(Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Just Write Women Because It Isn’t Hard And Is Very, Very Necessary.)
Mostly this is aimed at my fellow white dudes, but it works really well for anyone who is male or male-identified.
As a man starting out writing novels, I was fairly terrified about writing women. I wanted to write them, and I wanted to write them at least reasonably well, and I didn’t want to completely fuck it up and do a disservice to the other half of the population because THAT’S BEEN DONE PLENTY, THANKS. As it turns out, it’s a very simple process, and there is no mysterious magic or anything involved. I’ll take you through it – and though it might sound a little snarky (okay, more than a little,) and you may feel a little attacked – if so, I apologize, but please understand that this is meant to help you improve your writing, as well as to help you better yourself as a human being because holy shit it’s the twenty-first century are you kidding me.
1. Realize That Women Are Not Goddamned Unicorns Or Aliens.
This may sound facetious, or magical common sense, but the biggest thing I’ve heard from other authors that holds them back from writing women as major characters/protagonists is that they’re afraid they won’t sound genuine – or, as one fellow put it, “I really just don’t understand how women think.” Well, as it turns out, women are people, and people generally think the same about a lot of things. You really don’t need to mystify the whole thing. Yes, okay, men and women may have different thought processes at times, but this is largely an illusion propagated by society and not an inherent thing. Just write people. Women are people.
2. Remember That Women Are Not Stereotypes.
This comes back to what I said in point one – women are people and thus are pretty much possessed of the same drives, thoughts, but because they’re different from you it’s easy to try and break them down into stereotypes in order to understand them better. PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS.Our society basically revolves around this concept already, and it’s not great – so you’re doing yourself a huge favor as an author and a human being by consciously skipping this and doing away with thousands of years of unequal thinking. While stories based on archetypes work well, stories based on stereotypes deal damage that cannot be easily done away with. People don’t conform to stereotypes. Women are people.
3. Remember That Women Make Up Over Half Of The Population. That’s A Lot Of Readers. Because Women Read.
There are over seven billion people in the world, and more than half of them are women. A great deal of them read. That’s a shitload of people you’re going to alienate by writing up big manly sausage-fests without any women with agency or power in your stories. People like to see themselves represented in fiction. They like to be able to imagine themselves in the role of the protagonist. Women are no different, because women are people.
4, Remember That It Is Vital To Innovate And Avoid The Status Quo To Improve As A Writer.
Women are still relegated to bit parts in a huge amount of fiction. This is what we call a trend – a trend that’s lasted for thousand of years, even though the first novel was, in fact, written by a woman. This means it’s ripe for getting smashed the fuck open like the foetid pinata that it is. As it happens, authors are creatures of change, which means you’re the perfect agent to help make this happen. As a man writing stories in which women are protagonists, major characters, or simply characters with agency and power of their own, you are breaking this trend, which enriches your ability to write as you expand beyond the current borders in which you may be locked and find new worlds in which to create. People really like to see work that bucks the status quo. Women also like this, because women are people.
5. Remember That Women Are People.
In case I haven’t drilled that in enough.
6. Finally, Sit Down And Write.
Yes, we’ve reached the last step, in which you finally put pen to paper, fingers to keys, or whatever. Hopefully, now that you’ve sat down and had your Five Affirmations, you’re not quite so unsure as to how to better represent women in your work. Hopefully also I haven’t run you off the idea of it altogether – but really, so much of fiction, especially genre fiction (sci-fi, I’m looking right the fuck at YOU) is woefully devoid of positive representation that remembering these points and writing a diverse and non-monogender story is making you a better writer as well as a better human being.
And if you’re still with me by this point, allow me to unlock SUPER AWESOME POINT NUMBER SEVEN:
7. These Rules Basically Apply For Everyone Else Who Isn’t You.
People of color, queer people, etc. are all pretty poorly represented in many genres. You’d be doing the world (and these folks) a lot of service by upping representation in your work. Remember, authors are agents of social change as much as they are storytellers – you make things more colorful, more just, and more interesting by their inclusion as richly written characters of agency and importance all their own.
I mean it just makes better stories, man. And who can argue with that?
As usual, I am happy to receive and answer comments or questions.