to obscenities.

  39. Nightwireon 25 Mar 2012 at 7:41 am

    *having to resort to

    Gosh my grammar is terrible.

  40. Nightwireon 25 Mar 2012 at 10:28 am

    I’ve just come up with a story idea, and I would like some critique. It just came to me a few days ago, so the characters and the plot haven’t been sufficiently fleshed out yet.

    The story will take place in the same universe as ‘Ghost In The Machine’(my review forum: http://www.superheronation.com/2012/03/01/nightwires-review-forum/).

    Amalie Inselgard is a music box maker from the town of Lichvohen. Life as a poor craftswoman is not easy, but she could not ask for more. Things start going barmy after Amalie gets her hand on a box containing seven Heinzelmännchen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinzelm%C3%A4nnchen). Now with the Baron von Lichvohen (who wants the Heinzelmännchen for reasons of his own)’s army after her, Amalie, with the help of the seven little guys, sets on a course to uncover the dark histories of Lichvohen.

    Is this a good idea for a story?

    I’m having the Heinzelmännchen be a race of “anti-Gremlin”. Whereas Gremlins enjoy destroying things, Heinzelmännchen indulge in building stuff. They’re natural constructors.

  41. B. Macon 25 Mar 2012 at 11:04 am

    Heinzelmännchen would be, ahem, a bit of a mouthful for people that don’t speak German. Could I recommend using an alternative (such as Heinzelmen)?

  42. Grenacon 25 Mar 2012 at 11:40 am

    @YA- In turn, I’d have to disagree with you. I began swearing in 3rd grade because of what I watched (I think it was the movie “Friday”). It wasn’t a “coming of age” thing, it was just what I saw/heard. Kids are very impressionable and repeat what the see/hear. Kids can start swearing at any age, it all depends on what they’re exposed to and how well disciplined they are. Since last year I’m striving to express myself in a firm, clear way without resorting to expletives.
    Also, people are all different and I’m sure people who don’t swear or don’t swear profusely exist.

    Character-wise, most of mine don’t swear. Anyones that do just use mild language. The only character that does swear is Keegan, because he can’t express himself. Coco doesn’t swear because she thinks it’s something only uneducated people do. Tess would get slapped into another family by her mother if she ever swore :)

  43. YoungAuthoron 25 Mar 2012 at 3:10 pm

    @Grenac- such an early age :O I merely stated that 12-13 seems like the age where if someone swears, noone (in a school setting minus teachers) will be too shocked. I personally started around 5th grade and I have made it a horrible habit. (one i have failed to rid myself of) .

    “Also, people are all different and I’m sure people who don’t swear or don’t swear profusely exist.”

    ^this is entirely true, i know many people that don’t swear, although they are in the severe minority. :)

    character-wise, my main character Tyler doesn’t swear very much at all. My other main (lower but still main) character, Kane swears a lot. the females in my story, one being a mother, swear moderately.

  44. Nightwireon 25 Mar 2012 at 7:23 pm

    @B.Mac: yeah, that is a bit of a mouthful. I’m using Heinzelmen (or perhaps Brownies, but I like the sound of Heinzelmen more :P )

    The premise would be an amalgam of ‘The Heinzelmen of Cologne’ and ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’. The Heinzelmen of Lichvohen disappeared for reasons unknown about 150 years ago. Amalie Inselgard and her newfound friends have to find out whatever happened to them and what this has to do with the Tinkers of Lobotomia.

    I’m a bit worried about this: is eight characters too much to handle for a novel?

  45. B. McKenzieon 26 Mar 2012 at 2:17 am

    “Is eight characters too much to handle for a novel?”

    I think eight main characters would probably be too much.* I wouldn’t recommend that for a first-time novel. However, if you can develop characters efficiently, eight significant characters is probably feasible. (For our purposes here, let’s say a main character is someone present on 30%+ of pages and a significant one is present on 10-30%*). If so, I think it’d be pretty easy to handle 2-4 main characters with 4-6 significant characters. For example, in the first Harry Potter book, I’d consider Harry, Ron and Hermione to be main characters. Other characters (notably Hagrid, Dumbledore, Draco, Snape, Voldemort, maybe the Dursleys and maybe Neville) played significant roles, but didn’t get nearly as much face-time.

    *This is a very crude assessment, but it’s the simplest way I can think of to understand how much space each character will end up taking.

  46. Nightwireon 26 Mar 2012 at 2:34 am

    Thanks for the advice. I think I can set Amalie and three of the Heinzelmen up as main characters, with the other ones and the villain (the Baron of Lichvohen) assigned to significant ones.

    Also, I’m struggling to create a satisfying personality for Amalie. I want her to be different from Matthew Grayson/the Gremlin and my other characters. I think I can make her apathetic and cynical, as opposed to Matthew’s hyperactivity and enthusiasm. The problem is I already have a jaded protagonist from another project I’m working on (Isaak “the Necromancer” von Skalpellstrom). I would not want Amalie to be a female copy of that guy.

  47. FVE-Manon 26 Mar 2012 at 6:07 am

    @B.Mac: You’ve given me a lot to think about. I’ll probably work on this character later. She’s major enough that I want her to be memorable, but minor enough that she doesn’t need to steal the show. In any case, I’ve identified some much larger potential issues that are closer to the spine of the plot.

    Which brings me to my next question: Do you give beta-reviews for full novels (or failing that, heavy critiques of detailed, chapter-by-chapter plot summaries)? If so, what are your rates regarding word count? Not that I’m ready for beta-reviews, but when the time comes I would consider your services first.

  48. B. McKenzieon 26 Mar 2012 at 1:25 pm

    “I think I can set Amalie and three of the Heinzelmen up as main characters… I think I can make her apathetic and cynical, as opposed to Matthew’s hyperactivity and enthusiasm. The problem is I already have a jaded protagonist from another project I’m working on (Isaak “the Necromancer” von Skalpellstrom). I would not want Amalie to be a female copy of that guy.” I’d be cautious about apathy in a main character–if the character is not inclined to care about the plot, it might make it more challenging to convince the readers that the plot is worth caring about. It might be possible to come up with a different trait to complement her cynicism. For example, if someone were cynical and selfish, that might lead to conflict with a more altruistic hero (perhaps one that needs her help to accomplish something bigger than they could accomplish separately).



    Could you please clarify your concerns about Amalie possibly becoming a copy of Isaak? (Not being very familiar with either character, I’m not sure what she might do that would resemble Isaak too much, or why it would be a problem if she did resemble Isaak).

  49. Nightwireon 27 Mar 2012 at 12:29 am

    Isaak is the latest person to bear the Baron von Skalpellstrom title. The young Baron serves as the local doctor to the people of Skalpellstrom. He is so adept in treating the sick and injured that others calls him “the Necromancer”, a nickname which he loathes, since it has a dark connotation.

    The von Skalpellstrom family has a long history of being the cradle for the most vicious and bloodthirsty lunatics who are willing to maim and kill peasants “for science”. But Heinrich “the Mutilator” von Skalpellstrom (Isaak’s grandfather) topped them all. Heinrich is a Josef Mengele-like figure who served under Prince Rudolph IV of Lobotomia during the infamous Metric War. He did things that would make the most savage serial killer nauseous to his test subjects in order to create “the perfect human”. Till this day, people continue to speak of him in horror.

    Isaak’s decision to help his people with his medical skill partly originates from a strong sense of guilt. He wants to make up for the terrible things his evil grandfather did to the public. He wants to clean the von Skalpellstrom’s name.

    Isaak, by nature, is a terribly cynical and distrustful person. He believes that everyone is capable of evil, if given a chance and enough knowledge. Isaak himself has to exert control over his darker nature every day. The von Skalpellstrom blood is still inside him, urge him to “fix him/her the right way” whenever he faces a patient. He thinks that knowledge and intelligence is a detriment, because it makes you think you’re better than everyone else, and when it goes over your head you will start “chopping people up to reassemble them the way you think is just.”

    Despite all that, Isaak is a dutiful, responsible and compassionate person, especially to his patients. He will do everything to make the pain stop. Sometimes, he came off as a stern mother to his subjects. The folks of Skalpellstrom like and respect Isaak, but there is still a hint of uneasiness. You cannot blame them, because they are so used to be terrorized by homicidal crackpots for generation, it’s hard to take a “good” Tinker seriously.

  50. Nightwireon 29 Mar 2012 at 8:12 am

    OK, so I’m still working on Amalie. In the mean time, you can take a look at my most important female characters from ‘Ghost In The Machine’. Please let me know if they’re any good:

    - Karen Ratberry (I’m contemplating renaming her Karen Locksmith): Simon’s twin sister. A talented apprentice dressmaker with a penchant for experimenting with exotic (and possibly lethal) material and needlessly compicated (and also possibly lethal) accessories. For example, a typical ball gown by Karen will be made of a water-and-dog-turd-proof material and contain two spoon holders, puffed-up sleeves that can shoot smoke bombs (in case anyone tries something cheeky) and a corset double as an emergency water source.

    Karen share her brother’s black-and-white world view, though more pragmatic and not as Chaotic Stupid. She’s a firm believer in justice and class equality. Karen is actually the vigilante Crimson Knight, by ways of modifying a rusty old suit of armor into a hydrolic exoskeleton (that’s when her dressmaking skill comes in handy).
    Whereas Matthew is good at improvising, Karen’s talent lies in her being Crazy Prepared. She tends to think in long-term and make sure to have herself readied for every possible situations.

