1. CGB

    CGB Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2014
    Messages:
    145
    Likes Received:
    45

    Need help with an interesting female

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by CGB, Apr 24, 2017.

    Almost through the first draft of a multi-POV story, and I am quickly realizing that my female character is boring and cliched. I'm also afraid I've fallen into the sexist trap of making her pretty much just a weak, helpless token female along for the ride with a group of superhuman mercenaries.

    The biggest problem (and what I'd like some ideas on) is her character arc. Specifically the beginning, because I know where she needs to transition. At the end of the story, I need her to be in a place where she is willing to become the guardian of a six year old girl.

    So, what is the furthest thing from being an adoptive parent that you can think of?

    You have to use the following constraints though: the character is the youngest female child of a minor king and queen, she is 24 years of age, and she has a medical degree (and one she obtained from a highly expensive private tutor).

    BTW the story is flintlock fantasy, if that helps at all.
     
  2. QueenOfPlants

    QueenOfPlants Active Member

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2017
    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    117
    Location:
    Germany
    First advise: Stop calling her a "female" and start calling her a woman. :) Or at least a "female character".

    Second advise: It is not so much what she starts as but rather what she ends as. Is she willing to learn new things? Does she have some intelligence and bravery to begin with, that enable her to learn new things? (Hint: As a medical practitioner she probably has. She's probably not squeamish about body fluids too. She might be able to ram a syringe with an anaesthetic into the hand of an attacker at the right time. Or in their butt.)
    Do you know Sokka from "Avatar - The last Airbender"? He has an episode where his "normalness" compared to his superhuman friends is thematised. Go, watch it. :)

    Third advise: Look at Jasper Fforde's "Thursday Next" - she is one of the best female heros ever written. Maybe you can learn a thing or two by observing how he handled it.


    Well, not the furthest, but:
    My father once told me about the things that caused his divorce from his first wife. She was a great person, but an intellectual through and through without any practical mothering capabilities. Working into the late evening while forgetting to give the children dinner and putting them to bed.
    Maybe your medical pratitioner is all theory but has little real-life skills. Which, subsequently, she has to acquire.

    Dr. Quinn?
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017
    Lifeline likes this.
  3. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,338
    Likes Received:
    13,062
    Well, if she has a medical degree at 24, she's pretty smart. Any reason why she can't be smarter than the mercenaries and be a vital part of the group that way?
     
  4. CGB

    CGB Active Member

    Joined:
    May 15, 2014
    Messages:
    145
    Likes Received:
    45
    24 isn't that young in this universe. Think of the olden days before doctors had to get an undergraduate degree first. But yes, that is a good point.
     
  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll "It's a messy business." :P Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2015
    Messages:
    15,590
    Likes Received:
    21,459
    Location:
    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    Outside of making up sub-genres like Metal.:p

    Pre-industrial medicine would be fairly manageable for young person to
    become a professional in. That is compared to modern medicine of course. :)

    Have her grow stronger over time. Being a physician is not exactly something
    that the faint of heart go into. They deal with the dead and dying on a regular
    basis so they have grown jaded to things like that. The first few to dozen, would
    be hard. But over time you grow immune to dealing with the harsh reality.

    I have a secondary that is a Surgical Tech that abhors violence. As an added bonus
    she is contracted to a Military Warship, and has killed out of self defense. Granted
    her exp. far exceeds that of the pre-industrial, she actually bonds with a war orphan,
    thinking of the little girl as her own.
    Also she is 200yrs old, and not 24 (species life span is 500-550).

    So for your MC to have a bond at such a young age, it would help if she sees something
    in the child that reminds her of herself and the part of her training to nurture and
    heal. There should be a catalyst that she would pursue a career in medicine, and as the
    events play out over time, she comes to find that she feels capable of taking care of a
    child. Try not to simply make it the 'motherly nature' of a young fertile woman who
    hasn't had a chance to be a mother herself. So they should share something in common
    as she is a young woman. Build on something other than the comforting factor, or
    because they think it is the right thing to do.

