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Old 05-13-2004, 03:43 PM   #1
Olorin_TLA
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Writers out there - what about genders?

I decided to start a new thread not to clutter up the "Are you writing serious fantasy II" thread, but could we have a quick poll to see if most people main/non-main characters are the same gender as they are?

And what do they look/act like? Do they tend to be a little like you, or are similarities only becuase you don't wantto wirte about a blue-skinned fantasy-hater?

For me, most of my protagonists are male, like meself. In fact, practically all are. It's no that I doubt my ability to write as a woman...it's just that...I haven't really.

They don't look that much like me, but at the same time there aren't any short ones really, and I have my fair share of "swarthy" people everywhere with dark hair. But I have plenty of other type,of many vairedothertypes,as well,and none if it was aconcious-appearence thing. As for behaviour, well, they're nice people who I'd like, , and they would share quite a fewof my views, but that;sbecause i don't WANT to waste what little time I have on this earth writing about people I DON'T like!
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Old 05-13-2004, 05:28 PM   #2
Son of Númenor
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When I write a short story, I almost exclusively use men as main characters. I am not confident in my ability to create a believable female heroine, since my writing is most often based on or inspired by personal experiences & I generally try to have my characters reflect how my thought process would be in the situation I am writing about. Having never been a woman or thus having never seen if there are any major internal differences in the thought processes of women & men, I do not really feel qualified to attempt to write from the vantage point of a woman.

To tie this back in with Professor Tolkien somehow:

I think J.R.R. Tolkien probably felt the same way to an extent, which is why his important female characters tended to represent ideals - Eowyn desires to take an equal part in war as men, no visible motivations are ascribed to Lúthien besides her immense love for Beren, Galadriel is a wise matriarchal leader, & Arwen is a beautiful princess party to a mysterious love with one of The Lord of the Rings' main protagonists . I am not saying that these characters are shallow or that they necessarily lack depth of personality, but merely that they come across as, to a degree, representing different points on the spectrum of female literary creations of Tolkien's time period, rather than as characters that Tolkien is comfortable describing in their everyday lives like Frodo & Bilbo. This (& it is just my own interpretation, & not necessarily the right one) seems attributable to the fact that Tolkien was a man, & did not possess a high degree of confidence in creating unique, subtle female characters whose personas & motivations could blend seamlessly with the plot of his stories in lead-role capacities.
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Old 05-13-2004, 08:06 PM   #3
symestreem
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I have always written main characters of the same gender as myself, for the reasons Son of Numenor said, but I have many supporting characters of the opposite gender.
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Old 05-13-2004, 08:14 PM   #4
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I always base one of the main characters on myself, that way I'll be able to write them easier, I'll know what they are thinking, and be able to put it down on paper. Another note would be that I normally write my characters into siduations that I, myself have been in. But yes, normally my main characters are female. I also tend to write in an evil female character, though not always the main evil, for the same reasons.

But I also write in at least one character that's male, and has a leading role, that way my stories don't become blind out Mary-Sues. Also, they tend to need some male guidance in the stories anyhow, though I will NOT write romance! Ick.

But yeah, that's my thoughts here.

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Old 05-14-2004, 09:59 AM   #5
Estelyn Telcontar
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Silmaril

Since the Books forum is really reserved for discussions of Tolkien's books, I'm moving the writers' threads to the Novices and Newcomers forum. Please continue to share ideas there!
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Old 05-14-2004, 05:21 PM   #6
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I don't write much original fantasy, but in all the RPGs I have played in I have always been a male, the opposite gender. I had wanted to challenge myself when I first started RPing so I decided to be a male. Ever since then, I have always ended up as a male character, whether it was because I just enjoyed being a male or the RPG called for it. In the few short things I have written though, my main characters were mainly female.
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Old 05-14-2004, 05:27 PM   #7
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Well, since I was the one who started this, I better reply with the advice I got. (Oh, BTW, Olorin, great idea to put it on another thread!)

My characters are female. My male main characters turn out flat and boring. Even *I* am unable to relate to them. (And that's really bad!) As a sollution, Imladris (I think...) suggested that you study any males that you might have around you such as fathers, brothers, or guys at school/work. Study their ways, and then see what you come up with. Another suggestion, by Olorin (I believe) was to stick one of the male BDers into one of your stories and see what you come up with. (This would only be practice, of course.)

Quote:
But I also write in at least one character that's male, and has a leading role, that way my stories don't become blind out Mary-Sues.
I think it's always good to write in at leasst one opposite-gender-of-the-main-character character. Otherwise you might seem biased or something. Unless there is an all one-gender world...hmmm...
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Old 05-14-2004, 09:29 PM   #8
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So far most of my main characters (especially when I write from their perspective) have been female, like me. But generally, the evil characters will be male or more of an asexual character. In my current novel, I think the evil will be more of a council of lesser evils, making up as a whole a larger evil. There will, of course, be females on the council. I think the reason I don't usually write from the perspective of males is because the only close male friend I have (no, I've never had a boyfriend, so don't go there) is so enigmatic. I can't understand him at all somedays, but I love him all the more for it. My female friends, I can usually predict what they'll say, what they're thinking, and to a certain extent what mood they are in whitin seconds of seeing them. Not that they are boring or shallow, its just that I can read they're body language and the slightest outward twitch, and know what's going on with them. I just DO NOT understand the opposite sex's thoughts and reasonings.