    - Valeria Voltoff: a Lobotomian who is the Head Girl of Stringbelle. Being used to taking care of her five younger brothers back home makes Valeria an overtly burdened person; and when it comes to upholding the university rules, she’s even more vicious and nasty than William. Her preferred method of intimidation to to yell with enough intensity and persistence that the subject has no choice but to make in. It works with her unruly brothers, so why not?

    However, she’s otherwise a soft-spoken girl, especially when with her friends. Can be a tad arrogant when it comes to academic prowess.

    Ironically enough, Nicholas “Wet Blanket” harbors a huge crush on Valeria.

    - Charlotte Byton: daughter of Sir Charles Byton, the inventor of the Analytical Apparatus, and young sister of Charles Byton II (the Bytons are not a particularly creative bunch when it comes to names). She plays a large part in the development of her father’s creation, particularly concerning the algorithms. Charlotte suffers from some kind of brain tumor, making her unable to walk and confined to a wheel chair. Charlotte is the onlooker of many a depressing episode within her family, especially after the death of her mother. Despite all this, she persists to keep her sunny, romantic and adventurous disposition. She also has a love for the outdoors, which is rather ironic given her role as the world’s very first computer scientist. :P

    (Note: I first came up Charlotte as an amalgam of Ada Lovelace and Stephen Hawking)

  51. Revengelon 29 Mar 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Wanted to chime in here…

    Without getting into the plot of my story one of the two main characters – the hero – is attractive to the point of being supernatural. It’s certainly an aspect of the character (she’s described as being a twelve on a scale of 1-10) and later this does play into the story. There are definite reactions to her wherever she goes which is one of the reasons the character never wears a mask, etc. Additionally she is a phenomenal shot with firearms, and that too plays into her character and the story itself.

    She has feelings and there will be times when she explores them (her portions will be told in a first person perspective) however when she has to take on whatever obstacle she’s facing at the moment the primary thing at hand is the goal; feelings can be dealt with later.

    Another aspect of her is that she is rather virtuous – not to the same level as Captain America but she definitely believes in doing the right thing. She’s extremely strong willed and can take a good chunk of punishment, but she’s definitely not a heavy hitter in this world (I’d put her on the same level as Cap…maybe as high as Wolverine).

    Not wanting to get into the whole plot here so let me get to the point. Is it possible for *any* protagonist to be positive/virtuous/handsome/etc…happen to be a woman…and still be acceptable? There are a few things that come up later in the story (some not until the end) that explain a number of difficulties she has but I don’t want to display that just to say “LOOK!!! SHE CAN HAS ISSUES AND IZ HUMAN!!!” Much the same way that I believe a character’s gender preference should only be brought up if it’s vital to the story I feel the same way about said issues.

    Thoughts?

  52. Nightwireon 29 Mar 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Does she have any flaw? If not, then I think your character is coming dangerously close to become a Mary Sue. What concerns me the most is this: she is” attractive to the point of being supernatural” and “she’s described as being a twelve on a scale of 1-10″. It is definitely an alarm for Mary Sue. Readers do NOT react well with a protagonist that is too beautiful and without any apparent flaw. It’s OK being an attractive person, but *supernaturally* beautiful? That’s just stretching it.

    I do hope you’re not upset over what I said. I just want to help.

  53. Nightwireon 29 Mar 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Also, I’d like some critiques for my female characters, please.

  54. B. McKenzieon 30 Mar 2012 at 1:17 am

    “I’d like some critiques for my female characters…” Generally, I find it most helpful to look at the character in the context of the story (i.e. chapters), but I’ll do my best with just the character summaries above.

    –I suspect that the overlap between Karen and Simon (e.g. their similar worldviews) will make both characters feel more dispensable and less interesting. I’d recommend accentuating their differences in more substantive ways. The difference between her elaborate preparation and his impulsive improvisation is a good start, but by itself, it might not be enough. For example, Batman is extremely prepared, but he’s also cynical, he’s rough, he’s methodical, he’s ridiculously determined, etc. These traits interact in very interesting ways. For example, Hawkgirl asks him why he always carries Kryptonite (around 4 minutes into Tabula Rasa, Part 2). “Call it insurance,” he says. How might Karen’s traits interact?

    –What are some unusual decisions she might make? If you’re having trouble giving her ways to make decisions that most other characters wouldn’t make in the same situation, one possibility would be working on her other traits and/or maybe delving into why she prepares so much. E.g. maybe she hates uncertainty and, for whatever reason, has trouble counting on humans as much as gadgets/preparations that are fully within her control.

    –If Valeria is a minor character, I don’t see any substantial red flags. If she’s a more significant character, I think fleshing her out a bit more beyond just her control issues would probably help. For example, why is it that she’s soft-spoken with friends but nasty when it comes to enforcing university rules? How might her academic arrogance interact with her other traits?

    –In the interest of clarity, I’d recommend renaming either Charles I or Charles II. At the very least, have Charles II insist on Chuck at every opportunity because he hates opening mail and finding that it’s actually [something undesirable that only his father would get]. Normally, I’d recommend against starting names with the same 2+ letters at the front, so I’d recommend changing Charlotte as well.

    –Does Charlotte have any rough edges and/or flaws? Does she ever do disagreeable things?

    –Charlotte’s in a wheel-chair. It might be worth covering the apparent discrepancy besides being nonambulatory vs. being adventurous and a fan of the outdoors.

  55. B. McKenzieon 30 Mar 2012 at 2:07 am

    “Without getting into the plot of my story one of the two main characters – the hero – is attractive to the point of being supernatural. It’s certainly an aspect of the character (she’s described as being a twelve on a scale of 1-10) and later this does play into the story.” In your synopsis, I’d be VERY careful about spending sentences on a character’s appearance without saying anything about her personality and/or defining traits*. If I were reading this in a submission, I’d be inclined to pass because focusing on her appearance suggests that her personality/traits are not very interesting and that she won’t get enough chances to do things besides look pretty and/or engage in romances that are driven by how pretty she is.

    “She has feelings and there will be times when she explores them (her portions will be told in a first person perspective) however when she has to take on whatever obstacle she’s facing at the moment the primary thing at hand is the goal; feelings can be dealt with later.” The concept here could be okay, but I would recommend focusing on what makes your character unique and causes her to make decisions that most other protagonists wouldn’t make in the same situation. I feel like most protagonists have times when they explore their feelings and times when the situation is so urgent that they act more instinctively. How would this character be different?

    “She is rather virtuous… she definitely believes in doing the right thing.” How would this character be different than most protagonists? What sort of interesting mistakes and/or disagreeable decisions might she make? For example, I found it very interesting that the protagonist of the Hunger Games (spoiler) votes to have the children of her oppressors killed off in their own Hunger Game. Disagreeable decisions are more unique and memorable. In contrast, it might have felt bland and phony if she had just given a forgive-and-forget speech.

    “Is it possible for *any* protagonist to be positive/virtuous/handsome/etc… and still be acceptable?” If you had a character who had a ton of interesting things going on, I don’t think it’d be a problem if he/she were also attractive and mostly virtuous. However, the way you’re presenting this character, it sounds like her attractiveness and virtue are the most important things about her, which sounds really far from interesting. If I were evaluating a submission based on (what I know so far of) this character, I’d lean hard towards rejection. I would really recommend showing that there’s some depth to the character and that she makes some interesting decisions that most other protagonists wouldn’t.

  56. Nightwireon 30 Mar 2012 at 3:09 am

    Thanks for the feedback!

    These characters are still in development, so there’s plenty of stuff to work out. The way I normally do things is to spend times fleshing out my characters’ personality and backstory (even minor ones) before writing scenes containing them.

    - I think you’re mistaking Simon with Matthew. Simon, Karen’s brother, is a supporting character (my review forum contains a post concerning him). Simon is the self-proclaimed campus “prankster”. He has a natural disdain for authority, and is pretty vocal about it. The thing is Simon is too Chaotic Stupid and melodramatic. He fancies himself a “rebel” against William “tyrannical rule”, much like how a terrorist thinks of himself as a freedom fighter.

    - Karen is quite a paranoid person. She’s always afraid that something bad would happen to her when it’s least expected (that’s due to her and Simon’s brother died in a coalmine accident). On the other hand, Matthew holds a blind eye to danger, because he’s oblivious.

    - Valeria is an overachiever and perfectionist. She works really hard to make sure she’s the best in everything, and that makes her incredibly stressed, with leads to the temper problem. Being a very burdened person, she also cannot help but give a hand whenever another person needs help. This culminates in her frustration with people. Valeria seems to be the most relaxed when hanging out with her dearest friends, Karen and Charlotte, who never ask for anything from her. That is why she’s so nice to them.

    - I’m keeping the Bytons’ themed name, because I think it’s rather funny (as I said, Charles Byton is an incredibly smart man, but no so much when it comes to naming his offsprings). Charles II insisting on calling himself Chuck is a great idea.

