How To Write Strong Female Characters

Elsa by the ever-so-talented juliajm15 over on deviate art. Click the image to visit her site.
Elsa by the ever-so-talented juliajm15 over on deviate art. Click the image to visit her site.

As a man, I used to find it difficult to write female characters. I researched how to do it right because, well, I’m a dude. I didn’t know what it’s like being female. I couldn’t fathom the struggles women go through in their daily lives.

That was until I realized that women are people.

Okay, I never ever thought for one second that women aren’t people. I knew then and know now that they are people. The difference is that you need to begin to see them as people and not as these foreign objects or as if they’re some strange mystery that no one seems to understand.

When writing a female character (lead or otherwise) you have to remember that everyone experiences the same emotions as the other. Sure, they won’t always be experienced the same from one person to the next, but the general feeling is the same. They feel love, disappointment, fear, anguish, hate, strength, and every other one you can mention. These qualities make a human real, and this, in fact, makes your female character real, too.

I once heard or read an interview in which the male writer was asked how to better write female characters, and he went on to say that just take a man and slap a woman’s name onto it (essentially).

I about lost my shit when I heard this advice.

First of all, women are not men. Men are not women. While we experience all the same emotions, we all experience them differently. This is not in a bad way at all. I’m not saying that women experience their feelings in a worse or better way than men. However, our biology, the thing that makes us one or the other, changes the way we experience certain things. Perhaps not always, but some of the time.

So what do we do when writing women?

Make them human.

The problem is, and I see this a lot, that male writers (and female writers when handling the opposite sex) tend to write their character into an inhuman role. Whereas a real living person might do things one way, their character totally flips reality on its head and does something completely asinine.

The key here is to observe the world outside of whatever stereotypical bullshit you’ve heard. Watch men and women interact with the world. Don’t learn peopling from movies or TV shows. Try to avoid learning it from books, too. Watch how they interact in real life situations, and see how not-so-different we all are from each other.

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