Discussion in 'Character Development' started by karldots92, Sep 12, 2016.
I really enjoyed it, I thought it was great. For me anything with Melissa McCarthy is great
Oh dear, I seem to have opened something of a Pandora's Box. I had no idea my question would lead down this path I wsa just looking for advice
This thread is about strong female characters and what people think make one, as well as for discussing what strong means in this context. Please refrain from wandering too far off into other topics. If you want to discuss who's feminist and who's not or about rape culture or, idk, friggin earning gap, the debate room is this way.
Actually I think having social justice in mind while writing a strong female character is potentially the worst thing you can do. You can easily, I would even say inevitably end up trying too hard and create an ideal instead of a human being or a person. One shouldn't write to be empowering. Empowerment either comes organically out of the writing or it don't come at all. Another lesson from Ghostbusters, look at all the self empowerment talk that's in the trailers alone:
"Holtzmann, You're a brilliant engineer"
"Erin, no one's better at quantum physics than you". (while getting the math on the blackboard wrong [her logMx/m results in her expressing 21.5 = 1.5])
"We can see things no one else can"
"You guys are really smart about the science stuff"
"We might be the only ones who can stop it"
"We have a gift"
"We see what no one else is willing to see".
"We do things, others can't do.
"We're the ones to answer the call".
"Except you girls, I think you can handle it". (all the prior empowerment talk doesn't allow that joke to work, as we're thinking of course they can handle it. They've said so what, 12 times already?)
I do the exact opposite. I DON'T hype the female characters from the start. Hell I introduce the big hero halfway through the book low key, not saying any more than anyone else but just enough to intrigue the audience. There's no neon signs from other characters delivering lines like SHES SO AMAZING, AND CLEVER AND GIFTED!!! That's not useful in any way.
With social justice ideas in mind, one does not start off from a neutral position. One starts off from a position of trying to change society for the better for women.
That alone narrows your creative options substantially. An interesting thought exercise would be to make a social justice PC version of my characters and plot. And especially the strong female characters. It would involve spiking the diversity in body type, race, gender identity, use of words instead of violence whenever possible, using a neutral gaze, and so on.
like this,http://freebeacon.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Wonder-Woman-mansplain.png but with a discussion instead of punching. Because I'm sure we can agree that's not strength, that's just insecurity.
What the hell happened to this thread?
Writing good female characters is a top flight priority for me. Personally, as a white guy, I'm very interested in getting my "different" characters right. If I'm writing a black character from the Bronx, then I want to write a black character from the Bronx, so real that the smells of the city drift off his clothes and into your nose as you're watching him move on the page.
And for female characters it's just as important. The last thing I ever want to do is get a character wrong.
And I want to write a woman from Budleigh Salterton, so real the smells of the village drifts off her clothes and into your nose as you're watching her move, heh, heh heh, heh heh heh.
Is this intended to mock?
98% sure, nope.
@matwoolf just posts weird stuff sometimes.
I see you've never been to Budliegh - the predominant smell is of posh person
I read @matwoolf 's posts as if he was an extremely intoxicated uncle that I rarely see who's extremely funny but also doesn't take into consideration that some people may not share the same sense of humor.
(No offense intended @matwoolf. This place wouldn't be the same without your humor.)
No, Shattered Shields - be pals, sorry if I came across a shit. I wrote it before my post-work nap [trade secret].
@Phil Mitchell Would you like to read the Doctor Who fanfic in my signature? I was extremely careful to keep my characterization as socially just as possible (even when I found out a few chapters in that one of my protagonists - at the time, the intended lead - worked better as a serial killer than as a hero), but I've still received only positive reviews (albeit not very many at this point).
I didn't say you should write them to be empowering. I specified what I was talking about. And I specifically mentioned using your own sense to avoid being too PC. But no, go ahead and keep strawmanning about your dreaded PC Demon.
No-one can truly comprehend the eldritch wisdom of the Woolf.
I assume you know what "inevitably" means? There is no "using your own sense to avoid the PC demon" if you are already thinking along the lines of trying to not "be mean" and thinking about real world impact . You are already writing to be empowering. And that is not a creative mindset. Have you noticed that the critical feminists don't create squat? Right.
Ps- I don't follow dr who, so I likely wouldn't be able to understand fanfics from it.
Google is your friend....
HERGH. No, I'm not. Because I only think about that so much. And I deliberately do positive and negative versions of anything I feature enough times for it to be feasible. I have gentle women, smart women, clumsy women, awkward women, stern women, ignorant women so on. They have a variety of personalities and roles because women are everywhere it's hard not to do a good diverse sample unless your limiting numbers. And I like diversity's realism and interest anyway.
Deliberately doing positive and negative versions of anything you feature indeed sounds quite forced. And for what? Whenever you include a strong female character you will always be criticized. Why? Simply because the list of potential social justice criticisms on SFC's is practically endless. So you may as well just write what benefits the story you want to tell. Instead of burdening it with the task of contributing to social justice too.
I specifically said not everything I feature. Only when feasible. And I don't do it with a great amount of intention because it's realistic anyway; it's often what already comes to me. Which is my point about what it can teach you. And no, many characters have had reviews that included nothing but praise. "The list of potential social justice criticisms" is a strawman composite you have imagined out of all the fractured knowledge of this subject you have. You continue to misunderstand. And nobody said it was about contributing to social justice it's jsut considering it, your ultimate goal is to write a good story of course. I could respect your point more, indeed as I have hinted I have my own concerns about what people do and say. But you repeatedly fail to make the cautionary case without strawmen and ignorance.
This is just a friendly reminder to keep things civil.
