There are already a lot of articles around on how to write female characters. That’s all well and good, but I think it’s a lot less restrictive to have an itemized list of things you shouldn’t do. It also might be easier to digest than lengthy essays.

Also, this list is intended for people with more testosterone, but since I’ve seen young female authors screw up their own young female protagonists, estrogenites are perfectly allowed to read this too.

Like all my advice, this is subjective, in no particular order, and should be taken with a small pile of grains of salt. I know very little about good writing and am not qualified in the slightest to give pointers on it, but being female I think I’m qualified to give pointers on writing characters who share my gender.

I’m going to assume you’re taking your work seriously and expect your readers to do the same. Obviously if you’re making pornography none of these tips are going to apply.

  1. Female characters should be characters first and female second. The fact that they’re women shouldn’t get in the way of their other traits.
  2. Don’t have all your female characters be sexy when the physical appearance of your male characters can vary wildly. Especially egregious in visual media. Keep your ratio of pretty to average at least mostly even across the sexes.
  3. The vast majority of women are not wispy heroin waifs or excessively stacked lingerie models. Believe it or not, it’s possible for a woman to be attractive and not fit into the standard brick house mold.
  4. That said, having a woman’s worth riding entirely on her attractiveness is a great way to get your female readers to hate you.
  5. While it’s true sometimes women think about their breasts, it’s never with any depth (in my experience). Mentioning this at all will probably come across as unnecessary at best and downright creepy at worst. Most obnoxious of all is when the author specifies bra sizes. It makes my face go ಠ_ಠ
  6. Having “good” female characters be cute and “evil” female characters be sexy is kind of lazy.
  7. Also lazy: making the “evil” female character hideously ugly while the “good” female characters are pretty.
  8. A woman can be very competent without being a Mary Sue. A woman who can catch on to any skill or masters something very quickly is in danger of falling into the bottomless pit of Sueness.
  9. Making a female character good at stereotypical “boy things” is, if you’ll pardon my french, a bullshit way to characterize. It’s distressingly common in TV shows that think they’re clever and subversive. I think the best way to handle female auto mechanics or professional ass-kickers or whatever is to give a reason for her to have that skill (like any other skill, you know, don’t make her an awesome musician for no reason) and to not make a big deal about it, in-universe or out.
  10. A female viewpoint character describing herself in poetic terms (“chocolate eyes”) is going to come across as self-aggrandizing. Unless that’s your intent, find another way to describe her appearance (and not with a mirror scene, dammit).
  11. A lot of women won’t give very deep regard to other women’s bodies. They’ll probably notice bad skin or frumpy outfits, but beyond that they won’t scrutinize too hard. They’re way more likely to notice a snooty expression or a false smile.
  12. Particularly shallow women will give very deep regard to other women’s bodies. If you don’t want to have your viewpoint character come across as shallow, it’s best to not start writing a lengthy paragraph on her archenemy Susie Bitchfield’s obesity and poor choice of miniskirt.
  13. Not all women desire marriage and children. Some want one or the other, some want neither. Not all women want to be testicle-crushing CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, either. Some want to be psychiatrists or artists or teachers or morticians…or whatever else. You know, just like men.
  14. Female characters should probably not be solely motivated by a need to have the approval or attention of a man. Or all men in general, really. Female characters who do this ought to change by the end of the story, and realize that their happiness shouldn’t depend on the whims of menfolk.
  15. On that note, actions speak louder than words. Even if you don’t state it directly, a female character who appears motivated only by men is going to be assumed to be motivated only by men.
  16. Avoid overly “empowered” female characters. Empowerment doesn’t mean she’s terrible to men just for being men—it just means she’s not stepped on for being a woman.
  17. Probably more of a personal peeve than anything else, but I really, really dislike that one female archetype who is rude and often violent to her spineless male love interest, but they end up together in the end anyway. If the genders were reversed, it would be called an abusive relationship—and even then, there will be some segment of your readers who finds it romantic. Yes, Twilight, I’m looking at you. Glaring.
  18. The “headstrong” female character who has wacky banter with the similarly headstrong male lead leads me to believe they’d have really excellent (if angry) sex, but probably wouldn’t last in a normal relationship for longer than a couple days unless one or the other grows out of their headstrongness.
  19. In a romance story, or a story containing elements of romance, please don’t give the female lead stupid reasons for liking the hero. Reasons like “he’s well-endowed” or “she knows his inner depths, despite his blatant jerkoff behavior on display literally all the time”. I’m kind of sick of the hero always getting the girl anyway, like she’s prize at the end of the race—but if you insist on keeping that plot element, at least give both of them good qualities.
  20. Don’t have a female character for the sake of having a female character, which is something I see happen in video games and comics a lot. Give her something to do that isn’t doting on the hero.

Some examples of good female characters

I could keep going, and I could pick more and more nits, but I think the above is sufficient for now.

Leave comments okay I will give you friendship cookies nomnomnom good.

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  1. Danielle on 23 April 2012, 00:35 said:

    5.While it’s true sometimes women think about their breasts, it’s never with any depth (in my experience). Mentioning this at all will probably come across as unnecessary at best and downright creepy at worst. Most obnoxious of all is when the author specifies bra sizes. It makes my face go ಠ_ಠ

    YES. Girls don’t think about their boobs the way men writing about women seem to think they do. Gentlemen, there are times and places when women think about their boobs, and those times and places are: 1. Getting a new bra, 2. Wondering if she has breast cancer and 3. Getting a mammogram. Do men walk around thinking about their junk all the time? No? There you go. Case in point.

    Ahem.

    Excellent article, Kitty.

    And guys, if you want an excellent example of how NOT to write a female character, watch a few episodes of Chuck. Every episode is about how hot Sarah is when she’s kicking butt. There’s one scene where she and a fellow female spy are parading around a hotel room wearing nothing but high heels (which are concealing stilettos, natch) and lingerie….BEFORE putting on their dresses. No girl would put on her high heels before she put on her dress. It’s like putting on your pants before you put on your underwear.

    On the other hand, I think Fiona from Burn Notice is a pretty good example of how to write a sexy female spy and keep her realistic. Her character isn’t defined by her relationship to Michael, but it’s clear she still cares about him. When he wrongs her, she doesn’t just forget about it by the beginning of the next episode. And she has a backstory beyond “I lived a boring life, and then I met Michael. That’s when I started living.”

  2. sakuuya on 23 April 2012, 01:09 said:

    5. While it’s true sometimes women think about their breasts, it’s never with any depth (in my experience). Mentioning this at all will probably come across as unnecessary at best and downright creepy at worst. Most obnoxious of all is when the author specifies bra sizes. It makes my face go ಠ_ಠ

    As an addendum, if you’re a male writer who’s committed to mentioning specific bra sizes, find out how bra sizes actually work. As creepy as it is to know a character’s exact size, having it not be a real size is so much worse.

  3. Fireshark on 23 April 2012, 02:53 said:

    Even as a guy, I don’t think I’d ever be tempted to do any of these things, but I suppose there are some people out there who write like this. Although really, have you ever seen someone do #5? Maybe I’ve just been blessed to avoid those kinds of authors, but I find it hard to believe that’s out there.

  4. Snow White Queen on 23 April 2012, 03:27 said:

    Kitty’s back!

    Also, this list is great.

  5. BlueMask on 23 April 2012, 05:57 said:

    Great list, very informative. And yay that Kitty’s back!

  6. swenson on 23 April 2012, 09:31 said:

    5. While it’s true sometimes women think about their breasts, it’s never with any depth (in my experience). Mentioning this at all will probably come across as unnecessary at best and downright creepy at worst. Most obnoxious of all is when the author specifies bra sizes. It makes my face go ಠ_ಠ

    Yes, I know I’m the third to comment on this, but yes, this does show up occasionally and yes, it’s weird and creepy. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t even tell you my bra size off the top of my head. It just doesn’t matter unless I’m shopping.