    - Charlotte’s adventurous attitude and her love for the outdoors serve as a coping mechanism. Due to being in constant physical and emotional pain, she turns to nature and hanging out with her friends as a way of relieving the pain. Charlotte finds it hard to face reality, nor does she want to. She knows her family is in a mess (her father has become obsessive with his work with the expense of human empathy, and her brother turns into an condescending and assholish snob), but she does not have the guts to tell them to cut it out. She turns a blind eyes to the horrible things they because she cannot stand witnessing it. The only thing she’s ever good at is mathematics, and it is no help to her right now.

  57. Nightwireon 30 Mar 2012 at 3:15 am

    … In short, Charlotte’s depressing homelife is a crucial factor in her adventurous personality. She is willing to do anything and go anywhere, as long as she doesn’t have to face her father and brother.

    Is that OK?

  58. Revengelon 30 Mar 2012 at 8:20 am

    @ Nightwire & B. McKenzie – thank you VERY much! This is the kind of feedback I need and exactly why I’m posting these here.

    More detail about the story/plot/character:

    -There are two females leads presented – one superheroine and a part-time worker at the CDC. The worker at the CDC is described as a particularly bland woman who is somewhat emotionally arrested She has a reoccuring dream about being held inside a mirror by someone that she names “Kay”…after a bully she was victimized in school (we learn that through the couple therapy sessions in the story). I did run the first therapy session by a doctor & licenced therapist for an ethics check by the way, and she was able to pick up that this worker appears to think like an early teenager rather than a 20-something woman. That was my intent (I’m more than happy to explain more if that helps) :)

    - It’s a Jeckyl/Hyde story where we discover towards the end of the book that the CDC worker is *completely* unaware that her body is being used as a time share, but the ‘hero’ is. Related, this is a major reason why cloning this ‘super soldier’ isn’t/won’t be sucessful. The unique experiences of the original person manifest themselves to trigger a complete change. Captain America I can see being cloned but a Hulk/Hyde character in my personal opinion should be a unique case…and this falls under that category.

    - The most important thing about the ‘hero’ is largely her abilities as she helps to track down the bad guys (there’s a theft involved, folks could die, etc.) and the only time that her virtuous side is hinted at is in her motivations. I don’t attempt to beat anyone over the head with “oh, look how she always thinks the right thing” it’s more of a matter-of-fact position that she has. E.G.: she states that she’s not interested in a body count (she’s not a cold-blooded killer) but will put someone down when the situation calls for it. The hero persona is described by her best friend as “a combination between the ultimate Miss America and the ultimate Porn Queen.” – a quote I may leave for another book after thinking about it.

    So, does that help give more information about the character(s) involved? Any questions or info that I can provide?

    Thank you very much by the way for anyone who chimes in…no matter how you do so.

    :)

  59. Revengelon 30 Mar 2012 at 8:53 am

    @ Nightwire:

    Re: Karen – she sounds like an interesting person to read about. Between the hyper-preparedness which my border on paranoia and her drive for justice I can anticipate a number of entertaining – and perhaps thought provoking – situations. I’m not seeing any red flags so far – maybe I need to read more.

    Re: Valeria – for whatever reason she seems the most real to me. This may be because of the professors I deal with in my profession or it may be because she reminds me of a couple people I know (both of whom are women) but she just feels like a natural fit to me. I would try to be sure not to make the swing from ‘soft spoken lady’ to ‘intense yelling intimidator’ too dramatic a contrast. Is she soft spoken and reserved or is she soft spoken and ‘sweet’? The first one works for me, the second one is less palatable.

    Re: Charlotte – I initially thought Professor X (likely a reflex action) but then after reading it I thought of a big sister/mother archetype. I don’t see issues with the concept other than possibly the oft-used ‘mother’ aspect. My wife & I were just talking about that last night actually – she gets annoyed when female characters are presented as “being a mother is the best that they can be/do/makes them more powerful” – so that’s something to watch.

    To expand on the point Dr. Mrs. – In harry Potter Belatrix is battling Hermione & Ginny…and the two witches can’t seem to do squat against Belatrix even though (in the opinion of Dr. Mrs.) H & G should have no reason to fail. But when someone gets hurt ‘Mommy Grainger’ suddenly can put the smackdown on Belatrix. Why? Because she’s a mother and that makes her all powerful…at least that’s my wife’s take on it.

    Hope that helps…and I hope I did not offend!

    Revengel

  60. Nightwireon 30 Mar 2012 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for the kind words, Revengel! I’m glad you like my characters.

    - I have just rewatched Pixar’s The Incredibles, and it dawned on me that I’ve unwittingly make Karen an Edna Mode-like character: fashion-concious (she’s a dressmaker after all) but more concerned with practicality than flashiness. But hey, Edna Mode is awesome! :)

    - Valeria: Indeed her personality is based on a number of people I know in high school.
    “Is she soft spoken and reserved or is she soft spoken and ‘sweet’? ” She’s more like the first type, though I don’t think ‘reserved’ is the right word for her. As the Head Girl of Stringbelle, she obviously needs to be somewhat extroverted. Although her personality is more ‘Extrovert/Task-oriented’ than ‘Extrovert/People-oriented’.

    - Charlotte: I don’t think she’s the ‘mother’ type- that role belongs to Valeria, because she’s the overbearing and responsible one. Charlotte is more like the ‘heart’/'little sister’ of the trio, as she’s the most emotionally charged. Unable to make peace with her emotionally negligent family, she turns to her friends for love and acceptance. Charlotte values friendship, that’s why you can count on her to be a sweet and affectionate companion. I just hope nobody thinks she is too “weak”, because she’s genuinely a resourceful and energetic person.

  61. Nightwireon 30 Mar 2012 at 9:50 am

    @Revengel:

    Re:Your characters: Could you please provide me and run-down of your story’s plot, just to clear things a little bit? I’m still quite confused. But what I got from your post is this:

    So the heroine and the CDC worker are split personalities? Are they two facets of the same character, or does the heroine hijack the CDC girl body for her own ends? If so, how did it happen? What causes her personality to split?

    Otherwise, I think your concept is very intriguing, much more than the first description you gave of your character? I always love a good Jekyll/Hyde story. Hell, my planned novel, ‘Ghost In The Machine’, could be thought of as a reverse Jekyll/Hyde (one guy using two bodies), but over time, the Gremlin became sort-of a second personality of Matthew.

    I hope that helps!

  62. Revengelon 30 Mar 2012 at 10:27 am

    @ Nightwire:

    Thanks! Here’s the actual origin (truncated of course) of the character/s.

    Virginia Hoff took place in a government experiment which was intended to create a super soldier. When it had no affect (along with the training, etc. that didn’t seem to stick) they were about to pull the plug. What happened next was Virginia had a dream – which is alluded to in the book – which triggered both a split personality and a physical change.

    I won’t say one is the antagonist but Virginia *hates* the woman in her dream…if for no other reason that she’s being held prisoner. Koeing has no malice toward Virginia but – thinking it’s for the best – she keeps Koeing’s life/memories/etc. private from Virginia.

    Added complication – the therapy sessions are mandated by the government branch responsible for the experiment. The therapist doesn’t know that the person she’s seeing (Virginia) is this other person…but as things progress she will come to a diagnosis.

    On Ghost in the Machine – first I’m glad that you treat Gremlins as such a nasty thing! It reminds me of the Torchwood episode when Jack encounters faries and remarks on how nasty they really are. Also my bad on reading too much ‘mother’ and not enough ‘team player’ into your description. Clearly the conversation that Dr. Mrs. & I had last night was on the brain!

    Keep up the good work!

    :)

  63. Nightwireon 30 Mar 2012 at 10:59 am

    @Revengel:

    “Also my bad on reading too much ‘mother’ and not enough ‘team player’ into your description.” Hah, it’s my bad for not covering her character more clearly. I suppose that at first read she has to potential to become a ‘mother’ character.

    ” I’m glad that you treat Gremlins as such a nasty thing! It reminds me of the Torchwood episode when Jack encounters faries and remarks on how nasty they really are.” Indeed the inspiration for my Gremlins stems from my fascination with the fairy mythologies. I’m really annoyed that most of contemporary fantasy fictions try to rip off the Tolkien model of elves. First off, it’s not really creative, and actual elves are nothing like that at all!

    Re:Your story: I think it has great potential. What matters is the execution. What is the main goal of the protagonist? Does she really want to get the second personality off her and who does she have to fight?

    So I guess your story’s tone will be serious and dark, huh? I, on the other hand, try to give my work a humourous tone yet dealing with serious themes the same time (much like Discworld, my chief inspiration).

  64. Revengelon 30 Mar 2012 at 11:48 am

    Yes, my story is mostly serious (there are a couple of comedic moments – one of them involves a character named ‘Velcro Fly’ belive it or not) as the plot against which the two characaters/personas play out thier lives involves both a biological weapon and an experimental delivery system. High stakes and help will be needed.

    My concern – and why I was posting in this specific article/comment section – is that the two protagonists are women, the therapist is a woman, but I want to avoid as many pitfalls for presenting a female character as I can. However just as the tone of Mr. Hyde has to be at a given contrast to Dr. Jeckyl the heroic stance, virtuous acts and seductive attitude of Koeing needs to be a contrast to what Virginia is.

    That is my challenge with this story. Part of me want’s to present Virginia as the main character while another part thinks it’s the story of Koeing dealing with Virginia that should be the focus.

    At any rate, execution (hopefully not mine) is the key.

