On Characters: Male and Female

Recently on the popular, “Absolute Write” website, there have been threads dealing with male and female characters.  On these, some people (including females) have stated they find writing three dimensional females much more difficult than males.  This baffled me, so I did some thinking.

This is what I came up with.  It all comes down to fear.  A lot of writers worry needlessly about whether their character is likeable or not.  My hunch tells me that these same writers worry even more about making their female character likeable.

Such concern is pointless.   One, you can’t please everyone.  Just as not everyone is going to like your novel in general, not everyone is going to like your character.  The vital thing is creating an interesting character that people want to read about.

Another concern I’ve heard has been along the lines of, “I have trouble creating a believable female character”.  Believable, being the key word.    Well, guess what.   There’s no such thing as a believable female character.   That makes it sound like all women are alike.  No.  We’re not.  There is absolutely no such thing as A female character any more than there is A male character.   Personality types, hopes, fears, wants, and behaviors run the full spectrum in both genders.

C.S. Lewis said, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

I believe the same applies to making a character “believable”.  If one sits down and thinks, “Okay.  I need to create a believable female character”, they’ll stress  too much on what they think a female character is supposed to be like, rather than creating a real, individual character.

Your characters, regardless of gender, become real, thus believable, when you give them hopes and fears, good traits and flaws.  Who is your character?  What do they want out of life?  What are their dreams and nightmares? 

Ask your character such questions and let them come forth.    Let them simply be who they are, for good or bad. Let them breathe on the page.  They will be real.  And believable.

Published in: on August 9, 2009 at 11:13 pm  Comments (38)  
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Favorite Children’s Books

Here are my top 10 favorite books from childhood.  They’re not presented in order- just how they came to me.

A big thank you to all the wonderful authors who filled my hours with wonder.

1. Bunnicula– by James Howe :  Harold the dog narrates with wry humor his life with the Monroes.  His best friend is Chester, the cat. (named after G. K. Chesterton).  Chester loves to read.  Harold loves books.  One day their owners bring home an abandoned bunny they found at the movie theater.  The film they’d been watching just happened to be…Dracula! Detective-in-the-making Chester is certain the cute little bunny is really a vampire.  He does sleep all day…

and Howliday Inn- by James Howe :  In this fantastic sequal, Harold and Chester are banished to horror-of-all-horrors…an animal kennel while the Monroes go on vacation.  Flirtatious French poodles, love triangles, and animals that go missing during the night…

note: yes, I know that’s two books.   It’s my own blog.  I’ll cheat if I want to.

2.  The Secret Garden- by Frances Hodgson Burnett:  After the death of her parents, Mary goes to live with her uncle in a mysterious manor on the Yorkshire Moors.

3.  Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield: Paulina, Petrova, and Posy are adopted by an eccentric rich older man who leaves them under the care of his servants.  Paulina dreams of being an actress, Posy lives to dance, and Petrova just wants to fix cars and learn how to fly…

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: Tomboyish, would-be-writer Jo (inspiration for many female authors to this day),  smart Meg, sweet Beth, artistic Amy.   Four sisters growing up during the Civil War with their mother.

5.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis : Lucy discovers a magical closet in her uncle’s home that leads into the world of Narnia.  I’ll admit it.  As a kid,  I tried this.  I really did.  Never did find the correct closet.  Darn it!

6.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl : Charlie Bucket is one of five lucky children who win the chance to visit Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory.  Filled with bizarre characters,  delicious sweets, tons of humor, and a dab of sentiment- no film adaption has ever captured the heart of this novel.

7.  The Nancy Drew Mystery Series by Carolyn Keene: before I embarked on Agatha Christie- the titian haired sleuth kicked off my love of mysteries

8. The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder :Her true-life account of growing up on the Western prarie during the 19th century.

9.  Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren :  I wanted to be Pippi.  Enough said.

10.  I wanted to put Judy Blume here, but decided she will go in my “Favorite Young Adult Books” Post.  So, that leaves me room for one more book.   Charlotte’s Web?  Wind in the Willows?

Nope.  As wonderful as those are, it just came to me:  Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  A young boy and his two coonhound pups.  (SOB!)

What were your favorite books as a child?