Writing Female Characters In Fantasy – Guest Post by Jaq D Hawkins…

It has become cliché that male writers are notoriously bad at writing female characters, especially in the Fantasy genre, but are female writers any better?

This question came to mind because I often find female characters in novels written by women writers this century as either totally airheads or unrealistically badass. Two of my own free-spirited female characters (in different books) have taken some review criticism for behaving, quite honestly, more realistically.

One was a goblin character, Talla, who comes from a culture where there is a shortage of females and a need to breed more younglings. It seemed only natural to me that in such a circumstance, the female goblins would be given sexual choice and would be free of the restrictions that human religions impose on women and girls. These are a people who live close to nature. Observe any species in the wild and the goblin society reflects similar characteristics, including a certain freeform breeding culture.

The other character was a farm girl with an adventurous spirit. She actually reflects the typical preacher’s daughter who rebels against a restrictive life and was partially modelled after someone I know in real life, though the airship pirates she joins are totally fictional. She behaved exactly as the person I know would in similar circumstances. What spirited girl wouldn’t run off to go adventuring with airship pirates rather than staying on a boring farm to work as a drudge all her life?

To be fair to myself, the lead character in To Dance With Dragons (previously titled Demoniac Dance) is an innocent girl who isn’t subject to the wanton behaviours seen in the two characters mentioned above. In fact, she’s even shocked by some of what she witnesses within the goblin world.

I recently read a popular Historical Fiction book by a well-known male author that was excellent, apart from the reactions he gave his female lead. Somehow I couldn’t believe that a woman whose only experience of sex was having been multiple-raped as a teenager, would be capable of taking the lead in a developing sexual relationship with a younger lover.

I must give a mention to the cliché metal bikini on many Fantasy book covers depicting warrior women who wouldn’t have much protection from such skimpy ‘armour’. Things have developed a long way to give us characters like Brienne in Game of Thrones who wears proper protective armour and had devoted her life to becoming a knight.

Female thieves fare better in the wardrobe department in Fantasy fiction, but like the fighters, they are often given skills that push belief a bit far. There are of course exceptions. Kat, the princess in Jon Cronshaw’s Ravenglass Chronicles, develops a skill for climbing from childhood, but when it comes to fighting skills, she has to overcome her lack of experience to learn even basic moves.

I found her character refreshing and far more realistic than many I’ve seen. I do recommend the series, which is very well-written and has been commanding my attention recently.

What is it about female characters that makes them harder to write realistically than male characters? Are we so complicated? Or is it a matter of expectations of women and pushing back against those expectations in the case of the badass female fighters? What do you think?

Jaq D Hawkins

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6 thoughts on “Writing Female Characters In Fantasy – Guest Post by Jaq D Hawkins…

  1. I think women have a different definition of what constitutes ‘strong’ and ‘brave’. I like strong female characters, but I define strength with words like ‘determination’, ‘smarts’, ‘self-control’ etc. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we’ve become more influenced by the game heroines or supergirls of films in the badass respect but again there, they too, are required the skimpy costumes for some reason. It should be given thought to the culture the female warrior comes from as well when it comes to what she wears. If it’s a winter landscape, for instance, I wouldn’t see why there wouldn’t be layers. Not if they didn’t want to freeze to death. Of course, they could have some magical heat powers, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    • -grin- and guess who writes those ‘game heroines’? I play MMO’s [massively multi-player online games], and the costumes are usually designed by men /for/ men. As a result I can always tell if a ‘female’ character is actually being played by a woman or a man. If ‘she’ is flashing heaps of boob and skin, the player is a male.
      Interestingly, when female gamers create male characters, we tend to make them ‘prettier’ – i.e. more rock star than The Amazing Hulk. 😀

      Liked by 1 person


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