Word Wednesday · Writing

Working with your characters: Female Main Characters [2/7]

Hey guys,

So lets kick off this series looking at one of the most discussed character groups out there; the female main character. For a long time, the female main character was limited to romance and chick-lit novels, where the characters were meant to be distinctively and stereotypically ‘feminine’. However, over the last decade there has been a surge in the number of female main characters across majority of genres; with young adult fantasy being almost completely female based for main characters. There are a few genres where the female main character is still a rarity; mainly science-fiction; epic or high fantasy has seen more female main characters appearing on it’s pages, but these are generally balanced out with secondary points of view being male.

So my question really is, why? Why are genres where the main characters are put through some terrifying, outrageous, and frankly awesome events (not that previously mentioned genres don’t) are they still male dominated? Why are females only represented in genres where there are ‘softer’ obstacles, or emotional based obstacles?

Perhaps it is the way females have been previously portrayed. For example, women are generally small, slight, and portrayed as weak. As a woman who stands at over 6 foot, who lifts weights, and can punch as hard as most men; I find this portrayal to be offensive.

This ‘weak woman’ has been countered by some amazing examples, one of the best examples that I personally associate with is Celaena Sardothien from Sarah J Maas’s epic young adult fantasy series; Throne of Glass. Although Celaena is a small built woman, she is a deadly, kick-ass assassin, who puts the fear of death into everyone around her. But yet again, she still has her feminine characteristics as well, she loves getting new clothes, and books. When I first read Throne of Glass several years ago, it was literally a breath of fresh air, I had been dipping into a slump because I was constantly reading about young women who were reliant on one man or another to get them out of trouble; then along came Celaena and kicked them all out of the water.

If you want a well-written, strong female protagonist, check out this series!

My first question when developing a character is about the gender, if in my head I see a female character; I always question why. I do this predominately to see for myself what about her feminine character is what makes the character (what is needed for the plot to work?). My second question is how do I use these traits, why are these traits important for the plot line and why no other trait could accomplish the same result.

By going through these questions, I develop what about her makes her special enough to be the main character; but I also learn about the little things, her little ticks and tocks, her quirks if you will. I get to know not only the character I need her to be, but also the character that is developing whether I want her to or not.

Do you have a favourite female main character? If so, let me know in the comments below- and don’t forget to include why!

I hope we can start finding more females in all genres. Lets get writing!

Helen x

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