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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Strong Female Characters (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Strong Female Characters
Denevius
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quote:
Any form of forcing a writer or group of writers to write a certain way is both a form of censorship and propaganda.
Who has forced *you* to write a certain way?

quote:
In short, I don't see what's wrong with writing for your audience--no matter who that may be--and about subject matters you want to and not what a few critics think you should.
What critics have stopped *you* from writing about subject matter you want to and not what those few critics think you should?

***Added***

And please, explain this comment further:

quote:
t's not about quality in fiction but forcing a political change and then [/i]enforcing[/i] it. There are already calls to arms (so to speak) about "people of color"--which really only refers to one color--and anything other than a straight-male PoV character. Politic. Nothing more.
What's the *one* color you're referring to?
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MAP
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No one is trying to force anyone to write what they don't want to write, but people do have the right to criticize too. And yes sometimes that criticism is a larger commentary on trends in movies and books that affect our society. But still you can agree or disagree, use it or discard, whatever you want. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.

But this particular advice goes beyond it's political agenda and does offer sage insights that could be used to strengthen stories. All the article is suggesting is to put more thought in the role that your female characters play in the story, and that, as extrinsic phrased it, "a strong female character role is one which influences change throughout a narrative--agency: no more, no less, and no different than strong male roles."

Personally I think giving the female love interest more purpose in the story will only make the story more interesting, but that is just my opinion and might have to do with my personal story preferences. So take it or leave it.

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Grumpy old guy
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I will write the stories I want to write and people them with the characters I set out to create for the purposes of my narrative. If I choose to put in a message and shout out to the world, "Look, there it is. Read and understand!" then that is my choice. And, should the world shout me down and brand me pervert and degenerate, that is their right.

My only pity is for the fool who unwittingly lays her/his soul bare on the page without realising that the whole world will hound him/her for the rest of their days.

Do what you want and have done with it. Just do it with your eyes open.

Phil.

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Denevius
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This isn't really about a writer writing what he wishes. The implication InarticulateBabbler was making was purely political, which was why I was disheartened to see it in the thread, and on Hatrack. At least ten of us responded to this article, and politics didn't come up.

Somehow I doubt Kathleen would link an article if she thought it was political. That's not the tone of Hatrack, in which she is the sole moderator.

But unlike the rest of us, who discussed characterization and writing, InarticulateBabbler immediately dismissed it all in a way that can brook no argument on where he stands on this debate:

quote:
I think it's fairly horsesh!t. This *movement* is a reflection of the current political climate.
For InarticulateBabbler, it's not a question of writing, it's a question of a movement. An agenda. But an agenda for what, and to what end?

quote:
I've seen "strong female" defined as everything from role-reversal heroine to a plain woman with her own relationships. It's a straw man.
What's a straw man? Unlike the rest of us, who attempted to understand what the writer of the article was getting at (which I said early on seemed flawed), InarticulateBabbler simply dismisses it all with 'It's a straw man' (a common internet-argument phrasing that should be a cliche now. When you don't agree with something but can't *articulate* why, just call it a straw man).

quote:
Every time someone does something to kowtow to the current political literary demands (especially one about women FROM women) they can never succeed in any meaningful way.
If this were a male character in a story, what conclusion would you draw from this statement? Feel that tone, that bitterness towards the opposite sex.

quote:
If a man writes a woman character well, it's: "What does a man know about being a woman? How arrogant!"
Well, we can point to Philip Pullman, who wrote a very convincing young girl in "The Golden Compass". We can point to two of my favorite books, Murkami's "The Windup Bird Chronicle", or Paolo's "Windup Girl". We can point to Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles". Were there complaints to how Gibson handled Molly in "Neruomancer"? What about how George R.R. Martin handles the many female characters in his book, from Arya to Cersei to Sansa to Catelyn.

I asked InarticulateBabbler for books to support his viewpoint, but he's too busy for that. His unsupported opinion about women and female characters is more than enough.

quote:
Look at the results of the Nebula. It wasn't: "Finally, strong female characters!" but rather; "Yay! All women winners. Take that white men!" It's ridiculous.
Anybody knows what he's talking about here? But what sticks out to me most is "Take that white men!" But then, when I suggest that he's white, InarticulateBabbler acts like I've committed some prejudicial assumption. Sure, you could be a Laotian man who's genuinely upset at the plight of the under-represented white male in America, but I doubt it.

quote:
It's become about something other than quality in fiction.
I don't know what the pronoun It's refers to. Publishing? If we were to look at the list of books published in 2013 through traditional publishing, are we going to find that a majority of them have non white male central characters? Have I somehow missed all of these popular fiction books that have minorities (but only *one* color), homosexuals, and women as the central characters?

Did "Hunger Games" succeed because of some elite publishing cabal that didn't publish books with white men, by white men, for white men, in order to meet some minority/women/homosexual quota?

quote:
I don't believe it's about strong female characters at all.
Another dismissal of the argument without exploring what the phrase even means.

quote:
There are movies and books dedicated to the relationships and interests of women. No one clamors that there needs to be more men in them.
Exactly what books are we talking about here? Titles would be nice.

quote:
Why would there need to be? Not very many men take those movies in
If we're talking about romance movies, they mostly have lead male characters. In fact, in most of these books that InarticulateBabbler may name, I'm pretty sure that a male character plays a significant part.

quote:
But, when you turn Spy Flicks into Chick Flicks solely for the diversity in character, you will really lose both demographics.
What??

