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Men Writing Women
Jerk-the-Protag: Nice, you killed 1 out of 1000 enemies! You’re not that bad at this job…for a girl.
First Lady McTitties: Gee, thanks.
Jerk-the-Protag: Hey, babe. Why don’t you wave those firm, bouncing tits over here so I can get a better look at them?
First Lady McTitties: *I walked towards him boobily, swaying my tiny waist and very perfect hips that are perfect for baby-making*: Well, well. Look who’s here. Jerk the Protag, you jerk! Who’s the woman you are with yesterday?!
Jerk-the-Protag: Uh-oh…uh… that’s Second Lady MacBooty. You know, she’s just part of my adventure. Don’t worry, I already talked to the author, and he said he’ll just let me meet a lot of women in my journey to show how handsome I am, in the end, we will still be the one for each other. Maybe you can just wait here in our hometown, and I’ll come back after the adventure, okay?
First Lady McTitties: *swing my boobies around* Fine. I don’t think I am made for the action anyway. I’ll wait for you here, my love...
Yes, some writers are well skilled at capturing the opposite sex’s, but some are disruptively infamous for their overly platitudinal interpretations of how women are and should be.
There is really a potential problem of male writers writing female characters (or vice versa). It is because it’s challenging to get full insight into a gender other than your own. So, maybe once in your life, you have read a female character written by a male writer that made you go, “Oh boy, this guy is so out of touch with women.” Right?
Some women writers even write like they aren’t women, even if they have the insight of being a woman. (I’m guilty…)
First of all, don’t forget that before being a woman, women are people first. Before a mother become a woman, she’s a person first. And like men and other genders, there are differences and there are things that make up “being a woman.” (Which I will tackle at the end, please don’t just skim LOL)
I won’t get political with this but accept it; no matter what gender you will write, someone will be angry with your portrayal because people tend to disagree on things. In writing, keep cultural differences in mind too. Different places and times have different gendered expectations; for example, gender equality is very different in the Middle East compared to Western countries. And if you’re making a fantasy world, you should consider if you want to mention the ‘traditional’ gender roles and stick to it or not.
If you are a male writing a female character, it will help if you will come up with a male character concept map first, then try converting them to a woman (and vice versa) to break out some of your unconscious assumptions.
Female villains and female evil sidekicks (side chicks) don’t need tragic (or any) backstory because…what for? They are ladies! They are natural, irredeemable evil villains…Well, again, women are people too! They also need reasons to be evil.
Voice in my head: No Jace, psycho’s are born, not made…
Whatever, isn’t it interesting to have a story about that evil side chick no one cares about?
Well, if you will check the statistics, according to statistica.com, in 2019, the number of male and female violent crime victims was about even, with approximately 1,579,530 male victims and 1,479,540 female victims. While the statistic in sexual abuses was 18.3% in women and 1.4% in men, well, that’s a big difference, but still, statistic says that men and other sexual preferences are victims too.
A boy child can get kidnapped too; you don’t have to give your character a daughter just for this reason.
Most writers use female pain for shock value and treating male pain differently.
Male writers (and female!) usually start with an exhaustive description of the woman’s appearance. They forget to develop or show their personality instead. When describing female characters, male writers (and sometimes women) visualize them through the male gaze.
When you’re reading a book, you can’t help but imagine feelings in your mind. Sometimes you even make imaginary casting for the actors (fan casts)– I do that for my characters most of the time. Ehem! Chris Evans. Lol
This is because they wanted their readers to decide about how their characters look. They want them to work on their imagination and imagine the characters the way they wanted to.
But with female characters, male writers can’t help but dropping hints about her shampoo-commercial-worthy hair, silk-likeness of her skin, her hour-glass curves, her breasts that defy the gravity, her long eyelashes that can kill a fly or her tempting… premature ejaculation-inducing gaze.
Yes, gawwwd, sure, women can be like that; I’m guilty… not because I fit the description (hahaha) but because I’ve written (and still writing!) characters like this, but don’t forget to develop their personality too. Do they have insecurities? How did they achieve that hour-glass curves? Were they on a 100-calorie diet for 20 years? Were they born with this lethal gaze, or they were able to develop this by training? Tell the readers more than the physical.
Focus on her psychological status (can be shown by actions and expressions), characteristics, and personality, which most of the time isn’t differentiated by gender. Both father and mother can be worried about their children. Both men and women can get depressed and can experience the same intensity of the trauma. It’s not only women who can get depressed because of their relationship, and men can only have mental issues if they served the military.
