1. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Creating Memorable Female Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by EBohio, Apr 14, 2019.

    This is an article about how female MCs were first introduced. It's movies but I think there's something to consider for novels too. https://www.vulture.com/2018/04/how-50-female-characters-were-described-in-their-screenplays.html

    Here's the Sarah Connor (Terminator) one: SARAH CONNOR is 19, small and delicate-featured. Pretty in a flawed, accessible way. She doesn’t stop the party when she walks in, but you’d like to get to know her. Her vulnerable quality masks a strength even she doesn’t know exists.

     
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  2. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    Can't say I know what that means. How can pretty be flawed?

    What I mean is, if this is description can this really be seen? Can we see a flaw?
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
  3. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I'm with you. Haven't a clue. I don't know that I want to know anyway, at least not at this stage.

    I think I'd prefer this: SARAH CONNOR is 19, small and delicate-featured. She doesn’t stop the party when she walks in, but you’d like to get to know her. Her vulnerable quality masks a strength even she doesn’t know exists.

    Isn't that enough to go on? It says something about her looks and the effect she has on others, and something about the way she views herself. Adding in 'pretty but flawed' just makes the whole thing sound shallow and a bit too 'pat' for me. I want to be intrigued by the possibilities this character carries for a story. I think the above edited version does it better for me. If I were an actress looking to play that part, this would inspire me. (Nah, I'm not pretty enough, and I have to start inventing flaws just so there are a few? Nope, not interested. Unless you pay me BUNCHES....)
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2019
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  4. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    To be honest, it (the original) violates show don't tell. But this is something that famous hollywood script writers can get away with. I know what the author is doing though, he is telling the actress how to play the part. Your version gives the actress something to work with on her own.
     
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  5. marshipan

    marshipan Active Member

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    I think a good question in response to "how to make a memorable female character" is why are some female characters not memorable?
     
  6. EBohio

    EBohio Banned

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    You'd have to give some examples. If they aren't memorable I'm not going to know who you are referring to.;)
     
  7. JessicaT

    JessicaT New Member

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    I believe any memorable character, female or male, will take more than the 42 word (if I counted correctly) sample introduction to create. I love this one though:

    KATNISS EVERDEEN walks past without turning. She’s 15, lean and hungry, with steel-gray eyes and a long dark braid — a fighter, robbed of her little-girl years long ago.
     
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  8. Paneera

    Paneera Banned

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    Some of them made me mad. Sexist Hollywood jerks. The article did mention that males are treated differently than actresses. With the actresses it's all about looks.

    Did you see how many described her as blonde and hot? No wonder women of color get mad when Oscar time rolls around. The damn writers weren't even thinking about them.

    Look at this one --
    We see NAOMI, 24, blonde and gorgeous, a living wet dream in LaPerla lingerie. Naomi licks her lips; she’s incredibly, painfully hot.

    Even the Bridgett Jones Diary one starts off about looks--
    standing at the top of a tall ladder between two of these rows and leaning against one of the bookshelves, is a rather uninteresting British GIRL: eye-glasses, hair-in-a-bun, long boring dress, your typical prudish nightmare. This is EVELYN CARNAHAN. We’re going to fall in love with her.
     
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  9. Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Active Member

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    If they'd actually chosen an actress who looked '15, lean and hungry ~~ and a fighter,' I wonder if the film would've sold so well? I think not.
    Also I believe that they chose someone who looked like an adult because she had to make 'questionable' moral choices and you can't have a fifteen year old girl doing that sort of thing.
    That's my opinion anyways.
     
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  10. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Senior Member

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    I would think it means something akin to a girl next door look, as opposed to a supermodel look.
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It would be fun to see a counterpart article on male characters from movies. I'd love to see how they are described.
     
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  12. JessicaT

    JessicaT New Member

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    No argument from me. Honestly, I didn't get past the Katniss Everdeen one (but liked the T2 one as well)
     
  13. marshipan

    marshipan Active Member

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    You know, I think I applied more meaning to this than was meant. The other writing forum I'm part of had some people discussing struggling to write women (as males) and I let that bleed into how I read the article. Haha.
     