    This article is pretty awesome in general, because I’ve seen things like that in a lot of stories with women in them. And I just don’t get why. Have the writers never met an actual woman before? Didn’t they have a mother or a sister or a wife or somebody? Women are people too. The instant a person forgets that and start making the female character just be a FEMALE and not a CHARACTER, they’ve failed as a writer. And as a person.

    (Also Kitty article SQUEE!)

  7. Kyllorac on 23 April 2012, 09:34 said:

    Definiere die “Mary Sue” für den nächsten Artikel! Bitte!

    :3

  8. danielle on 23 April 2012, 11:25 said:

    Fireshark, in Eldest, Paolini describes one female character as “matronly”…..and calls attention t the knife hilt between her boobs. He also lets us know that just smiling makes them jiggle, and at one point she “pats her bosom affectionately.”

  9. Deborah on 23 April 2012, 11:32 said:

    There’s one thing I’d like to add: Don’t be afraid to make her emotional. So many people act like that makes characters weak. But I have a lot more respect for people who press on towards their goals despite being upset. That was one thing I admired about Hermione.
    I liked number 20. Can we stop having the ‘token woman’ please?
    This is one thing that I thought Gail Carson Levine did well in ‘The Two Princesses of Bamarre.’ SPOILERS: Addie is shy and easily scared. But she steps out on her own when she has to. She gets help from Rhys, but she accomplishes things on her own as well, even using traditionally feminine pursuits like sewing to get out of tight spots. (I love the idea that embroidery and monster-slaying aren’t mutually exclusive pursuits.)

    I actually think Collins did a good job with 9 in The Hunger Games. Katniss has a good reason to know how to use a bow. It was integral to the story—not something that was tacked on to make her seem cool.

  10. Soupnazi on 23 April 2012, 11:41 said:

    Female characters should be characters first and female second. The fact that they’re women shouldn’t get in the way of their other traits.

    Glad this was first, because it largely sums up my opinion; if you’re setting out to write a good female character, and not a good character who is female, you’re already teetering on the edge of failing.

    Also, I don’t suppose anyone else has played the video game Mirror’s Edge and can share their opinions on the main character? While the story in the game was pretty short, I’ve always thought Faith is a good example of a female character; she’s not sexualized, her plot is driven out of saving her sister, she has reasonable abilities, and while it’s not automatically a good thing, she doesn’t have a love interest.

  11. Fireshark on 23 April 2012, 11:56 said:

    Now I picture Paolini’s face while writing that…

  12. danielle on 23 April 2012, 12:16 said:

    Yes. It was probably very much like that. :P

    Though I have to wonder why he chose the “matronly” character instead of one of the young, hot things also at the meeting…..

  13. Fireshark on 23 April 2012, 12:40 said:

    Paolini just writes whatever. Like when Eragon starts staring at his thumbs or we get paragraphs of description for irrelevant objects and so on. I’m convinced that he has no real idea of what’s pointless or creepy or boring. To him, all writing is created equal, and it doesn’t matter what a passage accomplishes.

    His style reminds me of a NaNoWriMo project I did, where when I didn’t know what to write I’d have the characters get all introspective, and most of the filler was thoughts. Paolini uses actions and descriptions instead, but they still seem to have the same purpose of making a longer story without making more plot.

  14. swenson on 23 April 2012, 14:00 said:

    At the very least, we can commend Paolini for having it be an older, larger woman who has the enormous bosom, as opposed to a young scrawny one. Yay, minor realism?

  15. Erin on 23 April 2012, 17:58 said:

    First of all, a huge YES! to #1. I think that’s the most common mistake.

    Avoid overly “empowered” female characters. Empowerment doesn’t mean she’s terrible to men just for being men—it just means she’s not stepped on for being a woman.

    THIS so much. I really hate it when I feel like someone is trying to sell me a story/character on the premise of “But she is so sassy (read: bitchy) to the men! Don’t you women enjoy it when the men get some abuse just because they’re stupid boys? Does this not make you relate to her and like her?” Um, no.

    Excellent list, Kitty. I concur with all of this.

  16. Mingnon on 23 April 2012, 18:19 said:

    8. I have heard many horror stories about fans starting up Sue witch hunts for little-to-no-reason. Though as the later part of this said, there is a good place and time for the Sue dropping to start, just not when a girl hasn’t done anything yet.

    17. On the Japanese side of the former, we call that archetype a ‘Tsundere’. On the TvTropes side of the latter, they call that an ‘A-Hole Boyfriend ‘Romance’‘.

    Is it really too much for both genders to have some amount of spineage?

    19. Oh gawd, the few horribly written romance novel reviews. It seems that women, and storytelling, will find any excuse to make sure these two get together.

    NOW KISS.

    20. I think this is why I don’t play too many RPGs nowadays.

  17. Kitty on 23 April 2012, 18:30 said:

    Although really, have you ever seen someone do #5? Maybe I’ve just been blessed to avoid those kinds of authors, but I find it hard to believe that’s out there.

    If it’s on this list, it means I have seen it before in other people’s writing multiple times. Not just in amateur writing, but actual, published, supposedly edited writing.

    I should mention that I loathe the tsundere archetype, and I didn’t use the term in the article because I think it’s way more universal to just call such a character a raging bitch. :P

  18. Jaggers on 23 April 2012, 19:25 said:

    I am not an Anime/Manga devotee, but doesn’t “Tsundere” also connote a certain amount of caprice, that there is a lot of switching about between raging bitch and cutesy/romantic/lovestruck/dopey?

  19. BlackStar on 23 April 2012, 20:02 said:

    A Kitty article. Yay! :D

    As I am a girl and so therefore know what it is like to be one, I have to say that the way women are written in fiction (especially genre fiction) is usually completely off the mark. So I completely agree with #1 because that’s the mistake a lot of writers seem to make, where they make a woman’s femaleness far more important than her actual merit as a character. All the other characterization issues seem to me to come from that.

  20. Tim on 24 April 2012, 15:44 said:

    I am not an Anime/Manga devotee, but doesn’t “Tsundere” also connote a certain amount of caprice, that there is a lot of switching about between raging bitch and cutesy/romantic/lovestruck/dopey?

    Yeah, it’s how you say “bipolar” if you’ve been using TVTropes for too long to avoid confusing fanspeak.

  21. Tim on 24 April 2012, 15:51 said:

    While it’s true sometimes women think about their breasts, it’s never with any depth (in my experience). Mentioning this at all will probably come across as unnecessary at best and downright creepy at worst. Most obnoxious of all is when the author specifies bra sizes. It makes my face go ಠ_ಠ

    I think the easiest way to point out how dumb that is would be to consider the opposite; ask the would-be writer if they would ever consider having a male viewpoint character try to extrapolate another guy’s length in inches from the shape of his package.

  22. swenson on 24 April 2012, 16:53 said:

    That’s a good point, Tim. I think you could use that for a lot of situations, actually. I recognize and accept there are differences between men and women and that most stereotypes are sparked by something, but there’s a big difference between making a woman with a passing interest in shopping (because many women do have such interests) and making a woman with an unhealthy fixation on breasts (because the (male?) writer has an unhealthy fixation on them).

  23. Prince O' Tea on 24 April 2012, 19:49 said:

    I thought this was a pretty good essay. I also think Heather Mason is a great example of a strong female character in a videogame (she’s one of the rare characters who actually looks like a teenage girl rather then a twenty something lingerie model. I also thought Terra from the original Teen Titans comics was probably the only female character who actually looked like a teenager.)

