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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