  14. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    I'm not sure how pretty can be a flaw but it can be an advantage and a disadvantage. Being attractive can attract slim balls. But having a beautiful friend is beneficial, I gets her rejects. hahaha (joke)
     
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  15. DarkPen14

    DarkPen14 Member

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    In my limited experience, female characters sometimes attract the audience better. A pretty lady is more likely to catch eyes on the book cover than a busted up dude. But when creating the female character, there's a lot to consider. I personally always have to have something "wrong" with them just so that I don't feel like I'm engineering an imaginary girlfriend.

    For example, I've got a female captain whose right arm, both legs to different levels, a couple of fingers of her left hand, and eye was destroyed/severed or amputated as a result of an explosion, only to have her endure a three and a half years of surgery and therapy to graft cybernetic prosthetics in place of her missing parts. She's blonde, with her remaining eye being green. She has a military background, and was selected for the position she's in in the story because her family has a history of good leadership and she's a well-decorated soldier more than capable (as far as she knows. Her superiors were just trying to get rid of the "cripple".) of handling her new position.

    Everyone has different methods. Some, like mine, are a little drastic but good for creating concepts you're not gonna forget within five seconds of reading, but the key is to make sure that she's not just eye candy and remembered for the wrong reasons. Beautiful or no, the female character can have hundreds of facets to explore, not just that she's pretty. She doesn't exist for the love triangle, she's there because she's a part of the story. And for those who create these female characters, develop the reader's emotional investment in them, and then have them shanked to give the other MC a reason to go berserk and murder the bad guy, that's just lazy.

    The aforementioned cyborg might have been a pretty lady before she was blown up, but that's not why she exists. She does enter a relationship with the woman who repairs her prosthetics, but that's not the main focus of the story. Things like that are in the peripheral of the story's plot. We go from point A, to B, to C, to D, all the way to the end of the story. Stuff like a trip to the corner store that ends up in Larry and Jim bonding is a side stop.

    So, to me at least, the key to making a memorable character, female, male, helicopter, robot, ninja turtle, samurai toaster, whatever, is to make sure that they aren't remembered for looking good in a bathing suit. If they're gonna be remembered, it should be for the things they do to drive the plot forward. The story they tell is just as important as the person telling it.
     
  16. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Senior Member

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    There is stereotypical beauty which you could describe as "symmetrical, flawless and according to general standards". And often this is... boring.

    And there is flawed kind of beauty. Then there is something very personal - not by general standards but by just that person. There is something you notice. It pays attention. You just don't know if it is ok to say it aloud - even if you admire it.

    Think...
    - Uma Thurman. She is pretty or beautifuL. But she is not stereotypical, not her face.
    - Goldie Hawn.
    - Ruth Wilson.
    - Barbara Streissand
    - Natalie Dormer

    Big noses, asymmetrical or a bit twisted faces... But pretty and beautiful and what ever.

    Some of them hide they "flaws". Some of them underline them and make them a trademark.

    It's just like with post marks. Flawed are more precious than flawless.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2019
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  17. JessicaT

    JessicaT New Member

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    I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead (TWD) for a variety of reasons, one of being that gender, skin color or sexual orientation are not nearly as much of an issue in the zombie apocalypse. And TWD certainly isn't a "beauty contest" either. If any actors are wearing makeup, it's dirt, grime, blood or guts makeup (and they often sweet a lot, too).

    The "Memorable Female Characters (MFC)" from TWD are often bad-ass (as opposed to Hollywood's normal "nice ass!") or always contributing to the cause of the greater good somehow, but mostly bad-ass. To name the main ones:

    Carol Peletier
    Maggie Greene/Rhee
    Michonne
    Beth Greene (teen)
    Sasha Williams
    Rosita Espinosa
    Tara Chambler
    Deanna Monroe
    Enid (teen)

    None of these characters have superpowers or anything like that that often make up strong MFCs (BTVS, Resident Evil, Supergirl, et cetera), just normal people put into extraordinary situations and adapting (i.e., in this case, "bad-ass").

