Stop Giving Me ‘Strong’ Female Characters

I’ve been seeing more female characters lately, which one would think is a good thing. Unfortunately, female characters don’t mean much when they’re barely characters. Instead, they’re often one-dimensional props. You know the type I’m thinking of. Extremely sexy clothing & figure, sarcastic, literally kick ass aaaaaaaand . . . not much else. Deep background? Nuanced characterization? Complexities? Almost nonexistent.

In my experience, this doesn’t pertain as much to books, but then again I tend to mostly read books by female authors who aren’t as guilty of this (because women are *gasp* people!) That’s not to say this isn’t an issue, though. Because it certainly is.

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Damn it, Tifa. You better be glad I love Final Fantasy so much.

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It doesn’t help that Abrams straight-up admitted this scene was solely for the male viewership.

I don’t mind sexy, slim women. Truly I don’t. Physically fit and empowered women are by far my favorite characters to write, and are even inspiring in a way, but women are more than that. They are their backstories, their emotions, their inner conflicts. Instead of saying “okay, we have a walking pair of boobs that throws punches; diversity, check” and stopping there (please, please do not stop there–don’t even go there to begin with), instead give me more Furiosas, more Dana Scullys, more Marthas, and more Eowyns. (Also pls give me more PoC and LGBT+ characters thx.)

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I want women who are developed, fully dimensional characters, with flaws, backstories, and who’s importance isn’t relegated solely to her beauty or sexual prowess.

In short, don’t give me a female character who can throw punches, is therefore considered progressive, and stop there. Don’t give me a physically strong female character, give me a female who has strong characterization. That’s what makes all the difference.

Who are your favorite female characters? What do you like best about them?

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2015’s Bad Book Compilation

As some of you may know, I don’t do negative book reviews any more. I don’t have the time to invest in something that ultimately does no one any good, nor do I have the mental energy.

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However, as any storyteller knows, negative reviews have one big, fat benefit. They show you what doesn’t work, and you can then in turn look for x, y, or z in your own stories. Since everyone’s trying to improve their craft, it doesn’t make sense to at least not take what we can from an otherwise less-than-positive-reading experience.

Without further ado, here’s what I gleaned from my not-so-great (read: terrible) reads of 2015!

How to Murder a Murder Mystery

  • Don’t leave any clues. ANY.
  • Don’t explore the mind of the killer until the last 5 pages, and, even then, skim.

How to Let You’re Reader Know You’re Smarter than Everyone Else (aka How To  Be Generally Annoying)

  • Abuse and exploit the thesaurus.
  • The more confusing the sentence structure, the better. If your reader doesn’t follow what you’re trying to say, good. It’s their fault for not being as smart as you.
  • Name drop important people and places every other sentence.

How to Write High-Brow Fantasy that Only You are Worldly Enough to Understand

  • Use a plethora of made-up deity and object names without ever explaining or contextualizing them.
  • Never explain or explore the characters’ motives. It’s fantasy; who needs motive when you have magic and monsters?

How to Write a White-Noise Dystopian Novel

  • Combine elements from Hunger Games, Stung, etc. to form a generic world.
  • Your protagonist MUST BE “the special/chosen one” or unique in some discernible way.
  • If there isn’t a love triangle, you might as well quit already.

How to (Not) Write an Action Novel

  • Only ever write action scenes. Leave no room to breathe, no exploration of the character’s psyche, etc. Only fighting, all the time.

Stand-Out Character Guidelines

  • Do not give your characters distinguishable personalities; readers should ONLY be able to tell who’s talking/thinking when you say their name.
  • Making literally every character in the book a straight white old male. (LITERALLY. EVERY. CHARACTER.)
  • Only give teh womens lines like “Oh, goodness Papa!” or “I’m a delicate flower incapable of deep thought!” (Bonus points if they’re breathy exclamations or shy exchanges.)

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The very least a bad read can give you is a writing lesson, so run with it! What lessons did less-than-enjoyable books teach you in 2015?