quote:
And that's, by and large, what I'm seeing. I have much more respect for the film who focuses on one woman and makes her exceptional, memorable and interesting to the whole audience than those who try to blend in a bland equality for the statistics or to prove they're PC.
What movies are you talking about? "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"? "Kill Bill"? "Aliens"? Have they made a movie called "Janet Bond" that I"m not aware of?

quote:
So, what do you think would have happened if it had been a muscular hero introduced? Exactly
I have to admit, my first reaction to this post was disappointment. My second was frustration. Now I just realize how disjointed all of these comments are.

quote:
It's not about quality in fiction but forcing a political change and then [/i]enforcing[/i] it.
And we're once again back to the agenda, the conspiracy that (dare I use the word "progressives") are inflicting upon the victimized white male.

quote:
There are already calls to arms (so to speak) about "people of color"--which really only refers to one color--and anything other than a straight-male PoV character.
Now I admit, this caused some true annoyance. It's so cowardly not to just say what group you're talking about, but to imply it (so that, I guess later, if we say, "Oh, you mean those negras", you can say, "Well, why's that the first thing that popped into your head?" I guess you could mean tan, for Indians, red for Native Americans, or yellow for Asians. But I'm pretty sure you mean black people.)

quote:
In fact, if I detect it becoming about a message, I'll probably drop it.
All fiction has a message since its communication, so I take it you're not as well read as you claim if you're dropping all of these books once you detect one.

quote:
I read to escape, not to be convinced by some contrived example.
From the tone of this post, I agree. You probably need to get away.
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Grumpy old guy
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Denevius, I detected the angst and the, shall we say, conspiracy theory undercurrent but chose not to focus on giving air to an obviously long-standing grievance over slights, imagined or real. Personally, I think that you are continuing to throw petrol on an already raging fire by demanding specific examples of assertion made from a point of view that refuses to accept any other point of view that differs from their own.

What I guess you found to be most distressing, the reference to "people of colour", I found to be the most ludicrous and laughable basis for argument. I was literally chuckling over such a hackneyed and cliched euphemism in support of an apartheid proposition.

I'm a member of the so-called power oligarchy; white, middle-aged (well a tad over), middle-class (not by economic standards but by outlook) and male. I'll even go so far as to admit to being a racist, but I work hard at not being one. Not in a condescending manner but in making certain I treat everyone the same way. Readers will choose to read stories they like, regardless of content that the so-called intelligentsia elite, or PC monitors or the lesbian mafia demand that writers introduce into their stories. Again, write what you want to write and to hell with the gainsayers.

Phil.

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Grumpy old guy
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Okay, I finally looked at the link that's spawned this whole debate and I have only one thing to say: what a load of utter twaddle. Admittedly, there are instances of SFC (Strong Female Characters) simply invented, or added, to fill a perceived audience requirement, but that's just a director or script writer falling for stuff and nonsense peddled by the media.

In one of my stories I not only pass the Bechdel Test, I surpass it in spades by having four female characters who have pivotal roles, and they talk with each other and none of it has to do with the care and feeding of men. And, they all have their own motives for doing what they're doing and hardly any of it has to do with the male of the species, but some of it does have to do with their children.

So, I'll just keep writing my stories and laugh at others obsessing over things they can't change; but they can ignore them--I will.

Phil.

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JSchuler
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quote:
Originally posted by Denevius:
For InarticulateBabbler, it's not a question of writing, it's a question of a movement. An agenda. But an agenda for what, and to what end?

The answer to this question would likely pull the conversation further afield. Do you really want an answer?
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LDWriter2
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I finally decided to come back to check this thread out and therefore decided to join the fray.

quote:
Originally posted by MAP:
No one is trying to force anyone to write what they don't want to write, but people do have the right to criticize too. And yes sometimes that criticism is a larger commentary on trends in movies and books that affect our society. But still you can agree or disagree, use it or discard, whatever you want. No one is forcing anyone to do anything.

But this particular advice goes beyond it's political agenda and does offer sage insights that could be used to strengthen stories. All the article is suggesting is to put more thought in the role that your female characters play in the story, and that, as extrinsic phrased it, "a strong female character role is one which influences change throughout a narrative--agency: no more, no less, and no different than strong male roles."

Personally I think giving the female love interest more purpose in the story will only make the story more interesting, but that is just my opinion and might have to do with my personal story preferences. So take it or leave it.

Oh yes they are, even though maybe demand would be a better word than force. I have read articles and comments on Google+ and other places. There are those that are trying to use public opinion to get people to write the way they think it should be done. I even read one that said we should be including A-sexuals so we don't leave anyone out. There is an--for want of a better term--inclusive cult that demands we all include everyone--except for perhaps those that disagree with them. It not only touches writers but TV shows, businesses and average everyday people.


In a good percentage of the cases it is not just advice it is a demand. And they have various famous people who will go on blogs, TV shows, News shows and support their demands.

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LDWriter2
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So much more I could say, but I think it would be getting too much into politics for this forum, even though I think we have more than touched on it already.


I have listened to this debate for a couple of years and so I will add that the "grievances" are real, and the perceived motivations, of those who argue for that side, are just as cliche and hackneyed as they are being accused of being. Perceived motivations by those who are on the other side.

And I add, I think I have stated this before, that some of those who push for Strong Female Characters have a certain mind set, so they find what they want to see and use examples of a non-strong female in stories that are false examples. I get that from my own reading and listening.

I use strong female characters because I feel that is what the story calls for and if she needs some help from a guy so be it. The need for help happens to a lot of heroes, many times they can't win without that help.