Make them a real person by diving into other aspects of their lives like family, friends, work, sports, etc., rather than attracting or assisting male characters. Which will be on next…
Some writers add female love interest that has nothing to do with the story’s action, and they are just made to be the male interest, nothing more. (Or maybe they are made to be kidnapped, later on, LOL) This one is common in fantasy stories. The main male protagonist goes out to deal with this exhilarating wondrous world of magic, mystery, villains, and whatever exciting stuff and then comes home to Boringville to live happily with his lady.
I’m not saying the main character should bring his lady to battles to make her a “strong character” because that would be ridiculous and unrealistic. Imagine the cops and secret agents bringing their wives to car chase or gunfights! Not everyone’s a Mrs. Smith, I know.
Your story will become more interesting if this female love interest is involved in the main plot (of course, for logical reasons) that have nothing to do with dating the main character.
But like what I said, other people will always disagree.
It’s possible to write female characters in significant roles in stories well. Maybe as co-protagonists, antagonists, reliable friends, or otherwise without sounding like you’re trying hard to give them an important role… but it also perfectly okay to…not do that. It depends on your target audience. Read that again.
If you’re writing for men, it doesn’t really matter if women readers think your female characters are annoying.
Many men are sick and tired of stories where the dumb male protagonist succeeded in his quest due to the help of his smarter, more skilled female love interest who mocks him all the time.
You see, if you are writing for them, you cannot sell something like that. Men enjoy being the hero, the one who saves the damsel, and guess what? That’s totally fine!
Women might not enjoy a story where the female love interest is put aside during the story’s highlights or being a damsel relying on the male hero to save her (because you know why women can be strong and independent too!). They don’t have to. They aren’t your market.
People (mostly men) complain if male characters in romance novels are too perfect to the point that they are unrealistic. The male love interest in a lot of fiction aimed at a female audience is basically “crazy rich, handsome, with 6-pack abs, and smoldering blue eyes,” and that’s the extent of it.
But do these authors care if men will hate their male love interest? No, because their market is the young female adults (or the horny wives). They won’t expect adult men reading their works… (no offense to adult men reading YA books! You guys are rare gems! LOL)
So, what if your target market is both male and female? Then good luck. LOL, kidding aside, in my opinion, you just have to make diversity and depth on them.
Well, click this: How to Develop a Good Character: Different Character Flaws (Shameless plugging, sorry!)
How to give complexity to characters? Write them as diverse as people are and do not write them according to the stereotypes.
Example of these types are:
I’m trying to say that no woman, man, or other gender fits into a box. A guy can be nerdy but a CEO and enjoys sports. A woman can fix cars but can walk on her 6-inches stiletto too.
Today’s McKenzie’s first day of work, she’s not late of course because she woke up 2 hours early to prepare—y’know make-up just doesn’t magically appear on women’s faces. She’s waiting nervously inside the clinical-clean office of the company’s owner to meet him. Take note, this company is a start-up company because no CEO of multi-billionaire companies ever meet a new employee on their first day.
Mr. Evans walked inside his office and was seated in front of her.
He had that steamy, yummy look on his face, all sexy and stuff. He clearly had seduction on his mind.
McKenzie did not notice the manly squareness of his stubbled jaw or think that he has chiseled abs under that skin-tight white shirt. She did not look at the slowly swelling bulge in the front of his jeans or imagined his testicles still drooped meatily, like two plump eyeballs in a paper sack.
Frankly, she just wasn’t very interested.
Why? Because even though she woke up early to prepare for her first day, she couldn’t stop this villain of our story—her period to come to her most important day.
She’s not in the mood! She’s worried about her gray pencil skirt, wondering if she didn’t stain it yet or that if she needs to take a more potent pain reliever because she couldn’t feel her feet anymore. The cramps were just too much for her to even think how to shimmy Mr. Evan’s muscular loin is.
Even if she was wearing perfect make-up, she still feels so ugly, bloated, and gross. “How’s everything so far?” Mr. Evan’s asked. His voice was as smooth as a chocolate fudge sundae, but McKenzie wasn’t listening.
She was wondering if she has a tampon in her purse. She couldn’t remember if she refilled it after her last period, which she spent in her bed comfortably as she watched Netflix because she was still unemployed at that time. Well, not every woman can live comfortably after finding a CEO who will take care of their needs.
She needs a job to buy chocolates that she badly craves on her monthly periods.
She returned from her reveries and realized that he was still staring at her, eyes blazing… although… he did look a little… mad, maybe because she wasn’t listening.
Anyway, of course, you don’t have to put and focus the entire story on the women’s period.
Period is a big deal for most women. It’s not natural to frequently mention it, but most women deal with it monthly for a significant portion of their adult lives. Leaking can cause real anxiety, even if we have been dealing with it for decades.
Women in real life even cancel shopping or mundane tasks because we just want to curl up with a warm compress on our tummies and munch chocolates or pizza over Big Hero 6.
