The Art of Female Characters(Which I Coincidentally Need Help With)

Forums Fiction Characters The Art of Female Characters(Which I Coincidentally Need Help With)

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    Sarah Inkdragon

    I’m a bit embarrassed to say that as a girl myself, I can’t write a female character that doesn’t come off as a strong female character. And not the good type. Sure, I can write a great guy character–they’re more inside the realm of my capacity to understand the human brain–but female characters? Nope.

    Anndddd I just happen to have a female lead in my fantasy trilogy. Technically, a guy is still the MC…. but she’s a Very Important Character Who Cannot Be Killed and I have no idea how to write her without making me want to kill her.

    Hence my need for assistance. So meet Avyrnia De Exceleste, Heir to the Eastern Throne and pirate princess herself, everyone. She’s short, has plain brown hair that does not curl no matter what you do, an immense amount of freckles that you wonder how they all manage to fit on her face without turning her skin a shade darker entirely, and a temper as short as her list of living relatives. (Which is…. none. Unless you count the family butler, who’s family has been with her family for many generations. The pay is good, he’s not leaving.)

    She’s rash, immune to insults(unless it’s about her poor attempts at fitting in with society or her swordsmanship, or her height), and very opinionated about tall people. (She thinks they should give their extra height to people like herself who are stuck at a miserable 5′ 4″ for the rest of their life.) She’s also incredibly stubborn yet sympathetic towards those fighting for a higher cause…….

    …. And she’s incredibly boring. She sounds cool, sure. (And her little romance is adorable and I will ship it for life, even if it never gets published) But when I’m actually writing her…. she’s dry. Sassy, but more in the violent and annoying kind of way than the fun, bantering kind of way. (She’s actually pretty rude.)

    The problem is…. I have no idea how to fix this. I need people to care about her, and to like her, because she’s one of the four main characters. If people don’t like her(if I don’t like her), it could severely hurt the book. Not just sales wise, but how much I like it and how proud I am of this achievement of mine. Because if I can’t stand on of my own main characters…. then I certainly won’t be able to stand publishing it until it’s fixed. And I’d like to publish it before I’m 63.

    It’s not entirely that I don’t like her, even. It’s just that I literally have written from a dude’s POV my entire life, and now when I have to write a girl’s POV I have no idea how. Truth be told, I find most female MC’s incredibly annoying. It’s a major turn off, in some cases. (Sure, some guy POV’s are just as annoying, but generally girls are more so to me.) Maybe it’s just the way people expect girls to be nowadays–either whiny, blonde, and stuck up, or introverted, wears glasses, and smart, or tough, strong, and incredibly insulting. (They’re all hot, though.) Guys, while still very cliched(funny, extroverted, and gentle vs. dark-haired, traumatic past and possibly a vampire but still always hot), and don’t wonder about the state of their shoes or theorize on binary(WhO DoES THiS) while being chased by zombies. (Sure, that’s poor writing….. but there’s a lot of poor writing.) Also…… every girl MC ever is either incredible, or incredibly average(not). And while guy MC’s are as well, at least there’s a little more variation since, you know, guys actually have to be able to do something so they can protect their hot girlfriends and save the world at the same time.

    So. Rant over. I hate cliched characters, we all know that now. But now it’s your turn to come help me fix my annoying little brat of a child running around causing chaos in my story. (Dreadful, honestly.)


    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

    The Fledgling Artist

    I dunno if this is helpful at all, but here are some positive feminine traits I can think of. (not that guys can’t have these traits… ((probably a lot, if not most of them do.)) When I think of super sweet little girls this is what I tend to think of though.)

    1. Graceful

    2. inspired/filled with a wonder toward the fantastical

    3. soft spoken

    4. skirts and flowers/ all things flowy

    5. vibrant smile

    6. nurturing/caring

    7. supportive

    8. excited for adventure

    9. Matur enough to let someone else lead

    10. sorrows with those who sorrow/ laughs with those who laugh

    11. gentle hands/ gentle words


    I wouldn’t recommend implementing all of these, or even most of them, but maybe if you pick one or two and really emphasize that, she’ll feel more girly. Though, maybe just giving her more positive traits, in general, would be beneficial? Just from your description, she sounds like an interesting, but obnoxious character. Probably someone with more writing experience could give you a better answer here though.

    "Though I'm not yet who I will be, I'm no longer who I was."


