Writing Female Characters: The Dos and Don’ts

by Hiya Chowdhury, Age 13, India

Artwork by Lucy Zhang

 

Writing Female Characters: The Dos and Don'ts jaBlog!Being a self-proclaimed feminist and a young aspiring writer, I have pondered a great deal about how to weave independent and able female characters into my stories; and I have to tell you, it doesn’t come easily. Sometimes you wonder if you are making her too perfect, and sometimes you worry that she has way too many faults. Hitting the right balance between these two is a vital part of writing good female characters.

Here are some dos and don’ts to follow while writing female characters.

The DOS

Draw inspiration from your surroundings.
Observe real women. Take inspiration from your grandma who can knock up some great dishes, and from your mother who has that uncanny ability of ticking you off when she sees you procrastinating too much, and from that girl at school who has so many airs about her. Bring these real women into your female character, and you will see that it will make her more relatable.

Drop the clichés.
Go against the norms. Your female character doesn’t have to be like all other female characters out there. Usually the first attribute that comes to your head will be a cliché, and you will be tempted to use it in your character. However, it is, as I have discovered, a better practice to mostly reject your first idea and go for a new and original idea. There is a catch, though. You have to focus on the fact that even if she is different, she still has to be relatable. Your female characters have to ultimately connect with the readers.

Make her fit the plot.
It makes no sense to put in a headstrong female character when the plot does not ask for one. If your plot asks for an indecisive or evil female, make her that way. You need to do complete justice to your plot––do not forget that.

The DON’TS

Don’t always make her a protagonist.
Make her an antagonist sometimes. Remember all the female antagonists that have graced stories. It is a very common mindset that antagonists have a very limited set of emotions to work with. I find this wholly untrue, as even though they are supposed to be horrible people, you can put in complex underlying drives and motivations.

Don’t be afraid!
It can be intimidating to expect your female protagonists to reach the same heights as famous male protagonists. But fear will only stunt your growth as a writer, so write more stories with female protagonists that will make more people talk, more writers write, and eventually, more female characters will emerge.

Don’t follow gender stereotypes.
Your female character does not have to abide by the gender roles set by society. Break all the rules. Your female character could some day be the example for some woman on this planet who is bound by society’s chains. Inspire these women through your writing, because only you are in charge of how your character turns out to be. Venture into fields that women aren’t usually seen in.

Pass this on to other people, and let’s bring in equal rights for women through what we do best––writing. Remember that you can change the world with your words.

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Hiya says, “The only things I write well are the things I am passionate about.”

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4 comments on “Writing Female Characters: The Dos and Don’ts

  1. Thank you for writing this article. Most of my characters (nearly all of them, actually) are female characters because their easier for me to relate to since I girl and you have you’ve given me something great to ponder about. I think these days, more and more female protagonist are making their way into the book world, such as with the female characters Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), Hazel Grace Lancaster (The Fault in Our Stars), and Beatrice Prior (Divergent). Breaking all the rules. :)

    • Hiya

      Thanks for your comment Tiffany! I too mostly write female characters in my stories, but that’s hardly something wrong!

  2. This is a really nice article. There are some great points here to contemplate. May we all write strong female characters.

    • Hiya

      Thanks Aviva! I hope so too. :)

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