Gender in Fiction

July 4, 2010 at 5:30 am (Replay) (, , , , , , , , , )


I’m on holidays at the moment but I’m reposting some of the more popular posts from my old blog, Darkened Jade. If you leave a comment I’ll be sure to catch up with you when I get back.

You may have already noticed, but I am a female. As such, most of the stories I enjoy and most of the my writing tend to focus on female characters, or at least have female characters doing more than fainting and swooning over the hero of the tale.

Females have come a long way in fiction. Even though I was born in the eighties, I grew up watching a variety of television shows that were dated even then (battlestar galactica and buck rogers to name a few) and what used to trouble me was that even the women who came on tough in the beginning would ultimately end up waiting for some guy to rescue them. Or in the case of Apollo’s wife (battlestar), they would just shoot her in the back on some planet and that was the last we’d ever hear of her.

The nineties were an amazing time for females in fiction. On television we saw Xena, Buffy, Charmed, Alias, Dark Angel, and on and on the list goes of females who were taking control. Not always convincingly and sometimes one had to wonder why there wasn’t a single capable male in the Buffy-verse (not taking a swipe at Angel but seriously, even when you turned evil your girl-friend ran you through with a sword and sent you to hell).

During the nineties I started reading Traci Harding and Katherine Kerr, who were the first female authors I encountered who were really trying for epic fantasy. There were probably others out there, but I hadn’t really encountered them, and this was a really great moment for me, because it made me feel not so out of place for enjoying the genre. Katherine Kerr particularly managed to show a balance of characters in her Deverry Series with strong, weak and every character type in between, for both men and women. Her characters were dynamic and realistic, they evolved over time and just read very well.

As a writer, I have been working hard over the last few years to improve my inclusion of male characters. Reading some of my earlier story outlines, every significant character was female. The female princess with the female bodyguard (envied by all the male soldiers who of course were completely useless), who was then attacked by the female assassin who was sent by the female evil sorceress, and on it went. That was highschool.

In all honesty I was probably trying to counter Eddings – who I read a tonne of and was very influenced by, but had this nasty tendency to have only one or two female characters who would sit on the sidelines and assume the role of mother and nurse and that was it.

And here’s the link if you haven’t yet checked out the blurb or excerpt for Death’s Daughter.

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5 Comments

  1. Agatha82 said,

    It’s interesting because my main character is male whilst I am female and I think the only female writer I have ever read is Anne Rice and I tend to lean towards male oriented fiction, my top three authors fave authors are all male. Maybe in my case that makes sense as I grew up with my father. However, my female characters are not wimpy girls who swoon and faint, they’re strong women in their own rights who stand by their men. I suppose the best thing is balance of some kind but I am sure we all tend to lean one way or the other for whatever reason.

  2. Carol J. Garvin said,

    On my blog roll Becky’s post turns up right under yours… one where she expresses disappointment in a sermon her minister gave on the topic of women. His only point seemed to be that women are emotional, and Becky admits “we are emotional, but that’s not all we are.” (http://beckyworks.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/on-women/) I suspect women in literature will always be depicted with various personalities because in real life women are all different. Some of us are strong individuals, some are not, and as female authors how we portray women in our stories will depend on our own perspective and characteristics. My main characters have always been women until my current wip, where the MC is a young man. It’s challenging to write from a gender view that isn’t my own and I struggle with his voice.

  3. AlexJ said,

    The manuscript I’m working on now has a strong female character. My first one had none! (As in, no women at all.)

  4. Alex Willging said,

    My previous MS was constantly being rewritten with a male lead, but I had to finally accept that he didn’t really need the focus and was little more than an Author Character with no real personality. Now I’m working on a story with a female protagonist and a male main character (her mentor and partner), and it’s coming along a lot better. Still, I’m always concerned about how well the women in my stories come out and try to give them a well-balanced characterization.

  5. Melissa said,

    My manuscript definitely has a couple strong female characters in it. There are times when they may not realize it, but it’s there. I think a few of the problems I have with some books is that the female mc is one of those wimpy, dull characters who allows the males to dominate her life. They do need to be balanced and not overpower everyone else.

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