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Amateur Hour: Can't write female characters?

Journal Entry: Fri Nov 2, 2012, 5:41 AM

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I frequently read a lot of books, and I can spot shitty writing from the description and the first few pages.

This guy posts on a forum explaining that he can't figure out how to make a female character exist as a main character with a male character as equally important but they aren't Romantically involved.  So you want a female character to be a shared main character (protagonist) with a male character but not have them be a romantic interest?

"You know, I don't have a romantic interest in the cashier at Walmart, but neither of us are particularity fun to read about either."

Simple: cut the fat, or make them siblings/related.

If you aren't going to have a romantic relationship, sexual tension, or familial dispute, why have opposed genders as main characters?  Just focus on one and not have two opposed gender main characters. Make one a side character that shows up from time to time and do something and leave. Focus instead on one protagonist, and not two. Because when writing, if you aren't going to have conflict then why introduce the potential for it and leave the reader hanging? You'll just end up with, "why does this other character exist if not to create plot/tension/drama?" If a character isn't a protagonist (solving drama/tension) or an antagonist (causing drama/tension), then they aren't a main character and are instead a side character.

This problem stems from a complete misunderstanding of the roles characters play in stories. If you aren't going to go anywhere with something, don't introduce it.

Some feminists had replied to this writer, and were are complaining about sexism and real women and how not all women are sexualized...blarg, no shit. But stories and characters aren't real people. Characters exist in a story to do something or they shouldn't be there in the first place. Weed out your useless characters and your story will be stronger. Merge characters if you have to. And don't forget that each character needs a role, but not every role needs its own character. Characters can be multidimensional, just like real people, just don't make them all over the place crazy.

That's my point in a nutshell. If you can't come up with a reason for something to happen or exist in a story, why did you need it in the first place?

ps: unless you're Terry Goodkind, please stop making useless characters. if you are Terry Goodkind, please stop making useless redundant characters....

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ItsComedyAndTragedy Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2012
I do agree with your statement about why trying so hard to give characters a purpose, when said characters didn't have any to begin with. Usually can't end all too well.

However, are you and this writer implying that two people of different genders(who are equal in character importance and not related) cannot exist at all, without they're romantically involved with another?
SEMC Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I am not stating that two people of different genders cannot exist without being romantically involved. I'm saying that two characters cannot exist as equally important within the same story for the sole purpose of not being in a relationship with each other. I'm also saying that there should not be TWO PRIMARY protagonists of equal importance in a story. The fact that this guy insists on making them essentially platonic is just adding to the problem.

So you have a man and a woman in a story where you give equal weight (somehow) in the writing. Who is the story about then? This bugs me. Lets take My Little Pony as an example. Six main characters, all female. Most of the episodes from season one are third person perspective of Twilight Sparkle's point of view, and you usually don't see the other characters off screen doing things without her. These episodes are about HER experiences in the group and environment. There are other episodes (character episodes) that focus on the other characters and sometimes only one or two of the others show up in any given scene or even the entire episode. This is to reduce confusion as to what the audience is to see as important and relevant to the plot. Even though all six are "equally important." The token males (spike and big Macintosh) play bit roles in most instances even though they might speak or appear in the episodes. Because the story is about Twilight Sparkle learning about Friendship. They exist to service the plot and/or provide comedic relief. They aren't the central protagonist.

Or most recently, lets take a non-sexual relationship: Dishonored (the game). You've got this guy who just wants to protect this little girl. He's not out to screw her, but instead wants to be the protector role. She's "important" to the plot in that she's the goal, but almost never appears in the story except near the end when you save her. She exists as a reason why the player should give a shit and go find her instead of jacking off in a corner or something.

Lets take Tell Tale's The Walking Dead game. In the start of the episode one, you play a guy who meets up with this little girl who's parents are missing/dead/undead. You take on the role of protector/guardian/surrogate parent and is non-sexual. But the relationship you provide is again, that of the protector parent/guardian and keeping her safe is the goal of the story. She exists as a reason for YOU the player playing the dude a reason to be there. You are the protagonist.

You must ask, what evolution or struggle (external or internal) will this dude and gal experience together through this story that they share equal time with? If you aren't going to give a solid reason for either or both of them to be there then you'd be better off writing a separate story based around each individual. There are a few, and I mean a FEW stories I've read by some master authors where two unrelated characters existed simultaneously as main characters worked. Usually by skipping chapters where the guy goes off and does his own thing and then switches back the following chapter from her point of view. This method is disjointed, and most of the time, you just wonder why the other character is there in the first place.

Jim Butcher's The Codex Alera series is an example of how this all goes horribly wrong, but even he gives each character a familial relationship to work with (mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, clan, etc). Elizabeth Moon and Ann McCaffery wrote alternating chapters in the Planet Pirates series, and they gave the two characters the roles of mother/daughter (I think or maybe it was grand daughter). Or was that Sassasinik. Time tolls on my memory, sorry. Piers Anthony's Xanth series opens with a story called A Spell for Chameleon, where alternating chapters take place from a this woman's perspective and the main character seeking his personal ability. The plot revolves around this guy, and he helps some women that turn out to be only one woman and she is the Chameleon and ends up marrying her in the end.

Its just that giving two characters a reason to be in the story together is much easier when the audience can relate. Family, sex, love, hate, jealousy, are all relationships, acts, and emotions people understand. Anything else is too mundane. Co-workers can create stress and motivations for reader to want the (ONE) protagonist to overcome or fail at overcoming adversity. But we don't read about the asshole too. This asshole making the main character's life a living hell is the antagonist, not the protagonist. Like the Boss from Office Space.

Asking if two opposite gender main characters can share equal time and importance in a story without being either sexually interested or related in some way, is like asking what the Twilight series would be like if Bella wasn't interested in either Edward or Jacob (nor they her). But yet still existed in equal parts in the same story for some reason and serving the same roles. I'll tell you: Bella appears from the start as a complete bitch that emotionally abuses everyone around her, Edward is still a perverted creep who just stalks random girls and appears over their beds at night (except not Bella), and Jacob just herps the derp in the woods somewhere still abiding by the treaty with the vamps or something because he doesn't have a reason to do otherwise. No conflict, no story, no plot, and no motivation. Why are they there?
D-E-A-R-E-S-T Featured By Owner Nov 8, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Yeah that's what I was griping with while reading this. Guess they never read Harry Potter.
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November 2, 2012


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