I think it is very important to have a mix of characters. An audience must have someone to relate too. If your audience is mainly preteen girls, go ahead and cut the leading men down to one or two, and feel free to talk about all your female gripes (and pains). But if your audience is diverse, its best to have a character that everyone can find a trait (physical can work, but emotional flaws eg. anger issues work the best) that they can relate too, and 'latch' on too for the diration of the story. That's just my opinon though.
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Old 05-14-2004, 10:43 PM   #9
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Not that I've ever finished anything fanfiction-wise that I'm writing, but, for some reason, I rarely make up main original characters in fanfiction; in my original fiction, I have written females mostly, but the story called for it. Most of my attempts at fanfiction are written in omniscient voice and have only a few peripheral female characters. The main focus is an exploration of existing characters. So far the focus has been on Frodo and on Pippin (in two different stories), my two favorite LOTR characters. As to whether they are like me, well, only in some ways! In a super-long original Bildungsroman-type fiction, however, the main character was me. But I'd never put her in a fanfiction, especially not in Middle Earth!
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i don't WANT to waste what little time I have on this earth writing about people I DON'T like!
I would think this would be a rewarding and enlightening exercise, to force yourself to really think about what drives someone you absolutely despise and then write him or her faithfully according to what you figure out. If you did it well, you might even find you feel rather sorry for that character, and it would rise above the person upon whom you based it.

Cheers!
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Old 05-15-2004, 07:41 AM   #10
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Ah, I can see what you mean...I do have characters (hoguh not the main-main protagonists (although a couple have ended up killing their best friends/close family, with varying degrees of "blame" (as opposed to them not intednign it to go so far)) who aren't the kind I'd like. What I really meant was that none of my characters are like some people I've met in real life - ultimately petty, unreasonable, etc. Even my evilest villains are at least not that! I understand that it could be a very enlightening process...however, there are a few people I know who are so extremely petty, etc, where nothing gets through to them, that I think that if I wrote as them I'd end up writing something abominable (to me), as they'd just be so stubborn they'd drive the reader (or author) made! Just my humble opinion though.
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Old 05-15-2004, 09:01 AM   #11
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Nearly all my characters, especially on RPG games, are the opposite gender. I don't know why, but I prefer to write male -- probably because they are so cool. Though I do have one story that has an all female cast...But males can do so many more things than females, and I find that it is very easy to turn the heroine into a wanna-be-male who can do everything (if not better!) than a guy can. Eowyn, thank goodness wasn't like that.
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Old 05-15-2004, 10:42 AM   #12
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Quote:
But males can do so many more things than females
Do tell.
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Old 05-15-2004, 10:48 AM   #13
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Join the Freemasons? Not join the Women's Institute?
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Old 05-15-2004, 11:21 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sirithheruwen
Do tell.
I do not want this to turn into a femininst discussion, so please don't take it as such. I find most heroines to be blithering idiots who think they can fight better, etc. It's simply not true. Men are stronger, more able to go and do war, are sometimes braver, and have the capacity to do things that women simply cannot do. *shrugs*

That's why I like it that Eowyn had to have Merry help her...she's my type of girl. She was willing to fight, eager to fight...but she wasn't superwoman either.

Freemasons? What are those?
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Old 05-15-2004, 11:37 AM   #15
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Quote:
I do not want this to turn into a femininst discussion
Agreed.

Quote:
I find most heroines to be blithering idiots who think they can fight better, etc. It's simply not true. Men are stronger, more able to go and do war, are sometimes braver, and have the capacity to do things that women simply cannot do. *shrugs*
Actually, when writing fantasy, it's all up to the writer. If you want women to be better than men, they can be. *shrugs also* Clearly, we disagree, but I will leave this at that.
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Old 05-15-2004, 12:34 PM   #16
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Eye

