My Affinity For Female Protagnoists

Posted: June 22, 2014 in Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I do a lot of female leads in my writing And for some time now, it’s been bothering me. Not the kind of bothering like “I’m a dude, I should write more male leads”, but the kind of bothering where you ask every four-year-old’s favorite question: why? Why do I feel such an affinity towards female leads? And why do they always seem to come into the story with some baggage or that they get baggage early on in the story?

I’ve been wondering about both points for some time, and I think I might finally have some answers. For why I prefer using female protagonists, I think it has a lot to do with my childhood. I grew up in a family with a lot of women in it. That has some upsides and some downsides, one of the upsides of which being that I had some very good examples of strong women right in my own home. My mother is a woman rabbi and became ordained in an era when there were very few women before her or with her in that role (there still aren’t many women rabbis, but there are certainly more than when my mother was ordained). And sometime after she divorced my dad, she became involved with another woman, who I’ve come to look up to as another mother. My mother’s partner is an accountant, and was there countless times when I was having trouble with math throughout middle school and high school. She was also one of the people who taught me to play sports during the few instances where I showed an interest in sports (rare instances, but thy exist).

Besides my family, some of my childhood heroes were actually heroines. Growing up, I was very big into shows with girls who could have normal lives one minute and kick monster ass the next. This primarily involved Sailor Moon and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, both of which I’m still huge fans of (by the way, Sailor Moon is getting an anime reboot next month. If you haven’t guessed, I’m kind of counting down the days till then). Besides sometimes having really creepy monsters and awesome battle scenes, these shows portrayed women as more than just screaming damsels in distress who need a man to help them. They show women able to fight back as well as have real character development and  growth. With all these influences, it’s no wonder as a writer I tend to write more female protagonists than male.

And I think that that’s a good thing, really. If you look at our contemporary media, you see several more men than women as leads, and generally the men are much more developed. Sure, there are women like Katniss Everdeen and Black Widow or Mystique, but the former seem very underdeveloped in Books 2 and 3 when you consider how she keeps going back to her romantic issues and how her life is mostly manipulated by powerful men, and the latter have yet to have their own solo films. Recently there’s been controversy over the new Assassin’s Creed game not having any female leads, and most video games still don’t have as many female playable characters as men, and those that do don’t always take the time to develop their leading ladies. To be sure, there are a new class of women (particularly women of color) emerging in the media who are portraying women in strong, positive, fully-developed roles, such as Olivia Pope in Scandal, the detectives from SVU, and even the women from Orange is the New Black. But there is still a long way to go, and the landscape is still very uneven.

Even though my work is only read by a small amount of people at this point, I like to think that with the large number of female protagonists I write (and hopefully received as well-written role models) is helping to correct the problem and give more girls what I was given at a young age, which was some great examples of strong women.

As for the whole thing with the baggage that a lot of my characters come with, I think that can be said for a lot of writers. Let’s face it, authors tend to have their characters come with baggage. Maybe they’re orphans, or they lost a loved one, or they have a dark past with family issues or drugs or something. I think that’s because we like our characters to be a little broken, in order to make them more identifiable and to make it easier for us to facilitate character growth. Honestly, I think it’d be more of a challenge to give a compelling story with development and growth to a character who doesn’t have anything worse than clinical depression or a tendency to pig out on junk food.

In any case, I’m happy to say I now have a better understanding of myself. I look forward to seeing what I can do and what I can write now that I have a better understanding of my process and the sort of characters I create.

Well, that’s all for now. I think I’ll sign off now and watch some TV. Have a good night, my Followers of Fear.

  1. I also like writing about female protagonists, but female villains even more so. Single White Female really did it for me!

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