I also have characters that are of different races and in a book I am planning to write one side character will be in a wheelchair. I do that because in real life people are different so it makes sense to have different types of characters. But I will not include an A-sexual because one certain writer that I other wise respect thinks we are not being inclusive enough without them. In the next book I am seriously considering putting in a minor character who is the stereotype of a redneck. He has tattoos, drinks beer, has a pit bull for a pet, muscular, wears shirts with the sleeves torn off. Because, again, there are people like that in real life. Even though in this case he isn't as mean as he looks he is still rough.

In a book I wrote one of the MC's friends might be Bi. I did that because I thought it would be produce a bit of humor and a side bit of tension while my MC tries to figure out is she or isn't she or is the friend just having some fun. Not that it is a main plot point but every so often something happens or is said that brings it up.

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InarticulateBabbler
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So, I'm not a racist. I'm not going to claim I am because "I'm white". You know nothing about me or how I was raised, or who my actual family members are or their colors. And, I'm not going to elucidate the former comment, because I fully believe nobody seeks to understand where I'm coming from, just try and use whatever they can find in that post offensive to point fingers (which is already been made obvious). Further, as I said in my last post, this is really no longer about craft.

Grumpy Old Guy: As for "refusing to accept any other point of view that differs from their own," since I presented one such different point of view, and have had to answer for it since, it seems that this is the climate which is being fostered in this particular thread. I choose not to elucidate because that would *become* completely political (and there's no winning ANY argument which is based on the opinions of others, or in which evidence, when it is produced is invalidated based solely on popular opinion).

LDWriter2, I used the word "forced" intentionally, because that is what I have witnessed. Scroll up to see how easily having a different opinion can become a witch hunt. As for the craft of writing: Does having more Chinese characters (lol, I pick Chinese, because these are a people who've been truly downtrodden, but whom I never see demanding anything for their suffering, and a people for whom I have tremendous respect) change a story set in a fantasy world? Does having more women in a story automatically make it a better story? This is window dressing being argued over and then pressed on us as something essential. I'm sure there are stories where the sexual preferences, religions, colors or sexes are important to either the narrative or the plot. I don't agree that they should be required to.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Okay, time to ask InarticulateBabbler and Denevius to ignore each other's posts. Sorry I didn't do it sooner, but I'm doing it now.

Thank you for your posts, people, but it's getting to the point where you are (at best) critiquing each other (instead of critiquing writing) and that can lead to (at worst) personal attacks (if it hasn't already, to some extent).

Hope that made sense. Please, as trite as the phrase may have become, "Let it go." Your points are there for others to read. Leave it at that.

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MAP
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Well, I am a big believer in writing what is in your heart, and I really don't think that a writer should give in to social pressure.

But I also believe that it doesn't hurt to be socially aware and realize that there are patterns in many movies and novels that do affect our view of societal norms, and in some cases do contribute to systemic racism and sexism, but no writer has an obligation to correct these issues. But conversations like this are useful for those that do.

Inarticulatebabbler, I'm sorry that you feel attacked. Personally I do believe your viewpoint is valid. If you don't care or see a problem with how women are represented in media, then don't worry about it. Write what you want to write.

But I think this conversation is useful from a crafting POV. Love interests in stories (whether male or female) many times only serve the function of love interest in the story. They serve as motivation for the hero/heroine or a reward for the hero/heroine. Making a female love interest character strong and capable or even interesting is not enough if that character doesn't affect the plot outside of being a love interest. If she can be replaced by a damsel in distress or a passive character than she really has no agency in the story. She is still just a love interest and nothing else no matter how awesome she is depicted in the story. Strong characters influence the plot of the story.

Now Sheena linked us to this awesome article about eight archetype characters not too long ago, and she also wrote an insightful blog post about it which you can read here. The article talks about archetype characters that play an important role in the plot of the story. These archetype characters can be combined. For example the skeptic can also be the guardian or the side kick could also be the emotion etc. There is no wrong way to mix and match them.

The love interest is the 1/2 of the 8 and 1/2 archetype characters. Now, this is my speculation, if that love interest is only a love interest and not combined with one of the other 8 archetype characters, then that love interest (male or female) remains a 1/2 a character. And if that is what you want, then go for it, but consider how much more interesting that character or the story could be if the love interest was combined with another one of the other archetypes.

What if the love interest was also the skeptic or the antagonist or the side kick or the guardian or the contagonist? How much more interesting would the dynamic be between the protagonist and the love interest? What interesting ways could it propel the story? I honestly can't see how this can't make the story better.

I think the article in the OP gives us excellent advice for making stories better. All the author is saying is if you make a strong, interesting female character, you should give her something to do in the story. I do not see how that is not a good idea, but once again that might just be my own personal preferences. I in no way think that everyone has to do this, but I might think less of your story if you don't.

[ June 26, 2014, 05:26 PM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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extrinsic
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I've long considered an allegory that reflects the state of social politics debates across the divides. George Orwell's Animal Farm allegorically satiriizes Soviet socialism along the lines of my intent, though is definitely vanilla and snakes and snails and puppy dog tails, which were the players in Soviet socialism. The novel reflects Orwell's disappoinment with corruption of the Soviet socialist ideology.

