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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Female Viewpoint

My regular readers will know I use female characters a lot.  Not exclusively, but more often – and certainly in preference to – men.

One of the nicest things a critiquer ever said to me is that she had assumed I was a female writer, because I understand how women think.  (To be honest, how women think is something I’m very good at NOT understanding, but that’s a tangent I’ll not go down…)

Someone recently asked me why I prefer using female viewpoint to male. I thought it would make a good blog topic, so here goes…

I’d never been comfortable with male characters, although for me it naturally started off as the obvious one to use.  Male heroes in speculative fiction ‘have’ to be strong, single-minded all action figures.  That’s not me at all – I’m much more boy next door than Conan the Barbarian

No matter how hard I try, my male leads end up like me.  That might be fine for other genres, but it doesn’t work for Celtic warriors in my historical fiction – although for Prince Einion in ‘The Doe and the Dragon’ I deliberately made this a character flaw that played a role in the story.  The same in my forthcoming ‘Footholder’: Prince Einion is a skilled administrator and peacemaker.  In contrast, his brother is a violent thug and the characters ‘bounce’ off each other.

So, female viewpoint…

I first tried it seriously for a short (‘Snuff’, in ‘Unhinged’ issue 6).  The story wouldn’t have worked without a female lead, and to my surprise I found it easy (or should that be less difficult?) to do.

In fact, when I have both male and female leads in a story, any critiquers’ concerns about characterisation will usually relate to my male character and not the female.

So, why?

(Sexism alert…)  I think it’s because a female lead can get away with thinking her way out of a problem, rather than going in with all guns blazing.  That’s more me, too.  There are exceptions, of course (Xena; Ripley in ‘Alien’) but in general a female lead doesn’t have to be gung-ho and all-action. 

The many females used by my writing hero, Richard Laymon, manage to retain an ordinariness – and dare I say likeability - that probably wouldn’t be strong enough in a male lead.  I think my main characters follow Laymon’s pattern, and so for me female viewpoint characters work better than male.

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