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Freemasons? What are those?
They are a very old, all male religious club. George Washington was a member. Some people have the club's logo put on their tombstones.
When it comes to characters going to war, or any other test of strength, I think to make it believable, you must not have your character be a super person. (Unless, of course the are a super hero, or just insane.) Any soldier will tell you that in a combat situation, they are scared. They'd be silly or a little crazy if they weren't. To get them through, the rely on instincts and training.
So, main characters who are male, and are put to the test and don't show any type of fear, resolve, etc. just bug me. In the movies, a guy will kiss a photo of his girlfriend or mother even. This shows that he's thinking of them and maybe even praying he'll be back with them.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If your main character is male, and say his family has been kidnaped and are being held hostage. I expect him to charge in there and be madder than anything. Not saying he'll be reckless, just that he won't care as much about himself, just getting his family back, or show as much outward fear.
Most of the stronger female heroines I read about (and write about) can show just as much courage as anybody, depending on them and the situation. If they're stubborn, they'll have more of a grim faced resolve. If you punch the right buttons, say their children, my main characters will pull out an M-16 or bow and arrow (depending on the era) and go after the bad guy until they are taken care of.
I believe if you allow your characters to develop, and become stronger, by the climax, both female and male characters will be to the point where they can be a believable hero.
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Old 05-16-2004, 05:33 PM   #17
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I know this is going to be off-topic, but in resposne to Imladris, physically women can be just as capable as men (especially when trained...because when faced with 2 well-trained athletes, of different genders, I doubt many people would have much of a chance of winning) and I can't see what you mean when you say there are some things they simply can't do. And not needing a hobbit to kill a foe is hardly stretching real ity.
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Old 05-16-2004, 05:42 PM   #18
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First of all, I never said that you needed a hobbit to kill a foe. I said that I liked that Eowyn wasn't super woman and that she needed Merry's help to kill the Witchking.

Second of all, women are weaker than men. Why else were they referred to as the weaker sex, why else was it always the man's duty to protect them in all the old myths and legends, etc. Now, that does not mean to say that they cannot become as strong as a man. I never ever said that they could not.

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Old 05-16-2004, 06:11 PM   #19
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As anyone who has read 'Brainsex' will tell you, men and women have different qualities. Women tend to score more highly on intuition and empathy than men, for example. Of course, that is an "on average" statement. You will of course find women who are physically stonger than some men, just as you will find men who are more intuitive than some women. There may be qualities that are required in your story that might better suit a female character. But equally, I would say that there is nothing wrong with having a physically strong female character. Properly written, the 'warrior princess' can be just as credible a character as the 'wise woman'. Indeed, both could be credibly combined in the 'wise female warrior'. I would see nothing wrong with a female Aragorn-type, as long a she was credibly written.

Although none of them, of course, would be able to read a map properly.

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Old 05-16-2004, 10:59 PM   #20
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I agree with you completely Saucepan Man! Both sexes have different qualities like woman are more the mothers and the loving type while men are the protectors. As we have all said there are exceptions though.

Personally I like using men as main characters, rather then woman. I think it looks pathetic when you have some beautiful woman kill ten strong men, walk out of the fight with her hair in a bit of a messed and maybe a broken nail. It looks unnatural and odd... I agree with Imladris!

Quote:
I find most heroines to be blithering idiots who think they can fight better, etc.
Agreed...
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Old 05-17-2004, 11:28 AM   #21
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The majority of my main characters are males.... actually, reviewing those books I have written, I can't think of one where the main character was a female. Setting aside, RPGs, of course.

While I have female characters in my books, they're never main characters. Perhaps the hero's mother, or sister, or sweetheart... I already mentioned this on this aywsf thread, but I'll say it again: the book I'm currently writing finds the characters in the midst of a war, and in the world I created (or rather, the world that created itself using my head) women just don't go to battle. Therefore there are only brief appearances of women in the book, though a little girl of about seven years old is telling me she wants to occupy a chapter or two... but she assures me not until the second book.

I don't think I'm that bad at portraying male characters, because in all truth the only females I know I hardly ever see (if ever) so it is much easier to pick up on what men/boys say, do, feel, and think.

Quote:
I find most heroines to be blithering idiots who think they can fight better, etc.
I find most of them the same way, though of course there are exceptions (as had been said many, many times). For a beginner at creating characters I would say don't let your main female character ever touch a sword or any kind of weapon. When one is more experienced they can work out females that can fight, etc. but aren't the classic.... Mary-Sues? I've noticed that many beginners like to make their females warriors because they can do more exciting things, but they don't know how to handle it so they're original female warriors. Tolkien knew how to do that. Eowyn wasn't one of those blithering idiots.

When I write a female character they're just that... not women in pants with swords, with battle skill. They're like all the lassies I know (or most of them). Those who can sew and knit and weave, who are found in lovely dresses they or their mothers made with petticoats and long stockings (and who won't talk about them around men/boys, as I probably shouldn't be doing now ), who are patient loving mothers, faithful lovers, or sweet caring sisters. If the 'warrior' character is well done I don't mind reading it too much, but I don't write it.

And that's how I do it.
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Old 05-17-2004, 11:50 AM   #22
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I think some interesting issues have been raised on this thread, and I hope it will not turn feministic debate. I'm guessing that most of us writing fan fiction or in RPGs are placing our characters in Tolkien's world. Middle Earth is fantasy, but being thus it is still based in reality. Tolkien had a amazing gift of writing his world so that it became very real. If we say ME is based on Midieval culture, then we have to look at the social norms of that time on which to base our characters. Men and women had different roles...

With that said, I don't know whether I prefer playing one gender over the other. It seems to me that my characters write themselves. I read a proposal or get an idea for a story and the character is already there...needing to be written. All I have to do it put the pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). My female characters are not fighters...they are soft, intuitive, sometimes catty. My male characters are all very different from one another, so I would not be able to categorize them.

