Thursday, June 9, 2011

[Guys & Dolls]

On Nathan Bransford's Forums, there's a topic going right now on Female Characters and how some writers find themselves more difficult to write, even if they are themselves female. Let me begin this post by stating that I am fully in the camp of the female writers who find females more difficult to write then males. Whenever I make up a new character, there are overwhelming odds that the character will be male. This isn't because I'm sexist, or because I set out to have more male characters than I do female.

I'm not quite sure why I have more guy characters than I do girl characters, honestly. Most of the time, I chalk it up to attending an all-girls school for my entire life. From pre-school up until right now, I have attended the same school, and I have always been in all female classes. Whenever a guy comes onto campus that no one recognizes, people notice him, and word travels quickly.

Call us deprived, but we aren't exactly picky about who comes to our campus when they're a new face and possibly some new entertainment.

When I make a character, I try not to associate the character with anyone that I know. I can't knowingly give a character the same first name as someone that I know. Given that I hate naming characters on a good day, trying to name a girl character is, for me, one of the most difficult parts of writing. I know girls with almost every name imaginable. It's almost impossible for me to make a female character that I don't associate with someone from school or outside of it.

Beyond my own personal struggles to somehow separate my writing and non-writing lives (no matter what I do, it doesn't work, so I don't know why I try anymore), though, I think almost everyone is predisposed to write stronger male characters than they are females. And that is not because everyone inherently believes that women are weak, that we are less than capable of carrying a book as a heroine. Both The Icemark Chronicles by Staurt Hill and the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordian feature two of the strongest female leads I have ever read, and I love them for it.

Not to mention Katniss in The Hunger Games.

But there is always Harry Potter, Edward and Jacob, and Jay Gatsby. In classical literature, male characters are more powerful than female ones, because of the society in which and for which those books were written. When modern literature takes the classics for inspiration, those trends are proliferated, sometimes without authors or audiences noticing.

Until we take notice of it, and until we make a conscious attempt to change it, not only with characters like Katniss, Thirrin, and Annabeth who kick ass, but with characters who are more normalized, the trend won't change.

What I wonder, though, is if readers want the trend to be changed? Ultimately, what readers buy most has the most impact. Maybe with the Hunger Games and Olympians series being so popular, we'll soon see an influx of strong female leads, and I can't wait for it.

Until then, I'm happy with girls doing some unnoticed butt-kicking -- really, it's what we do all the time, anyway.

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