Confessions of a Fiction Writer

When I issue a challenge, I make sure I’m prepared to meet it myself. The challenge this blog presents is: write quality women characters already. It’s not that difficult.

And here’s my confession: I do find it somewhat difficult.

I’m female. I’m a writer. I believe that when you get right down to it, there isn’t anything that every single woman or every single man has in common with the rest of the gender. Individuals span quite a spectrum of likes, wants, and behavior. So write individuals, not “women” or “men”. Write people. Even when people behave according to stereotypes in real life (and some do), I find those actions cover a deeper individuality as unique as anyone else’s.

Yet when I sit down to write something, I find myself more intrigued by male characters than female. Why is that? I find myself pretty interesting, at least in all the ways I don’t find myself annoying. How hard could it be to take my own interesting traits and build from there?

There are a lot of possible answers to these questions. But I’m starting to think the main answer may be: audience consideration. I used to write female characters I thought were pretty fascinating, and then when people read them, I found they interpreted the character via stereotypes. I would think to myself, where did I fail? How did I fall short of making it obvious that this woman is what she is, and not someone’s vanilla boilerplate stick-woman?

I’m sure I did fail, at least to a degree. But I’ve also realized in the past year or so that quite a lot of people are determined to fit everything into neat little pigeonholes. It’s like their whole sense of reality depends on it, and opening their minds will lead to brain damage. And, you know, no judgment from me – I hope that works out for them. But should we always be pitching the lesson to the slowest student, and forcing everyone else to drag along with them? Or should we just write our visions, and play “la, la, I can’t hear you” when someone reinterprets the vision according to their personal prejudices?

In other words, ironic as it sounds, I think writing without concern for the audience may be the key.

And when I look at TV shows in particular – where they see every night how the audience is responding, and are pressured to make changes accordingly – I wonder if that’s not the solution for everybody.

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