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Female leads

Ben Scotton

Scribe
(Copied and pasted from a PM)

At the moment I’m currently writing about two very different women with a complex and sometimes strained friendship who are assigned to work together as midwives, or ‘birthkeepers’ as I have called them. One possesses the power of healing, the other has a darker power of pure life and death, an ancient power that was thought lost over time. They navigate a world where those who are gifted with specific rare powers are disappearing, their powers siphoned by a greedy powerful force (we don’t yet know what), and one of my leads is being hunted throughout book 1. That’s the long and short of the plot.

I aim to explore female friendship, women who work with other women and that relationship dynamic, and it also has coming of age themes in there too.

Not sure if it reads like ‘chick lit’ but honestly not sure if it would appeal to a male audience. I don’t think it’s too heavy on the feminine stuff, but I can’t tell at this point as it’s in its infancy.
Nice! Sounds like there's some interesting symbolism in there.
 

Guy

Inkling
Yes. Aleena Kurrin is a divinely gifted warrior and Baezha Ambrose is a divinely gifted sorceress. They started out as D&D characters when I was a teen and snowballed from there.
 
Protectors... yeah. It's a wide spectrum but a natural tendency. I never treated women as my territory, the way I looked at it having grown up around strong women was that they could handle themselves. If I was dating someone and they were being hit on, I might be jealous and crazy inside, but I also figured if they wanted that guy instead of me, that was their choice. So, I wouldn't start a fight or bluster and pound my chest like some guys. On the other hand, hurt them, and you might just die. I'm glad I never got tested on this level, LOL. I might've been in prison. Now that I have two daughters I find myself giving more advice and still standing back to let them handle themselves... but oh man! the protection instinct is there. Somebody hurt them, I might not have the skills, but I would do my damnedest to go Liam Neeson on whoever hurt them, LMAO.

Or as Mel says in Clueless: Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel, I doubt anybody would miss you.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
I can absolutely see you cleaning your gun while interrogating the boy in question. :D

I'm a female writer on an all-woman team, an ardent feminist, and a champion of inclusive writing. I also catch myself falling to defaults when it comes to writing female characters, even with all of that. Most people, readers and writers, will think a work is unbalanced in the favor of female characters if they number more than 1/3 of the cast. I know I did it. I had to have a good look at our cast lists, because I felt like we were hard chick heavy, and I wanted to see by how much... and we were at just over 1/3. -_- And now every time that kneejerk reaction kicks me, I remind myself of an RBG quote. When asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough, she replied, "Nine."

So yeah, we have roughly 200 named female series characters and 300 males, not counting when I ask myself if there's a reason why, say a horse or a walk-on messenger needs to be male, because I'll default to that if I don't. Including women, especially complicated women, is an act of will, and I would say that most of our female characters are good and messed up. In our main cast - the ones who we get to share POV's with - we have an addicted wizard physician who's the reigning Queen of Justification. We have a teenage daughter of alcoholics who dates a wizard ten years older than herself and a career alcoholic, and after trauma starts drinking. We have a faerie succubus who endured decades of abuse by her patron and protector, only to lose her peace of mind and her safety. She covers with snark and is quick to bristle and toss out a cutting barb now and then.

To write women, start by remembering that we're people. We're not plot devices, window dressing, or sexy lamps. If you can remove a female character from your plot and it has little impact, you haven't pushed hard enough. Pay attention to the women around you, just like I pay attention to the men in my life to pick up clues as to how they work. I write good dude, not just because I observe but also because I've gotten to see them be everything a hero can be all my life, through books, through movies, and through life. It's that easy, and that hard.
 
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Huh, personally, I don't think I'd really notice unless I kicked back to think about it. I suspect I'm about 50/50 on POV characters in Sundering the Gods and female heavy in general for characters who are fleshed out, in particular if 1/3 is heavy, LOL.

Interestingly, most readers who contact me are men, though quite a few women have spoken up as well to mention strong female characters and loving them, but not a single man has mentioned anything in either way in this respect.

I can absolutely see you cleaning your gun while interrogating the boy in question. :D

I'm a female writer on an all-woman team, an ardent feminist, and a champion of inclusive writing. I also catch myself falling to defaults when it comes to writing female characters, even with all of that. Most people, readers and writers, will think a work is unbalanced in the favor of female characters if they number more than 1/3 of the cast. I know I did it. I had to have a good look at our cast lists, because I felt like we were hard chick heavy, and I wanted to see by how much... and we were at just over 1/3. -_- And now every time that kneejerk reaction kicks me, I remind myself of an RBG quote. When asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough, she replied, "Nine."
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
Huh, personally, I don't think I'd really notice unless I kicked back to think about it. I suspect I'm about 50/50 on POV characters in Sundering the Gods and female heavy in general for characters who are fleshed out, in particular if 1/3 is heavy, LOL.