    Though I think I’ll have to disagree with you on Hermione. While I found her the best character out of the main trio, I really didn’t like her. I thought she was incredibly smug at best (though I’ll give her a pass on this a lot of the time, because at least her intelligence is something to be smug about), and extremely vindictive at her worst. I mean, she assaults Ron for daring to date a girl that’s not her when she decides she likes him (as anyone who has been mobbed by a flock of small angry birds can testify, it’s a pretty nasty experience), and there is no way that behaviour would fly if the genders were reversed (which is a point you made in your essay). The other thing that really made me dislike her was her treatment of Marietta Edgecombe: there was something about Hermione and Harry not only permanently disfiguring a conflicted young girl’s face but actually taking pleasure in it that REALLY put a bad taste in my mouth. If the Sneak thing just lasted a month or two, fine, but branding her for life for a moment of weakness is something I would expect the villains to do, not the heroes. It also comes off jarring that Rita Skeeter, who gleefully destroys lives and reputations has a much more minor punishment, and goes back to her old ways, learning absolutely nothing from the experience.

    But apart from that, it was a pretty good essay. It was pretty funny, and insightful.
    Another point I would like to add is that a lot of people seem to fall into the “real women don’t wear dresses” trap. Just because a girl has a domestic personality or is a typical “girly girl” doesn’t mean she can’t be a strong character. Female characters aren’t entirely sorted into aggressive assertive asskickers and sweet naive damsels in distress who can’t do anything aside baking yummy baked goods and giggling over celebrity gossip. Just because a girl likes to wear pink and taking care of her appearance doesn’t mean she has to be a spine made out of tissue paper and be incapable of doing anything for herself.

  24. Kitty on 24 April 2012, 23:31 said:

    Having been a teenage girl and done awful things to other teenage girls whom I felt slighted me, I can’t say I fault Hermione for any of those. Teenage girls are terrible people but they usually grow out of it. Usually.

    Oh dingdongs I forgot to mention Mulan as an example. You should already know why she is a good female character. If you don’t, you’re hyper lame.

  25. Danielle on 25 April 2012, 02:10 said:

    If the Sneak thing just lasted a month or two, fine, but branding her for life for a moment of weakness is something I would expect the villains to do, not the heroes.

    Double standard. Just go with it. :P

  26. Prince O' Tea on 25 April 2012, 06:06 said:

    That’s true. Remember girls, if a boy is dating someone that’s not you and you’ve suddenly decided you like him, just physically assault him! He’ll dump the girl he’s dating and go out with you instead! That’ll teach him for not dating you in the first place!

    Oh and permanently mutilating someone’s face is DISGUSTING AND WRONG…. when the bad guys do it. When our saintly heroine does it to a conflicted teenager, it’s absolutely hilarious. Someone else did point out that there is a LOT of double standards in the Harryverse.

    I think I’ll have to disagree with you again Kitty, because… most teenagers are monsters, but what Hermione did made her seem like a bully in Stephen King novel. There’s normal teeanage douchebaggery, and then there’s… that. Unless Marietta forwarded Hermione’s topless photographs around the school and called her a slut on facebook.

  27. Betty Cross on 25 April 2012, 07:51 said:

    I think the easiest way to point out how dumb that is would be to consider the opposite; ask the would-be writer if they would ever consider having a male viewpoint character try to extrapolate another guy’s length in inches from the shape of his package.

    Well, maybe a gay male character who’s attracted to the guy whose package he’s contemplating would think like this.

  28. Tim on 25 April 2012, 07:54 said:

    Also

    Making a female character good at stereotypical “boy things” is, if you’ll pardon my french, a bullshit way to characterize. It’s distressingly common in TV shows that think they’re clever and subversive. I think the best way to handle female auto mechanics or professional ass-kickers or whatever is to give a reason for her to have that skill (like any other skill, you know, don’t make her an awesome musician for no reason) and to not make a big deal about it, in-universe or out.

    Often you’ll find a decent reason for such a character is simply having male siblings. You tend to find that surviving having a brother tends to have a 50% chance of resulting in a little girl who thinks frogs are cool and has an encyclopedic knowledge of jokes about poo and willies.

    The other 50% get more girly just to spite them.

  29. Tim on 25 April 2012, 07:57 said:

    Well, maybe a gay male character who’s attracted to the guy whose package he’s contemplating would think like this.

    I doubt even then, unless he’s supposed to be ridiculously oversexed and shallow (it’s not the size of the wand that makes the wizard, after all). Anyway, the thing with breast-checking is it tends to happen with females who are supposed to be straight.

  30. swenson on 25 April 2012, 08:00 said:

    Oh dingdongs I forgot to mention Mulan as an example. You should already know why she is a good female character. If you don’t, you’re hyper lame.

    Seconded on the hyper lame part. I’ve always loved Mulan.

  31. swenson on 25 April 2012, 08:03 said:

    Oh Frederick the Third, I forgot the second part of what I wanted to say:

    The only time I look at another girl’s boobs is when I’m thinking mean things at her for having bigger ones than me. And even then, it’s more “bigger than mine” than a specific size. And if I were narrating a story to someone else (or writing it down in a journal), I wouldn’t mention that part because, well, who cares?

  32. prince O' Tea on 25 April 2012, 08:10 said:

    I don’t think Bella noticed Edward’s package, which is odd because she was salivating over everything else.

  33. Tim on 25 April 2012, 08:14 said:

    Well obviously, she’s a good little Mormon who would never dream of doing the dastardly before marriage. Also it’s probably as flat as his personality down there.

  34. Prince O' Tea on 25 April 2012, 08:54 said:

    The baby chestburster must have been conceived by artificial insemination. Or was planted in Bella’s womb by whatever sexually repressed mormon space vampire that Stephenie Meyer worships.

  35. swenson on 25 April 2012, 09:23 said:

    No, Bella and Edward did the dastardly, it was just post-marriage.

  36. Fireshark on 25 April 2012, 10:21 said:

    sexually repressed mormon space vampire that Stephenie Meyer worships.

    I’d rather not get into Mormon bashing.

  37. autumnfey on 25 April 2012, 13:04 said:

    Glad to see you back, Kitty, and nice essay/list!

    About #10 . . . one of my friends has written a story where the main character describes herself poetically and with a mirror scene, except she’s ridiculously vain and it’s meant to be satirical. Do you think that’s ok?

    #17/18 – I really dislike the Tsundere type female character. It kept me from enjoying “Graceling” very much, and I can’t stand Sakura from Naruto, ugh.

    @Tim: Actually, Bella was always trying to jump Edward; it was him who upheld the “moral” (YMMV) value of no naughty stuff before marriage. Just for clarification.

  38. prince O' Tea on 25 April 2012, 13:21 said:

    No Fireshark, my comment was aimed at Stephenie Meyer herself, rather then mormons in general. I like to think she has her own religion, where vampires sparkle and that domestic violence is always the woman’s fault.

    I’m not sure Swenson, I can’t really imagine someone as self loathing as Edward ever making successful intercourse with anyone, even his spouse. Unless he cried and brooded afterwards for three weeks straight.

  39. Oculus_Reparo on 25 April 2012, 14:08 said:

    Thanks for pointing out that “girly girls” are girls, too! Why is it that a girl has to toss her embroidery, shear off her hair, and run away to the nearest army/navy/traveling circus/etc.? Real women liked (and like) embroidery, too! It doesn’t always do the audience any favors to force female characters to do the same things as men.

  40. Danielle on 25 April 2012, 15:03 said:

    Someone else did point out that there is a LOT of double standards in the Harryverse.

    Oh yeah. The uh….discussion section of the Water Keep spork kinda got derailed…..heh heh….

    Anyhow…..

    Speaking more broadly but still using the Harryverse as an example, I think a HUGE way female authors write female characters wrong is by holding them to a different standard than their male characters. For example, when Draco makes Hermione’s teeth grow to a ghastly length, he’s a TERRIBLE SLYTHERIN PERSON WHO IS GOING TO KILL PUPPIES FOR VOLDEMORT ONE DAY. But when Hermione gives Marietta the worst acne scars ever, it’s not only justified retribution, it’s friggin’ hilarious! Laugh, children, laugh at the silly conflicted girl whose face was terribly mutilated for a moment of moral weakness! Aren’t the Gryffindors wonderful?

