What About Characters Who Don’t Match Stereotypical Male and Female Qualities?

In the previous post in this series on “How to Keep Strong Female Characters Likeable,” featuring Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica and Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, Debra Kristi commented, “I always liked these characters because I saw something of me in them. I never felt the way you are describing. I guess I am in the minority.”

Sarah Zahorchak on Google+ also asked, “Are we geared to automatically like stereotypical male and female characters more? (I’m no psychologist, so maybe we do! I don’t actually know.)”

All those “stereotypical” male and female qualities are stereotypes because they contain some truth. Women generally do like shopping for a great pair of shoes or a killer purse. We generally are more emotional (or at least show our emotions more). We generally talk more. Writers in the Storm recently had an excellent guest post by Rob Preece called “Women Are From Venus, Men Are Annoying” on some of the key differences between the sexes and how this should affect the way we write our characters.

I think sometimes we fight so hard against admitting these differences because we’re afraid that, by admitting them, we’re saying men and women aren’t equal. But we can be different while still being equal. In fact, we should be proud of our differences. The differences between my husband and I work to our advantage in coming at problems from fresh angles, and force us to look outside ourselves and really consider someone else’s preferences.

But aren’t there exceptions? Don’t some men and women have characteristics that usually belong to the opposite sex?

Of course. As Debra mentioned, she’s an exception. So am I. If you bring a problem to me, instead of giving you empathy the way a normal woman would, I’m going to try to explain why it happened and find a solution for you, much like a man. It’s not that I don’t feel empathy. I feel your problem deeply, but I’m a born fixer.

Before you create a character who’s the exception, analyze your motivation.

NOTE: I’ve had to remove the rest of this post because it’s now a part of my book Strong Female Characters: A Busy Writer’s Guide. You can buy a copy at Amazon, Amazon.ca, Kobo, or Smashwords. They’ll be available in more places soon!

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