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Random Musings
Writing Female Characters. 
20th-Nov-2009 12:39 pm
I'm in a reflective mood today and was thinking about the writing of female characters/protagonists. Someone mentioned recently they found it odd that I mainly tend to write from a male protagonist's point of view.

Of course, one main reason is because the character that captures my imagination the most happens to be a male character. But that doesn't answer the whole question because even for my OCs, the ones that I tend to do the POVs for are the male characters. The females tend to be 'appendages' who only interact with their male partners and seem to 'disappear', like a light in a fridge that turns off when the door is closed.

I'm actually quite bothered by this now that I think of it. When I look around at TV series/movies/books, IMO, it seems to be the norm and any departure is the exception. The majority of the most interesting and most developed characters are the male ones. Any females that fall in this category, usually tend to be caricatures of what a women is.

Let's face it. In B7, the females are all given interesting backgrounds and skills but the moment anything interesting or important happens, they usually get shoved to the side and end up sitting behind the teleport, waiting and wringing their hands about what the men are up to. Even ones who supposedly have the smarts and skills to make positive contributions, all of a sudden, in the presence of one of the men, and one man in particular, seem to be unable to make decisions on their own, or even attempt to, or leave you scratching your head because you would think that someone with their ability wouldn't have to ask anyone about something that should be their specialty. The few exceptions where they shine, are just that, rare exceptions.

How many fics are written where one of the B7 females are the protagonists and show smarts just as equally or more than their male counterparts? And how many of us bother to read such fics or given the choice of those stories as opposed to ones focused on the men, would actually pick a female-focussed one, unless it's a sex fic?

Why is this? Is it because most of the writers in the popular media are male and don't have a clue how to portray women? Is it because the tv series/movies/books I'm interested in are mainly geared towards men and they really don't care about female characters except for a few narrowly defined functions that do little justice to them as real characters?

I did write a major scene recently to develop one of the female characters, giving her a strong POV. It is doable and turned out a lot more interesting than I thought it would be but I had to make a real effort to do it. Maybe I should try to write a female character that is a main protagonist.

I want to make an effort because I don't want to make the same mistakes and do a misjustice to the way female characters are portrayed, become a party to the marginalization of women in fiction or to encourage the stereotypes.

It's one of the reasons why I don't tend to read slash, apart from being turned off by really explicit stuff of any orientation. I'm not opposed to those types of relationships but it just seems to me that women are even more minimalized and marginalized in those types of fics than other ones. And even worse, they become completely unimportant because even the one use they have in adolescent male minds, is completely done away with by glorifying the male-male interactions as far more desirable.

But that is just my opinion. Maybe there are slash fics that don't do that to the portayal of women and actually treat them with the same respect and don't push them down or make them invisible in order to glorify the male interactions.

But as a female, I'm highly offended at what is done to female characterizations. I fact, the more that I'm thinking about it, the more I'm becoming sick of it.
Kal Writes
20th-Nov-2009 06:15 pm (UTC)
One reason for pushing for the return of Jenna. :~)
20th-Nov-2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
Hopefully I will be able to develop her properly. She certainly has enough dark baggage to deal with that should give her more depth.
(Deleted comment)
20th-Nov-2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
I had some tell me that I made my story too much about my "amazing" new character; I had others not like the traditional female elements I included. I had still others tell me they liked the character.

I bet if it had been an "amazing" new male character, people would have been less inclined to make that kind of remark. Not that I'm cynical or anything ;)

The way I see it, we are not men; we don't act like men, but we do the things we do for reasons that are not clearly understood by society in general. We do not fit stereotypes and we don't need to and shouldn't have to completely break the mold of womenhood to be ourselves.
Yes, definitely agree =)

BTW: I thought Kali seriously rocked in that particular scene.
Thanks. Hopefully I can do more of it.
(Deleted comment)
20th-Nov-2009 06:28 pm (UTC)
Questions and musings!

I read some fics lately about Jenna pre-series which were pretty interesting. I really liked Jenna in the first two eps but then got disappointed because she could have done so much more useful stuff.

I want to make an effort because I don't want to make the same mistakes and do a misjustice to the way female characters are portrayed

I think you're doing well so far. I like seeing how they interact with others who are not their partners. Sometimes I'd like to see more of that but realistically, they're jumping from one crisis to another at the moment. When I look at the moments of free time there is: Reya's bachelor party, the singing sessions, Corinne playing cards with the soldiers, Vila being scared of Reya after making hero dolls, Jenna adapting to the ship

I did write a major scene recently to develop one of the female characters, giving her a strong POV.

Ooooh, is this one we've seen?

Also, after Argus's speech at the end of Perceptions he said 'I can't do this alone' and went on to list the crew and their skills. Now Corinne and Kirsten are on the ship for good, are they going to fill in any particular jobs/roles? Other than list editor and target painter, that is :P
Hey, you could write that drabble on this!
20th-Nov-2009 06:39 pm (UTC)
I did write a major scene recently to develop one of the female characters, giving her a strong POV.

Ooooh, is this one we've seen?

It's the scene between Kali and the Admiral in Part 11.

Until you asked for the drabble with Corinne, I hadn't really done a proper one for her where we get to see her POV regarding another member of the crew other than Vila.

