Comic Talk and General Discussion

Make up a new girl character
Bruno Harm at 11:24AM, March 14, 2016
(offline)
posts: 121
joined: 10-18-2015
This is a lightning rod these days. Female characters in comics are under so much scrutiny. I thought it might be a good idea to talk about making female characters. Maybe brainstorm a little. Please, I did not start this topic to invite gender wars or soap boxing. let's focus on building, not tearing down.

I was working on an older woman who is happily married and pretty satisfied with life, but she does get bored, and is always looking for a good hobby to keep her busy. She also enjoys living vicariously through the drama of others. she's a lens of experience to look at people in unhappy relationships, but she can come off as judgmental, and nosey. She will get involved in things when she shouldn't, but is always trying to help.
She likes to throw out “Mae West” lines when she can, especially to surprise younger people, but she's not really flirtatious. she'll put an old horn dog in his place quick.

this may seem like an “old busy body” trope, but I'm hoping to turn that around into something more positive.
KimLuster at 12:52PM, March 14, 2016
(online)
posts: 716
joined: 5-15-2012
Seems a safe enough character - she'd be fairly hard to mess up, imo

Still, in the current volatile environment you never know…

I read an article recent how Caucasians really can't EVER properly write African-Americans because there's no way you could ever really know what it's like being one in the U.S. Social Climate unless you ARE one, thus such characters always comes across as fake-sounding, stereotypical…!!

And in the same article that was much lamentations about how there's not enough Diversity among characters in stories and movies…

Gaaaahhhh!

Honestly, as long as you think of the characters as a person first, as opposed to a stock-character (suburban housewife) that you just tagged on a few traits, I think you just write whatever you want!

My two cents…
Genejoke at 12:55PM, March 14, 2016
(online)
posts: 3,629
joined: 4-9-2010
I write women just like I write men… badly.
Ironscarf at 5:11PM, March 14, 2016
(online)
posts: 1,460
joined: 9-9-2008
Bruno Harm wrote:
This is a lightning rod these days. Female characters in comics are under so much scrutiny. I thought it might be a good idea to talk about making female characters. Maybe brainstorm a little. Please, I did not start this topic to invite gender wars or soap boxing. let's focus on building, not tearing down.

You might struggle to get any gender wars/soap boxing started here BH - some other sites are much better at that than us!

You make a good point though. I keep seeing characters that have clearly been created to conform to the pc notions of what's supposedly currently acceptible and even established characters being changed to fit this ideal. I've seen one author publicly agonising over whether to remove their old, now politically unacceptible pages (no real intention of removing them of course, but a bit of self flagellation always goes down well).

I personally don't think this is a good way to write a character, regardless of gender. A cardboard construct made to tick the right boxes is no better than a sexist stereotype. Better to write about the real people you know and then put them in outer space, or in the dark ages, or a bottomless diner - the possibilities are endless. They rarely meet any kind of ideal, but that's life.



e: Hang on, did I just soapbox this thread? Maybe there's hope for us yet.
 
last edited on March 14, 2016 5:38PM
usedbooks at 6:47PM, March 14, 2016
(online)
posts: 2,980
joined: 2-24-2007
Around 50% of my characters are female. I worry more about writing men because I'm not one. Like any other demographic category, gender can have a greater or lesser affect on a character whether they follow or break social norms (ours or theirs in whatever universe they inhabit) or whether their gender has very little effect on who they are or how they think.

The same applies to age, wealth, and race. The less represented are going to be stereotyped more and/or are under more critical scrutiny by the audience. The fewer examples of any demographic you have in your cast, the more they will be perceived as representative of the author's view of the entire gender, race, age, whatever.

Now for recent examples of female characters. Recently I fleshed out a sassy tween overachiever. At 13 years old, she's still more a little girl than a teen. She likes bright colored clothes and plastic jewelry. She gets good grades and is active in sports and clubs. She's very popular. She's sarcastic and curses a lot. She loves pranks and talks down to stupid people (or people she thinks are stupid, like her brothers). I have reservations writing for her because of her age. She's the youngest in my cast.