    @sarah-inkdragon It kind of depends on what her role is in the story. I think she sounds pretty fun! But if you want her to be more feminine I think the list that Fledge send is pretty helpfull! Maybe try to give her a bit of a soft side. She might not like dressing up, but maybe she will smile slightly if someone calles her beautiful. What is the one thing that will make her melt? Ask yourself questiones like: Why is she rash? Why is she violent? Maybe you could give her some calm moments. Maybe she enjoys looking at the flickering lights on the waves or the look of flowers.


    “I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”



    Haha I actually love writing female characters! I think it’s because I like stories that are differently-heroic and female characters offer lots of variety to show strength in different ways.

    I agree with @the-fledgling-artist in that so far, your character sounds obnoxious. In general, when I try to create characters that I hope readers would like (not just find interesting), my rule of thumb is to make sure my character is someone I personally (and hopefully the average reader too) would like (or at least won’t mind) to hang out with, work with or talk to on a regular basis. Your character so far sounds like she’ll be annoying instead of fun to be around because she seems to lack emotional maturity (which could be a genuinely interesting flaw provided it is played out seriously and your character has a postive change arc to improve over time).

    A couple of things I would like to know:

    #1: How old is your character? I can usually tolerate immaturity in characters provided that they are too young to really know better but since your setting is evidently NOT a modern society (which allows some people to be coddled too much) and your character seems to be already taking on adult responsibilities, I would expect her to be more responsible and mature than the average modern teenager. I am not sure what being Heir to the Eastern Throne and pirate princess means but if she is someone who has had to lead and take care of others and deal with high stakes situations regularly, I wonder whether it makes sense for her to still be rash, stubborn etc. unless you are telling me that her butler’s the one who’s been handling all the work.

    #2: Regarding her being immune to insults unless they hit some specific sore points… I don’t see that making sense since her ‘sore points’ seem rather… petty (e.g. I am even shorter than 5’ 4” and I will only say that taller people should give their height to me as a joke. Usually I try to befriend tall people so that they will help me get things off high shelves 😛 . I do find it annoying when others try to tease me about my height but it is more likely to prompt an eyeroll than an outburst since it gets old super fast. I don’t think my height is that big of a deal especially since there’s less social stigma against short girls than short guys). Are you saying that she’s perfectly fine with someone calling her a whore (maybe because she’s desensitised to those kinds of insults already) but will take offence if they criticise her swordsmanship or say that she is not a ladylike? She strikes me as a very insecure individual if her ‘sore points’ are so petty. If anything, she should be immune to those insults as well since she has probably already heard them many times before.

    #3: What unique skills do your character have that make her a valuable asset? Is she the most reliable fighter? A genius strategist? A good healer? A social butterfly that can charm and befriend everyone for information gathering? A great cook (this is very important)? If she is someone your other characters depend on greatly, readers would likely also want her to be around and come to like her because she is a helpful team player.

    #4: What are her relationships with others like? How does she interact with them? Does she have female friends that are both similar to and different from her? For her banter, does she have an conversation partner that she can trade barbs with as equals (giving wit to both sides and not just one is important!)? Readers are likely to find a character likeable if there is a dynamic which the characters enjoy. To make sure your dialogue is actually witty and funny, show it to someone else and see whether it makes them smile or laugh when they read it.

    #5: What is the character arc and development you have planned for the character? It is my belief that the reason why many female characters are regarded as boring is because they are being used to make social/political statements more than anything else. As such, writers make them too perfect or fall back on stereotypes based on their preconceived notions on how girls and women are/should be. I think female characters should be, like male characters, unapologetically themselves based on their basic nature, their upbringing and the social influences around them. If her society and lifestyle is such that she has learnt how to wield a sword from young, then have it such that she knows how to wield a sword. If it makes sense for her to be boy crazy, make her boy crazy even if you personally detest girls who are boy crazy. If she is someone who would pick her nose in public, then have her pick her nose in public. Once you have her personality down, put in as much care in planning her growth and character arc as you would a male character. For example, her rudeness and stubbornness could be compelling flaws if written well. Perhaps she insults someone the group of heroes needs help from and because of that, that person refuses to help and the rest of the team is angry and pissed at her since their job has become much harder. Then, because of her stubbornness, she refuses to apologise and acknowledge her mistakes and this causes conflict in her relationships with them until she learns better.

