Portraying strong women authentically is tricky. Most of the time, I find strong female characters are caricatures of an extreme: the dim-witted blond, the stock-in-trade man with boobs, the femme fatale. These are stereotypes sure, but what they really are is extreme examples of real life. Can you find an example from history of a female warrior in a male-dominated society – sure, but she’s an outlier. If you want to write an outlier character that’s fine, but let the traits that make her an outlier be the source of her strength not her ability to wield a sword.
Let’s look at a real-world example, Malala Yousafzai. She’s a strong woman, but is she strong because she survived a bullet wound to the head? Yes, partly, but moreso she’s strong because of the choices that led to her being targeted, and the friends and family who empowered her to follow her heart.
Are you able to portray women without these extremes that’s both likable (or at least worthy of cheering for) and surprises readers? That’s the tricky part.
It’s back to school for everyone – not just kids. Vacation’s over. Fun’s over…or maybe the fun is just beginning.
This fall, W.A.N.A. is back with new classes, new instructors, and lots of exciting announcements coming up. Bookmark W.A.N.A. and make sure to subscribe to my blog to stay up-to-date with all the news!
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This is the third time I venture to lay hands on fashion for our characters. In my first blog post I dared to talk about the difference between some Historical Romance book covers and the truth; in my second post I showed some past and maybe current and future fashion in the Science Fiction genre.
Right now I decided to peek into ‘my own’ genre, Paranormal Romance. It took me a while to find out what genre I write in. According to Wikipedia, Paranormal Romance means, I write about “Supernatural behavior, abilities, and creatures in our current existing world’. I think this covers it pretty much. I’m sure there are similar or other explanations, telling us more or less the same thing. But this is right. At least that’s what I do.
Let’s take the existing world, mixed with ‘supernatural abilities and creatures.’ These creatures might be all kinds of characters, from trolls to orcs, to fairies, ghosts or even, as I introduced you to: shadows like Rapha Golden, demons, like Ethel, or even this one, unique and mysterious humanoid beautiful ‘Simin Arnatt.’
Let me pick Simin as an example. Simin is mysterious. She holds many secrets, and I am not the one to reveal them, except one: Simin is no spoiled princess. She’s a warrior, a fighter, even a hunter, and exceptionally good at what she does. That’s why, during her work, I dress her into something like this:
Of course, Simin is a business woman as well, after all, she’s a freelancer in… – never mind. But occasionally she meets clients, agencies or her lawyer. In such a case she has been seen wearing similar outfits like the ones here:
Simin has the right to be on vacation like other people as well. For these occasions, she has outfits for summer…
… and winter.
Simin is a unique person, in more than one way. Her life is adventurous and at times dangerous. And still… she’s everywhere and nowhere. She hasn’t known a home for a long, very long time. Her wardrobe is limited. But this doesn’t mean she has no taste or is not fashionable. But I promise, one day, you will find out more about her.
What would you dress your paranormal romance characters in? Do you have published a book in this genre already or are writing one? What are your characters wearing? Please let us know in the comments below.
In my blog post ‘Fashion For Characters I’ I showed the difference between certain book covers of ‘Historical Romance’ books and the ‘reality.’
This time I decided to talk about how to dress ‘Science Fiction’ characters.
I have to admit; I can only talk about what I would dress them into, rather than what I do make them wear because Science Fiction is not my genre. Science Fiction is probably the perfect genre to read for technics and computer lovers, Star Trek, Star Wars and Star-whatever’ fans, which I’m deeply ashamed to admit I’m not.
But let’s see if I still can endeavor to find something decent to wear for these characters. At this moment I depend on what I remember. When I was little my Dad loved to watch the old Star Trek show, and I find their ladies fashion irresistible and I cannot and will not deprive you of seeing what people back then considered decent fashion for female Science Fiction characters:
Nowadays I figure our imagination of a Science Fiction Princess on a formal event might more be dressed in something like this:
Or if there is a technical computer war in some space ship, we could dress her in this?
Or do we like it a little sexier? Maybe this would be more (in)appropriate for our story?
