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Too few female characters?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Trick, Oct 29, 2014.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Just a little forum humor for the afternoon :)
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Isn't it necessarily the case, though? If you say a person didn't write a female right because a female wouldn't do that, what can that be based on except a statistical likelihood of what females do? And if you don't think a statistical likelihood of what a woman would do should be applied, then what's the problem with having a female that acts the same as her male counterpart would (which you expressed a problem with, above)?
     
  3. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    This isn't statistical probability this is fact all one has to do is look that the physical differences between male and female to see it, or menstruation in women. Now there are statistical probabilities towards a predisposition that is due to the complex gene interactions but these mostly relate to disease and other physical/chemical environmental factors.

    However. you think I make a mistake fair enough. This is how I view it. Is having a female character who is more emotional than her male brethren mean i'm not writing a rounded character, or that every month she has to deal with her period, fighting a war, being tired of all the dying and having to deal with a hundred other things and all she wants to do is find her friend and cry. I can have a foundation based on biology but there are a lot of possibilities that I can construct based off of it if used subtly.
     
  4. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    This I agree with. But the OP is about something different, it's not about how to write female characters but rather whether it is fundamentally bad to have no female characters of note in a book.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    No, I don't think that there's a problem with that character at all. The problem comes in when you start assuming a female character has​ to be more emotional than her male brethren. She doesn't. She might be, but she doesn't have to be.
     
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  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think for a given book, the answer is "no." It's not bad to have no female characters of note. Just like it is not bad to have no male characters of note.

    If it becomes so prevalent in a genre that there are almost no good representations of females, then I think it becomes a problem. This isn't the current state of fantasy, luckily. It's more approximately true of gaming, especially up until the last few years.
     
  7. Nihal

    Nihal Vala

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    Isn't it puzzling the use of biological differences, statistics and the like to force dubious preconceived notions on female characters but have none of it for males?

    --
    In any case, regarding the original question: I'd rather have a book without female characters than have artificial female characters "because reasons". Not that I fully enjoy a book with all-male casts, they feel insipid, but there are far worse dangers in writing.
     
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  8. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Yeah, funny how threads can get so easily derailed. I still believe you should go ahead and add some significance to your female thief character, because I do think its important to get some representation in there for various reasons. But it's not essential, and in the end it is your choice.
     
    Trick likes this.
  9. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Nihal, I get where you're coming from. Really I do.

    Here's just a little of where I'm coming from:

    I worked for a week at a business to business sales job. I say worked, but as it was a commission job, and as the first week was training, I think I made all of $90.

    We were taught to sell on impulse, and while it didn't appear in any of the training manuals, we were taught to target "Debby." "Debby" is whoever the woman was that was responsible for purchasing in the business.

    You see, as a woman, "Debby" can be expected to have lower testosterone levels. This means that if we can trigger a spike in her testosterone levels during the sale, she will have less resistance to it, and be more inclined to make a risky purchase on impulse.

    Testosterone levels make a person feel powerful, like they can take on anything, like they can take a risk. It's the same technique youtubers talk about when they give advice for getting laid. People make bad decisions when they're on a testosterone spike, unless they've already made those bad decisions and have adapted to it.

    Once you've seen it happen, it's really hard to ignore. And I've seen it happen a lot.


    Yeah, I'm not crazy about that, either.


    I have no idea how much of what you like is because you're a woman. I could make a guess based on classes I took in marketing - the behind the scenes of why people buy what they do - but I really don't care. Just that fact that we're talking about it probably makes it look like I think it dominates everything everywhere. It's skewed by the fact that people bring it up, so we talk about it. But I'd be perfectly happy if it never came up and I never had to think about anyone's gender ever again.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
  10. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    Ok Steerpike I get what your saying. You have a problem with the Women are weak weaklings who are incapable of math and always need rescuing. To this I agree.
    This is what I'm saying. Biology is an important part of who a person is and shapes who they were and who they become.

    I'm not saying it should be used to bludgeon but with subtly. Grrrr. I have this in my mind but I cant find the right words.... I'm going to get back to you tomorrow I need to get to bed.

    As a side not I don't think it is a problem to have an all male cast. It all depends on the story you want to tell.
     
  11. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

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    I cannot write as fast you guys and keep up at the same time SLOW DOWN. hehe. so one more....then to bed.

    They exist but they just haven't been brought up yet, guys are not good communicators for one, perfect example me and my failed attempt at explaining to steerpike. goodnight
     
  12. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Male-female...'ratio' is something I have wrestled with in my own writings. I came to this site with a list of about half a dozen works I deemed salvageable. When I went to take a look at them a few years ago, it struck me that all of the principle characters and most of the secondary ones were males. In some of these stories, this ratio made sense, because they were 'military fantasy' type tales. But in others, I decided the over-abundance of male characters limited the story telling opportunities. So I did a bit of gender switching in my WIP, and give more page space to female characters in other stories.

