1. Mackers
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    Mackers Contributing Member

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    I can't write female characters. Need help from females

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mackers, Mar 6, 2014.

    Need advice from females of WF!

    I'm writing a story at the moment partly from the POV of a pregnant probation worker. The truth is I don't know how to think like a female. I don't want to say certain things that a reader would come across and say "A female would never say that"...so the story will feel hollow and weak.

    For example, is it likely she will constantly refer back to her pregnancy - will she feel vulnerable as a result of it? Physically, how much of a struggle is it to walk around so that it will weigh on her mind a lot. Will she feel moody, temperamental with hormones all over the place. Will she just be normal most of the time and act according to her own unique personality? These are questions that I don't know how to answer. If she is a caring person, will I just describe the situations in the same way as I would describe a male character who is caring. What things should I avoid that would impact on how genuine the story is, or affect its believability

    Any help would be appreciated :)
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How far is she?

    You could strap on a makeshift pregnant-belly-pouch and walk around with it for a while to get some idea about the physical side of it :D

    As for the rest, I guess anything goes really. I've heard pregnancy makes you hungry, horny, nauseous, and pee a lot. Can't go horribly wrong with any of those. The way she behaves depends on her personality. My pregnant friends have been their old selves, except with a bigger belly and butt. They did want the baby out asap, though, so that they'd get to do "normal" stuff again like running and horseback riding. Some people might get more hormonal than others.
     
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  3. Mackers
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    Mackers Contributing Member

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    lol I would look the part with a pouch all right!

    I have imagined her as being quite late in the day, like 7 months maybe so that the bump is really noticeable and she waddles a bit. I'm wondering how much this might disrupt her working day. She meets these offenders and then goes out to visit some of them in their homes. Will she be drained, impatient, a bit irritable. I think all those things are quite possible with a pregnancy, but I want her to be a kind of soldier about it, being a positive sort of person and, as such, not complain too much.

    As long as that sounds genuine I might get away with it! :D haha

    Thanks for the advice btw
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I had an A&E nurse friend who was carrying twins, and worked in a pretty hardcore job until her water broke at work at eight and a half months pregnant. She unfortunately lost one baby, the other one was fine, but she bled a lot and it was very traumatic for her and the family. She was warned she should go off work much earlier, but she felt ok and being a trooper, she carried on for too long.

    Providing there are no complications, a lot of women will feel very heavy at seven months, their feet will be swelling a bit, the pregnant uterus will be pressing on the bladder so they'll need to pee frequently, but also their back will be hurting, sleeping becomes a bit of a project, having to rest the belly on pillows and have a pillow between your legs and then indigestion and reflux because the belly is pushing on the diaphragm, etc.

    Have you seen the movie 'Fargo'? It's a fantastic story in which the female cop is heavily pregnant while solving a murder, and I think you might get some great ideas if you watch it. One of my concerns for a heavily pregnant probation officer would be safety, since pregnant women are more vulnerable, and visiting offenders in their home can be a bit iffy. However, I know several female social workers, and they are very brave girls indeed. Good luck with writing your story :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
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  5. Lae
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    Lae Contributing Member Contributor

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    ask the females in your life, mother, partners, sisters etc, think back to a time when they were pregnant, how did they act.

    Another option might be to visit mother/pregnancy forums and see what everyday complaints are.
     
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  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was just about to say this. It seems like a really good idea. :)
     
  7. Mackers
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    Mackers Contributing Member

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    Thanks for the advice on the physical side of it, that helps a lot.

    On the psychological side, do pregnant women mentally tire easily?

    I can understand the vulnerability, that's a central part of my story. As a probation worker, as far as I'm aware she would still do her job as normal and the pregnancy wouldn't preclude her from meeting offenders if that's what was needed.

    My other character in this story isn't really dangerous, he's just very mentally ill and fragile. She meets this guy and he hasn't been taking his medication for schizophrenia and things, as you say, get a bit iffy.

    I alternate between the two POVs. Hope it works out okay, I've written most of it already in a day, about 3,500 words so far. This story has been stewing for a while and I let it sit for a long time before I actually got round to writing it.

    I have seen Fargo by the way, it's a great film. I never thought of drawing on the police woman's pregnancy, but now that you pointed it out I remember she eats like a pig and is great at her job haha. Thanks for pointing that out :)

    Thanks, great suggestions I'll check the forums out
     
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  8. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    The issue I see is that men and women are both people, and within each gender, they vary quite a bit. There are some people who are pregnant and freak out and act fragile and practically take to bed as soon as they get a positive pregnancy test. Other women will literally be doing cartwheels at 8 or 9 months (Demi Moore did this years and years ago on some talk show.) Some women have major discomfort, some have almost none at all. Some pregnant women are enormous and obviously pregnant even at 4 or 5 months. Some are at 9 months and barely look pregnant at all.