    Overall, I don’t think you should worry too much about making sure your female character is liked the same way I think you do not worry about all your male characters being likable. As long as the character is interesting, readers would enjoy reading to get to know the character. I have read stories before where I can literally feel the author’s intent seeping through the pages telling me, “ISN’T SHE CUTE? ISN’T SHE AWESOME? ISN’T SHE GREAT?” and that made me actively dislike the character. The key is to make your character intriguing and true to herself. Not everyone will love your character (something we writers have to accept) but if readers don’t feel that they are obliged to like her, they are more likely to fall in love on their own.

    Daeus Lamb

    @sarah-inkdragon Curious. What would it take to crack her hard coconut shell?

    Parker Hankins

    What’s funny is that I find a hard time writing unique guy characters and I’m a guy. XD!

    Anyways, I think one thing you could do is make the characters attitude and everything else like you said, but make her do it much less sarcastic. Much calmer and refined.

    Living in a world of mystery and dangerous predicaments while working with the AWESOME Meraki's.

    K.M. Small

    @sarah-inkdragon I find I have the opposite problem, but I guess I’ll be sure to tag you when I have a problem writing a guy character xD

    A lot of what’s been said here is good, and I think in general, girls are more prone to being nurturing and compassionate (due to our most often being mothers). How that looks like will definitely differ from every girl. Some will be just all smiles and hugs and I MUST CUDDLE THAT CHILD. (not me, ha!). Others will be more physically protective, like standing up for younger siblings getting bullied, etc.

    Also, what does this girl find to be beautiful? What is something that takes her breath away? And what would absolutely break her and make her cry? I’m thinking that the problem with this character is that she isn’t rounded out enough. Yes, she can be sarcastic and hard and such, but figuring out what else she is will likely help make her less cliche. I

    In my experience, cliche characters are characters who aren’t developed enough. I have a particularly sarcastic character in a series of mine. He’s a blast to write. But recently he felt really…flat. Until I realized that that was literally all there was to his character: sarcasm (and loyalty). Figuring out what made him laugh, cry, or be a total goof-ball really helped round out his character. With your character, she could still be like a strong female character, but what makes her different?

    "Beauty will save the world." - Dostoevsky

    Taylor Clogston

    You say your character sounds cool, but I don’t even really think she does on paper =P

    No living family members means she doesn’t have any interesting and untidy filial responsibilities to deal with. Rash means she doesn’t have much internal conflict when push comes to shove. Being immune to insults and being stubborn means she doesn’t have to ever worry about being vulnerable. All that combined with difficulty fitting into society and doing sword stuff screams “I’m not like other girls!” which is a trope a lot of people dislike.

    What are the conflicting things in her life that demand her allegiance and resources? What has she done in her past that she regrets? What makes her and her arc different from the rest of the main characters? What is the thing for which people will be reading her chapters (or sections or whatever)?

    "...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and Margarita

    Sarah Inkdragon


    Thank you so much for the list! She actually does have a soft side, and becomes a healer eventually(well, she’s still a warrior with impressive swordsmanship as well, but she becomes a healer to help her friends and new-found family since they all have a stubborn mentality when it comes to taking care of themselves…. let’s just say all my characters have issues), but it takes a while for it to appear in the story… due to her impressive shell. XD She’s my little turtle.


    She’s a partner to my two guy MC’s and is mostly driven by revenge for the 1st half of the story, until she realizes that sometimes to help the people you love, you have to let go of selfish desires. I try to have a theme behind all my characters, and Vyrn’s is basically “I before you” or narcissism. She’s a representation of what selfish thinking can do to people, and how you overcome it. (I have a thing with weaving in themes….. it’s my jam. XD)

    As for why she’s rash… like I said, she’s a representation of narcissism. But more than that, it’s her psychology affecting her decisions. She wants what she wants because she thinks what she wants is best for her, regardless of anyone else, and will therefore do whatever she wants to get it. She was raised to take what she wanted and then leave the rest, and after her mother was killed she’s wanted nothing more than to kill the man who killed her mother.


    Wow, you’ve really thought this through! Thank you so much for this comment!

    You’re actually right on her lacking emotional maturity–she’s the little girl who’s suddenly had a lot of responsibility and hate dumped on her. And I’ve always thought it to be funny how in books and movies characters seem to handle all their responsibilities so well. So I thought it would interesting to mess with that a little and show just how poorly most people actually would handle such things. She’s immature, and a bit annoying, but hopefully I can get her to change. Her arc is a positive one–I want her to grow. So she has to start out on a lesser side and grow to get to better place.

    As for #1–she’s 16. Like I said above, she is supposed to be a bit immature…. but I need her to be a person that doesn’t stay immature, and actually tries to change. And I’m having a bit of a hard time hitting that balance.