Developmental research calls me to a year of history that contains the gamut of social politics in today's public debate: 1619.
  • That year the first African bonded servants landed at Jamestown;
  • the first marriage-eligible women, of alleged ill repute and forcibly transported, landed at Jamestown, "chaperoned" by Lady Temperance Yeardley, ne Flowerdew, wife of Governor Sir George Yeardley;
  • "vagrant" London children landed as bonded servants;
  • first labor action strike, by freeman Polish housewrights, who colony leadership wished to be treated as bonded servants, happened at Jamestown;
  • founding site of the third-oldest church building in use, first with a stone foundation and still extant, in North America at Jamestown: Anglican;
  • third church the site and the year of the first New World "representative" government assembly--House of Burgesses, Yeardley presiding;
  • year Opechancanough ascended to paramount headman throne (wero werowance) of the Powhatan nation (Tsenacommacah--the True People) after brother Wahunsenacawh's death 1618, and led the 1622 first "Indian" massacre of settlers at Jamestown and surrounding settlements;
  • year the London Company, a publicly traded corporation chartered by James I to settle Virginia, at last established an enduring foothold in the New World, though the 1622 massacre shook the colony at its heart, and the company bankrupted in 1624 and the crown stepped in.
That year pretty much sums up public social politics debates still raging today. An allegory might portray that year's Jamestown events, perhaps in a contemporary setting, the irony expressing commentary that, four hundred years later, the social issues remain front and center and unsatisfied. A perhaps deeper irony current might express that struggle enlivens existence--plenty of struggle to go around.

[ June 26, 2014, 03:48 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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J
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I'm struggling to understand why there's any push at all for more "strong" female characters, to the extent that "strong" seems to mean "generally demonstrating masculine forms of achievement, self-perception, relation to interpersonal conflict, and capacity for aggression."

A desire for more meaningful female character roles I can understand, but I just don't get the desire to see more women displaying classically male attributes.

The whole argument implicitly discounts the forms of heroism that revolve around communities, around relationships, around bonding--classically female attributes. That, to my mind, is a real shame.

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extrinsic
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The public debate revolves around traditional male and female role ideals misrepresenting and implicity imposing preconceived notions on individuals who take exception to being objectified by those notions. Any given man or woman or child has a proportionate weight of traditional masculine and feminine tendencies, at root feminine emotional bonding instincts and masculine status competition instincts. They do overlap, feminine status competition instincts and masculine emotional bonding instincts, and every which-a-way between--a notion of which is what defines manhood and what defines womanhood. Objectification by physical appearance attributes drives the challenge-able and questionable notions.
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J
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Sure, but those notions don't spring out of thin air. They arise from what we observe as generally true over a long period of time. They are stereotypes in a pure sense--general observations that are generally accurate, but individually inapplicable.

It's as silly to insist that more fiction deliberately subvert valid stereotypes as it would be to insist that more fiction follow those stereotypes rigidly.

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Grumpy old guy
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Objectification of female characters may indeed be a driver for this lament for the 'lack' of SFC. I know that in my own writing I rarely refer to any physical attribute of my characters unless it is immediately germane to the action of the moment. I rely on drawing what I'd call a 'shadow sketch' of each characters physical attributes and let each reader imagine the details for themselves.

One thing I never include is offering up my female characters as some sort of prize to be fought over and won. Deja Thoris in A Princess of Mars is a perfect example of this type of objectification. But, then again, that's just a sign of those times.

Phil.

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extrinsic
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First impressions based on physical appearances lead to misapprehensions, miscommunications, and misunderstandings. Some women do not like a man undressing her with his eyes, also, other women do not like being passed over by an objectifying gaze, as do some men for either or both.

Natural instincts, though, based on primitive survival instincts. Criticism of objectification centers on a question Are we animals obsessively sniffing each others' backsides?

The use of women as objects in literature is offensive to some readers, a contentious topic for others, a confliction worth examination for others, and taken for granted by others. An entire literary school focuses analysis on that phenomena: Feminism in its many approaches, activistism, reactionaryism, New Feminism, Marxist (socialist) Feminism, historicist feminism, and the attendant literary movement approaches of Romanticism, Realism, Modernism, and Postmodernism, etc., feminism schools of thought.

No "White Goddess" is an ideal object for everyone, and the harms of objectification to objectified persons and from objectification are worth scrutiny in an overly sexually obsessive culture, particularly since population pressures are at a crisis threshold. A book-length analysis of young, blonde, blue-eyed, buxom, statuesque idol idle worship by Robert Graves, The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth, examines the phenomena of an ideal goddess form and sources and causes of the worship as woman-on-a-pedestal decorations across cultures.

[ June 26, 2014, 10:33 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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Natej11
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I think the real problem here is that when the media calls for "strong" women, what they're really demanding is perfect women who are incapable of fault, who are not held accountable for their actions or required to do any introspection, and who excel at anything they try without effort or training.

To use an example, in most fighting movies that involve men you see at least a montage of them training, or some mention of having trained in the past. Women characters in the media simply kick ass, even when they shouldn't, and often against men who actually are well trained and have a significant physical advantage.

From a writer's perspective this is a nightmare. Some of the best character development comes from a character's flaws and their attempts to overcome them, as well as the realities that simply put some things beyond their control. You want a character who can be wrong, who doesn't know everything, who makes mistakes, and who triumphs in spite of weaknesses, not from lack of them. But if you try to write a woman with flaws who overcomes them and actually becomes stronger for them, who fails because she wasn't good enough and has to live with the fear of failing the next time it matters, you run the risk of being attacked for portraying women in a negative light or not writing a "strong" woman.

If you get attacked for giving your audience anything but a caricature, but also get attacked for only portraying women as caricatures, it's a no-win situation that's very difficult to maneuver through, and you have no idea what will be embraced and what will draw criticism.

TL:DR Hollywood doesn't really want strong female characters, they want unrealistically perfect ones. And perfect characters are boring and lack potential, ironically making it impossible to really portray them as strong since they have no weakness to overcome.

