1. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    Writing From a Female Perspective

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Mikmaxs, Nov 29, 2016.

    I just got back from a family trip for thanksgiving a couple days ago, and during that trip, a conversation with a few of my family members (Notably an aunt and uncle) about the history of fiction (and more specifically women's portrayals in fiction) has raised a question for me:

    How can I (A man, just to be clear,) write a character with a convincingly female point of view?

    I'm not asking from an existential sense or something (How can male writers write female characters, etc,) I'm asking specifically for myself: What can I do to make sure that I'm actually writing women as real women, and not just as either archetypical caricatures or as masculine characters that are ostensibly women, but don't really act or think like them.


    This is especially a concern for me, because the story I'm working on is written in third-person subjective, almost exclusively following the viewpoint of a fifteen year old girl on a cross-country adventure to rescue her parents and brother, and if her voice doesn't seem convincing, then the whole story is going to fall apart. I'm already cheating a little bit in that she is unusually tall and strong for her age (Partly genetics, partly because she works on a farm in her normal routine,) (I'm going for a theme of 'She's got a lot of power, but without knowing how to use it, it's not helpful and knowledge would be better' in the story, (she is also a sorceress) so I don't want to just make her weaker.)
     
  2. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    My co-author wife is in charge of keeping all the characters authentic, not just the female ones. I write them, she fixes them.
     
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  3. OJB

    OJB A Mean Old Man Contributor

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    Hello Mikmaxs,

    Men and woman are different, but not that different that you can't get 80% of POV right. For that last 20%, I can only suggest to you what I did, interview a number of women, with the questions and concerns you have, and ask them how they would react to situations that you are unsure about. I am a man, writing an Erotic Horror from the POV of a woman. I overcame the 20% I didn't know by asking a number of women I know in real life a few basic questions.

    I should warn you that if you go the interview route, not all women are going to be cool with certain subject matters you might want to bring up.

    Another thing I did was I made sure that the few reviewers that have read my current draft, were women. To my surprise, with the exception of one scene, I wasn't too far off the mark.
     
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  4. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    You can get away with a wider emotional range with a 15 year old girl without it being subversive.
    She would be aware of drawing more sexual attention from creeps than a 15 year old boy.
    She might not be as sexually promiscuous as a male teen as she can get pregnant.
    Sparkly and cute things may get her attention more.
    She may have her head filled with naive thought of true love and Mr perfect.
    Aka hypergamy. Some rich man is going to sweep her up and have her set for life without having to work again.
     
  5. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm going to go with kinda-stereotypes here:

    - Imagine any situation where you might think, "Who the bleep do you think you are? You're not the boss of me!"

    Like someone trying to order for you at a diner, or telling you what route to take when you're driving and you didn't ask for directions, or deciding what movie the two of you are going to see without asking you, or tidying your desk for you, or turning on the heat under the thing that your'e frying without asking.

    IMO, the average girl is less likely to "push back" in a situation like that, and if she does push back, she's likely to be more uncomfortable doing so. I don't know whether it's societal pressure, or an actual difference in the sexes, but women are more likely to seek consensus than to seek authority.

    That's not to say that a girl who does push back is unrealistic; I'm just saying that a girl is more likely to be a consensus-seeker than a boy is.

    - Closely related, when disagreeing, women are far more likely to seek consensus than to set an opposing position and hold to it.

    - A girl is more likely to be concerned about safety, without any conflicting feeling that she's being...wimpy?

    - Women are more likely than men to be indirect speakers. I actually don't recommend trying this, unless you yourself are an indirect speaker. As an example of indirect speech, if an indirect speaker asks you, while on a road trip, "Are you hungry? Want to stop?" they're quite likely to be communicating that THEY'RE hungry and they want to stop.

    - Big stereotype!: A girl is far, far more likely to ask for directions.
     
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  6. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    They're also more likely to let men lead in conversation, and not show much initiation in terms of changing the subject. I have noticed that for sure.
     
