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A woman utilizing "feminine" skills

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Ireth, Jun 23, 2016.

  1. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    I've been having second thoughts lately about the climax of my main WIP, after a comment on the synopsis that disparaged the heroine's use of a stereotypically feminine skill (sewing) to save the life of one of the villain's victims rather than directly kicking the villain's butt. I have since changed the manuscript so that she does both (though she isn't the one to kill the villain, she does get a few good punches in), but I'm still waffling. This character is not usually prone to using violence unless in direct self-defense; she does at only a few points elsewhere in the book, and the rest of the time uses guile and wits to escape bad situations. Having her save the victimized character is more in line with her character, IMO. And the method she uses -- stitching up a wound -- is not meant to be stereotypical, but an extension of the characterization I established right from the start of the book. The heroine is an avid cosplayer who enjoys making her own costumes for Halloween and otherwise, so it makes perfect sense that she'd be good at sewing. (The difference/difficulty between sewing cloth and sewing skin is remarked upon as well.)

    Maybe I'm just overreacting to one comment among many, but this one really stuck out to me. Is a twenty-first century woman making use of one feminine skill really that much of a bad thing?
  2. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

    I say don't sweat it. Having her 'save the day' in an unconventional fashion actually sounds cool. That person's criticism relies on the assumption that sewing is a feminine activity, so I would simply avoid reinforcing that idea in your story. And then there's the obvious stuff: give her a complete arc, make her complex, etc. You're fine.
    Ireth likes this.
  3. glutton

    glutton Inkling

    That's just a dumb complaint. Sewing isn't to be belittled, sewing is practical for men too. In fact a male career warrior (I know your MC isn't that) who doesn't know how to sew wounds would be lacking in an important skill, also sewing to fix clothing/gear is useful lol.

    There are some reader comments that are stupid enough to dismiss offhand, this is one of them.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016
    Sheilawisz and Ireth like this.
  4. Holoman

    Holoman Troubadour

    Sounds like an original way for her to save the day. If kicking butt is contrary to her character then I wouldn't be quick to add it in.

    It's hard to tell without much detail, but it possibly sounded like originally she wasn't the cause of the villain's demise and was just tidying up loose ends. I think the heroine needs to be the one to defeat the villain (not necessarily by being the one killing him) but by being the cause of his demise, whether that be through sewing or punching.
  5. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Well, she does take out one of his eyes in a previous scene, which negates any possibility of him inheriting the throne (his primary motivation, meant to be achieved by killing his father after marrying the heroine). Sadly, he refuses to accept this and goes on to try to kill his father anyway, necessitating the heroine's intervention. The one who actually DOES kill the villain has a deep-seated grudge against him for a past wrongdoing, so it's more of a karmic retribution.
  6. Demesnedenoir

    Demesnedenoir Istar

    Throw me into the ignore that comment camp.

    Characters need to do what is real to the situation. Bugger the critique.
    Ireth likes this.
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Saving the day using sewing IMHO is cool. What's stereo typical is solving problems simply with violence. I mean I can turn this around on you. Why does a woman have to resort to masculine traits like violence to solve a problem? *shrug*

    Stay true to your character. If she's not a violent person and there's no real need to do violence then she shouldn't do it.

    It wouldn't make sense for someone like Sansa Stark to punch someone in the face. And it wouldn't make sense for Aryia to spend all day sewing. It would feel off.
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2016
  8. La Volpe

    La Volpe Sage

    I agree with the sentiments of the other people who've answered. There's no need for the heroine to display punching feats at the end of the story.

    I have a few questions though. What is the heroine's overall goal in the novel, and how does it relate to the villain? I.e. is he her antagonist, or someone else's? Because if he is the one standing in the way of her goal, she needs to do something to subvert or circumvent his barriers. E.g. if she unlocks the door that allows the grudge-guy to kill the villain, that's proactively stopping the villain, even though she didn't actually attack him.

    Another question: What effect did saving the victim have? I.e. did it lead to the heroine achieving her goal? If not, then perhaps your critiquer was not worried about the sewing as a feminine skill, but rather that someone else solved the heroine's problem.
    KC Trae Becker likes this.
  9. Russ

    Russ Istar

    I always enjoy a creative or different way to solve the problem. Sewing would work just fine for me.
  10. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    The villain is the heroine's antagonist, yes. He kidnaps her at the beginning of the novel, intending to marry her before killing his father and taking the throne of Faerie. He targets her specifically because she is human (and thus much more fertile than a Fae), she believes in the Fae, and is bold enough to fight back when he first claims her (which presents a challenge that, as a hunter, the villain deems a better option than simply snatching some ignorant damsel off the street). Think of Gaston and why he determinedly went after Belle rather than the other 99.9% of women in the town who always fawned over him.

    The heroine's main goal is twofold: a) get out of the villain's castle before the wedding and find her family who are searching for her, and b) get out of Faerie entirely before they're all changed by it and can never leave on pain of withering and dying. The grudge-bearing character helps with the first part by sneaking her out in secret, once he accepts that it's what she wants and he'd be a horrible friend if he didn't help her. Saving the king's life gains her the second part of her goal, since by doing so she ensures that the king owes her a life-debt. (Not her intention, but it happens nonetheless. The Fae are very strict about debts.) He repays it by letting her (and her family, who help by stopping the bleeding before the heroine does the sewing) leave Faerie without further consequence.
  11. It seems to me the problem might be that the MC doesn't sound like she's making any difficult choices. I think being proactive in a story isn't just about making choices but about making difficult choices. Yes she makes the choice to try to escape, but if she doesn't succeed what's going to happen to her? Would her disobedience land her some terrible punishment or would her failure just land her right back where she started? You state she uses violence only in self-defense which is a fine, but it does take away the option of her making the choice of what exactly the villain deserves. She saves the king and he in turn lets her and her family go, but from the way you phrased it it sounds as though if he'd died she would've faced consequences from that. Wouldn't it be more powerful if letting the king die would secure her freedom but she chooses to save him anyways or if during the story she has a chance to destroy the villain but chooses not to because it would require her to violate her morals and she doesn't believe the end justifies the means.

