2/22/12

“Girls can do anything boys can... except be well-written characters.”


Did that piss you off as much as it did me?  The other day I was creating bios for my characters and researched something to the effect of “well written characters” and I came across this article titled “Girls can do anything boys can... except be well-written characters.”

Well, needless to say, the title alone pissed me off and I clickety-clicked the link to find out what this idiot had to say. There were pages and pages to this conversation, between people who spoke from authoritative and condescending platforms, regarding their opinions on the lack of well-written female characters… in cartoons.   Mind you, it took me a few comments into the conversation to realize they were talking about cartoons but for a second there, my blood was boiling.

My first instinct was to disregard the conversation as crap because it was about cartoon characters.  But who am I to dismiss it because I think it’s flippant.  There are a lot of people who think YA or romance novels are flippant.  (Apparently I like the word flippant today.)   

But it got me to wondering, is that statement true for books? Most specifically YA because that’s what I enjoy reading.  Upon delving into the great-female-cartoon-protagonist debate, I quickly found the author of the post really didn’t have a leg to stand on.  Though they whined and complained about the quality of well-written female cartoon characters, not once did they offer an example of what they would consider a well-written female cartoon character should be like.  When other people gave their examples contrary to the statement, the author of the post immediately shot them down with nonsensical replies either damning girls for being girls or damning them for being like boys.  Well what the hell else can they be?

A well-written character is one that is true to their nature.  They are shaped by their environment, choices, and DNA and your character should stay true to who they are.  Whether they are overly girlie, clumsy, rough around the edges or snarky, they can’t help but be themselves.  We’ve seen it in our own manuscripts when a character isn’t well written.  They say or do something that doesn’t quite feel right, setting off our editing alarms.  BECAUSE they were acting out of character!  And the only time our characters should act out of character, is if something is actually seriously wrong.  (Yes I used two adverbs side by side, get over it.) Just because Kim Possible is perfect and can kick ass doesn’t make her poorly written.  Even Kim’s over confident ego gets her in trouble and Ron Stoppable ends up clumsily saving her butt.  Male or female, well-written characters are true to themselves no matter the situation.  Doesn’t mean they can’t grow, they just do it with their own flavor of personality.

What do think makes a well-written character?

In case you are curious, here’s the article I read.  It will give you a headache reading through the aristocracy.  And also, the article was written several years back.

5 comments :

  1. My eyes are rolling up so high in my head they may be stuck looking up forever.

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  2. Leslie - it is quite pathetic, don't you agree? And for them to have no grounds for their statement, useless.

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  3. Wow. I guess it's good to be aware of stereotypes, but ouch!

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  4. Ara - I know, kind of a nonsense opinion...in my opinion.

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  5. Your title DID grab my attention. :) And I agree with you, as long as the character stays true to who they are, I love them. But if there is a moment or a scene that feels contrived or I'm thinking, "They would NOT do that!" then I'm completely derailed and disengaged with the story no matter how great the plot.

    Thanks for your kind words about my Little Red Dress experiment. I'll be posting pictures weekly and hopefully a collage at the end. :)
    Catherine Denton

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