    More subtly, when Ron was dating Lavender, Hermione’s CAPSLOCK OF RAGE was portrayed as completely justified because she really liked Ron. Yet when Ginny was dating Michael Corner and it was painfully obvious that Harry liked her, it was….fine. Ginny’s going out with another guy and that’s totally okay, because it’s her choice, but when Ron dates a girl other than Hermione, he’s a terribly deluded person for not seeing Hermione’s wonderfulness.

    Just like male authors need to be careful not to stereotype their female characters, I think female authors need to be careful not to side with their female characters. Girls can be awful. You know those girls who always hang out with their guy friends….and don’t seem to have any gal pals? Yeah. There’s a reason for that. Guys can be petty, shallow and insensitive, but girls can be manipulative and downright cruel. I always love it when female authors capture both the best AND the worst in their female characters. If you want to see an excellent example of this, read anything by Francine Rivers. Her Mother’s Hope and Her Daughter’s Dream are great places to start.

  41. Betty Cross on 25 April 2012, 15:50 said:

    Ginny’s going out with another guy and that’s totally okay, because it’s her choice, but when Ron dates a girl other than Hermione, he’s a terribly deluded person for not seeing Hermione’s wonderfulness.

    This may be related to Rowling’s admission that she modeled Hemione on herself.

  42. Fireshark on 25 April 2012, 16:09 said:

    I like to think she has her own religion, where vampires sparkle and that domestic violence is always the woman’s fault.

    I’m sorry I took that wrong. And yes, that sounds a lot like SMeyer.

  43. Tim on 25 April 2012, 16:09 said:

    Yeah. There’s a reason for that. Guys can be petty, shallow and insensitive, but girls can be manipulative and downright cruel.

    Ask a domestic violence victim who’s belatedly realised the man she thought she loved got his jollies by systematically destroying her self-esteem if guys can’t be like that too (protip: they can).

  44. Danielle on 25 April 2012, 16:18 said:

    Ask a domestic violence victim who’s belatedly realised the man she thought she loved got his jollies by systematically destroying her self-esteem if guys can’t be like that too (protip: they can).

    I wasn’t saying guys couldn’t be like that, or that they never do it. I wasn’t trying to gloss over domestic abusers; I was just pointing out that in fiction, a lot of female authors leave that part out of girl-girl friendships entirely. Their girl characters are either horrible evil witches that nobody likes, or they’re wonderfully little women and everything is sunshine and posies and rainbows go floating up every time their feet touch the ground. Yet in reality, girls can be cruel and manipulative even to their friends, and in middle and high school, the horrible witches are often the most popular.

  45. Ninja Cat on 25 April 2012, 18:47 said:

    Girls can be cruel? Try are. And it’s starting even earlier, if my school has any sort of normalcy to it. In elementary, we were all friends, and everything was good. But once we got to middle school? There was blood. It got bad. Now that we’re 40 days away from being seniors, everything is starting to even out, but now we look back and see the crazies in the middle school and even down to the fourth grade. Kinda gives you a lot of hope for the future, you know?

    And that’s kinda why I write post apocalypse type stuff- it forces the characters to be a bit more self sufficient. Helps avoid the Mary Sues. And I almost fell into the trap of ‘hero gets the lead girl’ once. You know the one; Guy pretends to love girl, girl falls in love with boy, boy starts to fall in love, girl finds out it started out as a lie. Normally they still end up together, but then I thought ‘I could go back to someone who did that to me!’ So I left them apart. Ended up well. Maybe I should go back and work on that one…

    W00T for the mention of Alyx Vance! Definitely my favorite video game character ever. See, those guys at Valve knew what they were doing there. Sensible clothes for running around in a life or death situation, crystal clear reasons for her level of awesomeness. Yup. And now I’m off to go play Half-Life 2 (as I was going to do anyway).

  46. Tim on 25 April 2012, 20:13 said:

    I don’t know, Alyx never really struck me as anything but “programmer’s waifu” and I found it hard to respect her romantic interest in a guy who’s only defining feature is obedience. The whole point of Bioshock was that a character would have to be severely mentally compromised in order to act like the typical silent FPS protagonist.

  47. Deborah on 25 April 2012, 20:28 said:

    About the Hermione thing . . . She’s not some perfect model of how to treat people—she’s a teenage girl who’s upset because she likes a guy who’s dating someone else. Mainly because Ron likes her, but he’s dating someone else for shallow reasons. I was kind of mad at him too, because he was just overreacting to his sister’s insults. I think she’s also mad because Ron hasn’t told her one way or the other, and he keeps not noticing her. I don’t think this is meant to be a picture of how relationships ought to be, but—teenagers make mistakes. And they overcome them in the end.
    I thought the Marietta thing was a bit of an protective overreaction on her part. Remember, she knew what Umbridge was doing to Harry when he spoke against her. She was probably worried that something like that would happen to one of them if they got caught. There’s not really a comparison with Hermione’s teeth because she wasn’t putting anyone in danger at the time. Though I do admit to being somewhat disturbed by that passage. But there was a reason—it wasn’t just ‘I’m picking on this girl because I’m bored.’
    But please don’t let this get off topic. Characters aren’t perfect. The best ones always have flaws. I did find Hermione to be realistic in her reaction. Lots of people do stupid things when they get mad. I’ve done them myself. And people often think ‘it’s ok when I do it,’ even if they wouldn’t be ok with someone else doing it, because people like to make excuses for themselves. Its human nature. People are not perfectly governed by logic.

  48. swenson on 25 April 2012, 20:32 said:

    Aww, I always liked Alyx. Mostly because I wished I could be her.

    I think a large part of the reason why she works is because, well, she hasn’t got much in the way of competition (the female Mass Effect squadmates are probably the biggest ones) and because she feels like she’s competent on her own (which has the side effect of making her an excellent videogame companion, because you never really have to escort her—in some places, she’s the one escorting you.)

  49. Tim on 25 April 2012, 21:31 said:

    Well, I think the main problem is you’re right; we want to be her. Trouble is we’re not her, we’re some undefined hole in the story with no personality, motivation or tangible goals who can’t do anything Dog couldn’t do (notice how Dog keeps vanishing to render Gordon temporarily useful?). I really hate being effectively an extension of a better defined character’s will, since it just makes you feel like the work experience kid who gets to do everything the actual employees can’t be bothered to do.

    Try to imagine directly transferring HL2’s script to a movie; if you’re being honest, Gordon would be either in the background or the parts between actual scenes. He’s never anything more than a spare pair of hands, which means Alyx always comes off as rather false in her interactions with him. Nevermind that I wouldn’t think she’d warm so quickly to the man most directly responsible for the disaster which ultimately killed her mother.

  50. Prince O' Tea on 25 April 2012, 21:32 said:

    Dammit, my computer deleted everything I wrote.

    On the Hermione thing, I wouldn’t have minded it so much, if the book had called her out for it: flaws are interesting and make a character far more likable or believable, but not when the flaws are ignored or are presented as virtues. Then they stop being flaws and we start to enter the terrible, twisted, twilight world of Mary Sue. Especially if the villains are abhorred for similar behaviour. Double standards suck whether they are applied to heroes and villains, or men and women. (I don’t think Hermione is a Mary Sue, but she has moments of it. She certainly feels like the creator’s pet at times.)

  51. Leliel on 27 April 2012, 04:19 said:

    Also, I don’t suppose anyone else has played the video game Mirror’s Edge and can share their opinions on the main character?