    Even the smartest people make unwise decisions.
     
    jannert likes this.
  6. JE Loddon

    JE Loddon Active Member

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2016
    Messages:
    207
    Likes Received:
    158
    Location:
    South-East, UK
    Her parents wanted her to get married and settle down. She pursued a career that doesn't give much time for a family partly as a way to rebel against them. She became more goal orientated towards working long hours to become a doctor because she was adamant she didn't want children. Her parents insisted that she wasn't capable of becoming a doctor, which only made her work harder to prove them wrong.
     
  7. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    6,775
    Likes Received:
    5,385
    Location:
    Funland
    Her role in the group would pretty obviously be their healer (unless their superpowers keep them from getting hurt). The rough and tumble mercenaries are bound to get hurt sooner or later, so she can continue saving their collective asses and keeping their band of baddies alive. That's a vital role, and while some might complain "eww, stereotype! Female healer!", I think it's actually nice whenever there are female doctors in stories. Doesn't sound all that weak to me.

    The furthest thing from an adoptive parent? I'd just write the character after myself. :D Doesn't like kids (they're boring, annoying, noisy, stupidly dependent on adults, clingy, cry too much, and you can't talk about anything worthwhile with them -- yes, I know I'm exaggerating, but that's how I sometimes feel!) If she doesn't "get" kids, doesn't particularly like them, and despite her profession, isn't nurturing as such (like dotes on other people, is empathetic), her learning to care for a child could be at least part of her journey/character arc. Being the youngest child, she isn't used to looking after anyone else, and perhaps even fears such a heavy responsibility or the potential impact on her personal freedom a child would have, especially if she's purposefully rebelled against typical female expectations.

    Some women just don't have that motherly bone in them. I can't even hold a baby in my arms; I'm dead worried of breaking them. I can take a punch in the face without fear, but the idea of giving birth is petrifying! Maybe your character is also afraid of ruining this adoptive kid for some personal reason (her parents were abusive, or her best friend's parents etc.) but little by little she learns she's the only thing the kid's got, and she has to rise to the challenge.
     
    jannert likes this.
  8. Stormburn

    Stormburn Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2017
    Messages:
    1,096
    Likes Received:
    1,364
    Location:
    Ann Arbor, MI
    I once read a 'Warhammer 40K' novel that I only remember because of a secondary character. He was a priest, healer and a scholar. Yet, he had spent most of his time with the Space Marines and at time came across as more of a marine than they did. It an example to me of a character that didn't let his roles in life defined him but he defined those roles. I've used that example as a template to how I approach developing my characters.
    Godspeed!
     
  9. Commandante Lemming

    Commandante Lemming Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    May 8, 2014
    Messages:
    1,601
    Likes Received:
    1,303
    Location:
    Washington, DC, USA
    I think you've probably provided yourself an easy way to do what you want by making her a doctor - especially if you have world where that requires highly specialized training. Go watch a medical drama - those people tend to be highly driven, very into their work, and occasionally so bookish that they have difficulty relating to someone that's not on an operating table.

    I know this may be anathema to some people - but seriously - go watch a season or two of Grey's Anatomy - the early seasons. There you have a highly driven cast of mostly woman doctors who all have specific obsessive issues that drove them into the profession - Meredith Gray and Christina Yang would be two characters worth studying for you.
     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
    Stormburn likes this.
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    15,338
    Likes Received:
    13,062
    Also, remember that there was a time when a woman could have kids or have a profession, but not both. She might have spent a long time fighting people who insisted that she was going to just get married and have kids so why waste all this time and money on education?
     
  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    14,413
    Likes Received:
    16,015
    Location:
    Scotland
    You could reject any stereotype about this person not liking kids, having them forced on her, and then she slowly learns to care. Maybe there is something about this little girl that she takes to, right away. She never thought she'd like kids, but this one is different.
     
