Tips for (poorly) writing strong female characters

  1. She is sassy! Whenever her inferiors are around our heroine is always ready with an arched eyebrow and a snappy remark to make the upstart feel foolish.
  2. She takes no guff! She is always ready to point out how wrong her superiors are (by superior we mean only that they have greater rank – rank likely earned through politics, seniority, or luck, not merit, clearly) and it’s up to her to put things right when the situation goes, ahem, tits up. They should have listened to her to begin with!
  3. She is infinitely good at her job. Even if she’s had no training, and in particular knows more than anyone who’s knowledge comes purely from books, not experience. If a particularly unique scenario comes up, feature the following exchange:

    “Wow!” said the intern. “Where have you even done that before? It’s not in the manual!”

    Our heroine arches an eyebrow, wipes the sweat from her brow. “Who said I had?”

  4. On the rare occasion that our heroine gets something wrong, it’s not that she was wrong, but rather that the other character was right. Use the opportunity to develop the other character, not her.
  5. You must give your heroine some flaws, obviously. Just make sure they are relationship problems. Divorce is a popular choice. Just make sure she leaves these personal issues at home! She doesn’t have time to let that nonsense interfere with her career.
  6. She always takes the hard road to achieve her goals, and it always pays off. Bonus points if her parents wanted her to do something else with her life, for any reason – if they also question why she is lacking a husband/child, prepare yourself for a trip to the bank to deposit your giant novelty check.
  7. If writing for a younger (young adult, perhaps) audience, make sure she has boyish qualities – maybe she likes cars, or disdains pink dresses. The less feminine your female is, the better. This is especially the case for any story aimed at teenage boys. Obviously, boobs are still a necessity, and if possible she will still have a crush on the cute boy next door who doesn’t notice her until she puts some makeup on for gods’ sake.

This concludes, for now, my seminar on writing strong female characters. I hope you have found it useful. Please refer to page 3A of your handout for further questions.

5 thoughts on “Tips for (poorly) writing strong female characters”

  1. These tips will aid me. Seriously!
    It seems what you have here is a reaction to the cliches that arise when people try to write female characters while avoiding cliches – that is, I suppose, that if you write with cliches in mind at all, you’re going to fall into them. I suppose all you can do is be original and honest…. however that’s done.
    My one major female character is a power-mad sorceress who commits innumerable atrocities!

  2. You got it. I see this set of traits and plot points and what not all the time on television, particularly in medical dramas. It’s like there’s a basic female template that was created at some point that, like any cliche, was well intentioned but has gotten out of control.

  3. Darn! The female protag in Zombie Town is super girly. I’m destined to fail.

    Honestly, I never understood making female protags boyish/tomboyish. Why isn’t it okay for females to be feminine?

  4. My guess would be that most stories, in whatever medium, aren’t written for girls. They’re written by and for males, who by and large don’t have a history of wanting to see women in a variety of lights. Especially if it’s a light they aren’t that familiar with or don’t respect.

    There are exceptions, of course, and things are slowly changing, but I think these old conventions are hard to shake loose.

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