    If your female character is prone to feeling vulnerable, she probably will feel that way while pregnant. If she's not one who's prone to feeling vulnerable, but feels more in charge of herself and capable in the world, she's likely to feel that way even while pregnant. Some women view pregnancy as empowering and a display of strength through womanhood. Others view it as debilitating. Really, how she feels is going to be determined by her personality.
     
  9. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also, though, re: the forums -- I'd take that with a grain of salt. Forums (this one obviously excluded ;-) ) tend to attract the whiners. Someone who doesn't view her pregnancy as a hassle and isn't experiencing a lot of discomfort or severe medical effects from it isn't as likely to be on those forums, and especially not likely to post a lot.
     
  10. Mackers
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    Mackers Contributing Member

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    Thanks! I'm leaning towards her being a strong kind of person, with a couple of minor complaints about tiredness and movement restrictions to emphasize at least a hint of vulnerability. I want the reader to get the impression she could be in danger if the other character suddenly took a turn, even though he's not a violent person. They have a good relationship but I want to really leave the unpredictability of the exceptional situation hanging over head

    I appreciate the advice!
     
  11. Renee J
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    Renee J Contributing Member

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    It depends on the woman. I have a large frame, so my pregnancies didn't bother me too much. Though, by my third, it got a little painful to walk - I had stretched out something in my lower abdomen that supported my uterus. And my back hurt in my second, but that was from gaining too much weight. (The only food that didn't make me nauseated was fast food.)

    All three were a little different.
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Mackers : I'm glad it helped! As for the rest, chicagoliz and Renee J explained it really well. The only thing I can add is that some pregnant women experience depression, hormonal mood changes are one thing, but antenatal depression as uncommon as it is, will result in much more severe psychological changes. Likewise with any other mental illness in pregnancy. So really, you have all the freedom to make her react the way it makes sense to you. Because the variation is so great, it's unlikely you'll make a mistake with how you portray her :)
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2014
  13. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I do want to point out, though, that this is not to say that a strong-minded woman could not experience a pregnancy that had some sort of complication that made her need to stay in bed or made her especially tired or nauseous, or something. It's just that it is not necessarily so. It doesn't sound like it would fit with your story if that were the case, so there is no reason that you would need to add it in. If you're not having her focus so much on the pregnancy, you could mention minor things, like she can't sleep on her stomach.

    Also, I note that she could be in danger if his behavior took a turn for the worse, regardless of whether she was pregnant.
     
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  14. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    You don't have to write female characters. It worked for JRR Tolkien in The Hobbit. On a different, more serious, note, there are many ways to go about this. You could ask women, you could indulge in other fiction, or even non-fiction, stories about women, and you could go further in trying to think like a female person.

    In the end, though, from my experience, we're not all that different. We live in the same world after all, and being who she is for a woman is just as natural as being you for you. Try also to draw on own experiences and to extrapolate. As a writer I'm confident you have a lot of imagination; use it. You have probably felt brave, scared, looked down upon, judged, liked and disliked; and you've probably loved, possibly unrequited, had friends and eaten food, celebrated birthdays and felt neglected, had to go to work or school when you didn't want to and lost a loved one. You probably have strengths and weaknesses, you probably feel many different emotions, you may have moved far away at a young age and felt homesick, you may have a fear of heights or spiders. You may have been termed "not man enough", similar to how sexists may want women to act or look a certain way.

    There's also the ever-present "write what you know" playing in. You must have known/ known about a few different women in your time, be it mother, sister, daughter, teacher, girlfriend, odd lady on the train or the waitress in your local restaurant. Use those. If they exist in real life, they sure can in fiction. How would your mother deal with not having enough money? What would she do if you died? Just think a little bit about what your characters would do. The things that sets us apart aren't really that many or important, and they're also mostly pretty easy to spot. You know, facial hair, breasts, pregnancies, differently pitched voices etc. There's just as much variation among women as in men, and there's a lot of "overlap". If you know blacksmithing, have practiced archery, have had a pet die or coloured you hair sometime in your life, you can have women know, have or do those things, and your insight will make for wonderful and engaging realism.

    You could also have women review your character(s)/book(s). Good luck. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2015
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, that about says it all.
     
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  16. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    There are two types of preggos, IMO. The first is the woman who glows, who treasures every moment both good and bad, in awe of the miracle she's apart of. The second was me, emotionally disconnected, mostly miserable, and not afraid to tell you to 'kiss it where the sun don't shine' at the very mention of how 'blessed' I am. Both of my pregnancies were different but equally unenjoyable. And I not so secretly want to slap those who love it, even today, lol. Of course it's all worth it in the end but the road to get there just plain sucks.
     