I can say that I do prefer to challenge myself with characters that are diverse and all very different from myself (with the exception of one a year or so ago). I don't like to write characters like myself. It could be that I don't find my own experiences 'exciting' enough, or it could be that it makes me nervous to reveal too much of my own inner struggles through a character that is very much like me.
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Old 05-17-2004, 01:47 PM   #23
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OK, I am going to throw a ringer in the works here by disagreeing with everyone.

The enchanting thing with fantasy is that you are the creator of a world, and you are also the one who sets the rules for that world. Why can't you have a world, for example, where women wield power and men occupy a subsidiary role? Or perhaps a world of Skinchangers where both men and women can morph into the form of dangerous beasts, and are therefore essentially equal?

Even in Middle-earth there is room for variety. It is true that Tolkien utilized women sparingly in fighting roles. But I think it may be short sighted to divide the world into those who fight and those who stay home, with nothing in between. If Gandalf had been looking for someone with brute force who was a miraculous fighter, he would never have picked Bilbo. In such a scheme, Hobbits would be useless! But he thought more creatively, and came up with a character who would have certain physical and cultural limitations placed on him.

When you stop and think about it, this isn't too different from the type of limitations that would be placed on a "typical" woman. Morever, it's precisely because of those limitations that many of us can identify with Hobbits. If I think of myself trying to emulate Arwen or Aragorn in real life, I practically roll over laughing. A typical hero or heroine, I am not! But a Hobbit who lives in a Burrow, runs around cooking meals, and fussing at his children a la Samwise....that I can understand .

Even if you create a 'conventional" woman character, there are many roles that he or she could take on: roles that require dexterity or the ability to conceal oneself; a quick thinker who can get people out of a jam, a mother protecting her young children, a woman gifted in music or a craft, or, of course, the wise woman who has deep knowledge of lore. The list is endless.

I enjoy depicting both male and female characters. But, to be truthful, I think I have more insight as to how a woman thinks and acts. I do like to "break" other stereotypes in writing, such as women who are older and/or unmarried, or pehaps with physical limitations, or extraordinary gifts of one type or another but not necessarily the gift of hack and whack! So perhaps, there is more room for female diversity within Middle-earth than first comes to the eye.
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Old 05-17-2004, 02:23 PM   #24
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Well said Child of the Seventh Age! Personally, most of my works, including my current project, is not exactly a middle earth world. It is not modern, ie- bows and arrows & swords, instead of M-16s, but there are things that are traditional fantasy creatures except they have a twist. (Shape-shifting Unicorn becuase of its status, half centaur half man, gets to choose shape.) So, why should I use sterotypical characters at all? Especiall based on gender?
My half centaur character is a male. But he's torn between two cultures much like animagrant (sp.). He doesn't have to be the fighting, or thoughtful man. He's going to be a different character by the middle of the book, and completely different by the end. He will have the chance to develop, and be a three-diminsonal character.
Sterotypical characters MUST grow and change in the story to be believable. Example- The spoilt kid from the Narnia series. (I can't remember his name- He was in the Voyage book) He started as the typical spoilt brat, but he became the noble hero type. If he had stayed as he was in the begining, by the end of the book, you'd want to chunk him out ofthe story, never mind if he's central to the plot.
My point is even if your world is more mideval, put a twist on it. That's what makes stories worth reading and becoming a favorite. I believe that the whole point of writing is to be original; even if its already been said, say it a little differently. Its the hardest thingin the world, but I love every minute of it.
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Old 05-17-2004, 02:31 PM   #25
Amanaduial the archer
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Funny that this should be brought up - I was thinking about it the other day whilst devising a character for an RPG. (I shall stick solely in RPG terms for now).

I don't really consider myself to prefer either gender - I'm fairly relaxed to either one. But recently, I've ended up veering to male characters, pretty much completely! The last female I played was in 'Escape from Nurn' in the Shire, and much have been...well, it actually ended a good few months ago, anyway. But all the characters I'm playing at the moment and for the past few games have all been male.

Possibly this is because I originally ended up with a bit of a stigma with one of the moderators (you know who you are!) that I always played female elves or people with magical powers I know, I know... so my first non-female character was somewhat experimental, after playing all my first games with female characters, and was the Easterling character Kane in 'Ride To The Dark Side'. (I don't include the hobbit character I played - he was a rather mischievous child and almost genderless!)

Incidentally, I found he was quite marvellous to play! Things which were much trickier to execute as a female characters were made simpler by playing a male - not really physical things, as my characters were never weak: they weren't Mary-Sues (honest!!!), but they were hardly weak. Believable though, and with a tendency to die... But also, it seemed easier to make Kane more introvert - by playing more on his feelings, for example in his relationship with one of the female characters (Rhana, played by Maikadilwen), I was able to make him a more unusual character. Strange, because it would be expected to exaggerate them more with a female character, but with a male it made him different. And since then I've played way more male characters, actually....

However, this is not a preference - it's simply what seems more practical at the time, for the specific RPG.

