I’m not sure if you mean general advice, or if you want information relating to what it’s like to be female (as we did for an anon a little while back but vice versa), so I’ll do a bit of both. I’ll put headers over each section respectively so you can just jump to the bit you need.
Long post ahead, tw: sex mention, nsfw, rape mention, blood mention.
Note: I want to apologise in advance in case I make any mistakes in regards to using gendered language or generally not being inclusive of all women everywhere. Please feel free to correct any ignorance on my part, Followers, and I will do my best to edit this post where necessary if I do spread misinformation or participate in any kind of erasure. I’m still learning about a lot of things and I will never not make mistakes… so please understand it is not intentional and I am more than willing to learn, improve and accept any mistakes I make to avoid offence.
Writing Female Characters: General Tips
Treat your female character in the way you would treat a male character. Develop her just as much as you would him, really think about her motivations and why she does the things she does. Think about the kind of relationships she might have with others – not just sexual/romantic relationships, but familial bonds and friendships.
It’s best to erase the idea from your mind that there is a ‘type’ of woman too, because in a lot of fiction, it’s all too easy to see when someone has developed a male character into an individual, but kept their female characters restricted by stereotypes; it comes across as a genuine lack of interest in discovering who the character is beyond the parameters of the box the author has shoved her in. It’s lazy writing and it’s not representative of women as a whole.
What I mean by this is… there are certain stereotypes that are just constantly reinforced throughout fiction again and again without much mind to why this is a bad thing for women as a whole. I know it’s hard to try and imagine how the opposite sex thinks, but men and women really aren’t so different… we all share the same insecurities, fears, hopes and dreams… so think twice before you commit any of the following crimes when it comes to writing a female character:
- The amount – or lack of – sex in a woman’s life is indicative of what type of person she is, and more importantly, what she’s worth as an individual.
For a man, a healthy interest in sex is just labelled as ‘normal’. In truth, all people vary in terms of sexuality and how sexually active they are; whether they choose to be with one partner, or several, it doesn’t really matter. A woman enjoying sex doesn’t make her a ‘whore’ (and all of the negative connotations attached to such a slur) and it really doesn’t reflect her personality as strictly one thing or the other. On the other hand, a woman who does not enjoy sex or a woman who has had one or no partners is not automatically ‘purer’ or more innocent.
The archaic idea of virginity means absolutely nothing in regards to a woman’s ‘worth’, personality or moral code, so don’t write female characters that would reinforce the age-old idea that there are two types of women: the sexually experienced, and the innocently pure.
Want an example? Read The Girl In 6E by A.R. Torre, it completely subverts the notion that a woman’s sex life reflects anything other than how much sex she likes to have.
- Women can’t control their emotions, so they can’t be trusted with anything serious or important; their emotions always affect their judgement.
Women and men can be equally as emotional as the other… It’s incredibly damaging to reinforce the idea that men can’t show emotions, and that women must be open books all of the time. Women are not ruled by their emotions and can feel anger, irritation and annoyance without having to be hormonal. It completely undermines a woman if you insinuate she can only ever be angry when she’s on her period – like all people, if a woman is treated in a way that invokes her anger, she will respond with… well, anger. Period or no period.
Write angry women! Write women who do inexplicably sadistic things just because that’s who they are, write women who live in almost permanent states of annoyance because that’s who they are.
Want an example? Try Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, or Her by Harriet Lane.
- A strong female character must kick-ass and never show weakness.
Again, this is one-dimensional characterisation. A ‘strong female character’ doesn’t have to go around kicking ass and taking names 24/7. If you’re unsure about what this means, think about the way some A Song of Ice and Fire fans react to Sansa compared to Arya.
People like Arya because she is like a ‘boy’… she likes to fight, she’s adventurous and active, she prioritizes her goals over love and is rough and ready; however, people hate Sansa because of her femininity and apparently ‘frivolous’ desires. She’s ‘weak’ and ‘boring’ because she doesn’t use her fists to fight and apparently ‘deserves’ any misfortunes because she almost ‘willingly’ walks into these situations.
No woman is better than another simply because of what she wants to do with her life. A woman who wants to have children and stay home to take care of them and her partner is in no way less than a focused career woman who doesn’t want children and is a black belt in Karate.
Women can be tough, ballsy and aggressive… as well as being soft, gentle and ‘feminine’. They don’t need to be protected by a man, but they can’t handle every single situation all on their own without flinching either.
Examples that spring to mind: Ellie from The Last of Us (sure, she kicks ass, but she’s also gentle, affectionate and honest about her fears [something folk over on Cracked were quick to criticise her for, because apparently fourteen-year-olds who can shoot zombies shouldn’t almost breakdown or seek comfort – especially not by a dude – when they narrowly escape being raped and eaten by a cannibal]).
I could go on forever about all of the things Thou Shalt Not Do when writing a female character – there is definitely a lot more and especially relating to that last example, context, character development arc and environment all play a part in whether or not a specific thing comes across as sexist or not. Cracked there picked a bad example, because although in a dream world Joel would have been Marlene or Tess instead, that wasn’t the case and Ellie shouldn’t have to be a stone cold assassin with no emotion to fit into the Strong Female Character box everyone seems to love right now.
tl;dr? Just write people. Write realistic people… if you really struggle with it, start out by writing your female characters as male and then just change them to female afterwards because gender really isn’t the be-all and end-all of a person’s identity, even though it can be a big part of it.