[ June 27, 2014, 04:09 AM: Message edited by: Natej11 ]

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extrinsic
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Individuality is the solution to Hollywood's Anglo Saxon Protestant male gaze. But individuality risks mass appeal alienation, which Hollywood relies upon mass appeals. The media doesn't demand either one or another or another; the media anymore is as diverse as culture and society overall. Anyone with an opinion now has the privilege of publicly championing it online where such is permitted or tolerated, no matter how controversial or irresponsible or otherwise. Yay the Digital Age.

[ June 27, 2014, 02:08 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Natej11:
I think the real problem here is that when the media calls for "strong" women, what they're really demanding is perfect women who are incapable of fault, who are not held accountable for their actions or required to do any introspection, and who excel at anything they try without effort or training.

I wouldn't put so much credence in what people demand. Those who haven't actually tried to bring a character to life have no idea whatsoever of how it's done. They have no idea what "strong female character" means, but you should. Your job isn't to give people what they ask for; it's to get beneath the surface and give them what they *think* they've asked for. And even after you've done that don't expect them to understand what it is they have.

It's not true, by the way, that female characters never get movie training montages. In general I don't find training montages very interesting, but I can think of several movies that feature them for female characters. 2002's *Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla* was memorable for actress/model Yumiko Shaku looking fine in a sweaty T-shirt. I always skip forward to that bit. [Smile]

That movie is actually worth studying for how the writers build up the protagonist -- and how little the fans understand how that works. At the point where 2LT Akane Yashiro gets her Rocky montage she's been made the scapegoat for the disastrous failure of the Anti-Megalosaurus Force's truck-mounted superweapon against Godzilla. She's been brought up on disciplinary charges, publicly humiliated, then re-assigned to a desk job shelving books in the AMF library. Yet she's already training for a rematch.

And when the gruff AMF commander sees in Yashiro that something extra a pilot needs to go up against an unstoppable giant rage monster, of course all the other pilots are men and of course none of them think the girl is up to the job. The movie isn't making a statement about men's attitudes toward women; it's putting the hero in the place the story needs the hero to be. It's just the usual place the unproven hero has to start from. Even the Danes expected to find Beowulf minced up and smeared all over the walls of Heorot.

A character's thirst to prove himself is a useful tool for writer because it's both a strength and a vulnerability. It's the very quality that launched the Harry Potter franchise. But even though this movie is a franchise fan favorite, the fans don't seem to grasp that this is why they root for 2LT Yashiro. It's like the story passed through their conscious mind leaving only superficial impressions. But it still works on the subconscious level.

[ June 27, 2014, 11:39 AM: Message edited by: MattLeo ]

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by InarticulateBabbler:
I think it's fairly horsesh!t. This *movement* is a reflection of the current political climate.

Totally agree with your entire post.

And because political climate has become a driving force behind so much of today's characterization in fiction.... well, it hasn't made me more "open-minded". Rather, it's made me very unlikely to buy a book with a [insert PC class here] MC, because I am weary of being preached at, and because it's become a form of suppression of any other form of expression, thus:

quote:
Originally posted by InarticulateBabbler:
It's not about quality in fiction but forcing a political change and then enforcing it.


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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by J:
I'm struggling to understand why there's any push at all for more "strong" female characters, to the extent that "strong" seems to mean "generally demonstrating masculine forms of achievement, self-perception, relation to interpersonal conflict, and capacity for aggression."

This is basically why I detest Honor Harrington. Yeah, she's the first female achiever in a male world, I get that. Fine and dandy. What irks me is that IF she were male, she'd have been drummed out for incompetence before she ever left the military academy.
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J
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By the way, gaze theory has been brought up a few times now. Gaze theory is (like just about every species of critical theory) a poor foundation from which to offer value judgments about what narrative media ought to be doing.

If we value artistic freedom--and, more importantly, the broader freedoms of thought implicit in art appreciation--we shouldn't be turning to power-based group identity philosophies to tell us the right way to go about making that art. Gaze theory has some limited use in helping us consider the unexpressed assumptions in our character portrayals, but there its rational utility ends.

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extrinsic
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I suppose anti-oppression is oppression since oppressing oppressors oppresses their capacity to oppress.
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extrinsic
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quote:
Originally posted by J:
By the way, gaze theory has been brought up a few times now. Gaze theory is (like just about every species of critical theory) a poor foundation from which to offer value judgments about what narrative media ought to be doing.

If we value artistic freedom--and, more importantly, the broader freedoms of thought implicit in art appreciation--we shouldn't be turning to power-based group identity philosophies to tell us the right way to go about making that art. Gaze theory has some limited use in helping us consider the unexpressed assumptions in our character portrayals, but there its rational utility ends.

I presented Gaze theory as an explanation of a source and cause and effect. Not one iota nor imperative about value judgments of what anyone, anything, or any media ought or must be doing or not doing or doing otherwise. I did, however, suggest satisfactions, compromises, for potentially troublesome contentions.

Anyone has as much right to expression as the next, and as much right to opinions, and as much right to express those opinions, and as much right to oppose others opinions, and now as much right of access to express whatever as anyone else. And as well duties to do so, and duties to do so respectfully. Yay the Digital Age.

If inequality of expression right and access exists anymore, it is through the consensus enclaves that hold the means through precedent and effort and gumption, through inheritance, through force majeure, through simple majority power imposition upon a minority, and just plain numerical and financial and outspoken loudness volume quantity and quality superiority.

The world is a many splendored contentious forum. Where little allowance is made for free expression irresponsibly oppresses dissent. Where full expression entitlement and suffrage is made, robust, innovative, dynamic, vigorous cultures thrive; some harmoniously, others contentiously, others confrontationally, to the point of conflagration in some circumstances; some irresponsibly, others respectfully, some silently, others outspoken.

