Friday, February 18, 2011

Strong Characters

By Keith N Fisher

I’m at LTUE this week. I hope to see you here. I’ll be the one lurking in the back someplace, looking like he knows more than he does.

As part of the conference on Thursday, I attended a panel discussion, called Writing Strong Female Characters. Since I write women’s fiction, I figured it would be wise for me to attend and learn how to make my female characters more believable. You know, Strong? As in well written?

You see I was born male and although I try, I can’t completely fathom the minds of some women. I’m the only male member in a critique group with four women. Also, I’ve learned to listen to pushy women characters, who tell me what they want me to write, but I still need all the help I can get in drafting believable women. So, I attended the class.

It was not what I expected. The panelists began to talk about women who are strong physically and mentally. Feminism was mentioned, as well as not making your characters into men with breasts.

Okay, I’m all for, writing characters who are a little heroic, as long as they have a few faults, but why should all women be able to deal with forces beyond their control? Why should any character have to be stronger than normal people?

Throughout the series, Harry Potter spends a large amount of time whining about his woes. He makes me want to pull him to his feet and tell him to man up. You see, Harry was a great character. He was real. He rose to the challenges presented to him and he made it through. Most of the time it was dumb luck, but he made it through.

So, if we can love a male character like Harry Potter, why do women characters have to be stronger? I guess the big question is why do these discussions have to turn into gender role issues?

I’ve written females who are like many of the women I have known in my life. They rise to a challenge with quiet dignity and bravery. I’ve also written females who are larger than life. Under some circumstances, they could be considered heroes.

I’ve also written males that have the same traits. None of my characters are limited to gender roles unless the plot requires it. I’ve heard many readers want characters who Are larger than life, but I want to write people who are normal.

I sat in the auditorium hoping for advice on making real characters. Instead, I worked on a part of my story that has been troubling me. I deleted several paragraphs, and tried to make my first sentence more compelling.

I’ve met a lot of new friends at the conference, renewed old friendships, and learned a lot from great presenters. Thank you to those who labor long, and hard, to produce the symposium, Life the Universe and Everything (LTUE).

Do you have a favorite female character from a book or movie? Leave a comment and tell me about her and why she is your favorite.

One of my favorites is Celie Harris, from The Color Purple. She was abused from the day she was born. Then certain events and a good friendship helped her rise above the fear and stand up against it. She is a character to be proud of. You can see a clip from the movie here, but be warned there are a few bad words.

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.