My characters do end up with some of my traits though, quite often - sense of humour, a slightly cynical outlook and, yes, green eyes, are quite often included in their bios I suppose this is just because I like to put a part of myself into my characters - and this is my way of doing it.
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Old 05-17-2004, 04:19 PM   #26
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Personally I like using men as main characters, rather then woman. I think it looks pathetic when you have some beautiful woman kill ten strong men, walk out of the fight with her hair in a bit of a messed and maybe a broken nail. It looks unnatural and odd...
I agree with that...but who says they have to be beautiful, either emotionally or physically. Perhaps this person is wearing a hood, so no one can tell who she is for a physical disformity or she is pretending to be nice but is really evil? If that were the case that you posted above, I would probably have her die in the process of killing "ten strong men". Oh, I don't know...

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OK, I am going to throw a ringer in the works here by disagreeing with everyone.
Ahem...(And I shan't hesitate to quote myself either! )

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Actually, when writing fantasy, it's all up to the writer. If you want women to be better than men, they can be. *shrugs also* Clearly, we disagree, but I will leave this at that.
Hmmm, Amanaduial the archer, most of my characters end up with green eyes too (excluding the story I'm sorking on right now.). I think more because I want green eyes than because I have them.
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Old 05-17-2004, 04:50 PM   #27
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I do agree with what Sirithheruwen and Child of the 7th Age say... if you're the creator of the world you're writing about women can be fighters. And it always works for the writer. They have fun. But sometimes when the writer doesn't know how to work it out it becomes an immense torture for the reader, a person the writer should consider at least once in awhile if they intend to let others view it. If the writer doesn't know what they're doing the female warrior character can so easily become a typical Mary-Sue. But there can be female warriors that aren't Mary-Sues.

If you can make a believable female warrior character, well and good, and I'll enjoy the story. The only thing that remains is that I'd feel it was unnatural.

*cough* Skip this paragraph if you like, because I'm going to give one of my main reasons for staying away from writing about female warrior characters. I don't know if anyone knows what that means or not. It's because of my Faith. I believe men and women were made 'equal in dignity' but were also given different parts to play in the world. Niluial said:

Quote:
Woman are more the mothers and the loving type while men are the protectors.
And's that how I've found it to be almost everywhere I've gone (except to the realms of Mary-Sue stories, or occassionally a good writer doing a female warrior).

Now if ever I came up with a story idea that had the need as a female for the main character, I wouldn't cast away the idea because of that. I'd write the book if the idea was good. I write females as main characters sometimes, but I just don't write females as warriors.

And I must add I'm not saying that no writer should write about female warriors (just stay away from Mary-Sues, of course), but I'm saying that I don't. It's just one of my preferences as a writer.

By the way, Child, what you said here

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But a Hobbit who lives in a Burrow, runs around cooking meals, and fussing at his children a la Samwise....
was terribly sweet. Charming to think about. Hobbits just are simplicity.
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Old 05-17-2004, 05:25 PM   #28
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I will also stick to what I know, which is roleplaying:
I too tend to play male characters, and find it much easier to write as them. I would not say it is easier to write as a male character, but there is certainly something about it... Also, like Aman, I tend to choose according to the RPG, and what character types are needed. Since I tend to stick in the Shire, the many relatively new RPGers like to start out as a character that is their own gender. And since often these RPGers are female...males are a must! In many RPs, to get in on the action also demands a male character, for reality's sake.

I also consider the meaning of roleplaying. In my mind, the point is often to take on the role of someone completely different from you. It is a way to 'escape reality', I guess (I mean, I would find it quite boring to write about reality, at least concerning myself), as well as a way to take a different look at things. You truly do think about things your character is experiencing in a new light, and what the character is experiencing, if he/she is different enough from you, will be enlightening as well. I definitely have not experienced what it is like to be in a battle, but this is something I try to think about, and from my character's point of view (with his own personality, intelligence, background, environment, etc.), when the need arises. I expect it would be the same way when writing a story or a novel.

The fact is, though, men and women are both humans, and so their brains operate in the same way. Just because on average the male and female mind do not think alike, it does not mean that we can't cross over into the other train of thought, just to take into view what it is like. Hmmmm...that sounds kind of odd...

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Although none of them, of course, would be able to read a map properly.
And that is why no members of the fellowship were female...

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Old 05-18-2004, 05:16 PM   #29
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Believable though, and with a tendency to die...
That happens to me a lot too. Them darn characters...they just run away and I have no control over whether they live or die!

My very first RPG here (An Audience With the King), I played a male. Not just a male...a male dwarf. I remember thinking, "I'll be fine with anything as long as I'm not in the dwarf group!" Lo and behold, I was assigned to the dwarven group. With help, I got through it and by the end I found it rather fun to be able to play a rough 'n tumble, greedy dwarf, and I didn't shy away from male characters, even if most of my characters have been female. I'd say it's been rather even...I haven't been keeping track really...