Interestingly, most readers who contact me are men, though quite a few women have spoken up as well to mention strong female characters and loving them, but not a single man has mentioned anything in either way in this respect.
My experience is the other way around. The majority of our readers are women, but that can probably be chalked up to the Books of Binding being an urban fantasy series. It's our demographic. It should shift when we get around to writing and selling an epic fantasy trilogy we've been developing. Also with a female lead, and this one will be autistic. :D
 
In fairness, I have no idea on the demographics outside of who contacts me, LOL. Looking at review numbers once I figured it about 50/50 guessing by names, which of course doesn't mean much. Ad responses have always been female heavy from FB demographics. One drawback of the name Eve of Snows is that is suggests Eve as a character.

I don't consider Sundering the Gods to have a lead character. It's an ensemble cast who rummages around in my brain.
 

Babayaga321

Dreamer
In the Vinlarion series I'm working on, there are two... one is a wydwitch called Salaazen who appears right through the four books, at various times, in the series. The other is the MC from books three and four - a young woman who is destined to take up the fight against the dark forces in the books, restore the palace of Numannon and regain the throne of High Calasarn of Numenol.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
I can absolutely see you cleaning your gun while interrogating the boy in question. :D

I'm a female writer on an all-woman team, an ardent feminist, and a champion of inclusive writing. I also catch myself falling to defaults when it comes to writing female characters, even with all of that. Most people, readers and writers, will think a work is unbalanced in the favor of female characters if they number more than 1/3 of the cast. I know I did it. I had to have a good look at our cast lists, because I felt like we were hard chick heavy, and I wanted to see by how much... and we were at just over 1/3. -_- And now every time that kneejerk reaction kicks me, I remind myself of an RBG quote. When asked how many women on the Supreme Court would be enough, she replied, "Nine."
Bloody hell. Maybe that's why we're having such trouble finding an English language publisher for my books. Because the female characters number between 1/2 and 2/3 of the cast depending on the book. It works fine here in Sweden, but maybe the English speaking world ain't ready for it.
 
Bloody hell. Maybe that's why we're having such trouble finding an English language publisher for my books. Because the female characters number between 1/2 and 2/3 of the cast depending on the book. It works fine here in Sweden, but maybe the English speaking world ain't ready for it.
I doubt that. Most of the industry here is dominated by women from agents to editors to publishers. Brandon Sanderson said it years ago, breaking in is like getting into the old boys club, except it's mostly a girl's club. For that matter, so are reading demographics, although that could be partially skewed by a few genres.
 

Mad Swede

Maester
I doubt that. Most of the industry here is dominated by women from agents to editors to publishers. Brandon Sanderson said it years ago, breaking in is like getting into the old boys club, except it's mostly a girl's club. For that matter, so are reading demographics, although that could be partially skewed by a few genres.
I'm not so sure. Inevitably my books are influenced by the culture in whcih I grew up, and that isn't the same as the culture of the US. To quote LP Hartley, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
 
There is that and many other things, but simply put, female characters aren't going to hurt. It's a nasty, bloodthirsty industry like all entertainment in the US, heh heh. If I ever sign a big 5 book deal it'd be a bittersweet moment. In fact, the only reason I'd do it is to use the system to build readership with a hybrid indie-trad goal. But I haven't had to worry about selling my soul since the devil hasn't come knocking yet, heh heh.

I'm not so sure. Inevitably my books are influenced by the culture in whcih I grew up, and that isn't the same as the culture of the US. To quote LP Hartley, "The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."
 

BearBear

Troubadour
Oh man do I.

She's typically tsundere, I don't write romance, she's usually special in some way, mostly very lucky, typically able to do things others can't but nothing crazy. I am writing a new story where she starts from nothing with no functional difference to anyone else, she'll have to earn her power.

All the male leads I've written are basically me, self serving exploration and ego boosting, so my female leads are special and they aren't in the same books as the male leads. No amount of tactless charm will sway them.

They typically aren't lone wolves, they are leaders that train their troops well. They're in place not through loyalty or decree but because they've earned it and they keep it. It's not easy to maintain the alpha role.

They don't seek fame or fortune, they follow their own path and in some cases seek only a normal life. One in particular found joy in manipulation of others to her will, not in a malicious way but basically she knew better than the others through experience and cunning.