    I think Faith is an excellent female character in the sense that her gender is irrelevant. She is a good character and is very clearly female (you listen to her speak throughout the game), but she doesn’t spend the game talking about her boobs or her twoo wuv or anything like that — and the way the other characters interact with her reinforces her femaleness without emphasizing it.

    The game was written by a woman (Terry Pratchett’s daughter, no less), so maybe it’s to be expected that it comes off a little more realistic than usual in this sense. :P

  52. autumnfey on 27 April 2012, 13:58 said:

    @ Prince O’Tea: I agree. I don’t think Hermione is a Sue but the permanent face-scarrage thing made me uncomfortable. I think as far as pet characters go, though, Ginny is worse and Lily is the most Sueish. This may be partly to blame for her role in the story (idealized mother figure), but yeah.

    As far as examples of good (IMO) female characters go . . . I think the girls in Avatar: the Last Airbender were well-developed (Katara, Azula, Toph). I might not have always liked them at certain points, but they were their own people and not the accessories of the hero.

  53. Deborah on 27 April 2012, 19:21 said:

    Um . . . Lily barely appears in the story at all, and we only see her through the memories of a man who was obsessively in love with her. And we don’t know about her flaws, because no decent person is going to go up to an orphaned eleven-year-old and tell him all the wrong things his mother did. She doesn’t get enough page time to justify one way or the other. I’m beginning to have less and less faith in this whole Sue/Stu idea. Too often it just seems to be shorthand for “character I don’t like.”

  54. Prince O' Tea on 27 April 2012, 21:18 said:

    Ginny definitly feels like a Sue and a Creator’s Pet, since she was suddenly brought out of nowhere, and seems to have changed overnight into an ace, even though though we are mostly told how wonderful she is rather then anything she does herself. It doesn’t help that her character shilling often comes at poor old Cho Chang’s expense, who had been derailed into the author’s whipping girl at that point (girl just can’t catch a break with the author or the fanbase). The constant character shilling ended up putting me off Ginny in a big way, (like over enthusiastic advertising tends to do in real life), especially since the evidence that she was better for Harry then Cho was mostly rather superficial (oh she’s a better player at Quidditch then Cho) or circumstantial (the reason she’s not crying all the time is because no one close to her had been murdered at that point, or she’s going to be somewhat more understanding of Harry because she’s grown up with him to an extent, unlike Cho who is only beginning to get to know him as a person.) The annoying thing is that Ginny just needed more screentime and a bit more show don’t tell to be a better character. If we had seen how Ginny deals with grief after Fred’s death, that would have been a good thing (since Cho and Harry deal with grief in completely different ways).

    Lily… I’m not sure, we don’t see enough of her character to really say for sure. You could argue that she is a Purity Sue, but like Deborah said, we are seeing a hopelessly idealised vision of a dead woman in the eyes of someone whose not quite all there himself. Snape has issues to put it mildly. And the dead often get idealised in the eyes of their loved ones (Beth is the most idealised of the four March girls, but she was based on Alcott’s deceased sister.)

  55. Kyllorac on 27 April 2012, 22:45 said:

    Going back to women noticing other women’s breast sizes, women tend to only really notice and feel compelled to comment upon another woman’s rack when said other woman’s rack is all INYOURFACE!!!

    Like this:

    Dearlordabove, she is STACKED. The text doesn’t help matters, either.

  56. prince O' Tea on 27 April 2012, 23:25 said:

    I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt. I want that t shirt.

    Were we talking about breasts or something?

  57. Mingnon on 28 April 2012, 02:00 said:

    Prince – I think you just demonstrated that there can be more things to notice than bewbies.

  58. Perry Rhinitis on 28 April 2012, 04:46 said:

    5. This reminded me of George R.R. Martin.

    17. Fiery-tempered-and-bordering-on-bipolar female characters are fine sometimes, but they are SERIOUSLY crossing the line when they resort to violence. That’s why I’m disgusted by many animé series nowadays. Abuse is NOT OKAY when it’s Female-on-Male. Abuse is not okay period.

  59. Deborah on 28 April 2012, 08:37 said:

    Yes, I was kind of disappointed with how Ginny was handled, too. I wanted to see more of their romance, because it wasn’t very believable.
    And one of these days . . . I’m hoping for a prequel set in the Mauruder era. Maybe we’d see more of Lily then.

  60. Prince O' Tea on 28 April 2012, 09:02 said:

    To be fair on Ginny, I didn’t feel like any of the romances were handled that well. People just randomly went from good friends to lovers in a “instant romance just add water” sort of way. None of them felt very convincing to me.

    I think the whole marrying your childhood friend thing happens only in anime. (Let’s face it, there it’s hard to be attracted to someone who knew you you were five and wet the bed, or ate too much ice cream at a make your own sundae and threw up everywhere on the drive home) They are slightly older when they all meet, but on a whole i’m pretty dismissive of the Victorious Childhood Friend trope.

    I think I will give her a pass on the whole “pretty much all the main characters marry their first or second person they dated”, since the wizarding population is quite small, the wizarding youth is smaller still, and Hogwarts is pretty much were they are all locked up together for most of their free time. I didn’t really buy the whole teen sweetheart thing, since most of the people I know who were dating in high school broke up, and the few who were still dating after graduation all broke up on very ugly terms.

    And yeah I really can’t stand “empowered” female characters who punch the shit out of someone, ask questions later. It’s not sassssssy! and you go girl! It just makes you look like a mentally unstable, aggressive bitch. I remember not being able to get into Love Hina just because of how foul most of the girls were, especially Naru. He walks into her changing by accident? Massive punch in the face. She walks into him changing? OMG he’s a pervert, getting changed in his own room! Massive punch in the face. Domestic violence, it’s awwwwright!

  61. autumnfey on 28 April 2012, 12:26 said:

    Regarding Lily, I admitted that she was in an idealized role and I understand her flaws not being shown because she’s Harry’s dead mom. However, considering she seems to have the brains of Hermione and the popularity/spirit/beauty of Ginny and everyone who wasn’t an evil racist loved her . . . to me she seems too good to be true. In my mind a Mary Sue isn’t necessarily a character I dislike – it’s a character that I can’t find believable.

  62. Kitty on 28 April 2012, 13:15 said:

    man the comments on this thing got derailed fast

  63. Prince O' Tea on 28 April 2012, 16:04 said:

    You could pass that off as unreliable narration. We found that James was actually a vindictive bully and not the saint everyone made him out to be, but Lily never gets humanised the way he did and could come off as a Purity Sue to some. Beth was my favorite character in Little Women, but she isa bit too perfect and like Lilly falls under the Too Good for this Sinful Earth scenario. But since she was based on Alcott’s beloved dead sister, I think we can give her a pass on that.

    It reminds me of a game I played a while ago. The hero idealised his deceased fiancee, and often went on about how beautiful and sweet tempered she was, but in flashbacks, she was a bit of a bitch to her younger sister (who was the main game’s heroine.) She was still a good person, but not as sweet as the hero believed to be.

    Mind you, there area few people I know in real life, who would be called Purity Sues if I turned them into characters in books. They are so sweet, patient and kind to everyone, and the rare times they lose their temper has always been justified (and even then it was after their patience was tried to almost riduculous levels.) People like that do exist, but they are extremely rare and exceedingly difficult to write convincingly.

  64. autumnfey on 28 April 2012, 19:28 said:

    @Prince O’Tea: Yes, that’s true. And I don’t mean to seem like I’m bashing Harry Potter (it was like the joy of my childhood), or Lily – it’s just that I found her idealization through the words of other characters like Slughorn to seem a bit gratuitous when she was already a saintly figure because of her role in the story. I wouldn’t label her as a full-out Sue, but I do think she has some traits that could push her into Sue territory. If that makes sense.