Coordination is the least ideal harmonious relationship, though the most common harmony. Cooperation is nextmost ideal. Both require compromise and sacrfice. Codetermination is the highest ideal harmony and as elusive as a horizon; though rare, codetermination does happen. Codetermination requires no compromise or sacrifice, only merely mutual efforts for mutual outcomes. Contention, confliction, confrontation, and conflagration, though, require uncompromising, noncooperative stubbornness.

Codetermination, cooperation, and coordination, though, aren't dramatic. Contention, confliction, confrontation, and conflagration are and are proper properties of a drama. In real life, though, as in drama, they cause problems.

Myself, I could do with a few less problems; so I choose to coordinate, cooperate, and codeterminate whenever appropriate.

[ June 27, 2014, 04:34 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by J:

If we value artistic freedom--and, more importantly, the broader freedoms of thought implicit in art appreciation--we shouldn't be turning to power-based group identity philosophies to tell us the right way to go about making that art.

The front end and back end of that sentence don't agree with each other. Artistic and intellectual freedom surely includes the freedom to choose to write in accordance with whatever constraints you choose.

Lets stop reacting like readers and start thinking like writers. Writers write for a certain audience. Even writers who write "only for themselves" are writing for a specific audience, just a very small and uncritical one. The fact that a piece of writing doesn't cater to your beliefs or tastes doesn't automatically make that piece of writing contemptible.

For a writer acting as a critic, you've got to be able to assume "arguendo" the tastes, biases and beliefs of the intended audience, whether that audiences is composed of militant feminists, Roy Acuff fans, or radical fundamentalist Buddhists. Otherwise you're not talking about writing, you're talking about social criticism, country music, or religion. And it's fine to talk about those things, just don't be confused into thinking you're talking about writing when you're talking about other things you like or don't like.

That's what's wrong with this discussion. We're not addressing the question as writers. We're addressing it as social critics.

Disclaimer: I am a Roy Acuff fan.

[ June 27, 2014, 05:25 PM: Message edited by: MattLeo ]

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JSchuler
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
I suppose anti-oppression is oppression since oppressing oppressors oppresses their capacity to oppress.

It's the standard warning against becoming the monster you hunt. As overt forms of oppression become rarer and rarer, the anti-oppressors must turn their attention to ever more covert forms of oppression to root out and castigate, which inevitably leads to the persecution of imaginary oppression, and thus the anti-oppressors become oppressors themselves.
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J
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quote:
Originally posted by MattLeo:
The front end and back end of that sentence don't agree with each other. Artistic and intellectual freedom surely includes the freedom to choose to write in accordance with whatever constraints you choose.

When I say "we shouldn't," I don't mean that no artist should be allowed to--after all, Dune is a fine piece of literature, and it is Freudo-marxist from root to branch--I mean that we shouldn't apply the prescriptive elements of critical theory to the craft of other artists.
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Grumpy old guy
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quote:
Originally posted by J:
after all, Dune is a fine piece of literature, and it is Freudo-marxist from root to branch

Really?

Phil.

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MAP
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I can't believe some of you feel oppressed by an article criticizing a few movies. Really?

Exactly how are articles and view points like this keeping you from writing what you want to write?

Do you just believe that anyone who says anything that doesn't align with your world view is oppressing you?

If you don't agree with the article, just move on. Seriously, no one is stopping you.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by J:
I mean that we shouldn't apply the prescriptive elements of critical theory to the craft of other artists.

Well, I agree with you, at least if you stipulate "and expect those artists to care." But this seems to me to be a straw argument. Dropping a few Critical Theory allusions into a conversation is hardly tantamount to an attack on artistic liberty.

Now from my perspective Critical Theory is often interesting, but marred by a mania for jargon. This jargon lends some of the critical theorists' speculations a certain air of smug categorical certainty that is understandably off-putting, but harmless if you lend them no particular credence.

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extrinsic
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A consensus has come forth that a strong character generally, not just strong female characters, is one with strength of character in the literary sense; that is, agency--central to transformation influences, be the character protagonist, deuteragonist, triagonist, agonist, ally, antagonist, nemesis, villain, or other (extras).

Secondly, a consensus has come forth that a character's agency is wanted throughout a narrative. This applies to central agonists' agency and to a similar degree supporting characters, though perhaps not backdrop extras to the same degree. Crowds or other characters that populate a scene, though, as backdrop characters, forefront characters, etc., have "mob" agency, at least insofar as they influence the action of the moment; their agency limited in time and space and quanitity to the exigence of the moment. Exquisite when a few words establish a crowd's influence and remains an influence force until the scene changes.

Another consensus about what constitues individual agency is a wide spectrum of no or partial or complete external mediation and proprotionate self-actualized agency.

Another consensus also asks for an agonist's development of agency as an unfolding thread throughout a narrative.

Another consensus about dynamic and round characters, as opposed to static and flat, is that they proportionately transform and influence transformation according to a complication's proportions, and have proportions of noble (self-sacrifice for a common good) features and wicked (base, self-involvement) features. These are duties and privileges of social beings and as such wanted in literature. And personal and public wants and problems wanting satisfaction proportions as well.

One new area for consideration and discussion is what constitutes unique, individual characters, as opposed to stock stereotypes. Physical appearance characteristics notwithstanding, though they are superficial, these may be categorized as habits and traits.

Habits, like automatic fear of strangers, fear of new ideas, assumptions that everyone is out to cause harm to the self, may be distinguished from traits, though not exclusively. A boss who habitually assumes every worker is a slacker, for example, may have a trait of false superiority or control issues. That boss would dominate everyone's actions, at work, at home, in the home neighborhood community, at large on activities of daily living, at the store, on the road, in civic affairs, etc., habits as compensation for a trait of feeling inferior.