You want a drabble on Corinne and Kirsten's roles on the ship? I haven't really found a specific place for them yet. I was going to make Corinne the new resident medic since she has some medical knowledge but Cally already has that role. I was hoping to move Cally away from that but it didn't work as long as Avon's health is still compromised. I was considering them both for sharpshooting in that target shooting scene but Reya already has that. I'm still trying to find a good role for them. I don't really want to have Corinne as the social director, though she would be good in that role. It just seemed a bit of a stereotype and I didn't want to do that. Any thoughts?
20th-Nov-2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
Hadn't thought about it much - as when I read B7 I like Avon based, and BtVS it has to be Spike-centric.

Maybe it's because we are girld we like reading/writing the guys better ... just a thought!
20th-Nov-2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
But then would that mean that men fan writers would read/write females characters that they find sexy?

For me, I only like Avon because they made him a fascinating character. That he is also sexy is a bonus for me.

My first draw to any character has always been because they are smart, outspoken and don't suffer fools gladly. Which is Avon in a nutshell. In most shows, I'm drawn to the secondary characters because they're usually far smarter and poke holes in the egos of main character.

If they had written Avon as a woman, I'd have been equally drawn to him/her.

Edited at 2009-11-20 07:26 pm (UTC)
20th-Nov-2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
A thought and a comment.

I wonder how far we've absorbed the criticisms of Mary Sues and has that made us reluctant to develop the women outside their stereotypical roles.

I didn't watch it and I know it was considered a weaker series, but what about The Girl from Uncle. Did they do anything sensible with her? And think what could be done with The Avengers
20th-Nov-2009 10:40 pm (UTC)
I wonder how far we've absorbed the criticisms of Mary Sues and has that made us reluctant to develop the women outside their stereotypical roles.

This fear certainly made me substitute Tyce and Soolin for an OC female character in Lynx, but I grew to really like Soolin through that.
20th-Nov-2009 10:53 pm (UTC)
Just thinking: perhaps you can include some females who aren't defined by their relationship with men, tempting though it is to tidily pair them all up. Could Kirsten be a strategist? Corinne a liaison with others because of her personality? That ship's hard to add people to, but you could develop some female soldiers. Or have officers, engineers, etc on the AU ship; there's a large crew you can draw from for some fun cameo appearances.
20th-Nov-2009 11:01 pm (UTC)
Kirsten as a strategist! Yes! She was pretty awesome dealing with the challenges on Chandar.
21st-Nov-2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Crikey is this where you have all been? I am patiently waiting for a B7friday challenge (hint Reapermum) and you are all over here debating.

I have long bemoaned lack of decent female characters in fiction in general and on TV too. I once read a justification that held that the reason is that, while female viewers will watch/read about both men and women protagonists, men will only watch/read male protagonists, so the producers/publishers go for what will appeal to the most end users.

I think the reason a lot of fanfic lacks interesting women is that its female writers only really want to focus on their chosen males of interest. I count myself here too. In the same way, I don't read fanfic for good literature either, but I will tolerate poor(ish) writing for a decent story about my favourites. I bet others are the same as me.

Like some commenters here I prefer to see people as individuals in their behaviour. I will eschew anything written about what I will loosely term 'girly' stuff, not because it contains women, but because I hate 'girly' topics and would rather read about people interested in what interests me. I have never been able to understand why men supposedly do 'male' stuff and women do 'female' stuff. That might be the aspie in me. For me a good character can do either, regardless of gender. I have often wished Servalan was more like Kasabi for instance. I can see the appeal she has for male fans, but I'd prefer to see her (and Jenna and Cally and Dayna and Soolin for that matter) in fatigues, at least most of the time. I like Avon in fatigues too, but for a quite other reason...

I am not making a good argument here because I am a little pissed and I hate writing essays in comment boxes, so I'll stop now.
21st-Nov-2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
I poked Reapermum about the b7 friday prompt and it is funny because...

but I'd prefer to see her (and Jenna and Cally and Dayna and Soolin for that matter) in fatigues

Now you can send them fatigues shopping! :P
21st-Nov-2009 10:34 pm (UTC)
I have found that most men don't write female characters that well. Even when they are supposedly the primary protagonist. David Weber's Honor Harrington for instance. There are times when his portrayal of her sets my teeth on edge.

Oddly enough when a female writer writes a male character there tends to be less complaints that they are getting it "wrong".

So it seems females are better at writing males than males are at writing females.

In Blake's 7 the scriptwriters were all male, as far as I know and it does show. What was the point for instance of having Cally as a "Freedome Fighter" when she actually did very little fighting.

It's one of the reasons my favourite Companions are Leela and Ace. They don't just scream and wait to be rescued, they actually act. (Don't get me started on how Russ T Davies writes female characters.)

I do find it annoying in TV programmes or movies that are supposedly "modern" that cast the female into a purely passive role.

The only character I tend to write consistently is Cally, of the female members of the crew. I find it hard to get a feel for the others, so I don't write them as often. So saying I also find it difficult to get a feel for some of the male crew members too, Tarrant for one.

Sometimes it does help the storyline along though to get a different POV.

21st-Nov-2009 10:44 pm (UTC) - PS
Also to note, if you study male written fiction and female written fiction, you will find that men tend to write Action driven plots. While women write character driven plots, even if there is action there it is the interaction between the characters that is more important.
22nd-Dec-2009 07:08 am (UTC)
Hmm, and here I was thinking that I used females more often that I should in my stories =P (ones I still have stockpiled on my PC)
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