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  17. AsherianCommand
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    AsherianCommand Active Member

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    Not just two, probably many many other versions of it exist, everyone has a different reaction to it, it just matters on the person. That is a generalization even on both my part and yours, I think, I don't know if that is insulting or uplifting. I've met a girl who was sort of a middle of the world like. "Eh. Whatever." And was extremely cool about the whole ordeal, and just took everything very little seriousness.

    Plus here is some helpful things for writing female characters. Extra credits! (these are meant for Game Designers though, so you may want to take it with a grain of salt we are all idealists.)

    So enjoy!


     
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  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The _In Plain Sight_ episode "Something Borrowed, Something Blew Up" presents the very tough female co-star in late pregnancy, dealing with things from gunfights to her sister's wedding dress fitting. Worth seeing for this research, I think. Also a lot of fun.

    Edited to add a quote:

    "You wanna know what I want? I'd like to get re-acquainted with my toes. I'd like to sneeze without my uterus screaming in unison.

    Jesus--He kicked. She? Eh, I'm going to go with it. What? It's an it."
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2014
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  19. sunsplash
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    sunsplash Bona fide beach bum

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    Of course it's a generalization. It is also my opinion based on experience...not much middle ground though I'm sure it exists. Life isn't literally that black & white which I'd hope the OP knows.
     
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  20. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    Another thing I though of, is that
    I don't really know anyone who quite fit either of those, so I'd say there are more than two. I hated almost every minute of being pregnant, though. (Even though I was lucky not to have nausea or sciatica or anything too bad.)
     
  21. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Those are excellent and enjoyable videos @AsherianCommand.
     
  22. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    Are you trying to create a character who is an average, uninteresting woman? Or is she is a strong, independent person who might grab readers' attention?

    If it's the former, you're asking the right questions and doing the right kind of research. But if you're aiming to build a strong, interesting character, then she can't conform to averages, because average people, male or female, aren't strong and interesting.

    First decide what your character's character is. What are her virtues and vices? Her moral fiber? Her intellectual abilities? Her spirit? That will tell you how she handles pregnancy (and anything else that comes in her way). Some women get pregnant and become orchids who must stop working and spend months in a soft, warm environment. Others get pregnant and carry on managing a corporation or driving a farm tractor until a day or two before delivery.

    The question isn't how most women handle pregnancy. The question is, How does she handle it?
     
  23. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is perhaps off-topic, but I don't think that average people, women or other, are uninteresting.
     
  24. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Writing female characters can be easy if you study lots of women or read books about them. Then all you have to do is decide how your character deals with problems and issues. Whatever unique things she does will make reader interested to her. Just make her the way you want her to be as long as she has more dimension than a stereotype.
     
  25. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, your first mistake might be in referring to all womankind as "female" and "females". You do not need help from females. You need help from WOMEN. It's just semantics, of course, but semantics shape the way we view something, and female is awfully cold, scientific, and a little... non-human. In dystopian novels, I've seen several times now that one way of indicating the coldness of the new society is in first ridding the world of terms such as "men" and "women" - get rid of the humanity - and instead say, "I am a male. Do you have a female?" It reduces us, somehow.

    I'm not saying you're trying to "reduce" women to something of an animal, but if you're gonna write about a woman, then it might help to start thinking of us as women, not females. We're not alien lifeforms. We're human, like you are.

    As for your question, it depends.

    Is this her first pregnancy? For example, my student's mother is pregnant with her 3rd child. Her two existing children are 8 and 11 years old. She's by no means inexperienced. She's financially very secure as the rector of an IT company and college. So I asked her how she feels. And while she is very happy about the baby, life goes on. She barely notices it lol except that she's due this month so she's quite heavy now.

    My sister when she was pregnant with her first child never spoke about it actually. No morning sickness, no mood swings, nothing. The only time you realise she's pregnant and actually deeply cares about her baby is when we went to Hong Kong and she was 8 months pregnant and she didn't eat any sushi. She LOVES sushi and HK is known to do excellent sushi - way better than England (where she lives), and she didn't touch a single one. Her reason, always, "Well, just in case." But otherwise, no comments whatsoever. No photos either, actually. The photos came only later, after my nephew was born.

    Currently an acquaintance of mine on FB is pregnant with her first baby girl. I've seen a number of pictures on my feed already of baby clothes and pregnant bellies and pictures of her dog musing about how her two babies are gonna meet. Found out from her statuses that she needs chocolate or she gets morning sickness. Quite different from my sister's first.

    So in short, all depends on what kind of woman she is.
     
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