Right here, I preferred dressing ladies in my imagination of Science Fiction characters. I would be very curious what kind of ideas you would come up with. I’m a woman “dressing” women. But what would a male writer do in such a case? Aren’t mainly men writing Science Fiction after all, or am I very wrong with this guess?
I know that this is an unpopular opinion. Truthfully, there are countless people who are smarter and more successful than I am, who believe the exact opposite. Up until a few days ago, I believed that of all the elements of a story the concept of character was, by far, the most integral element of a narrative. I am not saying that it is unimportant, but rather the idea of conflict has more power in creating a compelling narrative. It drives tension, creates depth, and is pervasive in every element of skilled storytelling. To kick off this discussion, I want to present my view of character.
Character: The Lens of the Reader
Characters are representations of people who have a role in a story. I argue that in order to qualify as a character, the person depicted actually has to engage in some sort of activity relevant to the Point of View…
What is your name and can you tell us something about you?
I’m Rapha Golden. You could call me a “shadow.”
What does a “shadow” do? I mean, you don’t look like someone incorporeal. You stand here, and actually, look pretty handsome.
Oh – thank you. – Well, to be honest, all of us “shadows” are handsome. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing.
You said “all of us shadows.” You mean, there are more than “just” you?
Of course, there are more than just me. There are thousands and thousands more. Let me think. At the last counting, we were 496’722.
How can you keep track of all of them so exactly?
This is a secret. I’m sorry, but I’m mandatory to keep certain things to myself.
Of course. But can you tell me what a “shadow’s” job is?
Yes, this I can.
We are living amongst people. Most don’t see us – but some sense us. For the ones who can see us and even talk to us, we are handsome, friendly, amazing strangers. To the ones that sense us, they just take in our friendliness and what we “let them feel.” For all others, we are designed to get as close as possible and whisper into their ears.
Wait a second: You are “designed” to whisper into human ears? Do I understand this correctly?
–laughs again —
This is correct. But we don’t whisper nice things… it’s more the opposite. With our whispering, our influence, our advice and silent suggestions, we are steering humans into the dark direction; onto our side.
You are talking about the “dark side”… evil things? You are influencing humans to do bad things that might cause them ending up in hell?
Of course, dear lady. I could even do this with you.
HA HA HA – Yes, sure! Like I would let this happen!
There’s nothing you can do Aurora Jean.
Of course, I can. Don’t forget: I can sense you, I can see you, I can talk to you, I made you and I can easily make you disappear again.
Oh yes, Rapha Golden…. you are my creature. You are one of my characters, and as handsome as you are – It wouldn’t cost me more than a couple of mouse clicks to let you disappear.
Would you mind not using words like this in my office? We are not in your favorite cave here.
You! You b^%$*
That’s what I mean… this interview is over. Oh – you are sooooo going to pay for this in my book!
My apologies for Rapha’s inappropriate language. I just “discovered” him and thought it would be kind of fun to introduce him. Apparently he screwed it up.
I hope you had at least a little fun “meeting” him.
A couple of months ago, visiting a successful and experienced writer friend he told me, he read one of my pieces. I still am honored and flattered he took the time. He has an amazing way of complimenting and encouraging me – but also bringing on constructive criticism which I apparently deserved. Just this time I had no idea what he meant when he told me: “You have only one character voice.”
— ?? —
I was a little shocked. Not that I didn’t believe him, I just couldn’t believe it.
He is a wonderful mentor and of course took the time to explain to me what he was talking about:
All of my characters talk the same way. I frowned. I know my characters in and out, I know their looks, their abilities, their character, and personalities, whenever I write about them I can nearly hear their voices in my head – and still, they all talk the same?
After my visit I went back to the piece he was talking about – and I wasn’t half through I thought I understood now what he was talking about.
Jackie Cangro has published a blog post on “The Writer’s Block” blog, providing us with the seven elements of our “character’s voice”:
She defines each of the elements in details and delivers descriptions which are easy to follow. I very much appreciate the easy read and learn-part of this blog post. The entire post can be found here: