Writer’s Craft # 98 Murderous Men with Vaginas
Kristene Perron is a former professional stunt performer for film and television, (as Kristene Kenward). Pathologically nomadic, she has lived in Japan, Costa Rica, the Cook Islands and a very tiny key in the Bahamas. Her stories have appeared in Canadian Storyteller Magazine, The Barbaric Yawp and Denizens of Darkness. Her recently published novel, Warpworld, is the first in a five book adventure science fiction series, co-penned with her Texan writing partner, Joshua Simpson. www.warpworld.ca. Gumballs roll from her cranium at www.the-coconut-chronicles.com
The first time I was punched in the face, really hard, I thought I was going to cry. The feeling passed in about the time it took for me to throw a punch back at my sparring partner, but when I write strong female characters I keep that memory close.
Women and men are equal, but different. Without some acknowledgment of this difference, fictional female assassins, soldiers, pirates, martial arts masters, and so on, are merely, (in the colourful words of my writing partner, Josh Simpson), murderous men with vaginas. As a woman who spent years living dangerously, this is both a literary pet peeve and an insult.
Unless a writer deliberately creates a culture or species with inverted or vastly different gender roles and/or biology than humans, even the gutsiest warrior woman will experience the world differently than her male counterparts. She doesn’t have to wear a dress or bake cookies; it only takes a small detail to make her feel authentic without reverting to stereotypes. As you write strong female characters, consider that gender affects size, strength, speed, power, vision, hearing, memory, language, and reactions to fear, pain and aggression, among others.
No matter how much butt your female character may kick, take a long look at what makes her different from the men around her. Does she have a knack for languages? Is she more empathetic? Does she need a special weapon because of her size or strength? Does she want to cry the first time she’s punched in the face but then fights back anyway?
Yes, to quote the t-shirt, girls kick ass. We just do it our way.
Who are some of your gutsy female characters and what makes them different from the men in your story? What about some of your favourite kick-ass fictional females – what makes them memorable?