    I do find deceased characters in stories to be interesting, and as you stated in your example, they don’t necessarily have to be presented as the best thing ever by every character. For example, Rhaegar Targaryen in “A Song of Ice and Fire” is idealized by some and loathed by others, which makes him more thought-provoking, in my opinion, because you can see the varying effects he had on different people.

    As for sweetness-and-light type characters, I usually don’t like them, but there are exceptions. I love Tohru Honda from “Fruits Basket,” for example. I have characters of my own who could be considered Purity Sues if I’m not careful. I do think writers should remember that for a character to seem realistic, he or she needs to have flaws. Even super nice people in real life have their doubts, shortcomings and bad days, after all.

  65. Deborah on 28 April 2012, 20:16 said:

    Actually the Slughorn thing kind of makes sense. She was talented, and he likes to ‘collect’ talented people. And one could argue that he was subtly racist towards her because he was surprised that anyone of her ancestry could be so smart.
    Anyway, we never see her long enough to show her flaws. I think putting up with Snape’s bad behavior for that long could point to a flaw—putting up with one’s friends for too long when they are doing things you know are wrong.

  66. Prince O' Tea on 28 April 2012, 23:07 said:

    Yeah, Slughorn felt a bit like the “Some of my best friends are x” type. His admiration of her was pretty condescending, since he seemed pretty stunned that she could be talented and be a muggle born. I do agree with what Autumn was saying though, as I found everyone gushing about her a bit annoying and sugary at times, especially when James got broken off his saintly pedestal and was shown to be actually a very nasty piece of work. Nobody likes a character who can do no wrong. Or actually Deborah, you could go the other way and say her disowning Snape the way she did, and then marrying the man who made his life a misery at school could be a flaw. That’s me though, if someone was that awful to a friend of mine, I couldn’t forgive them. As Blanche Dubois says, “Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable!”

  67. Prince O' Tea on 28 April 2012, 23:10 said:

    I suppose now that I think about it, dead mothers tend to be missed and lamented far more then dead fathers in fiction, even if both parents are deceased. Lilly’s sacrifice is played up far more then James’s was, even though he died trying to protect both his wife and son. The protection charm is identified with Lilly solely, rather then both.

  68. Deborah on 29 April 2012, 09:13 said:

    Because Lily was the one who wouldn’t otherwise have died, because Snape asked Voldemort to spare her. James would have died anyway, so that didn’t work with him. I would be interesting in seeing how his character changed from when he was in school. The main difference I saw between James and Snape is that James was ultimately willing to change, and Snape wasn’t—at least not until later. And I was actually pretty horrified by the way Snape bullied children when he was grown up.
    And didn’t Lily and Snape go through Petunia’s mail? That certainly seems like a flaw to me.

  69. Prince O' Tea on 29 April 2012, 09:59 said:

    True, but I am pointing that in fiction, mothers who die usually get a bigger deal made out of them, even if both parents are dead. I always got the feeling that Lily’s death affected Harry more then James’ did, for some reason.

  70. Deborah on 29 April 2012, 22:33 said:

    Well, I personally don’t think she was wrong to drop Snape, but I don’t want to get into that. I just know that if someone called me a racial slur when I was trying to help him out, I wouldn’t stay friends with him either. I just get irritated by people who blame Lily for all of Snape’s problems.
    Missing fathers are often a big deal too: You Killed My Father

  71. Prince O' Tea on 30 April 2012, 08:51 said:

    They are, but I do feel a lot of the time, dead fathers are treated differently to dead mothers, and there are quite a few cases I can recall where a dead mother was a much bigger deal then the dead father. The trend I’ve noticed (in works I’ve read at least) is that dead mothers are usually more sentimental, and dead fathers create feelings of anger.

    I think Snape and Lily had a pretty complicated relationship to say the least. I wouldn’t say it was all one of their faults. I know people I care about have said some pretty hateful stuff to me when somenthing horrible has just happened to them. The way I see it, Snape shouldn’t have taken it out on her, and she shouldn’t have cut him out of her life for something he said after being tormented by some jocky douchebags. But then again, you can only forgive people so many times.

  72. autumnfey on 30 April 2012, 11:58 said:

    Regarding the dead mother vs dead father thing, they do seem to often be treated differently in fiction. The only story I can think of off the top of my head where both dead parents are given equal treatment is in Naruto. Naruto’s mom had some similarities to Lily, as well (fiery redhead etc), although in my opinion she was presented as a more well-rounded character despite the brevity of her backstory.

    The Snape/Lily story is such a gray area for me . . . on one hand, I’ve been in Lily’s position and defended my brother from being bullied, and because this embarrased him he lashed out at me and that felt really hurtful. That didn’t mean I didn’t forgive him, though. On the other hand, I’m not a very forgiving person when it comes to friends that keep bringing me down, so I can understand her dropping Snape.

    It would be cool to see a full story of the Marauders-era, because I’m very curious as to how and if James changed. I think he, more than Lily, got left out in regards to character development and it leaves a lot of assumptions to the reader.

  73. Deborah on 1 May 2012, 18:48 said:

    I’ve just seen a bunch of people who blamed Lily for all the wrong stuff that Snape did because she ought to made him change. Which leads me to another point: Don’t make all the women responsible for all the guy’s flaws. Its not fair to either side.

  74. Mingnon on 1 May 2012, 19:35 said:

    ^ That would be like saying ‘It’s your fault I hit you! D<’

    Victim blaming would be weird if it weren’t infuriating.

  75. Prince O' Tea on 2 May 2012, 05:43 said:

    Emily in Twilight anyone?

    “Remember girls, if a boy goes crazy and rips half your cheek off, that’s YOUR fault for not wanting to be his girlfriend in the first place! Just show how sorry you are by becoming a dorm mother to his drinking buddies. Who did you think you were, having a choice in the matter? If he says you are soulmates, that’s that.”

    I swear Smeyer is the biggest idiot in the world if she wrote that to be a bwootiful and twoo wuv and not a deeply disturbing relationship. The worst part is how many fans buy into it, and say “EMILY IS A SLUT FOR STEALING SAM AWAY FROM LEAH!”

  76. OrganicLead on 10 May 2012, 08:44 said:

    You know what? Have a female character for the sake of having a female character. Have ten female characters for the sake of having a female character. Just make sure to follow the list, which should be easy if you don’t just have just one token lady.

    Why shouldn’t the wise old mentor be a wise old lady mentor? Why not turn the head of the patrol into a lady? Unless this is a world where sexism is pretty standard, there’s no excuse not to assume every random person our protagonist runs across is going to be a man.

  77. Tolly on 18 June 2012, 03:11 said:

    “5.While it’s true sometimes women think about their breasts, it’s never with any depth (in my experience). Mentioning this at all will probably come across as unnecessary at best and downright creepy at worst. Most obnoxious of all is when the author specifies bra sizes. It makes my face go ಠ_ಠ”

    YES. THIS. Thank you! Thank you so much!

    I had the weirdest experience with this exact problem lately. One of my friends who sometimes looks over my work got to the bit where a female character removed her shirt to show someone her (pretty goddamn impressive) scars, and all he could think about was why I wasn’t paying attention to her boobs? Ohnoes! facepalm The important aspect to the scene was not her chest, dammit, it was what the scars represented to the two characters involved. How is that hard to understand?

    (And no, he doesn’t get to read my work any more.)

  78. Lee on 25 June 2012, 07:11 said:

    “Probably more of a personal peeve than anything else, but I really, really dislike that one female archetype who is rude and often violent to her spineless male love interest, but they end up together in the end anyway. If the genders were reversed, it would be called an abusive relationship—and even then, there will be some segment of your readers who finds it romantic. Yes, Twilight, I’m looking at you. Glaring.”

    Umm… no, that’s still abusive as fuck no matter which way it’s going. Her being female shouldn’t make it any less abusive. Considering that nearly half of all domestic abuse victims are male, it is highly offensive that you would imply that it’s not abusive if a woman does it.

