Soo, I had this craft chat thing awhile back and the first topic was Female Characters. Just a few people showed up, but we had a decent chat. However, since only a few people could come, my friend Su suggested:
"Since so many folks missed out, why don't you start a post about it? Write your opinion, maybe throw in some of those questions you were going to ask at the chat, and then all of us can respond in the comments. The exchanges may be slower, but we can still get a pretty good chat out of it, I'm sure."
Good idea, Su! =D I just had to wait until BEA craziness was over. So let's chat here. Why not. I'll ask some questions all week, at least until I run out.
First question: Is it easier for you to write female or male characters? Why do you think that is, anyway?
I have been getting praise for Nimira in Magic Under Glass for being a strong heroine, and I have to admit, this surprised me a bit because I thought I kind of sucked at writing girl characters. When I was a kid/teen, I never wanted to be a girl in pretend games or write about girls. (I did like to draw girls, though, but that is because their clothes are better.)
I think I had the subconscious idea that girls couldn't be awesome. At least, not in the way I liked. Thinking back to the girls in popular media of my childhood, there were princesses and cackling evildoers and cute little girls. I had the entire Lady Lovelylocks castle, but I didn't want to BE Lady Lovelylocks. I just wanted her clothes. I loved some of the girls in books like Ramona Quimby and Anastasia Krupnik, but I didn't want to be them. They were too much like me. I liked characters who were accomplished and awesome and maybe a little eccentric and pompous. It wasn't that girls couldn't be strong back then. It was that they rarely got to be awesome in that particular way I craved.
I grew up in a sort of age of compensation for the crimes of the past. Girls in stories before my time tended to be wimps and damsels in distress and sexy window dressing or just plain excluded. By the 80s and 90s, we had plenty of "token" girls and sometimes girlcentric entertainment. Fantasy books had started to include the bad-ass warrior woman. But it seemed to me that these stories missed the point to some degree. I still didn't want to be a girl (well, in fiction anyway), write about a girl. I was perhaps LESS interested in the bad-ass warrior woman than I was in the girly girl who at least sported a hot wardrobe.
Girls were still not quirky.
So sometime in my twenties, part consciously and part unconsciously, I decided I was going to let the ladies be not just strong, but quirky and awesome and tragic-past-y and funny. Somewhere along the way I started liking Nimira almost as much as Erris. That would never have been the case back in the day. Triumph! I hope girls of the modern era have some more fascinating characters to inspire them than I did.
However, I know many writers found it easier to write girls than boys. Please let me know which you prefer and why!
I'll also have some more reader-centric questions upcoming, so whether you're a reader or writer, stay tuned.