As for the OP, be mindful that you can't please everyone and regardless of what kind of characters you write, especially the female ones will be criticized because many of the criticisms leveled especially at female characters are contradictory.
The two pieces of advice I can offer is to be aware of stereotypes: what they are and why they exist.
E.g. regardless of whether it's innate or due to social conditioning, it's a fact that many girls like pink while many boys avoid pink. However, some girls simply prefer other colors while others actively rebel against the stereotype and make a statement of avoiding pink etc.
All of the above are realistic behaviors, so it really depends on what kind of characters you want to write.
The point is, be aware of the stereotypes so when you either follow or avoid them, it'll be a conscious choice which you can back up with characterization.
After all, some people in real life display many stereotypical behaviors, ergo not all stereotypes are a bad thing as long as the character isn't just a walking stereotype since that's not realistic either.
The second piece of advice I have is to be aware that everyone has flaws. Just be prepared for the inevitability that you'll receive criticism if you include flaws in your female characters just like you'll receive criticism if you write a Mary Sue.
I'd say write realistically flawed characters because it's often the flaws that make a character realistic and consequently interesting. Perfect Mary Sues are often boring, male or female.
In my view, "strong female character" means the "well-drawn and realistic female character whose actions affect the plot" definition, not the "female character who can knock any opponent out with a slow-motion flying kick" definition.
Willow, in Buffy, was a strong female character long before she got those Powerful Witch powers. Similarly, Xander was a strong male character despite the fact that he wasn't particularly smart, physically strong, or powerful in any other way. They were realistic, well-drawn, and they drove plots. They were strong characters.
Willie Scott, the Kate Capshaw character in Temple of Doom, was unrealistic and didn't drive the plot; the movie would have been essentially the same without her. She was emphatically not a strong character.
In The West Wing, CJ Craig was an extremely strong female character, despite her complete lack of karate-kicking ability. She was realistic, well-developed, and had a core plot-driving role in many plots.
Delores Landingham, an elderly woman, was also an extremely strong character, but she did drive far fewer plots. Her function was in part to reveal things about other characters, but she didn't influence people and their behavior by being a passive mirror--she did it very actively and deliberately, in ways that clearly demonstrated her personality.
Mrs. Landingham: You know, if you don't want to run again, I respect that. But if you don't run because you think it's gonna be too hard or you think you're gonna lose, well, God, Jed, I don't even want to know you.
Bartlet: Mrs. Landingham.
Mrs. Landingham: Yes sir?
Bartlet: You're not going to believe this but I think I'd actually like a banana.
Mrs. Landingham: I'm afraid not sir, no.
Bartlet: Why not?
Mrs. Landingham: You were offered one earlier, sir, and you were snippy.
Bartlet: I wasn't snippy!
Mrs. Landingham: I'm afraid you were, Mr. President. [looks toward the oval office] C.J.'s waiting, sir.
Bartlet: Thank you, Mrs. Landingham. [To C.J. as he enters the Oval Office] She withholds food from me.
Where others need a flying kick, Dolores Landingham just needs the word "snippy."
Zoey Bartlett was a fairly strong character--again, realistic, well-developed, and drove a little, though not a great deal, of plot.
Gina Toscano, Zoey Bartlett's female Secret Service protector, might well have been able to engage in flying kicks, but she fits "strong female character" much less than either Zoey or CJ, because she was largely a utility character, there to demonstrate things about Zoey, Bartlett, their relationship, and so on. Her characterization wasn't flawed, and her actress played her quite well, but she was nevertheless primarily utility, and therefore not a "strong female character."
(Edited to add stuff.)
Female action hero who usually wins = Mary Sue.
Female action hero who usually loses = faux action girl.
Female action hero who acts too manly = Man with breasts.
Female action hero who covers up = frumpy, SJW propaganda.
Female action hero who shows skin = sexual objectification
No, you specifically said:
And I deliberately do positive and negative versions of anything I feature enough times for it to be feasible.
That means if you include it enough times it can become feasible."to be" is future tense.
Saying changing it to "only when feasible" means you're being selective and picking an choosing when it works.
You are changing what you said than saying I am using a strawman. That is intellectual dishonesty.
And how many people have actually reviewed your characters? Five? Fifty? Publish it and you will not receive nothing but praise. Your characters can be potentially criticised for various forms of appropriation, contributing to various oppressive normativities, one of the myriad interpretations of sexism, male gaze, use of violence, and so on.
It's not a strawman when it's a point I'm making about your argument of keeping SJustice "in mind" and not "being mean". It's not a misquoting of your argument.
"Considering it" is allowing social justice warriors who haven't created a thing in their lives, to interfere with your creative process. Their role is to criticize what is already made. Not to get into the artist's head. By considering their points you actually impede their social commentary. They're attempting to comment on the default state of society and people's normative thinking and attitudes. If you would have made a "sexist" thing by default, but then artificially change it because you had their criticisms in mind, you are doing nothing but masking a problem.
@Phil Mitchell Have you ever heard of Uncle Tom's Cabin? Or 1984? The Great Dictator?
The writer trying to teach a lesson with their story does not automatically make the story inferior. The fact that those stories do exist (where the story suffered because the writer didn't care about the story as much as the message: the Da Vinci Code, or Left Behind) doesn't automatically mean that the opposite type of stories don't exist.
Just because I explained how it becomes feasible, does not mean the wording "only when feasible" is incorrect.
To be clear, the earlier point was OTHER PEOPLE'S CHARACTERS have been reviewed in terms of social justice very positively and the critiquing you mention was a dramatic strawman composite.
Separate names with a comma.