  65. YoungAuthoron 30 Mar 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I have a female character that I am about to write about. She isn’t the main character, but has a significant part to play as the secondary character. Her name is Lucilia (Lucy) Shakr and she is the 18 year-old orphan leader of the rebellion. The world Terra Dueno is controlled by the autocratic Imperials and the democratic rebels are trying to free the city. She is witty, athletic, resilient, snappy, and not afraid of a fight. She fights in the front line with all the men, and all her soldiers respect her and they would also die for her. She is an excellent hand-to-hand fighter and an accomplished markswoman. She misses her parents, who ran the army before they died laying seige to what is now the rebel capital. She watched them get shot down mercilessly by Mortem ( the main antagonist) an assassin, so she hates assassins. (The main character is an assassin, so that creates conflict). Her flaws are her stubbornness, cockiness, and her lack of trust in people. She is kind and selfless to civilians but will not hesitate to kill an Imperial soldier.

    What do you all think? All feedback is welcome!!!

  66. YoungAuthoron 30 Mar 2012 at 4:40 pm

    “The world Terra Dueno is controlled by the autocratic Imperials and the democratic rebels are trying to free the city.”

    sorry not city, the land

  67. B. McKenzieon 30 Mar 2012 at 5:56 pm

    “There are two females leads presented – one superheroine and a part-time worker at the CDC. The worker at the CDC is described as a particularly bland woman who is somewhat emotionally arrested… It’s a Jeckyl/Hyde story where we discover towards the end of the book that the CDC worker is *completely* unaware that her body is being used as a time share, but the ‘hero’ is.” When you’re pitching the story to publishers, I’d recommend clarifying this, because the mechanics here do not feel very intuitive to me. (specifically “being used as a time share” suggests that there’s someone else who inflicted this on her).

    “The most important thing about the ‘hero’ is largely her abilities as she helps to track down the bad guys (there’s a theft involved, folks could die, etc.) and the only time that her virtuous side is hinted at is in her motivations.” This sounds more promising than her attractiveness… “The hero persona is described by her best friend as ‘a combination between the ultimate Miss America and the ultimate Porn Queen.’” Uhh, you’ve lost me again. I’d recommend checking out Pretties and Top Cow’s The Beauty for two examples of stories that use physical attractiveness in interesting ways.

    I’d recommend being careful about how you use the character’s attractiveness because, so far, it sounds like a distraction from what might actually be interesting about the character. For example, I’m sort of feeling the Jekyll-and-Hyde setup about how she deals with some trauma (although the school bully angle is probably overdone), and the superhero-trying-to-solve-crimes angle has a lot of possibilities. However, I’d be put off by other characters focused on her appearance (e.g. “a combination between the ultimate Miss America and the ultimate porn queen”*) because, ahem, I’m not reading a book to ogle over characters and it suggests like she has little going on besides her sex appeal. I want an interesting story, and focusing on her sexiness at (what I assume is) the expense of her superhero adventures would be a big turnoff for many readers. Again, I’d recommend checking out Pretties and The Beauty as two ways to incorporate attractiveness into a central plot.

    *Is this a backhanded insult, or does she genuinely mean this as a compliment? Either way, in terms of doing incredible, badass things (which is basically 99% of the appeal of superheroes/superheroines, I think), going from CDC researcher to supermodel would be a demotion.

  68. Nightwireon 31 Mar 2012 at 1:42 am

    @B.Mac: I’ve replied to some of your concerns some posts ago. I hope that cleared things a little bit. Your thought?

  69. B. McKenzieon 31 Mar 2012 at 3:25 am

    –”I’m keeping the Bytons’ themed name, because I think it’s rather funny…” I’d recommend running this past beta readers. I generally recommend against names that are intended to be funny because a character’s name will probably be used hundreds of times but the joke will be funny at most once. That’s a steep price to pay.

    –Yes, I think you were right about me mistaking Simon & Matthew.

    –I suspect that Valeria could be distinguished more from other perfectionist characters. On the other hand, I am cautiously optimistic that Karen will feel distinct from characters that have some similar traits.

    –I’m not sure how this will turn out in the story, but right now, reading about Charlotte (especially her home-life) is depressing/enervating me. In addition to the somewhat negative reason for being adventurous (she’s fleeing from her failure of a family), it may help to give a more energetic reason as well–maybe she has some aspiration that she can’t accomplish indoors. Maybe she’s designing a computer for a particular situation or setting BUT she won’t have any grasp of the relevant variables and processes unless she’s seen the stuff in person. (Modern example: if you were coding an AI for poker, it would really help if you had experience playing poker because the social aspects of the game are hard to understand without firsthand experience).

    “Charlotte’s flaw is that she turns to her friends for love and acceptance, while turning her back on her own family (granted, her father and brother are emotionally negligent and obliviously insensitive, while she’s a very emotionally charged person)…” I’d recommend that you keep looking here. I doubt that readers will fault her for turning her back on her dysfunctional family and I suspect that most characters would act the same way in her situation*. Besides, it’d probably be helpful if she had a flaw that affected her in more ways than just her relationships with her father and brother. (Unless, perhaps, those relationships are central to the book). For example, Scott Pilgrim’s irresponsibility affects pretty much ALL of his relationships and decisions.

    *Unless, perhaps, there was some really compelling reason that readers would expect her to fight it out with them. For example, if she had a really young sibling that was being seriously affected by the fighting, but she chose to leave anyway, readers might be disappointed that she leaves. She herself might feel uneasy about the decision. But I don’t know how much drama there will be if she “turns her back” on people without actually causing a serious negative effect to anyone.

  70. Nightwireon 31 Mar 2012 at 4:11 am

    You’re right, Charlotte’s backstory is really depressing. Perhaps I’ve made her too much of a Woobie. Is that a bad thing?

    On the other hand, I’ve prepared a (in my opinion) pretty satisfying character arc for her, so she shall some development, and she will have a happy (well, more like bittersweet) ending in store.

    The Bytons will eventually have a significant part in the story (one of them is going to be a villain), so Charlotte’s attitude towards her family are having consequencesd. After her mother’s death, the role of the family ‘heart’ goes to Charlotte, because she’s the only one in the family to have a firm moral stance. Remember, both of the father and the brother are *mad scientists*, and without anyone to hold them back and to provide a moral support, they are guaranteed to go off the deep end. Charlotte does feel uneasy about it, and she clearly knows that her family are immersed in conducting unethical and lethal experiments, but she keeps refusing to acknowledge it.

    “In addition to the somewhat negative reason for being adventurous (she’s fleeing from her failure of a family), it may help to give a more energetic reason as well–maybe she has some aspiration that she can’t accomplish indoors. Maybe she’s designing a computer for a particular situation or setting BUT she won’t have any grasp of the relevant variables and processes unless she’s seen the stuff in person.”

    You read my mind! I am planning to give her this! Also, she also gets a good influence from her late mother. Thanks for the suggestion!

  71. B. Macon 31 Mar 2012 at 5:36 am

    “You’re right, Charlotte’s backstory is really depressing. Perhaps I’ve made her too much of a Woobie. Is that a bad thing?” I think it depends on your target audience and the tone of the work. If you’re going for a Requiem for a Dream sort of feel, it might not be an issue. It’d be hard to give an opinion as to whether it works without the actual chapters.

    “…she clearly knows that her family are immersed in conducting unethical and lethal experiments, but she keeps refusing to acknowledge it.” As far as flaws go, that sounds pretty promising. More promising than any moral responsibility she (supposedly) has for keeping her adult relatives from going off of the deep end. (If your mental stability hinges on the help you might theoretically get from your mad scientist daughter/sister, who is incidentally dealing with her own major health issues, you’re ****ed).

  72. Nightwireon 31 Mar 2012 at 7:29 am

    Well, my work, like Discworld, will have a quite humorous tone but also deal with serious themes and not without drama and suspence. Hey, I’ve just come up with an idea. How about I tie Charlotte to Matthew’s origin? Byton is aware that his daughter is getting worse, and she will die sooner or later. So using the technology he has just perfected, Byton tries to find a way of transferring Charlotte’s mind into another human body. Matthew gets involved somehow and ends up having his mind fused with a gremlin.

  73. B. McKenzieon 31 Mar 2012 at 11:18 am

    That is a possibility, although it would cast Matthew’s involvement in a different light. For example, stumbling into the path of a radioactive spider doesn’t affect anybody else in any way, but somehow stumbling into a body meant to save a dying woman could make him look like he really blew it in some way. I do like the idea that the failed experiment might be more bittersweet than just one person getting cool superpowers, though.

  74. Revengelon 31 Mar 2012 at 1:04 pm

    @ B McKenzie:

    Thanks for the views and advice! To clear up a couple of points:

    - Virginia is unaware that there are times that she turns into Koeing, but Koeing is completely aware of the situation.

    - Koeing is actually not particularly pleased that she’s known for her looks rather than her deeds. She feels (at times) that no matter what she does the world will only see her as a pretty face. The way everyone from cops to people on the street to the media to most criminals react to her is based on her appearance…and not exactly helped by her sometimes flirtatious attitude. If she were freakishly ugly the reaction would likely be similar in my opinion similar to The Thing who had to deal with being visually bizarre. Clearly I need to work on my execution if I’m going to present this well.

    - The trauma angle is actually her dream; it has nothing to do with her being bullied. Virginia hates the person in her dream and later on we discover that Kay is Koeing.

