Dear Indie | Writing Female Characters Part 1: Inspiration

Hi Indies! I’d like to jump into character development topics over the next several posts and thanks to some amazingly positive feedback and requests for this particular article, I’m tossing in my two cents on the popular subject about writing female characters/heroines. Keep in mind that I’m a writer of Romance, so that genre will be the main basis for my tips, feedback, etc.

It’s unfortunate, really, that there are so many books out there that apparently don’t live up to readers’ standards when it comes to the female leads. Especially, considering 95% of our readers are women. I’ve read my share of heroines that were the equivalent of watching the stereotypical, half-naked woman running through the woods from a serial killer only to trip, fall, then continue to make the worst decisions while the audience screams at her not to. I understand how and why that trope became a slasher movie cliché –I’m just not sure why women are writing women this way in their books.

I will be breaking these posts up into parts to make them easier to digest, because there ended up being a lot more to cover than I’d expected. In this first post, I’m going to talk about where I draw all my inspiration from for my female characters and briefly talk about avoiding the creation of carbon-copies.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty, I’d just like to preamble that I haven’t read any of the other articles or books out there which address this topic, so I’ll apologize in advance if any of this sounds redundant. I’m not an expert, I’m just me, so I can only share with you how I write my female characters, the kind of females I love to read, and the kind that will have me ditching a book in a heartbeat – or writing a scathing review.

DRAWING ON REAL-WOMEN INSPIRATION FOR YOUR FEMALE CHARACTERS:

#1: Yourself. There is a piece of me in every single one of my characters. Whether it’s one of my strengths, weaknesses, quirks, flaws, hobbies, fascinations, something I envy, something I abhor – it’s drawn directly from my own personality, life, experiences or dreams. This is a mixture of ‘write what you know‘ and ‘have relatable characters‘. Even though readers might not be able to guess it and wouldn’t be able to pinpoint the exact elements that are ‘me’, they’re still in there. This practice can be just as therapeutic as it is fun. It can allow me to dabble in a career I’ve always admired, or explore a talent I always wished I’d been blessed with. It can also give me the opportunity to confront someone I never had the guts to, or right a wrong I’ve always regretted. Lending a piece of yourself to your heroine enables you to connect with them on a deeper level while you’re fleshing them out and makes it easier to put yourself in their shoes when they come up against an obstacle.

Even though I do this, I’m also aware of the unfortunate backlash some authors get when readers accuse them of ‘being’ their characters. We are not our characters, even if we lend them a piece of ourselves, they’re still likely to do and say things we never would, for whatever reason, so don’t let that small downside discourage you from using things about yourself as a source of inspiration. #hatersgonnahate regardless.

#2: People You know. Many of my characters share personality traits with family members and close friends. Usually, it’s a blend of many. For example, my female lead from Hexed, Zoe Bankes, is the perfect mash-up of one friend’s infallible independence and A-type personality, another friend’s sarcastic mouth and no-nonsense attitude, my sister’s quick wit and snarky comebacks, and my geeky love for all things Supernatural and Star Wars. Then, I topped it off with a dash of traits unique just to Zoe. Since I had already developed her as a sub-character before she took on the role of main protagonist, those traits were already there for me to build upon.

Another great example, is my sub-character, Serena Daniels, from Hearthstone Alpha and Little Queen. She’s largely her own personality, but it’s one of my friend’s unerring belief in the importance and loyalty of family that I drew from that gave Serena all the trademarks of a ‘matriarch’ type of character, even though she’s no older than the main protagonist. In one scene, Serena gets quite verbal and bossy during her anxiety over family members arguing and this is something that my particular friend would do without hesitation.

Another reason why friends make such amazing sources of inspiration is because usually they’re bringing traits to the table that you don’t have. “Opposites attract” can be just as true in friendships, as it can be in romances. If your female lead has other women in her life, especially if they’re regulars in the storyline, using complimentary traits that differ from hers can be a great way to add depth to your sub-characters without having to completely flesh out their stories.

#3: Idols. I know I said “real-women inspirations,” but most of us have celebrities/artists/activists/authors/teachers/historical figures that we admire–and technically, they’re real people. Drawing on the traits of these women that you might idolize to some degree can also be a handy source of inspiration for your female characters. I wouldn’t necessarily advise creating a character that’s an exact replica of someone you know or look up to, but everyone’s personalities are multilayered. There are things you like and dislike about them, things you admire and frown upon, and those traits can be used for all kinds of characters, to include antagonists. This is where the therapeutic part comes in – how many times have you ever wanted to tell someone off or see them get a taste of their own medicine? I mean, you’re the one writing the book, so have at it! LOL

#4: Other Characters. Okay, so this is NOT real-women inspiration, per se, but most female characters are portraying real women, so it shouldn’t be discounted. And let’s face it, we can’t consciously keep track of every single female character we’ve ever had the pleasure–or misfortune–to read about, unless you’re blessed with photographic memory. But, subconsciously we tend to naturally draw inspiration from character ‘types’ that we’re attracted to the most. This can also be said for movie or TV show characters. And it’s another option to use for finding inspiration, as long as you’re not plagiarizing, of course. Unless, you’re borderline plagiarizing on purpose for a parody. In that case, good luck! 😀

Now, that I’ve covered these sources of inspiration available to you for writing your female characters, I’d like to briefly touch on a related topic.

