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Women in fantasy

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Chilari, Mar 10, 2013.

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  1. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    You mean Catelyn?

    She and Cersei are two magnificent examples of giving female characters as much to work with as males. Both would cite their families as their primary motivation for everything they do, which would seemingly drop them square in the middle of the "mother" archetype, but I don't think anyone can argue that either of them stays there. And importantly, both of them mess up, which is something I don't think enough "positive" female characters do. Catelyn makes the mistake of
    taking Tyrion hostage and essentially starting a war.
    Cersei's vanity and jealousy, passed off by her as concern for her children, results in
    the Tyrells taking King's Landing without bloodshed.

    Anyone who reserves judgment about ASOIAF's female characters until the end of the series is missing out on a whole lot of awesome stuff right now.
     
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    Agreed on GRRM's female characters.

    I also find it interesting that Cersei tried to teach Sansa how to wield feminine power. Originally Sansa's character annoyed me but her character arc has taken a slow turn...she exhibits a unique strength, very different from the other women.

    Talking about distinction, Arya & Dany are both very different from the others as well. The great lessons on character in this work come from how very different they all are (in both genders).
     
    Jamber likes this.
  3. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Cersei tried, and Littlefinger is trying, and what Sansa is actually learning is completely different and far more powerful. I adore the way her story is unfolding.

    What I find most interesting about GRRM's entire female cast is the relatively low proportion who subvert their gender roles. Arya and Brienne are the major ones, with Asha and the Mormont ladies in the background. Every woman in the series is reacting to the male-dominated culture in which they are steeped, but very few take it as far as wearing armor. I'm so tired of the mishandling of the "warrior babe" in fantasy that upon starting ASOIAF, I instinctively found it more interesting to read about the women who wield power without transgressing gender roles. I still find Arya and Brienne and Asha and the Mormont ladies really interesting, but not quite as compelling as Daenerys, for instance.
     
  4. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Point taken. Martin's great strength is his characters, I'll agree. But to my mind, it's no good having awesome female characters for 90% of a series if at the end they all get tucked back into stereotypical boxes. Which is another way of saying: I don't know where the hell Martin is going with ASOIAF, and I'm not at all confident that he has much idea, either.
     
    saellys likes this.
  5. Kit

    Kit Maester

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    The only thing Littlefinger is "trying" with regard to Sansa is trying to get into her skirt. Oh, and her title/land, too.
     
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    *sheepishly* umm yeah. I have no idea how I messed that up.

    Yeah couldn't agree more. It's kind of cool to see a female exerting power without having to resort to brute force. All the different forms of power exhibited in the books is incredibly interesting. You look at Sansa, Arya, and Daenerys, and as the story progresses, they each rise from weaker beginnings and become stronger and stronger but in different ways. They're not all sword wielders and they're not all temptresses.
     
  7. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    What's clearly needed in fantasy...
    is a sword wielding temptress! Amirite?

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2013
  8. Jamber

    Jamber Sage

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    ...and yet none of the attention given to GRRM's female characters reduces the story importance or verisimilitude of male ones. It's a richer story for its strong female characterisations, with added complexity and (I think partly as a result) increased fanbase.
     
  9. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Yeah, he's probably the third or fourth skeeziest creeper in the whole series. ;)
     
  10. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Hmm... I think a couple other posters have had a good idea. It's all well and good to discuss other people's work. But perhaps we stand to gain the most from discussing our own? After all, what good does it do to discuss something if it has no impact on how we ourselves write?
     
  11. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Heh, the backstory to my vampire novel actually has one of those. Saraid is a Leannan Sidhe, a type of Fae who targets artists for their creative energy, which she feeds on while inspiring their art. She takes a mortal named Caradoc to be her lover, and Caradoc's father Conall discovers them one night at an inn. Naturally, knowing the tendencies of Saraid's people to kill the artists they target rather than fall in love with them, Conall assumes the worst and tries to protect his son. It doesn't go too well for him. Saraid fights him, thinking he's trying to take Caradoc from her, and winds up stabbing Conall in the gut with an iron poker, pinning him to the floor while she escapes with Caradoc. Being a vampire, Conall doesn't die, but it's still super painful.
     
  12. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Wait, if she's a Fae, how can she touch an iron poker?
     
  13. Feo Takahari

    Feo Takahari Auror

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    I've heard it argued that Aeon Flux was a positive portrayal of female sexuality, since the protagonist is clearly masochistic but has standards and doesn't sleep with anything that moves. I never watched it, so I don't really know.

    Edit: Thinking about this a bit more, I think the issue is that temptress types are usually characterized solely in what other characters get from them. There ought to be a little attention portrayed to what they get out of their role, and why they act "tempting" in the first place. (This is something I've personally approached in my series about succubi.)
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2013
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I also have sexual female antagonists. Sort of.

    The first one, Sitara, is an amazonian psychopath who leads an cult of female werecats called the Wendigo and gets a sadistic thrill out of breaking the will of men. The second, Clementia, is an aristocratic witch (also a psychopath) who just happens to have lust as a favored vice, much like some people do with alcohol or cigarettes. She doesn't get emotionally attached to her lovers though. Her husband casually murders one of them right in front of her and she reacts with mild annoyance. In both cases, their sexuality isn't really all that important aside from informing their respective mentalities.

    I'm particularly interested in what our female posters will have to say about them. I will gladly provide more information on them and my other female characters upon request.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2013
  15. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Clementia's attitude toward attachment sounds very much like my pansexual male MC's (for at least the first three quarters of The Stone Front). I can't think of a time I've specifically wanted to know more about a character's sexuality than the author chose to divulge, but when they do include details and manage to do it in a way that is neither gratuitous nor cheaply tantalizing, I tend to find it pretty valuable for understanding that character.
     
  16. Subcreator

    Subcreator Minstrel

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    Sometimes I wonder if my depictions of women aren't the best. For instance, my female antagonist is an nymphomaniacal, pyromaniacal, and omnicidal megalomaniac who insists on having five husbands at a time (though this is because of a prophecy), whereas one of the main female protagonists is often treated horribly for something she didn't do. Of course, I tend to treat all my characters like crap, so they equal footing on that, and I have an equally insane male antagonist. Still, I try to make sure that I write them as people, rather than as "male character" or "female character."
     
  17. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Tantalizing or titillating? I don't write titillation very well at all. All actual sex occurs offscreen.
     
  18. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    O.O

    Your villainess makes Sitara look sane.
     
  19. saellys

    saellys Inkling

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    Tantalizing. As in "I'm going to dance around this subject and then pan to the curtains". A la Guy Gavriel Kay starting a chapter of The Lions of Al-Rassan with a sentence about Jehane really enjoying sex, and proceeding to not include any sex, "offscreen" or otherwise, in the entire chapter. I'm not saying I want to read lots of sex or anything, but I get irritated when an author uses the possibility of future sex as an attention-grabbing opening and then fails to deliver.

    The other side of that coin is GRRM, who can get several pages into a sex scene before the reader even knows whether it's consensual. *shudder* Dude should stick to writing about food.
     
  20. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

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    He writes about food?

    This is yet another reason I have a hard time reading GRRM anymore. I can handle dark, but not teased out to 98 years of the stuff. There's no happiness in the stories and GRRM jerks the reader (well, me, I don't know if other people feel the same way) around too much. People keep talking about how great his women are. I cringe in every chapter because more and more crap keeps happening to them. I'm not saying I'm OK with what's going on with the men, but Sansa, Arya, Brienne, Daenerys, Catelyn, et al. Well, it just sucks.
     
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