    Part of what I’m wrestling with is the following:

    * The way the world treats Koeing is consistent and – let’s be honest – if someone looks like a 12 on a scale of 1-10 the world will treat her very differently than it would anyone else.

    * Showing that both characters do have depth to them and justified reasons for feeling the way they do.

    * Koeing *isn’t* just a Miss America/Captain America type…she’s a Party Girl/Porn Star too. I want to balance that portion of the story because it’s a major part of her character.

    Mr Hyde is a heightened representation of what many (stereotypical) men want to be: Strong, above the law, able to do what they want no matter what the consequences, etc. Koeing is a play off the same thing – being able to be phenomenally attractive, virtuous while still sinful, still a butt-kicker, etc. Virginia largely fixated on her sister who was popular and – as is common to be honest – she wanted to be ‘the popular girl’ and everything she thought that represented.

    How can I better portray this? Asked differently…how would Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde be written if the gender was reversed?

    Thanks everyone!

    Revengel

  75. YoungAuthoron 31 Mar 2012 at 3:19 pm

    I have a female character that I am about to write about. She isn’t the main character, but has a significant part to play as the secondary character. Her name is Lucilia (Lucy) Shakr and she is the 18 year-old orphan leader of the rebellion. The world Terra Dueno is controlled by the autocratic Imperials and the democratic rebels are trying to free the land. She is witty, athletic, resilient, snappy, and not afraid of a fight. She fights in the front line with all the men, and all her soldiers respect her and they would also die for her. She is an excellent hand-to-hand fighter and an accomplished markswoman. She misses her parents, who ran the army before they died laying seige to what is now the rebel capital. She watched them get shot down mercilessly by Mortem ( the main antagonist) an assassin, so she hates assassins. (The main character is an assassin, so that creates conflict). Her flaws are her stubbornness, cockiness, and her lack of trust in people. She is kind and selfless to civilians but will not hesitate to kill an Imperial soldier.

    What do you all think? All feedback is welcome!!!

  76. Anonymouson 31 Mar 2012 at 4:07 pm

    @ YoungAuthor:

    Quick question. How common is it for women to fight on the front lines in this world?

  77. Carl Shinyamaon 31 Mar 2012 at 4:11 pm

    In the American army, it’s getting relatively commonplace.

  78. B. McKenzieon 31 Mar 2012 at 4:56 pm

    In Britain:

    Around 70 per cent of all posts in the Army are open to women.

    They can find themselves on the frontline and extremely close to the enemy while serving as medics, intelligence specialists, artillery spotters, logisticians or signallers.

    However they remain barred from all infantry battalions and Royal Marine Commando units – including Special Forces – and from tank regiments and other armoured units.

    The ban has not stopped women being killed in Iraq and Afghanistan where they are at risk from roadside bombs even away from the frontline.

    In the United States:

    The Pentagon is unveiling plans Thursday [2/9/2012] to allow women to serve in thousands of military jobs closer to the front lines, reflecting the realities of the last decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Defense officials say the new rules will still mean that woman are barred from serving as infantry, armor and special operations forces — considered the most dangerous combat jobs. But the changes will open the door for more opportunities and promotions for women by allowing them to perform jobs they are already performing, but in battalions, which are closer to the fighting and once considered too dangerous for women.



    In the past decade, the necessities of war propelled women into jobs such as medics, military police and intelligence officers, and they were sometimes attached — but not formally assigned — to battalions. So while a woman couldn’t be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.



    But the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where battlefield lines are scattered and blurred, and insurgents can be around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat. Some 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or to jobs in neighboring nations in support of the wars, roughly 12 percent of all those who have served there. Of the more than 6,300 who have been killed, 144 were women.



    In a new program gaining popularity in Afghanistan, women are serving on so-called cultural support teams that go out with commando units. The women on the teams are used to do things that would be awkward or impossible for their male teammates, such as talking to or frisking burqa-clad women.

  79. B. McKenzieon 31 Mar 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I would generally recommend against wishy-washy characterization. Go stark. “She feels (at times) that no matter what she does the world will only see her as a pretty face… and [is] not exactly helped by her sometimes flirtatious attitude.” That’s wishy-washy. If she’s flirtatious, why is she bothered by the fixation with her physical appearance? Is there any potential for conflict here? (One example of a potential conflict that strikes me as more fertile: maybe she’s consistently serious about her work, BUT the media and/or public and/or other superheroes treat her mainly as eye candy. Incorporating a flaw could exacerbate this social conflict and make sure that she puts a personal stamp on what might otherwise be an overly generic “disrespected lady needs to win the respect of her peers” sort of plot).



    This character could probably be a lot more consistent. If she’s actually upset about how hard it is being so darned beautiful, it feels contrived to me that she doesn’t wear a mask. Okay, you want her to go maskless, because she’s damn hot, but what’s HER reason?

    “The way the world treats Koeing is consistent and – let’s be honest – if someone looks like a 12 on a scale of 1-10 the world will treat her very differently than it would anyone else.” Depending on how this is executed, this might feel unbelievable. In most life-or-death situations (such as pretty much everything involving a superhero), it does not strike me as plausible that people would act significantly different based on the hotness of the superhero in question. And, if it IS plausible, then why isn’t she wearing a mask?

    “Koeing *isn’t* just a Miss America/Captain America type…she’s a Party Girl/Porn Star too.” So… she acts (sort of) like a porn star, but she’s annoyed that she’s known more for her looks than anything else? … If this abject lack of self-awareness on her part is intentional, it might be promising. Otherwise, aggravating.



    “Koeing is actually not particularly pleased that she’s known for her looks rather than her deeds.” Would she be annoyed that her author cares more about her looks than her deeds? Because, umm, you’ve talked significantly more about her looks than anything else about her.



    “Mr Hyde is a heightened representation of what many (stereotypical) men want to be: Strong, above the law, able to do what they want no matter what the consequences, etc.” Hmm. Hyde is pretty horrific — e.g. he kills a young girl and a member of Parliament. (Also, he’s a hideous, deformed monster). I’m not sure he was meant to be looked up to. If a publisher asks for comparable works, perhaps The Hulk might work better?

  80. Revengelon 31 Mar 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Points taken…and I mean that. Just to answer a couple questions:

    - She doesn’t wear a mask because it’s against regulations…even for the branch of the government she works for (I guess SHIELD would be a fair comparison). Most cops don’t wear masks and she’s no exception….but one could argue that her ‘mask’ is the original persona of Virginia.

    - The lack of self-awareness is an inner conflict. She doesn’t mind compliments but is discouraged from time to time that her work isn’t respected. Most of the time it really doesn’t bother her so I may choose not to even address that point in the story.

    - Talking about her looks – I guess I was doing that here because I felt that was a red flag for a female character and is what I felt the need to handle properly. Perhaps instead of thinking that removing most/any reference to her attractiveness was removing the issue rather than presenting the issue properly. I stand corrected – again this is the feedback that I need.

    - Hyde is definitely the villain but a lot of what he represents is the male fantasy made grotesque in my opinion. A more modern and perhaps better example to make a point would be a comparison to James Bond. How many men would love to be able to have the sex appeal of JB, drive those cars and have a license to kill? I be tons if they felt they could get away with it!

    - In a life/death situation I agree that most folks react the same to the hero…attractive or not. However (and I wasn’t at all clear on this point) I was referring to non-combat/non-life threatening times. After the shootout, being interviewed on TV, being offered the key to the city…that sort of thing.

    Again I want to thank everyone for their feedback and specifically on how this pair of characters would/should be presented. While my semi-goal is to present Virginia as the main character it sounds like I would be better served making Koeing the main instead.

    :)

  81. Nightwireon 31 Mar 2012 at 8:11 pm

    @B.McKenzie:

    “That is a possibility, although it would cast Matthew’s involvement in a different light. For example, stumbling into the path of a radioactive spider doesn’t affect anybody else in any way, but somehow stumbling into a body meant to save a dying woman could make him look like he really blew it in some way. I do like the idea that the failed experiment might be more bittersweet than just one person getting cool superpowers, though.”

    What I’m having in mind is, Byton asked the university to set up a research team as a front for what he’s really doing (of course, the university was not aware of his ulterior motive). Matthew was a part of it. The research team had a vague feeling that what they were working on was not that legal or ethical, but they dared not give any question, because Byton is a very respected scientist. Matthew, with his curiosity getting the better of him, decided to dig further. He discovered that Byton is experiment with a gremlin’s brain (because gremlins are rumoured to have limited telepathy/technopathy). Of course, he could not stand witnessing that poor creature (who knows gremlins are nasty? Surprise!) being used as a guinea pig; so he tried to save it.

    But Byton, desperate to save his daughter, would not let any fool to sabotage his effort…

  82. B. McKenzieon 31 Mar 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Okay, hypothetically, let’s say I were reviewing a story about a guy (Jim) who uncontrollably turns into a James Bond-style secret agent at night and wakes up with no memory of the things he did. At the VERY least, I would expect Jim to have at least SOME personality because, otherwise, it’d probably be more stylish to cut Jim altogether and just make the character James Bond full-time. As for the James Bond persona, I’d want him to have a personality of his own, and the story of that persona will almost assuredly hinge on whether the persona does interesting things and NOT how good-looking he is (although his sex appeal relates to the interesting things he does).

