Why Your Female Character Needs to be Female (but not useless)


Ah, yes, those whip-smart, sassy female charries who won’t let the bad guys (or guys in general) beat them down.

They’re tougher than nails, always know how to use a gun (despite their lack of experience) and are able to take charge when their flailing male counterparts just can’t get it right.

They argue until they get their way and flash angry eyes with firmed lips when they don’t.

Sound familiar?

Now, on the other hand, we have those ladies who just can’t get a grip. A.K.A what I would call “the damsel in distress”. While it’s okay for girls to be in a bit of a pickle once and a while, it’s not okay all the time.

*shuffles feet* A good example of this would be…*cough*…Princess Buttercup from Princess Bride.

Please don’t send hate mail, or cause riots, or unsubscribe to my blog. I know I’m not in the majority when I say I do not like The Princess Bride.

I can’t stand that movie.

But, (to avoid any of you getting heart attacks and clicking out of your browser) I shall move on and hope you kinda-sorta get the point.


These gals cannot for the life of them defend themselves, get out of their own ruts, or do anything but dramatically fall into the path of the dashing knight as he bravely pushes her behind him.

Sounds to me like we need a heroine.

Not a cold and masculine woman, nor a flimsy and useless girl.

We need a balance. A true lady to fight the good fight.

It’s okay to be smart and tough yet sweet and quiet.

Why do some writers feel the need  to be completely on one side or the other? We saw evidence of this in my last post on male characters.

Whether our culture knows it or now, God created men and women.

Women are different, but not inferior. They don’t have to be masculine or, on the other hand, as breakable as a Christmas ornament. Don’t put those unrealistic expectations on them.

Think about yourself or people you know.

Now, I understand the importance of letting your characters stand on their own apart from your own personality, but just think of personalities in general.

Some people have stronger traits than others, some weaker.

Think of it like mixing colors. There’s lime green and dark forest green. Light blue and royal blue. One has a little darker pigment than the other, right? It’s the same way with our characters. It makes them different. Unique.

Us ladies don’t cry at the drop of a pen or scream in the face of authority (at least no one that I know).

Just made sure to think about the roundness of your character molding for both male and female characters.

Here’s the thing:

You can basically do whatever you want in your writing. You are creative. You have built worlds and created characters who have stories to tell. Why make them like everyone else? They don’t deserve that.

In the end, if all else fails, your awesome lady characters will be epically feminine, sassily sweet and your readers will love you forever and ever.


(Guuyysss look! I used not one, but TWO GIFS! I feel like a computer genius now…)




12 thoughts on “Why Your Female Character Needs to be Female (but not useless)

  1. So I watched Jack the Giant Slayer last night and kept thinking about this. [Incoming minor spoilers] On the one hand, props to the designers for giving Princess Isabelle non-sexualized “I ran away from home” clothes, and for putting her in armor that actually covers her entire body and is no more ridiculous than her father’s (Wow. Just wow. DAT GOLD.). Several characters also remark that she’s smart, and she has a discussion with her father about wanting to prove that she can be responsible and stand on her own. At one point she outright laments to Jack that she feels useless.

    I feel like this would have been a perfect opportunity to do the ‘physically in need of protection, but mentally on top’ thing. But other than her foresight to carve marks into trees so she can find her way back to the vine, all the big “come up with a plan” moments also go to Jack, so in the end she pretty much feels like a tag-along character there to be saved. Which is the case for a lot of princesses, but I think it was more noticeable because they bothered to point out her good qualities but then did almost nothing with them.

    Aaaaand, to end my rant, a great article on the subject: http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/08/i-hate-strong-female-characters

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never seen that movie! It sounds interesting. Wow, that’s really surprising. Women are, sadly, poorly represented…always. Good for the writers for not completely wrecking the leading lady! *claps*
      In all honesty, I think these types of characters are so rarely used that there is a lack of follow-through on them.
      It seems to me like Princess Isabelle started out as a fairly well thought-out character who ran into one of her “fatal flaws” and the writers forgot to pull her personality through to the end.
      I hope that made sense =P


      1. Yeah, I think the writers were so focused on Jack’s “useless farm boy makes up for his mistake and proves himself worthy” storyline that it didn’t leave room for her to do much.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love almost everything about this post, Wendy! (I made a slightly pouty-face when you mentioned the Princess Bride, but each to his own! *winks*)
    I whole-heartedly agree that the female characters in literature NEED to be rounded out. One of my biggest pet-peeves is seeing a female charrie who can’t do *anything* on her own, or even seeing a one who is completely void of emotion… Seriously, add some realism & balance! πŸ˜›

    Biblically speaking, women are the weaker vessel. But that doesn’t mean we are useless! And it doesn’t mean that we have to overcompensate by being hard & mean! And that also doesn’t mean they have to be boring. Ladies can do some pretty cool things… For instance, studies show that women usually have a higher pain tolerance than men. Using that in a story can add some depth to a female character & make her tough without losing her femininity! ❀

    Great post, Wendy! πŸ™‚ I've been thinking about this a lot lately, so this was refreshing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I knooow! I’ve never met anyone to doesn’t like Princess Bride *succumbs to being the minority*. YAAAS!!! Why is it bad that women are different than men? Modern culture fails to see that they were created separately and are trying, for some reason, to make them the same. It just doesn’t make sense and I think we can make a different (even just a small one) through our writing. And that’s why it’s so important ^_^

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with this so much. ^_^ You know, I’ve always loved The Princess Bride, but the last time I watched it I realized how much of a damsel in distress Buttercup was, and it really bothered me. I know if that movie was made today, she would have been portrayed quite differently… only on the other end of the scale, of course. >.< We need more female characters that are strong and capable but still FEMININE in their own way!

    Liked by 1 person

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