Imagine the most significant women you’ve ever encountered. Now thanks to modern advancements we can now have them in a book, or a movie, even via reality television. Almost everything we write, both fiction and nonfiction, is a derivative of what we as authors have personally witnessed through some experience in our lives. Let’s take the lens of those general experiences, and magnify the focus down to their powerful, submissive, sassy, broken, painful, the comedic characteristics and qualities of those women. Let’s discuss what we can we learn from those experiences which influence these prominent characters within our own novels, stories, and poems that takes those traditional characters to a whole new level that will impact readers, and even through fiction, facilitate change in both the author and the reader
Take a Close Inventory:
We all have that woman, or women, in our lives that either made or broke the foundation of how we would learn to gauge life. Furthermore, these critical influences also constructed the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual mechanisms we learned, perhaps missed, during those crucial developmental years. Our most personal memories tend to be most essential in creating the most realistic, believable prose.
Get deep. Draw from the well of joy or pain a mother/aunt/grandmother contributed to your own formative years.
- How did those women impact your identity? What from them will be the most influential in your heroine/villain?
- Did you feel your gender roles were already decided or palpable?
- What were the roles you were taught/implied of women? Will your female characters fill those roles or reject them? How?
- Where were the men in your life – how does that affect your female lead?
- How did they treat women — romantically? Physically? Mentally?
- What did YOU feel as a witness to observing the above? Think of the things you can use to insert into female victims and female heroines.
Hopefully, if you are pursuing writing, you are also an avid reader, or movie go-er. It is imperative that writers continually read/watch books or movies that continue to feed the well in which we draw from to help add another layer from personal experience when creating place/setting, story arc, action, conflict, resolution, and moreso, strong characters.
Watch/read reality crime documentaries surrounding women.
- Take notes of background info.
- What are the impacts from the crime committed?
- What was their defense mechanism, and their present-day attitude since conviction?
Who is your favorite female lead and why/how has she stuck out in your mind?
- Create a list of the qualities that are best about this character?
- What are her biggest flaws?
- How can those be beneficial/effective to your own female lead?
How has the heroine of your favorite book or movie superseded all the things you’ve personally experienced?
- What were your biggest disappointments?
- Were their surprises in their behavior that were surprising?
- Will those be beneficial or hurt your lead? Moreso, think of the intended audience and how these experiences as a reader helped cheer on or lose faith in that character for you as a reader.
We as writers have many avenues where complexities and attributes of women both real and fictional are available. It is through some self-exploration, a little brainstorming, and some entertaining research where we find the most useful we can insert into the female characters of our own stories; which, will solidify our matriarchal, feminine leads, catapulting them into something much more than just the sub-standard character lead. Don’t be afraid to examine the fun and tough, vital questions needed to create these important, strong, female characters that will breakthrough gender roles within literary text. What is it exactly about those women that impacted us? Furthermore, think of your experience as a reader, and what it is that you want to resonate within your audience that reaches far beyond the pages of a book.