Traits then are a separate category from habits, though the two overlap. Traits, though, are the dominion of characterization. Seymour Chatman in Story and Discourse identifies traits as a necessary portion of character development. Chatman expends thirty pages discussing character in relation to event and setting and individually and from other sources spanning time and patterns of thought; this brief summary can in no way cover the gamut, though. He defines character development as totality, mental traits, and uniqueness persistent and distinctive among selves.

Totality of a character development cannot possibly be fully accomplished in a narrative, obviously; however, readers' experiences and imaginations fill in the gaps if a writer provides adequate cues. Consciously or otherwise, any given reader may associate a character with a person known to the reader, for example. He's exactly like Uncle Lucius.

Mental traits is too narrow a definition for character development purposes, though how a person thinks about events impacting her or him is relevant for writing, since private thoughts can be expressed in writing that probably will not be expressed in person. Character traits or more exactly personality traits, are how a person outwardly emotionally or otherwise reacts to stimuli that reveals her or his personality. Joy at childbirth, for example, anger at child abuse, denial toward impositions, depression from an onerous weight of burdens, sadness at a ruined possession, fright at the sight of blood, anticipation as a momentous ocassion approaches, and so on.

Uniqueness is challenging. Originality in a world where everything and everyone is similar and been done amply in narrative and other forms, if not to death, is difficult to manage. Yet an infinite variety of uniqueness potentials exist within a few of several deployed personality variables.

For example, a recent trend consensus for character uniqueness variables depends on portraying selective traits from the top four emotional condition presentations: attachment dissociation from the autism spectrum, obsessive compulsive personality, bipolar personality, and schizophrenic personality. Understatement goes a long way toward readers associating with characters who have minor idiosyncracy traits-- less is more. Let readers fill in the gaps, that way their intellects and, consequently, imaginations are aroused.

Nor is emotional condition a sole variable for unique personality development. Voice, for example, an agonist who interrupts other speakers, or one who is easily stifled by browbeating, uses ironic or sarcastic commentary when threatened, talks down to perceived inferiors, balks at perceived or actual superiors' mandates, persuasively seduces a love interest though the suitor's heart not be committed, ad infinitum.

Persistent personality is important as well for character development. A character whose personality abruptly transforms without or from little cause is problematic. Personality transformation that's gradual and proportionate to antagonizng event causes is natural, empathy-worthy and tensional--note, antagonsism, causation, and tension appeals. Abrupt changes notwithstanding, since an accumulation of antagonzing events may at last reach an abrupt tipping point, the personality persistence factor met and passed, transformation persuaded.

Last, though not least nor a totality of character personality development, distinction among selves, distinction among characters. This principle aids readers distinguishing characters by their personalities, perceptions, and consequent behaviors alone. No need for a "funny hat guy" (Turkey City Lexicon), when speech mannerisms distinguish between selves, when how a given character reacts to events, to others, to settings distinguishes between selves, when thoughts, their patterns and perspectives uniquely distinguish between selves.

Readers remember characters with agency, with unique, persistent, distinguishable personality traits, though they may not remember how they look externally, nor remember their names. Ideally, though, all three is exquisite. Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecture stand out for me as characters who fit that bill, even before I saw the film adaptations of Thomas Harris's novels Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs, and Hannibal. Jack Crawford, though, doesn't stand out as well for me. As does Felix from John Steakley's Armor stand out for me, of which I haven't seen a film yet.

[ June 30, 2014, 04:21 PM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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wetwilly
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I'm writing a story about a mixed race (black, Asian, Indian, and Native American) transgender bisexual whose mother was a pagan Christian and whose other mother was a muslim Jew. The MC also has a learning disability and a physical handicap, but is brilliant in his or her own way. Politically, he or she is moderate, agreeing with points from both parties. It's going to be the most inclusive story ever written. No editor will turn it down, mostly because of personal guilt.

Mostly, though, it's a story about vampires with bad-ass guns and super cool sunglasses.

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J
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quote:
Originally posted by Grumpy old guy:
quote:
Originally posted by J:
after all, Dune is a fine piece of literature, and it is Freudo-marxist from root to branch

Really?

Phil.

In my humble opinion, yes. I did a paper on that question in college.

wetwilly--that was hilarious.

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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by J:
By the way, gaze theory has been brought up a few times now. Gaze theory is (like just about every species of critical theory) a poor foundation from which to offer value judgments about what narrative media ought to be doing.

If we value artistic freedom--and, more importantly, the broader freedoms of thought implicit in art appreciation--we shouldn't be turning to power-based group identity philosophies to tell us the right way to go about making that art. Gaze theory has some limited use in helping us consider the unexpressed assumptions in our character portrayals, but there its rational utility ends.

QFT. Emphasis mine.

"Gaze theory" is particularly annoying because it's presumed to go all one way. Evidently its proponents have never considered the half-clad males on the covers of romance novels, nor the language used therein.

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extrinsic
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Gaze theory encompasses the Male Gaze, Female Gaze, and other objectifying gazes, even gender neutral gaze with its attendant emphasis on expoitation of nature, a gaze that sees a primordial wilderness and reimagines it as a golf course or a resort development or gold mine or etc. Other gazes see "the other" as rifle fodder, servient manual labor, easy mark for pilfering from, a demographic consumer base, an audience, etc. Sexual objectification is not the sole proprietary gaze of gaze theory.
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Reziac
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quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Other gazes see "the other" as rifle fodder, servient manual labor, easy mark for pilfering from, a demographic consumer base, an audience, etc.