WRITING UNIQUE FEMALE CHARACTERS

By this, I don’t mean unique from the world’s population at large, but from each other. If you have multiple books out, chances are, you’re already pretty good at creating female leads that differ from one another in enough ways they’re not coming across as carbon copies, or the same exact personality with a different hair/eye color combo.

With so many sources of inspiration at hand, it shouldn’t be too difficult to make sure all of your female characters are unique from one another. I usually have a general idea about my female lead’s personality before I even start typing the first words on the page, because I’ve found that this is much easier than just diving right in without a clue – and I’m a Pantser! But, it’s rare that I have no inkling at all. Still, there have been times when I started off with a personality type that I just couldn’t make work for the story idea and ended up having to start from scratch. Those are never fun, so I try to make sure I have the right ‘voice’ going in.

A lot of times, it helps if I just flesh out a little of their background first or maybe stick them in a scene with the male lead to get a better feel for who they are and how they respond to things.

Another obstacle, is that I write BDSM novels, so many of my characters share certain traits distinctly linked to being submissive. If you’re dealing with a handful of female leads that have a common trait such as this, you really have to try to make sure all of their other traits make them unique for your readers. Likewise, I have female leads like Reyna Daniels and Zoe Bankes, who don’t have a single submissive bone in their bodies – yet, they’re still remarkably different in how they approach and react to situations.

Regardless of where you draw your inspiration from, most writers share the common goal of wanting to create female leads/heroines that readers will love and root for. In Part 2 for this article, I will be covering tools I use and feel are most important for writing believable female characters. Hope to see you there! 🙂

❤ Please feel free to comment below if you have questions or need to point out something vital I missed (Wouldn’t be surprised, so don’t be shy! LOL)

Published by A.C. Melody

Indie Author of Erotic, BDSM,PNR, SciFi/Futuristic, and Dark Romance. I'm from the Pacific Northwest, drink far too much coffee, always root for the underdog, anti-heroes and shameless whores, I love hard ass Alphas and the strong women they'll move heaven and earth to claim. You can always find me in my writing cave, but it's not always wise to try and talk to me there, so make sure to sign up for my newsletter, instead!

4 thoughts on “Dear Indie | Writing Female Characters Part 1: Inspiration

  1. I’ve kept these blog posts in my inbox for well over a week trying to make my way back! LOL!

    I love this topic! You bring out great points on female characterization as a reader, I wish more authors would consider.

    I’ve step back from reading romances the way I used to because I’ve grown weary of the Typical Romance Heroine (TRH). The sassy, feisty redhead who has to argue with the alpha male at every turn–usually before and after sex–before she runs off and does something he TELLS her not to do…and we can’t have that because he’s not the boss of her. Yet, her bad decision will lead to him risking/sacrificing SOMETHING to save her.

    HEA. The end.

    I’m not trying to be flippant, but this is the gist of too many stories.

    Books are fiction and have only the limitations we place in them, but characters still should be UNIQUE as you said in your post. Even in multi-book series with the same characters, it should be obvious our heroine is not the same person at the end of the story she was at the beginning. Not simply pregnant, married, rescued from the human traffickers or past her soul-numbing trauma, but show true growth as anyone would. She’s not perfect and may even repeat mistakes but it should be brought out as part of her character not a trope.

    I agree Reyna and Zoe are two fierce female characters to be reckoned with, but I’d add Kameo Kross to the list. While a submissive, she is still not one to be trifled with because of her *distinctive* personality. If Kameo was a TRH, she’d never have a BFF like Zoe…because Zoe wouldn’t be bothered with her. 😀

    *INSPIRED* characters. YES! Especially female characters because most stories hinge on the heroine and readers (like me) are usually harder on female characters and expect better… so authors should give them better. Not always an easy feat.

    Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thanks, Fle! I did post quite a bit of reading material last week – sorry for the backlog of ‘short stories’ LOL

      Anyway, you are absolutely right, we really are harder on our female characters than the males. We want to see women being represented in better ways than the TRH or even the typical slasher movie teen in her underwear. It’s time to break all of those old molds and start handcrafting new, unique ones. Standards need to evolve, we’ve made too much progress as women for them not to.

      Kameo Kross definitely has her own strength, that’s true and you’re right, she and Zoe never would’ve become friends, otherwise.

      I’m working on my next post about tropes so hope you know I’m totally stealing the one you highlighted here about the TRH #sorrynotsorry 😀 If you have any others you want me to toss in let me know! ❤ 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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