    That said, even in historical patriarchal societies, there were some dang tough warrior women types. Genghis Khan's daughters were more able across the board than his sons, and there were some fearfully blood thirsty female Viking pirates as well. Such aberrations tended to get written out of the patriarchal history books, but they were there.
     
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  13. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    I do not have a problem writing female characters simply because I don't have a problem writing characters in general. It just so happened that this book ended up with very few female characters and I worry about the marketing downsides to that.
     
  14. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

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    For what it's worth, as a male writer, I have worked with both male and female protagonists. I don't believe that, in the vast majority of instances, a female character will necessarily have to be written differently from her male counterpart. The sole exception might be instances of heterosexual attraction, since men and women really do have noticeably different anatomy even if their intelligence and psychology overlaps. I know firsthand what a heterosexual man would find physically attractive on a woman, but can only guess at what a heterosexual woman would find attractive on a man.

    As an aside, whenever I play a role-playing game like Skyrim where I get to customize my character's appearance, I almost always choose a woman. In fact I believe this is connected to my interest in female protagonists when writing. What can I say, I like beautiful ladies who kick butt.
     
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  15. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    From page 2 of this thread:
    I thought this was a really interesting question, and decided to think about it while I went for a walk. Then I forgot all about it and now there's an eight page thread about something more or less related to gender stereotypes. I skimmed the thread, but didn't find anything that specifically answered why people tend to get so up in arms over the potential gender swapping of characters.

    Anyway, here goes...

    Based on my own experience, it seems that men are a lot more concerned with how to write female characters, than women are with writing male characters.
    I'm thinking that on some, probably subconscious, level many men are really worried about getting women wrong. Getting women wrong is visible proof that they don't understand women, which in turn is an embarrassing sign of weakness.
    Basically, by questioning a male writer's portrayal of women, you're also questioning his manliness.

    Now, I don't think that this a conscious reaction among men, but rather a subconscious one, and you can probably get around it quite easily by just being aware of it.

    I believe this lies close to the heart of the matter.
    I also believe that this is mainly an issue for beginning/younger writers and that it's something that you "grow out of" by just practicing your craft or, like here, talking about it.
     
  16. Guy

    Guy Inkling

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    Holy Crap! You mean you guys are human? Who knew? :eek: :D
     
  17. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    Skipping everything between pages 2 and 7, because holy cow that grew fast . . .

    I edit for an author who, whenever he creates a new character, tends to make that character male without thinking about it. Problem: he's trying to write a polygamous matriarchy, which already invites all manner of critique no matter how he does it. Add in that the MC is a male character from outside that society, and that every major threat to the society is external, and you've got an entire story about strong, powerful male characters threatening or defending female characters!

    I hit him over the head with the metaphorical cluebat, and got him to genderswap an outsider whose sex didn't matter one way or another. I think I'll recommend any future powerful outsiders be female as well. It's not about avoiding sexism exactly, so much as avoiding a situation where someone who doesn't live in your head and doesn't make the same assumptions you do would probably think you're sexist.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that gender doesn't matter until it does. It's not necessarily about one character. Depending on context, it may not be about one cast! It's about what patterns you keep falling into, and whether those patterns lend themselves to anything questionable.
     
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  18. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

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    I won't comment on the general discussion about writing character of different genders but a little remark about the original question.
    I'm not upset by stories with few female characters per se, as someone has posted before, there truly are quite a few stories with interesting female characters so it is quite possible to pick something else. After reading your other thread, I am bothered by the fact that the female characters who are there only exist to be brutally murdered/tortured so the male lead can react to this situation. Rather no female character at all than those who have no agency and are only objects so the readers can be shocked and the male character bound on revenge. This trope is still all too common.
    Therefore, having a female character in another situation would certainly improve this impression even though I see the problems with adding characters for the sake of adding them alone.
     
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  19. Trick

    Trick Auror

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    To be honest, the mother character does have agency. Her influence on the MC is the only thing that keeps him from simply being a villain. But, I see your point and it is a large part of the reason for my original question, regardless of where the thread strayed to. I have resolved to bring the strongest female character other than the mother more strongly into view. I chose this because, after some helpful suggestions, I began to consider her in relation to the existing plot and making her more vital will actually make my job easier! She's already introduced and will now fill the role of another side character who I would have wasted time introducing and she has an actual reason to fill the role without a single change to the overall story arch. It felt so natural to make this change that I can't believe I didn't think of it before.
     
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2014
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  20. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Then I would dare say it's a change for the better. That's awesome that the thought you put into this led to a solution that helps you tell your story more effectively (and possibly in a more interesting way as well). Congrats!
     
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