    If the story focuses on the character’s sexiness without giving her interesting things to do, I think the best-case scenario is Catwoman or Batman & Robin, superhero movies that couldn’t figure out to do with their characters besides putting them in tight suits and doing long closeups. They are generally regarded as two of the worst superhero stories of all time.



    One final note on James Bond & Tony Stark: Their movies spend maybe 10 minutes on romance and 90+ minutes on action & adventure. I’m getting the impression that your story spends a lot more space on romance than James Bond or Iron Man movies would. Sexiness is just a minor part of what they do and who they are. In contrast, with your character, so far it sounds like it’s pretty much the only thing she is. The red flag is less that the character is very attractive and more that her attractiveness is apparently the only notable thing about her.

    If you had 3-5 sentences to pitch your story to a prospective publisher, what would you say? If I had to do it for you, the only points that are sticking out to me are that a woman with no discernible traits finds out that she’s secretly an incredibly hot superheroine. If I were marketing this, I’d be begging you to give me something real to work with–interesting character goals, personality/character traits, a memorable conflict, a compelling plot, anything notably interesting about her superheroics, etc. Anything.

    (As a point of comparison, if I had 3 sentences to describe my comic, The Taxman Must Die, here’s what I’d go with: “After getting marked for death by a supervillain, IRS accountant Gary Smith gets transferred to a spy agency as bait. His only chance of survival rests on his new partner, a mutant alligator whose powers of deduction make Scooby Doo look like Batman. Together, Homeland Security’s least likely agents must stop a deranged cosmetics designer from destroying humanity”). Hopefully that gives you some idea of the plot, the main characters, what they’re trying to accomplish, what’s at stake, what the author’s writing style is like, etc.



    Also–and I’ll hold off on this because it sounds like the story is not fleshed-out yet–but, eventually, I think it’d help to develop some sort of relationship between the two personas (e.g. Jekyll’s conflict with Hyde). Otherwise, I think hiding the super persona from the main character will entail too much setup for too little payoff.

  83. YoungAuthoron 01 Apr 2012 at 5:50 am

    @Anonymous and @Carl Shinyama- in Terra Dueno (the planet earth flocked to when we humans finished ruining earth) it is somewhat uncommon for women to be foot soldiers or infantry. Her leading her soldiers out to battle is as rare as it is here on earth.

    I have a female character that I am about to write about. She isn’t the main character, but has a significant part to play as the secondary character. Her name is Lucilia (Lucy) Shakr and she is the 18 year-old orphan leader of the rebellion. The world Terra Dueno is controlled by the autocratic Imperials and the democratic rebels are trying to free the land. She is witty, athletic, resilient, snappy, and not afraid of a fight. She fights in the front line with all the men, and all her soldiers respect her and they would also die for her. She is an excellent hand-to-hand fighter and an accomplished markswoman. She misses her parents, who ran the army before they died laying seige to what is now the rebel capital. She watched them get shot down mercilessly by Mortem ( the main antagonist) an assassin, so she hates assassins. (The main character is an assassin, so that creates conflict). Her flaws are her stubbornness, cockiness, and her lack of trust in people. She is kind and selfless to civilians but will not hesitate to kill an Imperial soldier.

    What do you all think? All feedback is welcome!!!

  84. MLEon 01 Apr 2012 at 6:53 am

    Cool book i so want to read it.

  85. YoungAuthoron 01 Apr 2012 at 7:52 am

    @MLE- thank yo, if you are talking to me :D

  86. Carl Shinyamaon 01 Apr 2012 at 11:57 am

    I like it.

    How is Shakr pronounced?

    I would make it clearer early on which side she is on: Imperial or Rebels. And bluntly say it, rather than imply it. Also, what exactly is her motive for being a soldier? What is it that she wants to gain from being in that profession?

    Without knowing much about the main character, I think in Lucy, you have someone fleshed out well enough to serve as a main character. I find her very interesting.

  87. YoungAuthoron 01 Apr 2012 at 3:59 pm

    @Carl Shinyama- thanks!!!:) SHA-KER is how its pronounced (i wanted to give it a non common feel to make it seemed almost futuristic. :D ) She’s on the side of the rebels and has a deep hatred for Imperials. She was born into the conflict and wants to carry on the work of her dead parents. Lucy wants to world of Terra Dueno to be free from the Imperials. She is half human and half of what is considered on that world, elf. (she has enhanced speed, strength, reflexes, speed of thought, etc), but she keeps that a secret (its the same with the main character).

    Thank you all and I would appreciate it if you looked at my review forum for my other story, High Acceleration.

    http://www.superheronation.com/2012/01/07/young-authors-review-forum/

  88. TheJediPenguinon 02 Apr 2012 at 4:13 pm

    ““If a woman is older than 15 but never swears, she’s probably too pure.”
    I disagree with this. A character’s attitude to swearing should never be an indicator for her Mary Sue-ness. There exists people who don’t like swearing in real life, you know. Most of my lady friends never swear (or just use mild swearwords), and I have trouble seeing how a person’s maturity is reflected by whether they swear or not.
    Also, if I dislike swearing and I don’t wish to include it in my work (or I’m writing something for children), that doesn’t mean my characters are too pure.”

    This is true, but it is a massive exception. I know very few people who never swear. Actually, I think I know about one who is my age. Who never speaks to me. Most people swear. Or at least know swears. Realistically, you could have a character who wears more as she gets more upset (angry, sad etc)

    Or, for a different rule, if your character was in a romantic relationship and would be unwilling to do anything more than say, hold hands or hug, they’re probably too pure (unless they have a good reason for chastity). In romantic relationships, things are rarely completely chaste.

  89. Nightwireon 02 Apr 2012 at 7:24 pm

    May be it’s just a culture thing. I don’t live in America. :)

    “Or, for a different rule, if your character was in a romantic relationship and would be unwilling to do anything more than say, hold hands or hug, they’re probably too pure (unless they have a good reason for chastity). In romantic relationships, things are rarely completely chaste.”

    What if those characters are middle school or high school student?

    Again, cultural differences. I come from an Asian country, and chastity is valued there.

  90. TheJediPenguinon 02 Apr 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Ah, culture is important to consider /fail/. But then, I’d consider cultural expectation o be a good reason for chastity and such.

    Middle school, in America, I would suppose there to be some kissing, hopefully not too much else. Though, if you look at the internet… *shudder*

    High school… a couple will definitely get into kissy shenangins, from my experience. However, it’s not uncommon for a girls first real kiss to be in HS. How far beyond kissing a couple goes depends on alot, like religion and family expectations. Someone who is religious will value purity more so than someone who isn’t religious.

    That being said, I still believe that if a relationship is serious there will be some form of physicality beyond what is considered friendly. And there will more than likely be sexual thoughts (whether kissing or more) because humans are sexual.

  91. Revengelon 03 Apr 2012 at 8:15 am

    @ B. McKenzie:

    I took everything you put down and have changed the approach of how I’m presenting the ‘hero’ in my story. I haven’t changed the character at all but I’m going to highlight other things about her.

    Here are some things from my first chapter – some of which has been re-written with your advice/views/etc. in mind.

    ——————————–
    I could count two different shooters that missed me by a wide margin while the third gunman was at least a fair shot. One single slug grazed my calf but the pain would have to wait for now. I knew my advanced healing would be able to deal with the damage but more importantly all three gave away their positions when they fired. So I pulled my twin custom 3X-20 pistols, straightened my front leg mid-sprint and allowed momentum to flip me forward in an airborne cartwheel. As I did I released three shots from each weapon, striking each gunman twice to make sure they went down. By the time I landed I was back in full sprint toward the front of the building. The three gunmen never fired another shot.
    ——————————–

    There are a few paragraphs like this describing how she deals with situations (in this case a standoff) by using her guns. There’s a good chuck of guns blazing, etc. which results in the bad guys being taken down.

    Another excerpt from a paragraph in chapter 1 that takes place after the scene has been released to the local PD:
    ——————————
    The experiments that created me made a woman that could take a bullet, as I mentioned before, and I’m supernatural with a gun – any gun – and I mentioned that too. However I also looked like no other woman ever born…a fact that made me very popular with men. With a talent for war and a body for Sin I quickly garnered a lot of attention…especially from the media. It’s a mixed bag because if I said that I don’t enjoy added attention…well that would be a bold faced lie. Sadly though there are some things that get lost in all the fanfare, like the true heroes of this town. Perhaps one day I can use my fame to do some good.
    —————————–

    The intent is to show that she understands why/how she’s popular, recognizes that the spotlight is drawn away from other things that she feels should garner some coverage and resolves that one day she’ll find a way to generate a positive change in the world using her popularity.

    Another excerpt after she kisses an officer:
    —————————–
    The silence was broken by the crowd reaction, and it was loud. From whistles to hoots to flat out proposals it seemed every officer in a ten yard radius had an opinion to share, and they shared it vibrantly. This kind of thing, kissing a young officer or sitting on a car like I a pin-up girl, it might seem shallow to somebody else. But scenes like this can boost morale and, well we lost some good souls tonight. I can’t bring back the dead but maybe…just maybe…I can put a smile on their faces. It’s the least I can do after a night like this.
    —————————–

    The attempt is to show that she is part USO as well as a gunslinger.