  79. swenson on 25 June 2012, 08:09 said:

    I suspect she meant that people often only recognize it as an abusive relationship if it’s male-on-female, even though it’s abusive no matter which way it works.

  80. Kyllorac on 25 June 2012, 09:53 said:

    Considering that nearly half of all domestic abuse victims are male, it is highly offensive that you would imply that it’s not abusive if a woman does it.

    She never said that. She was actually complaining about the double standard and how a number of writers don’t portray female-on-male abuse as abusive. And how some readers find such abuse romantic of all things.

  81. Bob Boberton MacBoberbob on 25 June 2012, 22:18 said:

    Right Click -> Save Page As

  82. bdust on 25 June 2012, 23:05 said:

    I don’t have anything constructive to say. I enjoyed the article plenty, and agree with the points presented.

    I just want a friendship cookie.

  83. DiscordianKitty on 26 June 2012, 06:59 said:

    I like this a lot, but a little confused at number 11 and 12. Either I’m shallow, or there’s something wrong here.

    I think all human beings in general notice the physical (and mental) qualities of those around them. To claim you don’t think any unkind thoughts when you see an obese girl in a miniskirt is fooling yourself. I’d personally like to see real female characters, not some perfect angels who never, ever notice the physical flaws of others.

  84. Steve on 26 June 2012, 09:24 said:

    My friend just linked this to me, so I’m coming to it a bit late, but wow, great read. Thanks for posting it. I think my favorite bit of advice is from number 9: “give a reason for her to have that skill (like any other skill, you know, don’t make her an awesome musician for no reason) and to not make a big deal about it, in-universe or out.”

    That one’s key for me. The character has exceptional qualities or skills or abilities, and that helps make them interesting. But it’s not super duper cooler just because they’re a woman. They’re already characteristics, so let them speak for themselves.

    I also found myself completely agreeing with number 19, as I’ve seen that happen so many times in bad stories I’ve read.

    Again, thanks for posting these tips!

  85. Alacaeriel on 26 June 2012, 11:05 said:

    One good author of young adult fiction is Tamora Pierce. She uses a wide range of female characters – one who hides her gender but is revealed, and becomes King’s Champion anyway and gets married and does “female things” as well. And that’s just for starters! In fact, I think Pierce does her best to take these stereotypes, and shoot them with a bow and arrow, cast a spell to burn them, and kindly ask any nearby animal to do what comes naturally on them.

    Also, some women are shy of their large busts, but most realise that they can either wear clothes that reveal this fact to all and sundry, or dress like frumps for the rest of their lives. I’d prefer that we let women wear what fits, rather than expecting those with small-to-regular sizes busts to wear clothes that fit, and the buxom ladies to dress like they are trying to hide their bodies – which attracts attention in and of itself. And maybe, just maybe, a heroine could have a large bust. Not to make her stand out, or make her sexy, but to demonstrate that sometimes, real women are naturally stacked, rather than sticking to the “normal” size. Although… I am yet to find a realistic and buxom character… Maybe they only exist in reality?

  86. Tim on 26 June 2012, 18:40 said:

    Also, some women are shy of their large busts, but most realise that they can either wear clothes that reveal this fact to all and sundry, or dress like frumps for the rest of their lives.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

  87. James W. Lewis on 26 June 2012, 22:19 said:

    Wow, fantastic info! As a male author who’s written two novels with four main characters total—and three of them being female—it was definitely a challenge writing in a female voice. I found myself using words that only men would use (like a woman will say “all right” instead of “aw’ight.”). It definitely helps having a female editor!

  88. samarjot on 6 July 2012, 05:23 said:

    good

  89. Commander_Venus on 20 January 2013, 19:47 said:

    “Do men walk around thinking about their junk all the time? No? There you go. Case in point.”

    Uh, I hate to break it to you, but yeah, we kinda do.

  90. imtheavengingavatarkadaj on 28 January 2013, 17:40 said:

    About the breasts thing:
    As a very self-conscious woman, I do over-think my appearance. So I think it depends on the character you’re writing. A self-conscious young woman who isn’t exactly comfortable in her own skin or feels like she should have a bigger cup size might think more about her breast size than a woman more comfortable with herself. And she’d more likely think about in situations that call attention to her body – at the beach, or at a sleepover with other girls for example. Maybe I’m just weird. That’s my opinion.

  91. Asahel on 28 January 2013, 18:05 said:

    “Do men walk around thinking about their junk all the time? No? There you go. Case in point.”

    Uh, I hate to break it to you, but yeah, we kinda do.

    Wow. Ok, 2 things:

    1) Speak for yourself. The majority of my thoughts have nothing to do with my junk.

    2) TMI

  92. ThatGuy on 4 February 2013, 18:47 said:

    This page was EXTREMELY helpful.

    I am working on a rom-com series about the dysfunctionality of relationships. As I wrote descriptions of the characters, I had realized that while writing male characters after myself and a couple close friends, I hadn’t done much development of the two primary female characters. I’ve been banging my ahead against the wall on these two, as I realize they’ll more or less be the voice of reason amongst the cast (I know what morons my friends and I are, and writing pretty closely to that) I’ll admit, the primary two female characters involved one being more or less a man eater, and the other of the Mary Sue variety. Each with a lot more depth, revealed throughout the series, but after reading through your page, I realized I have to get back to the drawing board on these two.

    Thanks again for this article, I’ll be referencing it quite often as I hash out my heroins.

  93. laurie on 15 February 2013, 19:54 said:

    I found this helpful and I kept my mind open. I am a female and to be honest I actually do think about my boobs and fairly in depth. I also think about what other people are wearing and what they look like not just in terms of the vague descriptions of people but what they really look like and what their taste in clothes are. I don’t believe I am shallow though for doing so. Now I am not saying all females do but I do and a few of the people I have spoken to who are also female do too.

  94. Swift on 25 February 2013, 23:40 said:

    I found this to help so much when I’m writing now. Like, all of it. I’m definitely going to start keeping up with this site, now.

  95. Li on 3 March 2013, 19:05 said:

    I really enjoyed this page, but I would like to chime in as a lady who does fairly frequently think about her own boobs. I think it might have more than a little to do with how happy you are about your cup size, and that women at both the high and low ends of the spectrum might think about their breasts more than women comfortably in-between.

    I’m at the high end and most of my bras are minimizers and I am desperate to avoid padding or anything else in a bra that might make them seem larger.

    Here are some times throughout a very typical day when I might think about my breasts:

    1.) I own and frequently wear Dimrs, a particular brand of tiny latex nipple covers that let me wear unpadded bras without having to worry about my nipples being visible. I have to put them into my bras every single day, so that is a moment when I am both interacting with and thinking about my breasts. Before I owned Dimrs, I would spend even more time each day being conscious about the state and visibility of my nipples.

    2.) When I get dressed, I get self-conscious about how much my chest is going to be shown off. I pick out things to minimize cleavage and not reveal my shape too much for work. On a day when I’m going to the movies or to the mall and feeling less self-conscious, I might wear something that shows off my shape more.

    (Side note: WOMEN DO NOT JUST WEAR NICE CLOTHES FOR YOU, MEN. I pick shirts that make my waist look small and pants that make my ass look good for ME and MY SELF-ESTEEM and I’m kinda gay so they have even less to do with you than usual, but I’m not dressing like this to pick up other chicks, either. Sorry? <i>I just like to feel pretty sometimes.</i>)

    3.) For the rest of the entire day, I will occasionally become self-conscious about my “jiggle factor” — when running to catch a bus or train or jogging for exercise, and sometimes even just when WALKING THROUGH THE OFFICE LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING. When I have this happen, sometimes I will look around self-consciously to see if anyone else is looking at me, to make sure my jiggling isn’t as noticeable as it feels like it is. I have occasionally caught guys blatantly staring at me from their cars after I run to cross the street ahead of a light, which then makes me think about my boobs even more.