    Alright so I don't know that I've fraised that very well, but I hope you get what I'm trying to say.
  12. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    1) The best possible scenario for the heroine's failure to escape (assuming here that the life-debt thing doesn't happen) would be a forced marriage to the villain, being subsequently stripped of her humanity by living with him in Faerie, and quite possibly him forcing himself on her to produce heirs, since she would refuse point-blank to have sex with him ever. The worst case scenario means the heroine dies -- either by the villain's hand once he loses both his patience and his sanity after she tries to escape him one too many times, or as punishment for maiming him in self-defense.

    2) If the king dies (whether the heroine helps him or not), the villain would be dead as well as his father, which would mean the villain's younger sister (who is on the heroine's side and helps both her and her family throughout the book) is now queen. Given her sympathy for the heroine and her family, the new queen would probably let them go and pardon the heroine of her supposed crime against the villain. But I feel it's much more satisfying to let the king live, since the heroine actively chooses to help him, even knowing he wanted her dead like ten seconds previously. Choosing to help the king aligns with her morals and puts her at risk (thus the scene has tension), and in the end it pays off. Choosing to do nothing would violate her morals while not being as risky.
  13. This is fine then, since her making the choice to save the king even though it might not be in her best interest is actually important to the outcome to the story instead of just a nice thing to do. So yeah, seems like you know how to write a good story, you should disregard the criticism of sewing being "stereotypical feminine". I think that was just one person's opinion, and not necessarily reflective of a problem with the story.

    By the way, I've read a lot of your posts you've made about this story, and it sounds exiting. I really want to read it someday.
    Ireth likes this.
  14. ThiefGold

    ThiefGold Acolyte

    I see nothing wrong with it at all, personally. If it works, use it.
  15. FatCat

    FatCat Maester

    I wonder the why of this post. Every question answered with practiced ease, every plot fault squandered. You have an MC in a relationship yet give every reason for them not to be.

    Is there a core need to romance in your novel, and if so why not highlight it.
  16. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    There is NO romance in my novel. I completely fail to see how multiple people have misconstrued things that way. The heroine is a kidnapped captive; her groom-to-be is the villain, who only wants to use her for his own desires, and does not love her at all. Likewise, she hates him and wants only to get away from him.
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2016
  17. I've been lurking in the writing forums for quite a while now, but this is my first post, so, here goes.

    There's nothing wrong at all with having a female character use a skill that someone might say is stereotypically feminine. I might even question whether being able to sew, especially stitch up a wound, is "feminine" at all. It's a very useful skill for both men and women to have, and i'm not sure but I doubt that men didn't learn to sew. There would be too much potential practical application. Certainly a medic/doctor would know how. But that's a tangent. I'd say it's not worth worrying about. In fact, being able to stitch up a wound says that your character is competent and skilled, which is a good thing.

    Also, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a female character be feminine. I have read many books where the main character is "feminine", but is also strong, competent and proactive, even despite the fact that she can't fight and doesn't have any "masculine" skills at all.

    As for whether she should be the one to beat up the villain: Characters are going to have different skills and play different roles. You need characters who will beat up the orcs, trolls and goblins, but you need characters to patch those characters up after they do the beating up of orcs, trolls and goblins. Not all characters have to solve the story's problems through fighting. And characters who aren't fighters are not less important than those that do. (This is why the action girl trope drives me bonkers.) However, I suspect that, since the comment was made in the first place, and since you seem to be concerned about it, that both you and your critiquer are sensing and underlying problem with the story. If defeating the villain is the main goal of the story, and the main character doesn't defeat the villain, there's a problem. If the villain is the main character's main problem, and this seems to be the case, she can't sit by and let someone else defeat him.

    So, i think your problem is not that she uses sewing to solve a problem, but that the problem she solves isn't the main problem of the story, the one she, as the main character, is meant to be solving.

    But, i could be wrong. It's your story, I haven't read it, and you know best.
    Ireth likes this.
  18. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Thanks for your input, Dragon. I wouldn't say the main goal of the story is defeating the villain, per se; it's more about escaping him in one piece. The fact that he dies is somewhat tangential, since as I pointed out before, the heroine directly foils the villain's plan by maiming him -- thus ensuring he can never inherit the throne even if he kills his father to become king -- and (somewhat inadvertently) secures her own freedom by helping to save the king's life after the villain goes completely nuts and patricidal.
  19. Okay, you're welcome! I'd say don't worry about it, then. I've taken well-intentioned advice too much to heart in the past, and really hurt my stories in the process.
    Ireth likes this.
  20. bradford177

    bradford177 Dreamer

    Each character to their own! If she is a tailor, then sew away. If she is a butt-kicker, then kick away.
    A reader should either fall in love with the characters attributes or relate to them.
    I was told I better get thick skin before I allow people to read my stuff. So I am getting ready.
    Ireth likes this.

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