    Granted this is still very much a work in progress – I’m only about 12k words in with a rough goal of about 75-85k. But feedback like what I’ve recieved – specifically the ‘Red Flags for Female Characters’ feedback – has been very much appreciated.

    Thanks again,
    Revengel

  92. Revengelon 03 Apr 2012 at 8:19 am

    PS – sorry for the typos..!

  93. B. Macon 03 Apr 2012 at 1:47 pm

    “I could count two different shooters that missed me by a wide margin while the third gunman was at least a fair shot. One single slug grazed my calf but the pain would have to wait for now. I knew my advanced healing would be able to deal with the damage but more importantly all three gave away their positions when they fired. So I pulled my twin custom 3X-20 pistols, straightened my front leg mid-sprint and allowed momentum to flip me forward in an airborne cartwheel. As I did I released three shots from each weapon, striking each gunman twice to make sure they went down. By the time I landed I was back in full sprint toward the front of the building. The three gunmen never fired another shot.”

    –I think this could be developed more. For example, where’s this battle taking place? What’s the weather like and does it affect the fight at all? (For example, visibility, wind velocity)…

    –There’s no consequence to her being shot here.

    –She’s supposed to be a very skilled marksman, right? Her point of view doesn’t quite give me that impression. Besides naming the type of gun she’s using, how is this different than you would have written a fight for a character that wasn’t a very skilled marksman? (It might help to read something like Point of Impact, a novel that extensively covers the mental calculations and physical adjustments that go into marksmanship).

    If I had been writing this scene for a master marksman, I would have tried to incorporate some of these:
    –The distance at which she’s taking fire. (This affects how much danger she’s in and perhaps what the appropriate response would be).
    –The posture of the shooters and whether they’re behind any sort of cover.
    –Language more appropriate to the urgency of the situation. She seems too collected. This comes across like she’s giving an after-action report of what she did and why, but I’d like it to come across more like she’s in the heat of the moment. Less conscious. More fragmented.
    –The setting. In particular, I’m interested in whether there’s any cover or concealment for her (and/or her opponents).
    –Any sort of explanation why she cartwheels at the enemy rather than something more conventional. This felt very Hollywood to me.
    –Any relevant weather conditions (notably wind and anything that affects visibility)
    –Impact! (Specifically, what it feels like when a metal slug grazes her at maybe 680 miles per hour, the recoil of her pistols, the impact as she lands her leap)…
    –Any sort of mental reflection on her battle. E.g. immediately after the battle, she might be fatigued and drained. (Exertion -> adrenaline -> fatigue). Alternately, you might look at what she thinks about having just killed three guys.
    –Anything that suggests she has an unusual attention to detail. What sorts of things does she pay attention to?
    –Any sort of way in which she out-thinks her opponents. As the fight is currently written, I get the impression that she lets three shooters surprise her.

    [interrupted, will return later]

  94. Revengelon 03 Apr 2012 at 7:59 pm

    @ B.Mac

    If you wish I could post the entire chapter in my review forum. I was really just grabbing bits from the chapter rather than anything complete or in full context. You do have a great point that I had not gotten into – the weather. Granted there’s no true consequence with the weather but it would help to set the scene.

    I should have it up in my review forum in a little bit – I just have to cut/paste it.

    Thank you!

  95. B. McKenzieon 03 Apr 2012 at 10:48 pm

    Alright, I’ll take a look at that.

  96. writing opposite gender characterson 28 Jun 2012 at 4:34 pm

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  97. [...] Red Flags For Female Characters Written by Men by B. McKenzie [...]

  98. Chrissyon 27 Jan 2013 at 10:58 pm

    @YoungAuthor
    I’m a young author, too. I like to give advice to people, and you did ask for constructive criticism, so here goes.
    To be completely honest, I’m fairly cynical and find flaws or negative traits in everyone, so this is probably just me, but your character seems a little cliche. She brought Katniss Everdeen to my mind pretty quickly, and there are other female leads or secondaries who are “tough and strong so all the guys respect her”. I suggest taking the Universal Mary Sue Litmus Test, because her entire description sounds familiar. Link: http://springhole.net/writing/marysue.htm
    I’m not saying she shouldn’t be a decent fighter and support the rebellion, but maybe she’s not excellent in two very different areas of combat at eighteen, and maybe because of her age not every other soldier she fights with respects her, and maybe she isn’t a really great person and her only flaws could benefit her in some way or cause shenanigans to amuse the reader.
    Of course, and I tell this to everyone, I am not a professional at all, and the best people to talk to would be trained adults such as your language arts teacher, or anyone with a degree in that field.

  99. Shannunononon 16 Mar 2013 at 10:45 pm

    To the people above who said number four describes Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood, what? Okay, Hermione is a know-it-all, but that is not the only trait J.K. Rowling gave her. I love J.K. Rowling, she is one of my favorite authors, and I know for a fact she didn’t do this. Hermione is described as smart, but she is also a good friend, hard working, compassionate to those in need, bossy and impatient to those whom annoy her, somewhat closed-minded, and incredibly brave. Is clever/smart the most common trait given to her by other, well, yeah that is what Harry Potter sees in her in their first interaction. Later on she proves to be more so, as seen above. She started S.P.E.W. because she thought the house elves needed freeing.

    Now, Luna Lovegood. What a sweet heart. Sure she can be viewed as “a total ditz” as stated in four, but I so not see her that way. She is confident, wise in ways others are not, open-minded, bluntly honest, comforting, tougher than she really is at first glance, loyal to her few friends, and is braver than most people you’ll ever meet. Luna is sort of like Hermione in some ways, but is very much her own person. I love Luna and her character. You would think under stress she would crumple, when in reality she is as tough as nails.

    Anybody who thinks J.K. Rowling made these lovely ladies as just “smart” or “stupid” definitely has not read the books or seen the movies. (The movies even got this right, people. That is RARE!)

  100. Shannunononon 16 Mar 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Not the person right above me, but I saw it at least twice.

  101. Yuuki12on 23 Mar 2013 at 8:38 pm

    I am having issues with a female character for my short story. Given that it is a short story, rather than a novel, characterization needs to be tight, and well established early. The story I am working on revolves around my character, Jenny Walker.

    Despite having finished the first draft of my short story, I felt as if it wasn’t very good. This was to be expected, given it is a rough draft. However, being over the 7,000 word count is a bad sign.

    Plus, I felt as if Jenny’s characterization, while there, wasn’t as cohesive as I wanted. Alas, forgive the rambling, and allow me to get to the point. If there was one trait of Jenny that I noticed during the first draft it was how brazen she was. Jenny is not a pushover. When crap is thrown her way, she shoves it back.

    Her brazen atitude is there is because she feels that it is the only way for others to take her seriously. And given the profession she is in (mercenary/ treasure seeker) this is a must. Also, from what I noticed she manifests this atitude by mocking others. She calls people older than her “old man” or “old woman” for example.

    I try to play up this extreme trait the most I can. Another trait that I noticed is her combative atitude. Given her impatience, she’s not the type to idly stand by. If something, or someone rubs her the wrong way, she won’t heistate to chew them out.

    It is this atitude I wish to present as one of the major obstacles in the tale. Given she is on an undercover mission, her hot-headed temper is something that is a liability,for if she says one wrong thing, it could be disastrous for her.

    The other atitude I wish to portray is her intrepid behavior. She’s not the type to stick to the same stuff. Rather, she embraces new things. It is the main reason why Jenny became what she was.

    I understand this message has been long. But how was that? Should I revise her, and try to better flesh her out?

  102. B. McKenzieon 23 Mar 2013 at 9:11 pm

    “Despite having finished the first draft of my short story, I felt as if it wasn’t very good. This was to be expected, given it is a rough draft. However, being over the 7,000 word count is a bad sign.” After the end of your first draft, having extra words to work with is actually very helpful; e.g. you have more liberty to cut out story elements which aren’t as effective as the rest than someone who has, say, 3000 words and wants to submit at 3000 words. As for the quality of the work, the first draft is (like you said) never publishable–quality comes from rewriting.

    “It is this [brazen, combative] attitude I wish to present as one of the major obstacles in the tale. Given she is on an undercover mission, her hot-headed temper is something that is a liability, for if she says one wrong thing, it could be disastrous for her.” I like your thinking here. It sounds like there are definitely consequences (positive and negative) to her actions, which is generally dramatic and helpful. One additional avenue which may be helpful would be thinking about any ways in which her combative attitude might actually make her LESS suspicious in a particular situation. For example, if an overly aggressive undercover cop started a fight with somebody at a seedy bar, that will create some problems for her, but one potential benefit is that someone crucial watching the fight might figure “well, there’s no way an undercover cop would have done that.” Refuge in insanity. :)



    “Should I revise her, and try to better flesh her out?” Based on what I understand, the character sounds appealing. I don’t understand what the problem is. You mention that the character’s personality isn’t as cohesive as you wanted, but from what you’ve described, her personality feels very coherent to me. (In contrast, if you had described an allegedly tough character whose actions mostly skewed towards weakness/cowardice, that would have raised red flags about whether the readers will be on your page).