So basically they have a spark, they are awakened beings but not from noble lines or powerful genetics. They're heroines forged through overcoming adversity and that's a common theme in my writings.
 

Adaddinsane

New Member
Do you have any female lead characters in your writing?

I have exactly one novella with a male lead (and he's an idiot). I have 20+ novels with female leads, and primarily female other characters.

Who is she, and what is she about?

As implied, there's more than one but in my current second-world fantasy series, she's an acrobat forced by circumstance and duty to escort someone somewhere. There are also dragons.

Very few of my female leads are kick-ass (this one isn't, though she's quite ... acrobatic) but they are intelligent.

They are also mostly not white (often with concomitant prejudice), and queer (but that's never story).

I’d also love to know if any male writers out there have female leads or central characters?

I am indeed male.
 

Nighty_Knight

Troubadour
I am a guy. The series I’m working on has multiple mcs but there are at least 3 females at some point would be considered my lead. As a comparison, I have 6 males that we would be leads at some point.
To follow this up.

I really have about 9 major female characters. As of now, only 3 will lead as MCs at some point, but there are 2 additional that could easily if I decide at that point. Same with the men though, lots of characters that could potentially take the helm at some point.

Rathael Vin Ansehelm
(haven't fully decided on a th, ph, f, ff, or other variant of the first name) She is one of the first and most consistent MCs. At the start of the story she is a vagabond that gets by hustling. From fortune telling, to everything to card games, tarot, and even fencing duels (she was both formally trained in her youth, and picked up some trick fencing techniques in her travels). She also knows some rudimentary magic she was taught, she also has a knack for black magic, including much less known very dark stuff.

Tullecina Fioralba Saveria Dy' Bastian
A princess to her elected Prince of Agrissia father. She has a much darker more twisted background, she becomes an MC much later in the story. Not actually a princess at all. She is a plant, from childhood raised as one in place of the real princess who was miscarried, by a factor trying to control the Republic Principality.

Eolande
A winged pixie, about a foot tall. Typical sits on her surrogate sons (a faun) shoulder. Older than the rest of the main characters but obviously still looks young. She translates for the faun who she helped raise, who also in turn protects her when she leaves the safety of the deep old forests. The two end up leaving for good after unintentionally betraying and pissing off an ancient but powerful swamp hag.


The other 2 who are major characters who may potentially be leads depending on if it works better that way.

Innogen Toft
A handmaid to a princess of the first Kingdom the characters are in. She is taken hostage during an escape of the castle during a botched raid. She ends up staying with the MC and their group after finding out the Princess and her brother the Prince had no intention of actually rescuing her. They claimed she had already been killed and that the woman they made off with was the actual Princess so they would be hunted and then planned on having her killed if she returned to cover the story. She is way over her head most of the time, feels she doesn't have much to offer, but tends to be the level headed grounded one during the stories. Sometimes she claims (probably rightfully) that she is the only sane one in the group.


Ylúta Skogull
A tall, built, beautiful warrior. She was originally part of the Vroskan royal guard, elite trained soldiers who are recruited from noble families who have had prior members. Both her parents were members at one point, and her two older brothers are currently. She left after being dissatisfied with being mostly a static guard, lots of physical training, but rare to see actual conflicts. At the start of the story she is a member of a much renowned landsknecht unit. In a way she is the anti-Breanne of Tarth. She is well respected for her fighting ability, being a hell of a decorated soldier, and loves what she is and does. She also secretly wants to be a proper lady as well, loves wearing dresses (which she doesn't get to do often), loves dancing, and wants to have kids one day.
 
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Miles Lacey

Maester
In my work in progress the main character is a young working class female. She's not a secret member of royalty or any type of fighter or warrior. She's not even the sort of female who'd grace the front cover of a pulp fiction novel, let alone appear in a magazine or a movie, because she is so average looking.

She's of mixed race, which makes her an outcast in a society that values racial purity (but not racial supremacy). To make matters worse she is an unranked mage so she is looked down upon by her fellow mages. As the price of being gifted the magical arts by the gods is sterility she is largely avoided by potential partners. In her society family and having children are highly valued.

As a result she is a loner who has only a few friends including a temple priestess. She reluctantly teams up with other people during her adventure and discovers that being around other people isn't so bad after all.
 

Solusandra

Minstrel
Do you have any female lead characters in your writing?
I used to, pretty constantly. Before I got into anime, aside from Harry Potter female leads were pretty much all I could find, so it was sorta the default.

Now days, I got mostly for male leads, because people don't attack you for having less than perfect characters.
 
Do you have any female lead characters in your writing?