- ‘A strong female character’ does/does not mean
- On The Subject Of The ‘Strong Female Character’
- Women Are Not Weaker Than Men
- How Not To Write Female Characters
- Junot Diaz on Boy Writers
- Female Villains
- The 6 Male Characters Women Never Get To See In Movies
- Red Flags for Female Characters
- Girl Rules for Writing Female Characters
- TV Tropes: Stuffed into the Fridge
Writing Female Characters: Experiences
Just a heads up that the following might get TMI, but what I’ll generally talk about here is a little bit about how some things ‘feel like’ for certain people, including questions that some guys might be too embarrassed to ask about or whatever. I’m going to try and stray from gendered language, but assuming the OP is referring to a cis female character, I’ll go with that framework to include as much as I can.
Remember: people who have the right parts will experience certain things thought to be exclusive only to cis women (or cis men), so please don’t take this guide as a ‘Only People Born With Vaginas Experience This’. However, if I make any insulting/offensive mistakes, as said at the beginning of this post, please feel free to correct where necessary to prevent the spread of misinformation on account of my own ignorance.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first…
As everyone ever knows, many people with a uterus have a period every month. This isn’t the same for every single person with a uterus: there are conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, to name just one example, in which periods are irregular or just stop altogether.
However, for those who do experience a regular period, it can last from anywhere between 5-7+ days. I know some people who have periods for almost two weeks and everyone’s flow is different. Tampons and sanitary towels tend to come labelled in things like ‘Heavy’, ‘Normal’, ‘Light’, etc… this just generally refers to how much blood is passed during the period. Some people find they pass very little blood, or that only the first couple of days are bad, but sometimes it can be heavy enough to leak through tampons/pads and clothes… it really just depends and as embarrassing as it is, no one has control over it unfortunately. Like, the blood can’t be held in like pee whatsoever.
Some people experience cramping or symptoms before periods. It can be any (or all) of the following a few days before and then after the period starts:
- Abdominal cramps (it feels like a strong ‘dragging’ sensation behind your stomach, like an awful, dull kind of ache). Some people get them so bad that they’re doubled over with them, or find it hard to move, but walking around does alleviate the pain somewhat. Otherwise, pain killers like ibuprofen, paracetamol or aspirin can help.
- Breakouts, hot flushes (like one minute you’re fine and the next, it’s like you’ve been set fire to from the inside), onset headaches.
- Mood swings and urges. Mild depressive states, irritation, feeling ‘up and down’ or super horny… it differs from person-to-person.
- Bleeding. This is the obvious one. It generally goes from a ‘spotting’ phase where you go to the bathroom and bam, It Has Begun, to consistent bleeding out until there’s no blood left and the last few days or so are just rusty-coloured marks until it’s all over.
- Cravings. Some people might get a sweet tooth, or only want to eat salty, savoury foods. Everyone is different!
Some people might prefer using tampons, some pads, it’s all down to personal preference. You don’t want to be leaving a tampon in any longer than four hours at a time, and same for pads because that’s just basically a warm pool of blood sitting in your pants which really doesn’t feel very nice. As for tampons, it can be uncomfortable to insert on the first few times especially if you can’t relax, but after a while you don’t notice it much. You can generally feel when it’s time to change a tampon because it gets fuller and heavier inside.
Other things you might want to know:
- You can have sex with someone on their period if everyone involved is cool with that;
- There is the joy of standing up after a night of sleep and feeling all the blood that didn’t leak out of you during the night run southward the instant you’re vertical;
- You can’t usually flush tampons/pads down the toilet… it’s a sure-fire way to cause a clog and female toilets have a sanitary bin beside every toilet so that used tampons/pads can be disposed of correctly;
- On the subject of women’s bathrooms, nearly all of them have a tampon/pad/condom dispenser in there (and sometimes weird little ‘finger toothbrush’ gacha machines??).
It’s a misconception that women don’t ever masturbate, which is really… not true…? Girls masturbate as much as boys do. The only difference is you can achieve orgasm through clitoris stimulation or penetration (or both [although a lot of women find the latter a little more difficult]).
I’m really not experienced in these kind of matters so unless someone wants to add their two cents via a reblog, I’m hoping you won’t mind trawling the resources I dug up instead:
- Orgasmic Tips for Girls (nsfw)
- 36 Women Describe What Sexual Arousal Feels Like (nsfw)
- Experience Project: What Does Vaginal Sex Feel Like? (nsfw)
Google is your friend, but someone could reblog and give you more information, so do keep a check on the notes.
Again, I haven’t been through any of these things, so I’ll be throwing resources at you for this for the most part, but motherhood is a pretty complicated subject and I would definitely recommend reading books written by women which includes this subject. Plus, motherhood varies across all cultures and countries, but one universal fact is that almost all mothers love their children unconditionally and are driven by a strong bond established from birth to protect them and raise them.
Of course, not all people have good experiences with their mothers, so do read as widely as you can about this subject. Otherwise:
All in all, Anon, reading is your best friend. Just read any and all books, specifically books written by women if you want to understand them better and to create interesting, complex female characters.
I hope this is helpful anyways, best of luck and any input is completely welcome.
- The Writing Cafe: Female Characters
- FYCD: Female Characters
- Clever Girl Helps: Female Characters
- Write World: Female Characters
- The Writer’s Helpers: Female Characters
- Writing With Color: Women
- My ‘female characters’ tag
As someone who is a male, would you happen to have any tips for writing females?
7. Juli 2015 Schreiben lernen