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  105. WinslowMudDon 12 May 2013 at 2:45 pm

    Alright, this is my first attempt at a female MC, and have attempted to make her as rounded as possible. Please let me know of any questions or comments you have regarding AUDREY MALONE…

    Origin:
    After their mother and father got divorced when they were both very young, Audrey and her younger brother, Michael, were forced to live with their father. Life was alright outside of their home, but once they returned, they were usually beaten without reason, or otherwise persecuted. As Audrey began to mature, her father, Jason, began losing interest in other women that were hard to get, for him at least, and began looking at his daughter for “release.”
    Their lives continued on a downward spiral as they both tried to adjust to the horrible lives they were leading, and did their best to keep it all a secret from their friends and mentors/teachers. One night, after months of wishing and contemplation, Audrey and Michael had decided they had had enough. So, at the ages of 17 and 15, respectively, they planned to beat their father back for what he’d done, and then run away. It failed though, after Jason caught wind of it. He threw Michael out of the window, and cracked open Audrey’s skull before proceeding to molest her. In her last moments awake, she saw a strange figure stab her father through the back, and then passed out.
    After they were rescued from the ensuing house fire by the Seattle Fire Dept., Michael and Audrey were offered a place to stay with their mother, Mary, who lived in Port Angeles. They did for a while, and both tried to move past what had happened to them the year prior. After graduating high-school, Audrey began going to college to study Psychology, hoping to understand and help prevent people from going through what she and her brother did. During that time, she began to realize that she had a form of psychic ability, more specifically the abilities to sense emotions and to see an objects past by touch. She also met someone who would later become her husband, Marcus Finch. She kept her abilities hidden as she finished up college, and proceeded to join a “psychology firm.” After a few months out of college, she and Marcus were wed, and moved to Everett.

    There, she began to do work with patients suffering from depression and other mild mental disorders, and found that, with the aid of her abilities, she was actually very successful at her job. Then, when all was looking up, one of her patients, one that returned fairly frequently, asked for her help on an issue. He asked for her aid to help find a child of his that was missing. After realizing that he had noticed her abilities, and that the police had refused to help him, she reluctantly agreed. What ensued was a manhunt throughout Everett, Seattle, and Marysville, where she enlisted the help of her husband, (a former marine officer) the child’s family, three witnesses, and a few trusting police officials. After finding the child too late, and in a horrible condition, (dismembered) the mother of the child urged her husband to take action. Not wanting to hurt her in any other ways (as her husband was killed during the investigation), the father shamefully brought the entire investigation and its outcome to the attention of the State Police, who turned it over to the courts.
    During a much publicized trial, Audrey was questioned and found to be not guilty of any intentional crimes. She was, however, asked if she truly believed she had telepathic abilities. Fearing an asylum, she said no, and left the court with her license to practice psychology. She moved back in with her mother for a while, and decided to begin teaching (Her Minor in College) in one of Seattle’s school districts. There she has remained for the past few years.

    Personality:
    In response to her past with her father and the incident in Seattle, Audrey is generally distrustful of most people, males specifically, but this doesn’t affect relationships once she gets to know someone very well. The exception to this is dependent on what kinds of emotions she senses coming from individuals.
    Audrey is also rather intelligent, and is quick to notice and point out flaws in people or with their actions. She is strong willed, thick skinned, and despite everything, she still hopes to find someone with whom to share the rest of her life with.

    Abilities:
    Empathy- Sense Emotions, Motives
    Psychometry- Sense Past by touch

    Note One: The rape is not just for shock value or fake sympathy, I despise people who put a character through that for no reason. It is actually relevant to the plot later on, particularly as to why the main antagonist, or curtain antagonist really, “chose” her and her brother.

    Note Two: She gained her abilities when her and her brother’s plan went awry, and she had her head cracked open.

  106. WinslowMudDon 12 May 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Also, in case this helps, its going to be a suspense/horror/mystery story…not in that particular order though…

  107. Proxie#0on 21 May 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Good Evening B. Mac. Is there any chance I can get one of those nifty Review Forums?

  108. B. McKenzieon 22 May 2013 at 6:09 am

    I’ve set it up here, Proxie#0.

  109. June 1 | A Personal Blogon 06 Jun 2013 at 7:55 am

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  110. Docrannon 08 Jun 2013 at 12:39 am

    I think that the key to writing good female characters is to try and write with no regard to gender. That’s how I do it, anyway – I think that trying to put women and men into seperate slots based on gender alone will probably only insult people. :-)
    I’d disagree on the swearing thing and the vamp seduction thing – I’m a girl writing for both genders and my main action heroine has the foulest mouth of the entire team and the one time she’s asked to get information out of someone, she just undoes two buttons and walks out of the room without a word. So I tjink such things can be done by female characters and writers. XD
    I also think that, in action series alone, women do tend to either be the tough fighter or the damsel in distress who relies on their intuition.
    Quick question – do the gender roles in my team seem okay?
    There are six main members. The three girls serve as the team’s chemist, the ‘tough guy’ and the underworld contact. The three guys serve as the engineer, the team leader and the weaponry/transportation guy. Do these seem fairly balanced or are any of them traditionally ‘male’ or ‘female’ that I should change?

  111. B. McKenzieon 08 Jun 2013 at 11:29 am

    “I think that the key is writing good female characters is to try and write with no regard to gender.” Hmm… When it comes to how closely you want to stick to audience expectations, I think your options are unlimited for a single character, but it could come across as strange and/or incompetent if all of your ladies sound like guys (or vice versa), unless the premise justifies it*. (This applies outside of gender expectations, as well — for example, it’s not at all a problem that Sherlock Holmes acts really odd most of the time, but it’d probably be disorienting if every character in the series acted that odd for no apparent reason).

    *E.g. most servicewomen sound & act more like servicemen than like civilian ladies, so if you’re mainly dealing with military characters, it’d be totally believable if the ladies sounded different than what civilians were used to.

    As for your story, I don’t have enough information to say. I’m not seeing any red flags so far from the 2 paragraphs of description, but I’d have to see actual chapters to have a better idea about how the characters are executed. One encouraging sign is that it sounds like all of the characters will have something interesting to do (although the chemist may be redundant with the engineer — merging the two characters could be an opportunity to save space and buy more time for character development).

  112. [...] Red Flags for Female Characters Written by Men [...]

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  115. Manning Son 20 Jan 2014 at 1:04 pm

    “If I can offer one other piece of advice: a woman lead does not mean a guy in drag. For example, Electra (not movie) is portrayed as a hard core, kill everything woman. Yeah…that is not the normal case. Women, on the whole, tend to be much more indirect because we know a normal guy could win a direct fight. So keep her slightly girly just maybe less unicorns and rainbows.”

    I’m rolling my eyes into the back on my eye. Loosen up on gender roles. Are you really saying all female characters need to at least be “slighty girly?” Or that every woman would do such and such in this case, while men would do such and such in this case? A masculine woman does not a man make. A feminine man does not a woman make. As long as she’s written well, a writer should be able to write a female character as masculine as she likes.

  116. Manning Son 20 Jan 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Also, to add to my comment. “That is not the normal case.” Well, who cares. It’s fiction. Why would the MC need to be a part of the norm? Most MCs aren’t. There are butch women and yes they’re not the norm, but they exist. You’re saying they can’t be protagonists? Go reevaluate your mindset as a “writer” and a person.

  117. [...] What’s more, many of them are very specific (like whether to use ‘said’, red flags for men writing female characters, and how to write a scene). The Character Development category is particularly immense, with [...]

  118. Frenzyon 07 Feb 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Here’s my take on this subject.

    Don’t write a gender, write a character. That’s what I say every time I come across a subject like this in forums or wherever. People tend to be far too focused on how to convincingly write a character of the opposite gender instead of being focused on writing a convincing character–period.

    Every person is different. Gender, technically speaking, shouldn’t be the key thing to consider when writing a character. You could have a highly sensitive male or a tough as nails female. Personality is/should be what defines the character, not their gender, so that’s what should be focused on when writing the character.

    I’ll use my series as an example. The vast majority of my characters are female. I am not a female and yet I prefer writing them. If I were to be incredibly arrogant for a moment, I would say my female characters are pretty alright. It’s not because I have an expert understanding of how the female mind works, but because I don’t write them by restricting their character to nothing but their gender.

    As for gender stereotypes, stereotyping isn’t bad, per se, but if there’s no depth to the character and all the character is is a stereotype, then that’s a poorly written character.

    To reiterate, a gender shouldn’t be the main focus when writing a character unless the story revolves around gender, or if gender is literally an important feature of a character (like a certain character of mine for certain reasons); personality should be the main focus when writing characters.

  119. B. McKenzieon 07 Feb 2014 at 4:59 pm

    “Stereotyping isn’t bad, per se, but if there’s no depth to the character and all the character is is a stereotype, then that’s a poorly written character.” I agree, though it could be problematic for readers if many characters act very differently than what readers would expect. If one character acts counterintuitively, that could be effective (e.g. perhaps the author is trying to develop the character as eccentric, unpredictable, or highly unorthodox in some way). However, if many characters act against expectations for no discernible reason*, that’s probably an avenue for improvement — in general, I’d recommend keeping readers on your page.

    *For an example of a discernible reason, if you were writing a novel about a squad of Marine women, I think readers would cut you a lot of slack on many of them acting and/or speaking in a more classically masculine way.



    At the risk of overgeneralizing, I think this may be more of an obstacle for male authors writing female characters than vice versa because most males have very little exposure to female main characters, whereas it’s harder for a female author to avoid having read or seen books and movies with male leads.

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