    …So, speak for yourself?

    I’m usually too shy to check out other girls’ racks, and since I’m not straight and the heroines you’re describing presumably all are (kind of diminishing, btw?), I know I’m not exactly relevant in that respect. But I don’t think I’m any more or less conscious of my breasts than any other girl of the same cup size.

    (34 F, by the way.) (Some of us also know our cup sizes.) (And some of us use European cup sizes, so be careful when you assume a cup size doesn’t exist, too. Specialty bra boutiques stock up to “M”.)

  96. someone on 6 March 2013, 00:30 said:

    Feminist.

  97. someone on 6 March 2013, 01:25 said:

    I’m sorry. Someone please delete my comments.

  98. eekee on 19 March 2013, 19:53 said:

    Coo! I’m glad I got a link to this; going to keep it to re-read when character designing.

    I had a moment of disbelief when I read about authors giving bra sizes as part of a character’s description. I’m no prude, I’ve read plenty of porn, and if you count role-playing I’ve written more, but if I’m reading a non-porn story and the author inserts the character’s bra size without a good reason for it to come up, I’m gong to assume where he got all his writing practice! haha… Another shot I could make at the practice is it’s lazy; it’s picking numbers off a shelf instead of painting a scene with words. It’s lazy and crude… enough ranting, eekee, lol.

    I hope you don’t mind me adding my ha’penny worth about points 11 and 12. 11 by itself makes good sense, but point 12 only covers one reason a women might do that. The juxtaposition makes point 12 look rather definitive; there’s no hint there might be other reasons. I got a little up in arms when I read it because a dear female relative who is no kind of shallow at all, is still capable at the age of 70-something of glaring daggers at women in too-tight jeans when she doesn’t think they’re looking. She might claim something about morality, but I know her well enough to see it’s not, it’s just a part of her. She’s normally as kind as a summer day but sometimes her “claws come out” for no real reason at all.

  99. Shara on 23 March 2013, 09:19 said:

    Well, I do think about my boobs when I take off my bra/go take a shower and during other times that will not be mentioned.

  100. Tim on 24 March 2013, 01:12 said:

    Do you really think of them any more than you, say, think of your feet when you put on your shoes or your legs when you out on your trousers, though? Ie more than “noticing anything that wasn’t there last time?”

  101. Geo on 22 April 2013, 19:44 said:

    @Tim, I can speak for no one but myself, but I do think of my breasts more than I’d think of my feet or my legs in those situations.

    When I had a job, I had to dress very carefully with the highest necklines I could survive in during the summers. I couldn’t wear fitted tops, because it was considered inappropriate. But I also couldn’t wear anything baggy, because that was sloppy. But wearing something that “fit” was still considered inappropriate, because while it’d be loose-ish (fitting without being constricting) around the waist, it still flattered my bossom. And that was not okay in the workplace.

    I’m also self-conscious of my breasts because they’ve been stared at by men and women alike. It’s uncomfortable to the max to be stared at by a man like a piece of meat. I’m ashamed to be stared at by women, because they’re not fake, and I’m sorry that the women staring often hate me for my breast size alone. I’ve spent years trying to minimize their appearance without getting the box boob/uniboob look.

    Breasts can also get in the way. If you’re short like I am and have to sit at a table in public, it’s embarrassing as heck when your boobs squish against the table top when you try to reach your plate. Trying to work out at the gym? Not only do they jiggle when you run (or walk, or turn your head to quickly, or move your hand…) and cause painful bruising, not only can they attempt suffocating you when you do a headstand or block your arms when you’re trying to benchpress — or even put on a seatbelt! — but a bad bra you bought because you had to make do can hurt twice as much. And trying to find a swimsuit that doesn’t oversexualize or dumpify your figure can be an emotionally painful and expensive experience, especially if they grew fast enough to leave stretchmarks or developed large nipples (something some girls will make fun of).

    Women who have average or small boobs are not the only ones who feel self-conscious about their breasts. People notice you even if you’re a wallflower, and often for all the wrong reasons. I’ve had a lot of guys ask me out or try to be friendly, but I always worry because I have no idea if they think it’s just because my breasts are so large for my waist size (36FF, 29waist).

    So while MOST women probably won’t agonize over their breast size and compare theirs with other women’s bra sizes, chances are some will — and they’ll have a good reason for it. If you have a female character who does pay attention to her breast size and the sizes of those around her, applying 9 to this as well: there will be a good reason for it beyond being shallow.

  102. Jo on 22 September 2013, 21:57 said:

    I think about my breasts fairly frequently, too. I’m pretty happy with my size, so it’s something that does cross my mind around once a day. I’m really not sure if that’s uncommon. Maybe it’s just depends on the type of person you are, but there has to be other women who think about their breasts somewhat often, too.

    Also, I do notice what other women look like. It may have to do with my sexuality – I’m bi – it may just be that this statement “A lot of women won’t give very deep regard to other women’s bodies.” isn’t applicable to some women. I notice them way beyond a false smile or a snooty outfit, and I don’t think that makes me shallow. Noticing does not mean that I discriminate against them because of their looks, or that I prioritize their looks, or that I think their looks are an important factor of the their personality. I don’t necessarily hone in on the negative, and if my attention is drawn to the negative aspects of their appearance it doesn’t change my view of them.

    Otherwise thumbs up! Also I loved this part, “Female characters should be characters first and female second.”

  103. Tettey Nartey on 19 October 2013, 07:58 said:

    This was a good read. I’m writing a screenplay (first one ever made) and I want to make sure I follow some rules correctly. I’m a guy, and though I have a male lead character, the female character(s) to me matters as well; they share a great equal amount of importance for their presence in the story; Please check it out to let me know if the story adds up, it’s called “shard”; E-mail me any questions and I’ll be happy to answer, thanks for the read!

  104. Alchemist on 13 November 2013, 01:19 said:

    Katniss, at one point, mentioned an unnecessary comment about her boobs. She is not a good example of female characters, she is many of these stereotypes, and the plot of the hunger games is the same premise as twilight (bad love triangle). I am repulsed that so few people realize how sexist it is.
    (sorry for my bad english)

  105. lilyWhite on 13 November 2013, 20:25 said:

    the plot of the hunger games is the same premise as twilight (bad love triangle).

    Because Twilight has the Hunger Games in it.

  106. Carolynne Fielder on 11 March 2014, 03:19 said:

    I wrote a novel and the main character does seem to have a small bit of nitpickiness when it comes to other female character’s breasts and her own. I have a reason for it with regards to her character (she IS shallow, but it’s never explicitly stated).

    I don’t think that I made it obvious enough though.

  107. Nick on 11 March 2014, 20:25 said:

    In 2013 there was a reboot of a notorious video game character that symbolized everything that was wrong with female characters in video games, Lara Croft. I am relieved to say that this version is a complete overhaul from her predecessors. Gone are the booty shorts, insect thorax, and breasts that would eventually lead to back problems later in life. This was also one of the few video game main characters that was actually written by a woman instead of a largely male-dominated writing team. The differences in style were both significant and very much refreshing.

    In fact that is the very reason why I came to this website and others to determine the pitfalls that I as a man had fallen into when attempting to write an empowered female character. Once you play a good female character or watch a hero like Catniss in HG it really made me ask myself what are they doing right that I am so clearly missing? The biggest one is the first point you presented as that indicated an entirely different dynamic of thought process I hadn’t even considered.

    Thank you for the article as it was most thoughtful and beneficial.

  108. Tim on 19 March 2014, 19:19 said:

    I am relieved to say that this version is a complete overhaul from her predecessors

    Do you mean in the way she spent the entire game leaning on male authority figures or the way she spent most of it whimpering and / screaming?