In an early script draft, the screenwriter wrote that the crew is unisex and all parts are interchangeable for men or women. The character can’t reinforce stereotypes about women because the writer did not have a woman in mind in the first place. In many ways, a largely genderless hero is a great character to have in a critically acclaimed Hollywood blockbuster.
There’s something cathartic about not thinking about gender in the main character. Writing without a woman means a writer can explore universal human experiences without worrying about falling into stereotypes. It’s fun and exciting to see a character who doesn’t get treated differently because she’s a woman. She is a well-written character with qualities not associated with any particular gender.
Your gender plays a massive part in your identity. There’s nothing wrong with a movie that explores a character without exploring their gender. Still, a movie incorporating gender into the story can lead to moving and diverse character arcs. It’s about covering the entire spectrum of human experience, where a female can act masculine in one movie and feminine in another.
Women directors and writers can give an honest and relatable depiction of women’s experiences and the fantasies of FBI Agents, space explorers, and assassins. If you want to write a female character, keep scrolling.
How to write a woman? (Write female characters as a man)
A well-written character played by a woman challenges you to think a little differently. They challenge you to look without gender or see women from a new perspective. There’s no wrong way to write women. At the end of the day, the great part about cinema is how it gives us a window into worlds we wouldn’t have seen. Combine that with the connectivity of the Internet, and the possibilities are endless.
If you’re looking to expand your understanding across many different subjects, follow my top 10 tips to write a woman beautifully. These tips can apply to anyone who is struggling to write female characters.
1. Discover your female character
The social expectation is not biology. It is vital to consider no matter what gender you’re writing. There’s a massive difference between societal expectations and psychology or biology. Many stereotypes do not stem from how a gender naturally behaves.
For example, women are stereotyped as being highly emotional. However, researchers say this label comes more from societal gender roles than biology. Not all women experience emotion the same. They are expected to express feelings more freely than men because society says so.
Another example is arousal. Men are expected to be horny, whereas women are chaste and pure. But you can think of a ton of crazy horny women out there! Many writers write gender based on socialized gender roles instead of multi-faceted human beings. If every woman you write is a crying, hysterical, submissive prude, you only regurgitate stereotypes.
2. Make the character real
Though societal expectations aren’t biology, it’s still something to consider. For example, if I’m writing a woman who exists in our world, she might feel more comfortable expressing her emotions than a male character. That’s because our society says women are allowed to do that. However, this doesn’t apply to writing a woman who exists in a completely different world.
When you create a world, you make its norms, including gender expectations. You don’t have to follow our norms.
- Do it if you want to create a world where women are expected to become hardened warriors.
Ultimately, when writing your world, you create gender norms. So be free, and don’t be misogynistic!
3. Don’t focus only on physical aspects
Sexy is not a personality trait. It’s fine if you want to write about sexy women! It’s a subjective opinion based on aesthetic or sexual appeal. If your female character only exists to be sexy, you haven’t created one. You’ve created a barely sentient fleshlight. Your women need to be more than fap fuel if you’re trying not to be a fool.
4. Give freedom
Women have minds and opinions, and sometimes they even do things and make decisions! Even the most passive dishrag has some semblance of agency. Your women don’t need to be Napoleon, but functioning humans take action.
- Take a look at every scene your female character appears in.
If all she did was agree with the male characters or act sexy, she’s not a human being, and she’s a blow-up doll. So keep your women independent to think and act.
5. Add character variation
Femininity is not a prison. It’s very common for writers to portray women in one of two lights, either very femme or very tough. If she’s femme, she’s either a criminal or a vulnerable damsel in distress. If she’s tough, she’s either very masculine or tomboy. If you want to write any of these variations, that’s fine. However, understand that femininity and strength are not mutually exclusive.
- You do not have to make your female characters reject femininity to be strong or capable.
Being feminine only means enjoying things typically labeled as pretty, like makeup. But a CEO can wear makeup to the board room and still boss out everyone there.
6. Give your women some personalities
Women’s lives don’t revolve around men. One of the most annoying female stereotypes is the marriage and baby fever cliche. Your female character is obsessed with landing a man, settling down, and popping out humans. Many women don’t value marriage or don’t want kids.
Pro tip: The Bechdel Test is a great way to examine this issue. It’s an easy way to determine whether or not you’re writing women realistically and humanly. If your story features two or more women who speak to one another, congratulations! You’ve passed The Bechdel Test! If your story doesn’t pass, fix it!
7. Calm down on the female suffering
Torture is a necessary facet of fiction. You don’t have a plot without conflict. Thus, I’m not saying your female characters can’t suffer. But their suffering shouldn’t exist solely to motivate a male character. It’s very common for a female character to either die or be sexually assaulted solely to upset a male in their life.
You never see how this trauma affects the female character. It paints female characters as plot points and disposable. Also, it can be triggering for readers, particularly those who have experienced trauma and then had their voices go unheard or ignored. Dipping your toes into offensive cliches is not the way to do it.
8. Give your women courage
Many men writing from the perspective of a female character will describe her appearance as if she’s viewing it through the male gaze. In other words, they sexualize the crap out of her and rate her body by what they find sexy.
There are entire social media accounts devoted to dragging men who write women like this. Most women do not try to look nice to appeal to men. They try to look nice to appeal to their tastes.
9. Take your women as simple as men
Disrespect is a neon sign. People complain about how many men write women because the unconscious sexism is a lot more blatant than they think. It’s easy to tell when you don’t respect your female characters because they’re not written the same way as your male characters.
You’ve got a cast of 10 characters. Nine are men, and one is a woman. The nine male characters get normal physical descriptions. The female character’s description is sexualized. Your nine male characters are layered. Your one female character is a femme fatale who was assaulted as a child. It’s obvious that you don’t see your female characters the same way you see your male characters because you’re writing them as complex.
10. Ask a woman
If you’re not a woman and writing women, ask a woman if you’re doing it right. Get female critique partners! Get female beta readers! Don’t ask your mom, your grandma, or any woman who will spare your fragile ego.
- Ask women who will be 100% honest in front of you.
Let them read your manuscript, and when they tell you you’ve done something wrong, listen to them! At the end of the day, they know more about being a woman than you do.
If you want to create a truly great female character, you have to brave those few issues unique to our species’ feminine half. You have to give women human beings to respond to ordinary societal pressures and conclude how to integrate them.
A great character doesn’t have to be defined by gender, but gender and society’s pressures on us are a big part of who we are. So if you want to create a real character, consider all the factors that shape them to be who they are at the point where the player first meets them. Put them in the comment section if you have any ideas or questions. Happy writing!
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