WAW: Women in stories

Writing About Writing: A once-a-week post about some aspect of writing. I’m not an expert; I’m just some guy. Take it with a grain of salt.

There’s been a lot of talk about women, so I wanted to talk about women in books.


They are bullshit

Let’s get right to the point. Women in books are often bullshit. Female characters suck. They’re love interests, objects and sidekicks. They don’t matter, they don’t have agency and they certainly don’t have opinions or lives or personalities. *cough* Wheel of Time *cough*

One way people have tried to over-correct for this is with the “strong woman” trope. It’s almost worse than just blatant sexism. You’ve seen this character. She’s so strong. She does nothing but mindlessly kill. Until she’s shown the light or LOVE and becomes a real woman. *COUGH* Wheel of Time *COUGH*

Fuck that character. She is no more a real woman than the voiceless marriage prizes of other stories.

Write real people

There are examples of people doing it right, authors creating women who matter and who are real people with agency and complexity (they’ll be in the resources below).

How? In the words of George R. R. Martin, “You know, I’ve always considered women to be people.”

It’s not a mystery. How would you write a well-rounded male character? What if I told you you could do the same thing when writing a female character?

Don’t believe me? Believe them

There are authors out there doing good work with female characters. Read them. See how their women are real and complex people. That doesn’t mean they’re all heroes. That doesn’t mean they’re all strong. That doesn’t mean they’re all lesbians. It means they’re all humans.

Resources (NOTE: It’s not an accident that these authors, excepting Martin, also write racially diverse characters):

  • A N Y thing by N.K. Jemisin. Seriously, ANYTHING
  • Kate Elliot’s Spirit Gate deals with complex women in complex situations. It also confronts the sexism they experience head on
  • Game of Thrones, the books, have great women. I know the TV series is controversial, but I found the books very honest
  • The Malazan series is SUPER REAL in all regards. Every character is incredibly in depth

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