“Girl power in my mind is to let girls be exactly what they are. Let them be angry. Let them be resentful. And rebellious. Let them be hard and soft and loving and sad and silly. Let them be wrong. Let them be right. Let them be everything. because, they are everything.”
Writing female characters can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.
If you are a female writer, do you often find it difficult to write well rounded and three dimensional female characters? I think there’s a misconception that women should be written as either the stereotypical soft hearted saint or the tougher than steel bad girl, with little room for characters in between.
I am reminded of one of my favorite characters from The Tombs of Atuan. Arha. The Devoured.
“They can’t punish me. They don’t dare…They cannot touch me. I am Arha” She said in a shrill, fierce voice, and burst into tears.
The character Arha is a little girl who was brainwashed into thinking she was the chosen priestess that was protecting the ancient gods down in the dark tombs. When she utters the above line, she is crying, and so afraid that the other priestesses are going to cast her out or hurt her because she is different. There is anger in this character, curiosity, and righteousness. She is cared for by another outcast who has also been brainwashed, as all the priestesses have, into believing they are doing good by protecting these ancient gods. Her caretaker is described as ugly, and yet Arha considers her a friend.
I went into reading The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin thinking it would be a story about a girl like so many other girls in fiction, and yet I found myself astounded by the depth of character that Arha had. Sometimes she didn’t do the noble things. Sometimes she didn’t do the morally right things. Sometimes she acted selfishly and purely for her own personal comfort and because she just damn felt like it.
When given the choice to free our hero, Ged, from the maze below her, she chooses instead to imprison him in a room and keep him barely alive by bringing him food and water so that he might answer her questions. She does this without the knowledge of her friend and caretaker, or any of the other priestesses. She plays with him in a way that modern characters would never be written to do, and finally her feelings towards him change from absolute distrust, to unequivocal faith.
It is this sort of character development and personal change that makes for an interesting story.
When reading novels written in modern times, I find it difficult to find female characters as memorable as those written in older books. They often feel uninspired, two dimensional, and unrealistic. I do appreciate the focus on giving females more leading roles, but find that the stories don’t quite hold my interest the way older novels do. Does anyone else feel like novels have fallen into a cookie cutter formula? We as humans and women are all diverse and have many emotions within us. I would like to see that diversity in emotion portrayed in fiction! I would like to read a modern novel and feel a connection with the characters, female characters especially.
Putting a female character in a position where she must save the world, or bring down the evil empire, or find the love of her life…those plots are all very good, but mean nothing without the underlying development of a real human being. I found myself unable to relate to characters like Katniss Everdeen and Celaena Sardothien. Is it because the characters are just aimed at someone other than me? Or is it that the writing fails to capture the depth that all females harbor in reality? Arha was real to me because she was flawed as much as she was fantastic. As in all of us, there is darkness along with the light. There should be a mind behind the actions a character takes. Not just a cookie cutter architype.
Do you have any favorite female characters? Leave your recommendations for books with your favorite female characters down below so I can check them out!
Take care, and don’t forget to take your medications!