How is it limited to viewing 'the other'? As a viewpoint, it should also encompass how one sees those like oneself.

quote:
Originally posted by extrinsic:
Sexual objectification is not the sole proprietary gaze of gaze theory.

That may be, but the only way it's used pejoratively is in 'male gaze', which has pretty well trampled all its lesser kin.
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extrinsic
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The female gaze is on two axes self-objectification, the third based on awareness of external objectification directed toward a woman. The male gaze is solely directed outward and not limited to objectification of women. Objectification of women makes the male gaze a poltical hot button. Gaze, period, is a natural human condition, and, like any social science principle, able to be and used for the ends of the user in whatever contextual circusmtance the user intends along an axis of positive through neutral to negative.

[ July 06, 2014, 06:21 AM: Message edited by: extrinsic ]

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J
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I recently discovered the old series "Firefly." Thought of this thread while watching a few of the episodes. I think Firefly has an iconic "strong female" character. And it's not Zoe or Inara. It's Kaylee.
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shimiqua
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quote:
I recently discovered the old series "Firefly." Thought of this thread while watching a few of the episodes. I think Firefly has an iconic "strong female" character. And it's not Zoe or Inara. It's Kaylee.
I love Kaylee. But I think the "Strong female" character could also be River, or Inara, or Zoe. I think a strong female character is a well written character. Period. Someone who creates change to the story, as Extrinsic eloquently stated.

What I love about Firefly isn't that Kaylee is amazing though. It's that there are several amazing female characters WHO ARE ALL DIFFERENT, and who all have an impact and an emotional connection to the story.

Just think about the trailer for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, (which for the record I am still excited to go see) There is one girl, and five male characters. All of the male characters are interesting and different, and this one female character is constantly consistently only showing off her body. She has been so overly objectified and sexualized, that Megan Fox could play her.

I think a good rule of thumb for writing stories, is if the only female characters in your story could be played by Megan Fox, then perhaps you should spend a bit more time characterizing.

Now I'm not saying that you shouldn't write sexy love interests. I'm saying why couldn't Groot be a girl? Maybe he is a female of his species, we don't know. Why couldn't Batista's character have been a powerhouse body builder girl, or Rocket raccoon be a foul mouthed female?

Now I'm not saying that rocket raccoon would be any more funny with Jennifer Lawrence saying all those lines instead of Bradly Cooper, (although I bet it'd be fantastic) what I'm saying is, can't you see how much more interesting a character that would be than an overly objectified green perfection character that is Gamora?

We don't need more sexy Amazonians wielding knives or machine guns. (Although we will take them) We need more interesting well fleshed out characters who have more impact to the story than just being trophies or observers of the male awesomeness.

And you could say I'm saying this from a feminist POV, (can't help it if the shoe fits) but honestly I'm saying this from the point of view of a writer and a reader who is bored of weakly drawn characters, who are weak only because they are female. Switch the gender on your girls and ask yourself, is the male version of this female character Edward Cullen? Are they too perfect in physical form, are they only existing to improve your hero's worth, and do you know anything about them except that they are beautiful and adoring?

Your story could use a grandmother. Your story could use a strong capable sidekick. Or a smart mouthed kid in pig tails. Your hero, in fact, could be a female. That alien guard could be a caretaker of children, or there could be a character whom you would let your daughter exemplify.

Women are more than fifty percent of the population. They deserve to be more than one in five. And if that's all you are going to give your story, at the very least, let them be interesting.

The writer in me begs you.

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Reziac
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Speak for your own planet [Big Grin] For the nonhumans in my universe, the birth ratio does seem to be about 1:5 F:M, guessing from who-all we've seen (tho they have considerably less gender differentiation than do humans, physically and socially). However, there are no characters who are not entirely themselves. No one exists to fill a role... if only because *I* would be bored by them.
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ForlornShadow
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Before I start I'm going to say this. I am in no way a perfect writer and I have a lot...and I mean a lot...of work to do before I even remotely think of any kind of publishing. I write to write.

In my opinion the article was extreme in its views. Do I wish Hollywood would stop making female characters that aren't the main a little bit more developed? Yes, but I understand that movies have time limits and it's a movie. To me a character is a character. I mainly write with females as main characters for one simple reason...I am female, I know more about my own emotional and inner states than I do about the men in my life. I don't pretend to know what's going on inside male brains and, personally, I feel I am overstepping boundaries if I write a stereotypical male character. I do have male characters in my stories but usually I have a hard time writing convincing male characters.
That being said I do make checks by switching my characters gender. If the character still develops the same then I believe I am on the right track. That's not to say that my female characters take on male behaviors and mannerisms or that my male characters take on female behaviors and mannerisms. In my opinion a reader, should be able to "be" the character they are reading about whether that character is male or female. For example: In the book Divergent it doesn't matter that Tris is female. She could easily have been switched out for a male character and would have been a similar story. Mannerisms and behavior would change, and love interests might change but you essentially still have the same questions being asked.

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MAP
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This is very relevant to this conversation.

The sexy lamp test, says it all. [Smile]

Warnings, strong language.

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babooher
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I thought it (MAP's link) was going to be an hour long for a minute. Glad it wasn't. Good thoughts.
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shimiqua
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http://mic.com/articles/95104/evangeline-lilly-has-the-best-response-to-critics-on-what-it-means-to-be-a-strong-female-character?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign =social

I loved this. This is for MAP. And anyone else who is listening.

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MAP
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Love it too, Sheena. Thanks for the link.

[ July 30, 2014, 12:33 AM: Message edited by: MAP ]

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