In any case, when writing a story that has absolutely *nothing* to do with RPing, I usually have a female character, I'll admit. But I don't make them warriors or anything, I take them from real life and give them flaws (but not too many!) that, say, I would have or my friends would have. Not only that, I surround them with male secondary characters, most of whom turn out to be more loveable or more interesting than the man character!

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Old 05-18-2004, 05:57 PM   #30
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Sting

In most of my short stories (and come to think of it, my novel) all of my warrior characters aren't warriors to begin with. Sure, I have had the occasional sociopathic assassin (which was a LOT of fun to write. Hey, Jade, if you read this- Edward RULES!), but all of my main character hero/warrior had to be thrust into the battle or action. Much like the hobbits, they did not start the actual war, and wanted nothing to do with it until it was dancing on their doorsteps.

Does that make a difference to your oppinion about female warriors? How about the idea of a world where male and female roles are switched? Just wondering.
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Old 05-19-2004, 12:21 AM   #31
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Silmaril

It's strange how we seem to be focusing in on the narrow question of women as warriors rather than considering character as a whole in relation to gender and raising more basic questions.

There are lots of issues we could discuss, but I am especially interested in the question of what makes a female character "strong" (or for that matter a male character). How does a character grow and evolve so that the person you end up with at the end is different than the person you started out with? Is a particular character someone whom others can initially rely on or does she grow in that regard during the course of the story? I have to admit that I do favor characters who change rather than ones set in stone. And ability to wield a weapon is only one indication of a character's strength. There are a thousand different ways that a character can show her strength, and some of these may be even more criticial to the story: quick wits, specilized skills, emotional support, knowledge of the past, or just being a moral exemplar.

Whether or not a female character wields a weapon is at least partially determined by your chosen plot. If you are writing a novel with enormous numbers of battle scenes or continuous hand-to-hand combat with dragons and Orcs, and you want to utilize one or more women, you are likely to need to hand that character a sword. You could possibly place them in another role -- as a healer, for example, or a scout, or a handler of horses -- but you'd have to be creative about that. Nor does every warrior have to have the same degree of skill with weapons. In straight combat, Tolkien's Hobbits could not have been the equivalent of an Aragorn or a Boromir, yet they somehow managed to survive.

But there are many, many fantasy tales and epics where battle scenes and even fighting occupy only a relatively small piece of our attention. I tend to prefer that type of mixed storyline so whether or not my character can fight may be less important than many other things. In fact, of my female characters, I can only think of one who would qualify as a "warrior"(and that out of necessity). I had one older female character (my "Cami" alter ego) forced to defend several young children the best way she could who then "broke down" and was pretty shook up after she actually succeeded in killing someone.

Nurumaiel -- I do think it's possible to write interesting characters within the context of traditional ideas about gender: strong mothers, for example, or devoted daughters. I tend not to do this--I really do prefer women who rally against traditional roles and stereotypes, but that is an individual choice. Interestingly though, I'm not usually concerned about limitations that have to do with weapons or fighting. More likely, my character ends up going against what she is expected to do or be (expectations of marriage for example or even of physical appearance or of accepting the values her own people put forward.) Then I use the story as a vehicle so that she can learn more about herself and figure out exactly where her own path in life should lead.

We're all put here for different reasons and with different gifts. Finding out those reasons and exploring those gifts is part of the responsibility we bear. That's a personal belief that I do push onto my characters, at least the ones who 'feel' and act most lifelike.

Just one last question for anyone: are the attributes that make a female character strong the same ones that make a male character strong? Or are their inherent differences based on gender? My gut feeling is that there are gender differences, and those play into character and personality, even if you are writing a female warrior. Yet, I think we need to be careful about immediately assuming that a female character would do "X" or "Y" simply because of gender. Sometimes life is stranger than fiction! I once had a close friend who had spent several years in her life overseas as a tank commander. She was physically the tiniest and most gentle looking creature you could imagine. But based on her iron will, I can well believe that she commanded a squadron of tanks!
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Old 05-19-2004, 11:04 AM   #32
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Perhaps I'm an oddball, but....most of the stories I write, if not all, have at least two protagonists-- 1 male and 1 female. I am female, but I find it interesting and....exciting, I suppose, to write two such opposite protagonists, only to find that they really aren't opposite at all. True, men do tend to take on a more protectoresque stereotype--but as a writer, you can change that. Who cares if women are perceived as being weak or ornamental? As the creator of a world, you may make your society what you wish it to be, which is something I very much enjoy doing. Not necessarily giving men a subservient role, but making the two genders equal--TRULY equal--and describing what comes of it.

Just my two cents'.
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Old 05-19-2004, 02:23 PM   #33
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There are lots of issues we could discuss, but I am especially interested in the question of what makes a female character "strong" (or for that matter a male character).
Child, Remember Corsairs and Corsets? In another thread (actually about warrior females, I believe) you came up with the idea of making an all-female RPG, but the characters would not be warriors. All the characters were so astoundingly different and each one became 'strong' ('cept the villains, of course; they lost power) without ever picking up a sword. My own character, Adrama, in example. When the game began she was very bitter because she had loved Denethor and she had lost him; she was rather spoiled, she was a bit immature, vain, etc... by the end of the game she had lost her bitterness because she had found herself a good husband who she loved more, she had grown mature through helping the poor good lass who was the sister and daughter of the two villains, and so on. I learned a lot from that RPG.