  7. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'd suggest you don't worry too much about writing A Female Character and just focus on writing this character, who happens to be, among many other things, female. I mean, she's a sorceress, for god's sake - are you super-worried about being able to write from the sorceress perspective, or are you trusting your imagination and empathy and understanding of basic human nature to make that character trait feel natural?

    Women aren't a different species or from a different planet. I'd say that when I read female characters that I don't find convincing it's more often because the author has overemphasized the differences between the sexes rather than underemphasized it. Just write a good character.
     
  8. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    A lot of this advice seems rooted in the cultural norms women grow up under in English-speaking (and other) modern cultures. However, the OP's character is a sorceress, so those norms could easily not apply.

    A world with sorceresses is very different from one without. In our world, men's size advantage is an intrinsic advantage they have in a fight and an influence on how people interact with each other. But if a 5'2 sorceress can KO a 7' male with a gesture, everything may different.

    For worlds other than our own, the author gets to decide on the differences between the sexes. The only absolute one (if women are women and men are men -- if they aren't, use different words for them) is that women (usually) can bear children and men (usually) can not. There are some likely logical consequences of that, but they aren't necessarily "women stay home and have babies."

    OP, you're the author. You decide. If anyone criticizes your females, you have two choices - use their criticism to improve your next revision, or figure out why that criticism doesn't apply in your world.
     
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  9. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    See, here's the interesting thing.

    Real women are real people. Write a person. I'm not being condescending. That's my trick and it seems to work. Then again, I'm pretty in tune with my female side.
     
  10. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Oh. Yes. If this is a different culture, then my comments should be totally ignored. Any itty bitty tiny miniscule statistical fragment that may actually be about innate differences will be drowned in the differences between individuals.
     
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  11. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    I dunno. Sounded like he wanted a stereotypical character to me.
     
  12. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    The nice thing about stereotypes is that there are so many to choose from.
     
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  13. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I didn't get that impression at all. I got the impression that he feared that there were deep fundamental differences that would loudly announce that he's a man trying to understand a woman.
     
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  14. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    That's what I got, but enough women like cars and enough men like shoes for any stereotypes to become void in the long run. In fact, breaking stereotypes is interesting. So if he's worried about writing a female character that talks and acts like a male, well, maybe she does.
     
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  15. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    Where cushions are comfy, and straps hold firm.
    A person is a person.
    Try and remember when you were that age, and how the girls
    around you acted. That should help a bit, granted they don't
    have magic powers. Take from your experience and apply it.

    All you can really do is what @EnginEsq said in their first post.
     
  16. Phil Mitchell

    Phil Mitchell Banned Contributor

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    The man with breasts trope needs to die. Anytime a female character leads or commands or shows any backbone she'll be accused of being too masculine by some people. Just accept it and move on.
     
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  17. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    I apologize, but this was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw this.

    And not like, first circle. No, we're going deeper into the pit.
    Way down to the bottom. Hold on.
     
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  18. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll It's Coffee O'clock everywhere. Contributor

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    @Iain Aschendale of course you went there. :superlaugh:
     
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  19. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    Unfortunately, I am currently lacking in both co-authors and wives, or I'd give this a try.

    Honestly, sex doesn't really come into the story at all. Her travelling companion is twice her age and neither of them are interested, the only other character who's around for more than a couple chapters is a woman who's also twice her age. This isn't a love story, there's not even a viable candidate to make it into a love story if I wanted to. (Which I don't.) And, since it's styled like a western, things being 'Sparkly' or 'Cute' don't really crop up either.


    The difference between writing a sorceress and a woman is that nobody can tell me I'm doing it wrong in how I characterize a sorceress. There are precisely zero people with experience using magical powers to manipulate energy and create paranormal reactions around them. There are, however, several billion people who have experience being a female person.
    I certainly don't want to make it the only character trait she has, not by a long shot, but I also don't want to completely ignore something that would almost certainly inform a large part of her reality. Writing a good character is my first priority, but I feel that writing her without ever acknowledging her gender is going to do more harm than good to the 'Goodness' of that character.