Ever think of how Katniss never complained about her period and how did she even deal with it through the trilogies…or how Bella smells delicious when she’s on her period. Hahaha (stop Jace!)
It’s like this huge taboo no one wants to talk about. Was it because it’s normal, like peeing and pooping, and you don’t have to talk about it? NO. IT’S NOT.
There’s migraine, muscle pains, cramps, fatigue, bloating, irritation, anxiety, painkillers, comfort food, hormones…and many more aspect.
I don’t think it’s just male writers, female writers too (I’m guilty again…but seriously, I can’t just mention it because my works are full of fast forwards, hahaha stop explaining Jace!).
No one wants to admit women bleeding every month is actually a thing. But whatever. LOL
You can usually see this in movies. It’s barely mentioned in novels: female characters not taking off their make-up as they sleep and still waking up with perfect make-up. Make-up, even water-proof, do fade and run, but not the usual way you watch movies that have raccoon eyes from the mascara. This could happen, but not always. Also, it’s worth mentioning other make-up that could fade, like lipstick and/or foundation.
Also, it’s nearly impossible to take a shower, put on perfect make-up and matching attire in 5 minutes, guys.
It’s almost impossible to run on heels, especially if you are not Bryce Dallas Howard of Jurassic World.
Some heels are designed to be walked about daily with practice. A lot of women can wear them as long as they want to. However, your female character who’s not like other girls—who hate heels and love comfortable shoes, it will be near impossible for her to just wear it for a long time or go about her day as usual. Those things will really start hurting, cause blisters, and take time for her to get used to them and even walk straightly with them.
And oh, stiletto, by the way, is the shoe with a long, thin, high heel. It is named after the stiletto dagger.
These could just be noted, and you don’t have to necessarily write them in your story:
We certainly can’t put a wallet in them. That’s why we hold purses instead; if we put keys or a cellphone in them, they will make an ugly bulge. Sometimes we can’t even put our hands in our pockets. Then what are those tiny pockets are for? No clue. Fashion, men. Fashion.
For everyday leg covering, most women wear pantyhose. They’re hellish, and the first thing we want to do when we get home is to take them off.
We do not wear red lipstick and sexy lingerie because we want to sleep with men. Sometimes, we just feel like it. Not everyone, but more often than not, because we are just in the mood for it. We wear it to feel more empowered and confident for ourselves.
Real boobs do not defy gravity like in anime, dudes. They hurt our back, and it’s a bit uncomfortable for women with bigger breasts to lie down on their stomachs.
Okay, this rant…I mean this article has gotten too long.
There will always be people who won’t like your work no matter what you do, but that’s not the issue here, is it?
I won’t tell you what you can and cannot write. Write whatever your heart is telling you to write. However, suppose you have a target audience in mind. In that case, you should do market research on these specific audiences and write for them—but still, do your research on your niche and write it with poise.
U know wut-em-saying?
As a woman and a writer (I’m not a pro btw. Lol), my advice is to write a character based on their character, not their gender. And if their gender affects the character—think of the reasons why. There’s nothing wrong with feminine women; there’s nothing wrong with submissive women (yeah, bash me, go!), but give them more than that. She’s feminine, and what? Give them something more.
My example is Beth Harmon of The Queen’s Gambit (a Netflix miniseries based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel of the same name.)
The Queen’s Gambit is about a female prodigy from Lexington, Kentucky, and her pursuit of a world title in Chess in the late nineteen-sixties. Through the story, Beth developed a prudish, gamine skill for fashion at the same progress she got in the mastery of the chessboard. Her looks evolved briskly with her game.
So, why did I use her as my example? Well, even though she’s feminine, someone who lavishly spends her money on luxuries and how she looked (like how most women are), there’s something more in her character. The story didn’t just evolve on her femininity…why? Because she was written as a person. She has a backstory; there was a character development that happened.
Let them be complicated. Let them be feminine and badass. It’s okay not to give them a love interest but don’t avoid relationships like it’s COVID-19. Be genuine with your characters and let them develop chemistry so that amazing friendships or maybe something more can develop. Let them be of different sizes and shapes, let them pursue relationships in different ways, let them prioritize other things, let them fail and make mistakes, and let them succeed.
Yes, there are still differences in genders that the writer to keep in mind while writing. They need to consider how differences between the sexes affect a person’s life. A woman isn’t going to be able to dead-lift a hundred pounds with no weight training. A man who’s not a gymnast can’t just jump split because he will shatter his plump…bouncy balls.
Those are things a writer will need to remember, but those differences are pretty small if you look at the whole picture. Across both genders, men and women have goals, flairs, skills, worries, difficulties, principles, and virtues.
These make us people, and those are what writers—especially men who are writing women characters, need to focus on most.