fbpx
how to write a female character
It's a thing.

The premise of the show was that she tried to go back and fix a regret from her life in each episode – so it made it easier to argue that she should be allowed to screw up.  It was baked right into the show’s DNA and I think that was part of the success of the character and the series.

Be prepared to let your character make mistakes, make jokes, have opinions rather than protecting them.  But remember that the best defence is a good offence.  You will be questioned when you let women swing for the fences in any way that’s interesting to watch.

Make sure you’ve thought about motivation for their less-than-ideal choices.  It won’t ever hurt your writing to understand the why so deeply that you could defend them in a court of law (or at least against a silly network note.)

 

 

4. NEVER SET OUT TO WRITE A ‘STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER’

 

Sometimes I refer to this as ‘Clint Eastwood With Tits Syndrome’.  Fight anybody who tells you to write this way.  (Since this seems to be the second point I’m writing in a row that urges you to fight somebody, maybe I should be adding that I’m not condoning actual violence. Fight them with your words. Like, metaphorically. Like a strong female character would.)

People don’t ask for this quality in male characters.  Yes, they might want to write a man who is especially heroic or stubborn or resilient.  But ‘strong’ is such a dishwater adjective.

It also carries with it a sexist assumption about all the other female characters in media and in your work.

I truly think that if you focus on this as your guiding light, you’ll end up creating someone who is incredibly unreal and won’t give the moments of vulnerability that make a character anything other than two dimensional (yes, even Dirty Harry had his vulnerable beats.)

One of the best characters I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing was Wynonna Earp.

Created by Emily Andras (adapted from the comic book series by Beau Smith), Wynonna was a demon-killing badass who had to do horrible, difficult, physically demanding things in every episode.

She could be abrupt and angry and sometimes even cruel. But she also cried on camera on a fairly regular basis — and for my money, that was a big part of why the audience related to her.

We didn’t worry about her being ‘strong’ in every single moment. Sometimes we worried more about letting her break down so she could pull herself back together. Presenting a contrast that was so vivid was more affecting than if she’d just radiated strength the whole way through.

5. LISTEN TO WOMEN TALKING

 

This is my number one tip specifically for male screenwriters seeking to capture a female voice. Listen to a conversation between two women at dinner or on the subway or in a store. (Not in a creepy way, bro, back up.) Then go home and try to replicate it on the page.

Generally, I think this is an excellent way for beginning screenwriters to try and capture the rhythm of language and I would advise it as a regular exercise. I still use it regularly to try and capture teen voices more accurately as they seem more changeable. This is a little ‘hack’ I learned while riding the bus to my first screenwriting job on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

So thanks to the kids who rode the 70-O’Connor-North bus and who never knew what they were contributing!

Now go slam some dialogue! 

Happy writing!

Scroll to Top