What to Avoid When Writing Female Leads

Inspired by some things I talked about in my Wonder Woman post. 

Female leads are a good thing, or at least they should be. But when handled incorrectly, they can be annoying or even a story killer. This list is what I personally think are the biggest things to avoid when writing a story with a female lead.

The “Strong Female” personality

Believe or not, women can have multiple personalities. Yet strong female characters often have the same personality – one that starts at “strong” and ends with “female”.

If you’re writing a strong female protagonist – or even just a supporting character – give her a personality past “strong female”. She should still have likes and dislikes past being strong or rebellious. One of the best examples of this is in Harry Potter – Hermione enjoys reading and history, Ginny is an athlete and a very powerful witch, and Luna is loves hand-making clothes and magical creatures – and those are just some of their likes. Each girl has a personality all of her own as well.

Only Having One

This is especially true for supporting females, but sometimes happens with leads as well. A writer will try to be inclusive, and include one whole woman in the story. However, with some exceptions, females should logically have more of a presence in the story.

In Percy Jackson, for instance, there’s Annabeth, Clarisse, and Rachel, and in the following series Piper, Hazel, and Reyna. And those are just the main female characters – the series is full of supporting females.

Of course, there are exceptions. Wonder Woman only has one main female character – and that fits the time period well, since just one female warrior would have been strange enough for World War I. Moana only has two protagonists with much screen-time, so there would have been no chance for adding a secondary strong female character.

Stop talking about the fact that she’s female!

This was the biggest annoyance in the pilot of Supergirl. Yes, the fact that there is a female superhero is super cool – but stop bringing it up every five seconds.

Not only is this repetitious (and therefore annoying), it can seem like the writers are trying to sell the character on the fact that she’s female alone – and not that she’s a fully developed, likable person.

On a somewhat related note, if writing something along the lines of action or fantasy, please give her an actual capable villain outside of sexism. Please.

Don’t completely change her personality when she falls in love

It happens to often – a girl will be strong, independent, and able to take care of herself, right up until she falls in love.

Don’t do this! Women can still fall in love and be independent. Men can still be in love with a independent woman and protect her. Shannon Hale’s Books of Bayern series is a great example of this. Many of the female characters fall in love, and they still can take care of themselves – but their lovers still protect them, follow them when in trouble, and stand by their sides.

Picture from Wikipedia

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