I do like to make my female character more of stereotypes... not in the sense that they're the same boring old characters that have been played thousands and thousands of times over, but they have the traditional roles. The two main female characters in my current works are Mérali, the sweetheart of the soldier lad who is the main character, and Érsin, a sixteen-year-old girl who came to the village in which the main characters live after leaving the life of the wandering people with her grandmother. Both the latter character and her grandmother wanted a life in a little cottage, sewing and knitting and cleaning house rather than wandering about through dangers.

They had practically no role when I first began to write the story, but just last night they chose one for themselves, causing the book to switch often between what they're doing at home and what the lads are doing on the mainland where the war is being fought. Chirfan, the main character, sets sail for the mainland to fight, taking with him two eleven-year-old boys, Tilaran and Haran (they haven't yet told me how they happened to go to a war at such a young age; all I know is that they do). The two boys leave behind their ten-year-old friend Geran, who naturally is rather lonely without them. Mérali becomes like an older sister to Geran, occupying his time with all sorts of little adventures in the village. Mérali also comes to be in charge of a school for young girls to teach them in studies of things such as history, mathematics, etc. but also in studies of faith. Érsin assists her in that. Later that school develops into a school for boys as well, as the boys have no other teacher; all the men teachers in the village have gone off to fight. And of course Mérali struggles as a teacher!

I begin to see things I didn't see before... Mérali is a warrior on her own little battlefield. She does not fight with a sword and shield, but she does fight. All characters do in the best books. They're all warriors of a sense.

The idea that 'strength' in a character means being a warrior is rather absurd, if you consider. St. Joan of Arc was strong, one must admit. She was a real official warrior. St. Thérèse the Little Flower, however, was a different type of warrior. She was the youngest in a family of five girls, grew up in a very sheltered way, became a Carmelite nun in her teens and died of tuberculosis in her twenties. Her life was extremely simple and 'little.' She did nothing grand and glorious as St. Joan of Arc, but still she was strong. She did the little things that are often so much harder to do than the big things. In example she never grew annoyed with those who spoke sharply to her, but rather treated them with more patience and kindness than anyone else. All things she did she did well, regardless of whether she succeeded or not. She was simple, but strong. She said herself, "I am not a warrior who fought with earthly arms but with 'the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God.'"

Therefore, dwelling on this, a writer should make all their female characters be warriors... yet these warriors do not need to fight with 'earthly arms' to be strong.
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Old 05-19-2004, 03:12 PM   #34
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Silmaril

Very nice post, Nurumaiel. I agree that all women (all characters, in fact) should be warriors in that sense. Actually, a lot of fantasy, excluding LOTR, do not have that many battle scenes. The characters you were talking about, seem to have a lot of opportunity to grow, and learn more about themselves and their world.
At least for me, to develop characters, you must have a strong plot generally with more than one problem. These characters have several potential problems they may have to deal with. For my characters to develop strongly, I generally make a mental list of all their flaws, physical, emotional and in relationships, and pick and choose which ones will be changed, or come to terms with, by the ending. I never change all their flaws, and sometimes I encourage them to make new ones, especailly if this character has been around a while (like in a series). All these changes I space out in the story, with some happening as a result of something and others gradually as the character matures.
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Old 05-19-2004, 09:24 PM   #35
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Perhaps I'm an oddball, but....most of the stories I write, if not all, have at least two protagonists-- 1 male and 1 female.
Not odd in the least, as, though my main characters in both of my main stories are female, there are at least one or more male characters to contrast them, and hold a main part. Like Tiana and Destiny... they both have their male contracting characters, to off-set the fact that they are female. Alenece has three other males with her, to contrast, though I intend on throwing in a few other girls later.

But it's not odd in the least to have more then one protagonists... I have done that all the time.

No, it's always a good idea to off-set girls with guys, and it doesn't have to be a romance either... so far I have... well... two characters in love, but not the main plot... the main plot is very action-drama type.

Girls are fun to write, but I always have a few guys in there well I'm at it... makes for a better plot line, I think.

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Old 05-20-2004, 02:11 PM   #36
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Myself, my main project has a young man named Jules as the hero. However, though he's the narrator, one of my favorite characters is a young woman who meets him along the way.

With me, it's entirely dependant on the story. Some of my stories have female main characters, some have males. In Jules' case, I felt that he should be a young man. He has a sister who is a pivotal part of the story, and I felt that, were he a girl, he would understand his sister entirely too well.

Writing women is actually fairly difficult for me, if only because I have to struggle against the "tough warrior chick" prototype. One of the best heroines I've ever seen is--and don't laugh--Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I try to model my heroines after her. She's a girl who kicks, but her being a girl isn't the most important part of her character. She's genuine and heartfelt, and cares about things that real girls care about even as she fights evil.