    I suppose it bears mentioning; she's only had her powers for about six months, and only loosely knows how to use them - For fourteen and a half years, she hasn't been a sorceress. While the recent change to her life is a major factor in her characterization (That is, suddenly gaining power that she can't control and, until very recently, has no use for,) I also don't think you can or would shed almost fifteen years of habits and ingrained assumptions because a few months of change.

    That being said, there are certain differences in my setting that have already been taken into account. For the most part, there's no stigma attached to women fighting in the military. Specifically in the part of the world where she lives (Though elsewhere as well), there's no rigidly defined gender roles or class system - Especially since there was a recent war and resources are spread pretty thin, any given person's merits are based off of how hard they can work. (Who has time to be sexist when there's a thousand chores that need done and you need all the hands you can get for help?)


    Breaking stereotypes is interesting, but the problem is that this isn't exactly a stereotype anymore. I referred to the 'Male character with boobs' thing (And someone else mentioned it in this thread,) and I didn't mean it as a bad thing - Writing female characters in masculine archetypes isn't bad, it can be pretty great. (Nobody is going to argue that Ripley in Aliens isn't awesome.) The problem is that it sometimes feels like this stereotype is the only portrayal that female protagonists can ever get in action/adventure stories where they aren't a prize for the hero or an obstacle to be overcome.

    I want my characters to be real, and I want them to be interesting, but I'm already working towards that as a given. I also want to accurately portray people whose walks of life don't completely match mine, and in situations where it's possible for me to portray something inaccurately, I want to put at least some effort into making sure I'm as accurate as possible, or at least that my inaccuracies aren't explicit and obvious. I'm not talking about turning a female character into a laundry list of cliches and stereotypes here.

    What movie is that from?
    Also: Lqtm.
     
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  20. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Aunt? Supporter Contributor

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    As Good as It Gets (IMDB page)
     
  21. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I'm a little bit befuddled here as to what you mean by "masculine archetypes". Male characters don't always have to be powerful action heroes. A man can also be, for example, a quiet non-athletic librarian. And so can a woman. And in neither case would they be a prize or an obstacle.

    I feel that maybe I'm missing your point.
     
  22. Mikmaxs

    Mikmaxs Senior Member

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    I suppose I should have clarified that as the "Masculine action hero" archetype. And I'm also not saying that these archetypes are or should be universal, just that they show up a lot. (You can find a whole lot more action-film protagonists riffing off of John McClane or Indiana Jones (Or, more recently, Tony Stark) than you can who aren't.)
     
  23. Francis de Aguilar

    Francis de Aguilar Contributor Contributor

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    The thing that sprung into my mind about this is that women have greater emotional sensitivity and availability. By this, I do not mean that this would hinder or in any way weaken them, on the contrary.
     
  24. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Hmmm, this is becoming another one of those threads where someone asks for advice and then argues against the advice they receive. Take it or leave it. I'm way over trying to convince people to listen or not.

    And Ripley in Aliens is very female. This goes to show a complete lack of understanding both of the character and women. In Alien she was literally turned from a man to a woman with no other major changes to the character, but in Aliens she was specifically written as a tough but nurturing woman, highly protective of her surrogate child to the point of two mothers literally fighting to the death.
     
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  25. EnginEsq

    EnginEsq Member

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    "The script by O'Bannon and Shusett also had a clause indicating that all of the characters are "unisex," meaning they could be cast with male or female actors; consequently, all of the characters are only referred to by their last name (Dallas, Kane, Ripley, Ash, Lambert, Parker, and Brett), and the few gender-specific pronouns (he/she) were corrected after casting. However, Shusett and O'Bannon never thought of casting Ripley as a female character."

    "When casting the role of Ripley, Ridley Scott invited several women from the production office to watch screen tests, and thus gain a female perspective. The women were unanimously impressed with then-unknown actress Sigourney Weaver,"

    Source.

    Then the wrote Aliens, knowing Ripley would be female (and they gave her a first name).
     
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