    #2–She’s a pretty insecure person, tbh. She was raised with one purpose in mind by her mother–to regain their ruler-ship over Eastrim(basically the eastern world). To do this, she was arranged to marry the heir to the northern throne and then work to regain control of the east over time by usurping the standing government. She adored her mother for being a very capable rebel leader and strategist, considering her to be a great woman. And when she was killed by the Emperor and Vyrn was forced to go into hiding, everything in her world changed. She was raised to think like a queen–she doesn’t have “every-day survival” skills. She’s got court skills, not people skills, she’s got a good education and is “book smart” but that doesn’t exactly transfer into the real world. As for the insults–she puts on a front to appear strong, so things like people calling her a whore wouldn’t necessarily affect her as something like insulting her direct skills would, because she’s been raised in a way that it’s ingrained into her mind that only those skills matter in the long run, because they are what will help her achieve her mother’s goals. So her mental or physical skills being insulted is much more insulting to her than her purity is, if you get my meaning…. it’s more a state of mind. Her goals are all that matter, and her skills are the things that will get her there. Things like purity and honor don’t necessarily matter at the moment because they aren’t something that can necessarily help her reach her goals, in her mind. (Not that that’s necessarily true, that’s just what she thinks.)

    #3 She’s a great strategist, as well as an apt fighter(though she’s not as physically strong as a guy, and she fights with a rapier rather than a broadsword because she can’t lift one[those things are heavy!]). Eventually, she also works to become a healer.

    #4 Once you get past the really defensive and harsh shell, she’s actually got a really compassionate side, especially for people who are hurt. But it takes a while to get past this shell because she’s been told that people are almost always lying to her by her mother, and that the only good you’ll get from most people is to use them to gain success or power. She was on a ship for most of her life, and therefore away from anyone except the crew, her mother, and her butler dude, so she’s also not the best at talking to people, which makes her pretty insecure when trying to have an honest conversation with someone.

    #5 Her arc is a positive one. Like I mentioned above, she’s kind of a representation of what narcissistic thinking does to people, but I’ve never been one for sad endings. She’ll eventually realize that people are more important than revenge and her wants, and work to become a healer to protect her friends and family. In the post-book life, I’m planning on her possibly opening some sort of orphanage for war orphans or helping villages in poverty because of the wars. XD The problem really is just getting her to the point where she starts to change–she has to start off in a bit of a bad place, and I don’t want her to be too annoying and obnoxious before we get to good part. *sigh* It’s a struggle lol.

    Haha, I reallllllly hate it when people try to show a “girls rock, boys suck” mentality through female characters. It’s incredibly annoying and one of the reasons I rarely read female POV’s outside of the Christian fiction circle. Representing an idea or belief or political view is one thing, but just trying to shove it down my throat is another.

    Ha, a jackhammer possibly. XD


    Haha, same problem here, only with girls! I think her sarcasm with actually tone down a lot once the book goes on, since it’s mostly a defense mechanism since she’s so insecure. Which is good, because while I love a good sarcastic character, the way she is right now is incredibly annoying, even to me, and I wrote her! XD


    Lol just let me know.

    Thank you so much for the tips! They’re really helpful. That’s actually what one of my guy characters was like when I first started writing him–he was pretty much sarcasm and nothing else. As I went on and got better at writing however, his personality has completely switched around to a really quiet and sweet dude. XD It’s pretty funny when I look back at my early writing and I’m like “who is this person?” And then I realize it’s him.

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis


    I’m late to the conversation so sorry if this is all repeats/does not apply. But here we go 😛



    1) Build on her insecurities

    Especially if she’s sixteen, realistically, she is going to have insecurities. Tbh, I relate in a lot of respects to the character you described in your first post, so through that lens I can add that no matter how confident and how cocky someone is on the outside, it potentially comes with a crippling fear of failure. Because if you fall once, then everything you have built falls around you. So  with that….

    2) Break her

    Make her fail miserably. If she turns into a healer, have her accidentally kill someone. If she has no family, make her lose the one person she loves – and make it her fault.