    I'm also a big fan of "The Hunger Games (THG)" for similar reasons. Katniss is just an ordinary teenager who put herself in an extraordinary situation to save her little sister and adapted into a bad-ass (though she was already bad-ass for saving her sister from the games).

    My point? I think this discussion got started off on the wrong foot ("Pretty in a flawed, accessible way").

    We all know what "character" is, but just for fun I Googled it and will leave you with this:

    char·ac·ter

    1. the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.

    2. a person in a novel, play, or movie.

    PS - yes, I know there are physical characteristics to characters, too, but it shouldn't be the main (or in some cases lone) "characteristic".
     
  18. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    What nonsense.

    Terminator was his first produced script. He didn't 'get away with it' because he was a famous Hollywood scriptwriter. He was an unknown art department guy that had directed one shit horror movie.

    He 'got away with it' because his story was effective.
     
  19. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I like this one from the article:

    Lisbeth Salander walks in: A small, pale, anorexic-looking waif in her early 20’s. Short black-dyed hair - pierced eyelid - tattoo of a wasp on her neck; probably several more under her black leather jacket - black t-shirt, black jeans, black Caterpillar boots … This isn’t punk fashion. This is someone saying, Stay the fuck away from me.


    And then Sarah from T2

    SARAH CONNOR is not the same woman we remember from last time. Her eyes peer out through a wild tangle of hair like those of a cornered animal. Defiant and intense, but skittering around looking for escape at the same time. Fight or flight. Down one cheek is a long scar, from just below the eye to her upper lip. Her VOICE is a low and chilling monotone.

    But I'm not sure what quoting the intro to a character actually says or suggests about creating memorable female characters.

    Memorable female characters, like Sarah Conner, or Ripley, Holliday Golightly, Furiosa, Trinity, Pincess Leia, Xena, Clarise, Buffy, Arya, are remembered for their actions, not their introductions.
     
  20. Iain Sparrow

    Iain Sparrow Contributor Contributor

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    Two female characters from the story I'm currently writing... Julie, with rapier at the ready, and Adeline looking up at the magpie who's looking down at her from a streetlamp.
    Most of the characters in my WIP are women and girls, so I better get good at making them memorable!
    mod edit - pictures in spoiler tags for size
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2019
  21. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Senior Member

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    This thread focuses a bit too much to looks.

    Memorable character = someone with multidimensional personality + a bit ambivalent motivational base + strong motivations that rise from that base.
     
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  22. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, the article in the OP is about how a character is described for a movie script. It's a visual medium, so visual appearance will be important. These are the characteristics the scriptwriter wants the actress to exhibit, upon first appearance in the movie.

    Unlike in short stories or novels, the scriptwriter doesn't have 'access' to the character's thoughts or feelings. Appearance is all, when it comes to movies. The actress (by interpreting what the scriptwriter gives her to work with) can then flesh out the character as the movie progresses—via body language, costuming, tone of voice, timing and facial expressions. This gives the audience an opportunity to guess at thoughts and feelings and the inner workings of her character and soul. But at the start, she's just 'there.'
     
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
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  23. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    So I had a look at how male characters are introduced in The Terminator:

    The man is in his late thirties, tall and powerfully built,
    moving with graceful precision.

    C.U. - MAN, his facial features reiterate the power of his
    body and are dominated by the eyes, which are intense, blue
    and depthless. His hair is military short.

    This man is the TERMINATOR.


    and

    KYLE REESE is 22, but his face has been aged by
    ordeal, the mouth hard, eyes grim. A crinkled burn scar
    traverses one side of his face from chin to forehead. Other
    scars, from burns and bullets, mar his hard-muscled body.
     
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  24. jannert

    jannert Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks. This is a fascinating peek (for me) into the world of filmmaking and scriptwriting.
     
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  25. Selbbin

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I think the context is important. The OP appears to be suggesting (although they are banned so cannot answer) that scripts focus too much on looks, while others have suggested that this is obvious as it's visual. In reference to Sarah Conner, her introduction is actually quite good, especially when comparing her delicate prettiness to the male characters from the future and then her intro in T2. It's meant to be a stark contrast.

    It sets up her story arc perfectly. A story arc that makes her memorable. She's a house cat that turns into a tiger.
     
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