The important thing is the character. I don't think about gender much--generally, when I'm starting a story that'll go somewhere, the main character comes to me in a blinding flash of light. Okay, I'm lying, but wouldn't that be cool? I chose Jules because I felt I could make him a rounded, realistic character by bringing my own feminine traits to his character, instead of making him a stereotypical "macho" man. I think that everyone is a combination of masculine and feminine aspects, and that people are neither true simpering damsels-in-distress nor unflappable macho warriors with testosterone poisoning. Everyone is somewhere in between. I know a lot of young women who are aggressive, and a lot of young men who are sensitive. This is true of everybody. As long as you don't go overboard with reverse-stereotypes (i.e. all the women are warriors and all the men need saving), it's okay to mix-and-match with characters.
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Old 05-20-2004, 02:53 PM   #37
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The Eye

When I start writing for a character, I sort of let it choose its own gender. My little "world" that I'm staring to invent, is set in the future, which is a convienient time to set a story in because one can make things up without having to be historically accurate.

Anyway, in all of my little "storylets" (plots that are unfinished and vastly unwritten), men and women are equal.

I'll break it down further than that. Individuals are equal, no matter what gender, in everything that goes on. And it's not just on a lawful scale or anything, it's on a global, ingrained-into-the-conciousness scale. If you understand what I'm saying.

So, as an example, you've got Bob, Tim, Judy, and Nora. Nora is a weak person, weaker than everyone except Tim, who is lazy and couldn't fight a drunken fly. The strongest person in the group is Bob, not because he's a man, but because he's Bob.

Looking back over my post, not much of it makes sense, so apologies all around. It's the best I can do.
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Old 05-20-2004, 03:00 PM   #38
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Nurumaiel,

Nice post! I think that we are actually saying the same thing only using different terminology. As I said before, whether or not a character (male or female) carries a sword is far less important than other things.

Strangely enough though, the image of a warrior or battler, even if we define it as someone who focuses on struggles other than the physical, appeals to me less than certain other images. I have always thought in terms of a traveller, someone who sets a foot out their door and starts down a Road. That was one reason I was so struck by The Hobbit when I first read it so long ago. Both Hobbit and LotR use this as a central image: being swept away by the Road of Life and having to face and deal with everyone and everything that life brings. I think that this pertains equally to both Men and Women, although the specifics of the encounter may vary. I try to incorporate that sense in each of my characters to the best that I can.

While we're talking about choices of "gender", I'd also like to raise the related question of "age". Have you ever used an "older" character in your writings, male or female? Just how old, and was that easy or difficult to do?
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Old 05-20-2004, 03:10 PM   #39
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White Tree

I have only had one old personage in my writings and that was at the White Horse. I think he was about...eighty, I think? He was a grizzled old man who had lost an eye, had a bit of memory loss, and had a bad habit of talking in rhymes. But I had a terrible time with him because I don't know how an older person thinks. Virtually all my characters are teenagers... because...I guess I know them better. I'm more comfortable with them...I can feel them better.

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I have always thought in terms of a traveller, someone who sets a foot out their door and starts down a Road.
In my mind, a traveller is stronger than one who is not, regardless of gender. Speaking of gender, I do not believe that spiritual strength (or strength of character, nobleness, honesty, etc) have anything to do with gender as gender is a physical attribute while those strengths are not. Thus, men and women are equal in that area.
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Old 05-20-2004, 03:16 PM   #40
Fordim Hedgethistle
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Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: Beyond cloud nine
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Wow – what an interesting thread! Substantive ideas about the creative process, and I get to find out all kinds of interesting tidbits about my fellow Downers!

It didn’t even really occur to me until I started reading through these posts that I only ever – in the Downs – have written male characters. So far I’ve changed race (one Hobbit, two Men, an Elf and a Dwarf) and the characters have all been fairly different from one another, but I’ve not yet crossed genders (unless Balrogs have gender, in which case I might have been a female for the birthday party. . .) I’m honestly not sure why I have done this, since the only things I’ve attempted to write in the ‘real world’ (having begun and then abandoned two novels, and finished only one short novel) have had women as the protagonists. I did not really feel any difficulty in ‘writing’ women in those works, but in this forum I feel the need to inhabit the male mind.

I suspect that it’s perhaps the interactive nature of the Downs. In my own (thankfully abandoned) novels, I had total control of the reality, and thus there were no surprises. But here there are lots of surprises, and I find it more like acting than writing – I have to ask myself frequently, “How would I react to this incident” and then work through from that to “How will my character react to that?” It’s probably a lot easier for me to get from A to B without having to contend with the gender line.

But his raises a disturbing notion I’d not considered either (am I really this naïve? Yes, I’m afraid so) – the characters I’ve created in the Downs have without exception been rather flawed people; people whom, quite frankly, I like reading and writing about but would never want to spend time with. If these are characters that I can easily project myself into (or project out of me). . .yipes!!

Hmmmmm. . .anybody got a comfortable couch I could lie on as I write in this place. . .
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