    3) Create someone who is not afraid of her

    The strong female character only survives in her own strength until there is someone stronger than her. When she finds someone who is better than her at something she builds her identity around or unaffected by her cruel wit, it could be pivotal. However, the thing that could be even more impacting and terrifying to her is to have someone who loves her for who she is – not necessarily romantically, but loves her just for the sake of loving her because she needs love (from a Christian perspective, loving her because Christ loved her first). Avyrnia might not see her worth or identity outside of anything outside of her royal blood. Her butler just sticks around because of the money. Her pirate crew follows her out of fear. But then she meets X, and X is not afraid of her. X doesn’t want to take advantage of her. X believes in her and supports her, and Avyrnia is frightened to say the least. Because the idea of being loved is actually terrifying, because of the responsibility it brings. But then as she develops, as she learns to love, she realizes that it is freeing as well, and that perfect love casts out fear. X helps her realize that.


    So, those are my thoughts. Take it or leave it 🙂

    Happy writing!



    @sarah-inkdragon How to make readers like an obnoxious character? Make something even worse than her show up and have her totally overmaster it and blow it into the ground. Nobody likes Tony Stark, but the terrorists are even worse, yeah?

    Have her trade snarky insults with the worst of the worst and have her use her brilliance to defeat evil. It will only take her so far…but it will take her somewhere. And since the readers won’t like the evil bad guy, they will enjoy her triumph over him and start to root for her to win. As the story continues, have the evil ramp up the ante so that she has to learn emotional maturity in order to win…then she can take on more friendly qualities and grow in Christian character thru defeat. This will send the positive message to the reader that growing in character will allow for victory in their own lives. If this character is a side person in a larger story, so much the better – as long as it doesn’t bring in too much tension with the theme of the main story.

    Now you may be wondering how this is different from the male version. For the female version, you might want to bring in some social intelligence (not emotional maturity, which is totally different). She might work through others to end the evil bad guy at hand. Example: she bribes three guys to ambush the evil bad guy and take all of his money which he was going to use to build a brainwashing machine.

    Sarah, Miss S, Sierepica_Fuzzywalker

    Aislinn Mollisong

    Is it wrong that I actually loved this character when you first described her? Because I totally do. Even more since you explained her arc, but seriously, meeting her like you described her in the first post would not make me dislike her at all. She seems like a very awesome charrie to start an adventure with.

    Hero with an overactive imagination


    Wow… so much amazing advice! I’m very late to the game, and you probably have this all figured out by now, but here’s my two cents: maybe it’s not bad if people don’t like her initially. Based on her arc, it sounds like she gets a whole lot better later on in the story, and from my experience I actually feel a massive ton of empathy for characters who are hated, once their stories and motives are revealed. It might even make me like them more than some of the other characters.

    For example: Snotlout, from HTTYD. In the first movie, he’s ridiculously annoying. Actually, in every movie (and show) he’s ridiculously annoying. The thing is, though, he’s one of my favorite characters—at least from a writer’s standpoint. Why? Because it eludes to the fact that his faults come from a poor family history. I pity Snotlout way more than Hiccup (at least nowadays—the first movie I loved Hiccup, but my love for the whole franchise kind of fell apart after the second movie) and feel for him on a deeper level than I do for the other characters. Sure, Hiccup’s dad died and whatnot, and a lot of responsibility was thrust on him all at once, and he eventually (spoiler) lost Toothless, but in my opinion those were just cheap clichés to try and get people drawn into the story. Snotlout’s history and behavior are real, plausible, relatable problems that cut a hair deeper than the HTTYD plots that were “cooked up in a lab,” if you catch my meaning.

    But then again, I’m a writer, and I probably catch things other people may not. So. *shrug*

    Married a blacksmith, and now frequently uses his knowledge for writing fantasy.


    @sarah-inkdragon She’s a girl. Okay. But she’s also. . . a human being. The differences between guys and girls (fictional or otherwise) aren’t big enough to turn them into two separate species. You can write human beings, obviously, because you’re comfortable writing guys. So. . . instead of focusing so much on what makes her a girl, for the moment, focus on what makes her human. The list of traits the Fledgling Artist suggested might be a good place to start, as, while we often associate being gentle or attentive to beauty with girls, they’re good traits for guys too. That’s because they’re good human traits. (Well, it’s also good when angels and animals are gentle, but I digress.)

    The suggestion that her lack of family makes it harder to see her humanity, because of a lack of ties, and the possibility of losing someone she loves non-romantically, is a good one. Dorothy Sayers’ detective Lord Peter Wimsey isn’t your average guy with a quirk who walks onto the scene and solves the problem and walks off again, perfect and also cardboard with no inconvenient ties — he’s got a massively inconvenient family, and even has to investigate his own kith and kin for murder at one point. That goes far to making him human and not “a detective”. So maybe throw an inconvenient family member in and see what results from the mess.

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