I have written a few blog posts about the problem of women being used as objects in fiction, much less film, and as the father of three daughters I find this method of writing about women or the portrayal of women in film disgusting.
What I’m writing about here is not “empowerment” or the advocation of making female characters the main heroes in our tales, which is still ok to some extent. I have plenty of “empowered” or lead female characters in my novels who are able to lead others, but I think there is just too much of that good thing. Where is the balance?
I think that the key to writing strong female characters in our fiction is to actually hang out with and form friendships with real women, women who are honorable and good, who do not see themselves as objects, who are in essence “real people”.
Today is my sister’s birthday. I won’t say which one to spare her the indignity <grin> but her status is well earned. She is the mother of two teenage children, the wife of a youth minister who is dedicated to the well being of the teens in their hometown of Stigler, and she is a very well accomplished physical therapy assistant who is the physical therapist for all of the schools in her county. Beyond that, she’s witty, loves to share advice and is an awesome mother and wife. I can always count on her to be real with me, and what I mean by that is that she is not afraid to tell me the truth about anything. She always sees the angle on any topic that I didn’t think about.
My wife is the same way. She always sees the many other options I didn’t see when we make decisions as a family. She’s witty: The other day we were discussing Adam and Eve. I said “Adam actually had the first baby according to the Bible. Eve was his baby, I guess.” She replied, “Yeah. And God put him out just before taking out the rib.”
The point here is that if you are going to write about strong female characters then you need to have some strong female characters in your life. All of my female characters are based entirely on the women in my life. I based my latest female lead, a teen in a small town, on my oldest daughter Kaylee. Kallie Steren is in every way my daughter, with interests like hers, weaknesses like hers, and is in no way a plastic Hollywood image of what a teenage girl is supposed to be. I guess that means she doesn’t swing from a wrecking ball.
This blog post is a challenge to all writers to write about women with respect, to create strong female characters that do not fall into the shameful image created by Hollywood that slims women down with photoshop, that puts forth a plastic unattainable image, that touts overt aggressive sexuality as the norm, and therefore sets up a female character as an object to be looked at rather than a real person who is actually empowered by their personality and character.
Accept the challenge. Your female readers will appreciate it.
- Writing male and female characters (hastilyscrawled.wordpress.com)
- Geena Davis Solves Hollywood Sexism in Two Easy Steps! (jezebel.com)
- Gender in Hollywood (kansanpolitics.wordpress.com)
3 thoughts on “The Key To Writing Strong Female Characters”
Happy Birthday to Joyce. She looks great for 29.
Like you alluded, if every female character in the story is a flawless superwoman, it becomes cloying. If every character, male or female, is given depth and dimension on the other hand, you are doing them and your readers service.
I just write about people. Some people are male and some people are female.