Who is she, and what is she about?

I’d also love to know if any male writers out there have female leads or central characters?
I'm a straight male who loves writing and reading female characters, lead or otherwise. I've played many female characters in face-to-face roleplaying games over the years. When I watch American Ninja Warrior, I'm always rooting the hardest for the female competitors. When I watch Survivor, I usually root the hardest for the women contestants. When playing a video game, if given the choice of gender of character to play, I almost always choose a female character. I've played female characters in MMORPGs and had guy characters hit on me -- one even tried to force one of my female characters into an online "marriage" with no discussion about it. Ugh.

Even my avatar on the forum here is feminine at the moment. It's better looking than my ugly mug, and few people here tend to use their real-life photos....

I once took a class through Writer's Digest in which the instructor said that male authors shouldn't write female leads -- since I'm not female, anything I write might be misleading or even harmful to the cause of women, and how would I know? But I also as a writer don't wish to deny myself the privilege of sharing my view of the world with my readers, and for me to best do that requires that I write female characters. Besides which, I've often felt I was a woman in a previous life, so I'm drawing on that experience. Who's to prove me wrong? I've never been a "man's man" in my current life....

In my first published novel, the MC -- Mithabel -- is a female Elf Tank avatar in a gaming competition, powered by the subconsciousness of Megan Wright, kinda Matrix-like. There's a lot of prize money on the line, which got Megan Wright interested to begin with, but then Megan discovers there's an urgent world-in-peril need for Mithabel to do well in the game and reach level thirty asap. And... technically... Mithabel isn't female, because she's an avatar, but she's Megan at the core, so she is female in that respect. Mithabel and two other females join forces in party MAD - the name based on the initials of their first names (Mithabel, Amarynth, and Dylan). They're joined by Charli and Rolag -- a 14-yo Cowgirl Guide NPC and a Pseudo Code Dragon, the latter being a companion NPC to Amarynth. Rolag is the only male in the group. There are a few other named males in the story - some of which are beastly companions to other PCs. There are really only two primary male humanoid characters in the story, or three if you distinguish between one of the players and his avatar. The two male avatars belong to a competing party.

In the second novel -- a story that introduces other characters and tells their story up to the point in time when the first novel ends -- the MC is a male human time traveler based a lot on me. I don't think he's very likable to readers. Or maybe what they don't care for much is how the style of writing changed between the two books, because the stories are told from very different perspectives. Or maybe book one was so bad, no one who read it was interested in reading book two. (I don't think that's it.) In any case, book two hasn't done as well as book one. Despite that, books three through five are in the works. They feature ensemble casts, with no single primary MC. Some of the POV characters are male, but most are female. Across the series, there are dozens of named characters. Book five has twenty different characters who each have at least one chapter told from their POV, with a female-to-male ratio of roughly 2:1.

So... I've clearly gone against the advice given to me by the Writer's Digest course instructor. I took into consideration what she said, but in the end, I decided I had to be true to myself, or there's no reason for me to write. I need to write what's in me, which includes my observations of women from real life, some of whom have already passed, and all of whom do not have the wherewithal to write their own stories. The instructor would have told me that I can tell the stories of women by utilizing supporting characters, that I don't need to make them the MCs of my stories. But I feel I have a calling, and whether it's from a Higher Power or something more primitive, I choose to listen to the voice inside me rather than the voices of others who don't see the world the way I see it. There is something inside me that drives me to make the story choices I make, and while I can temper these with my own reasoning -- or the arguments of my coauthor -- I can't let everyone who has an opinion sway me into writing what they think I should write.

I know I'm not participating much on the forum these days, and I'm sorry if I ranted, but I do get email notifications still of trending topics. The subject is a sensitive one for me, and I felt compelled to respond.
 

pmmg

Vala
I would have ignored the writers digest instructor as well, and possibly challenged them outright. How ridiculous to tell a writer not to write something, as if we are to only stay in our lane and never drift out. I prefer to dare.

I would suspect that the first book needs to sell the second. It would be interesting if your third got more sales than the second, then it might point to a problem with the book. I suspect it will prove out that more people buy 1 than 2, and more people buy 2 than 3. To drum up sales on 2, I think I would look to get 1 in as many hands as I could, even if that meant not recovering my cost on it. But I would defer to any who had more solid advice.

Personally, I think Female MC's has been a trend for ten or more years now, but I think I am beginning to see signs that it is getting fatigued. I am not surprised that many are writing them. In my observation here and on other sites, authors writing male MC's are the minority right now. Not sure what that means to sales, probably nothing, but the trend will likely start drifting back IMO.
 
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