    Stormburn likes this.
  12. cherrya

    cherrya Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 6, 2013
    Messages:
    103
    Likes Received:
    57
    As someone who automatically stops reading when the female character is cliché, even if she's super strong, even if she's super smart, the only thing that can keep me going is if she is written like an actual person.

    Ask yourself "Why is it so hard to write strong female characters?" I think the main problem is that people assume that a strong female character is a 'woman who's better than a man at doing something'. It's not true, and it has nothing to do with that.

    Now I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but you can't just make her good at kicking ass Lara Croft style and go "Look, she's strong, happy now?" Write a woman with fears and insecurities, with flaws, write a woman with ambitions, motivations, women who are not afraid to be mean. Don't write a mother, a girlfriend or a daughter; write a person with thoughts of her own.

    Even I have difficulty sometimes coming up with interesting female characters. I think it's because we're just not used to it. Women are usually just there to support someone, like, they have no personality apart from being the hero's sister's or so on. To get as far away from that as possible, usually a trick I use is that I always give them something more. Your character is the daughter of a king, play with that. Don't make her a nice obedient daughter, make her climb trees, her robes always dirty from the mud outside. Make her run when she should walk silently like a proper lady, make her laugh out loud with her mouth wide open instead of a nice ladylike chuckle from behind a fan, make her a child herself! Make her unexpected, give her character, give her personality.

    I let myself go a bit, she doesn't have to behave like a wild animal to be interesting. She's smart? Make her spend hours in the library reading books, make her forget to eat because of it, her hair always a bit messy because her thoughts are always elsewhere... Just, write her like a person beforehand, and a woman after.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2017
  13. The Scarred Servant

    The Scarred Servant Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2016
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    33
    From my experience, giving a female character flaws seems to be seen as offensive. Audience's are weird :D

    To be fair, isn't that in itself incredibly cliche? I mean, that's pretty much every Disney movie when they finally decided to give their fairy tale character's personality. I'd say a more interesting route, personality-wise, is that instead of being a wild rebel; just be a person who's passionate. She doesn't go out of her way to go 'Fuck you' to her background, but she won't let the standards of others get in the way of what she needs to do. She loves life and shows immense disgust and hesitation when it comes to taking another, maybe a deadpan snarker, or someone who forgets not to let it slip that her medical degree lets her know twenty ways to take out your vital organs.

    I'm assuming these mercenaries are the pretty down and dirty type, maybe she has a problem where everyone around her judges her based on her upbringing and not her actual character. Maybe she has a need to prove that she's more than just her heritage.
     
    QueenOfPlants likes this.
  14. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,402
    Likes Received:
    2,883
    Wow :( That has not been my experience.
     
    cherrya likes this.
  15. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    6,775
    Likes Received:
    5,385
    Location:
    Funland
    Probably depends on the kind of flaws she's given. Although I do sometimes feel female characters are held to a higher standard and judged more harshly than male characters...

    But like, if her flaw is vapidness or over-emotionality, yeah, some readers are gonna be offended 'cause they are stereotypical attributes. Even though women like that totally exist in the real world.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  16. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    3,402
    Likes Received:
    2,883
    I just realized that I never shared my go-to tip about female characters: have enough of them in the same story that readers are able to tell the difference between one and another. Even if there's only one leading female character, there should be at least one or two more secondary or tertiary so that each pair of characters has some similarities and some differences.

    For example:
    In my Urban Fantasy WIP, my lead protagonist (female) is a cold-blooded sociopath who's going to become very good at water magic in later books, my tertiary protagonist (also female) is a hot-blooded sociopath who's going to become very good at fire magic, and my secondary protagonist (male) is a level-headed sociopath who's going to become very good at both ;)

    @CGB How much of a role does the adopted daughter herself play (in addition to being a MacGuffin for the protagonist to take care of)? What are you thinking for her characterization so far?
     

Share This Page