I also have a not-quite-female character. I have been musing on the subject of demographics and gender. The character is named Quinn, whose background is theater. Quinn is rarely ever Quinn and instead chooses to live as different characters based on mood or assignment. Quinn claims no gender or real identity unless in character. One of Quinn's characters is Allison, a lady in her late thirties. She enjoys antiquing and books and has a mischievous streak. She was created for the sole purpose of getting close to another character and is tailor-made to be her friend. (I'm still fleshing out Quinn. Just one “character” so far, but I have others in mind.)

Just some newer examples. My way of making characters start with a concept and develop themselves into “real people” over time through their actions and dialogue as well as how others perceive them.

I have no doubt that your “old busy body” will develop into something more than a trope. Besides that, I don't think it's necessarily negative. I love when a trait normally seen as negative is an asset. She sounds a bit like a few 50+ ladies I have known in southern VA. I know one lady who seems to live for drama. She likes to be the center of it though. Others love other people's drama. This does seem to be a female trait from what I've seen. Heh. I also like the idea that she puts on “sexy” to shock young people. I enjoy when older people mess with younger ones like that. Sounds like fun.
last edited on March 14, 2016 6:48PM
Gunwallace at 7:45PM, March 14, 2016
(online)
posts: 359
joined: 10-13-2010
Was having major problems with a story once. The main character seemed weak. Not quite heroic enough. Then I changed the gender of the main character to female. Suddenly she seemed much more kick-ass. Nothing else changed. This has made me revisit a number of stories-in-progress. It has also made me wonder at the “why?” of all this. I write weak men, but strong women? Do men have to be ‘extreme’ to be heroic now?
David ‘Gunwallace’ Tulloch, www.virtuallycomics.com
ozoneocean at 8:18PM, March 14, 2016
(online)
posts: 26,723
joined: 1-2-2004
@Gunwallce: I think that with male characters it's the fact that they always have to appear completely confident, unquestioning of their choices, and largely emotionless. Any break in that and they're “weak”- whereas for a female character they can show worry, questioning and crises of confidence and still appear strong.
BUT- if the “ strong” female character doesn't have any of those traits then they're considered too mannish and heartless.
Hmmm, interesting.

I don't really know, I'm just guessing here.

————–

What I really want to do is have a hard as nails older female character- maybe much older. There's not enough of that in fiction, usually it makes too much of the “granny” trope and they're not a person, just a weird granny who's acting against type. I was inspired by the older lady characters in the latest Mad Max film.
Mainly Melissa Jaffer: I've seen her in many movies and TV series over the years and it was amazing to see her in that film, it made perfect sense.
 
last edited on March 14, 2016 10:25PM
bravo1102 at 1:27AM, March 15, 2016
(offline)
posts: 4,634
joined: 1-21-2008
And when working in the senior apartments I befriended a woman almost be precisely like how you describe even down to the Mae West quotes.
Bruno Harm at 5:18AM, March 15, 2016
(offline)
posts: 121
joined: 10-18-2015
usedbooks wrote:
Around 50% of my characters are female. I worry more about writing men because I'm not one. Like any other demographic category, gender can have a greater or lesser affect on a character whether they follow or break social norms (ours or theirs in whatever universe they inhabit) or whether their gender has very little effect on who they are or how they think.

The same applies to age, wealth, and race. The less represented are going to be stereotyped more and/or are under more critical scrutiny by the audience. The fewer examples of any demographic you have in your cast, the more they will be perceived as representative of the author's view of the entire gender, race, age, whatever.

Now for recent examples of female characters. Recently I fleshed out a sassy tween overachiever. At 13 years old, she's still more a little girl than a teen. She likes bright colored clothes and plastic jewelry. She gets good grades and is active in sports and clubs. She's very popular. She's sarcastic and curses a lot. She loves pranks and talks down to stupid people (or people she thinks are stupid, like her brothers). I have reservations writing for her because of her age. She's the youngest in my cast.

I also have a not-quite-female character. I have been musing on the subject of demographics and gender. The character is named Quinn, whose background is theater. Quinn is rarely ever Quinn and instead chooses to live as different characters based on mood or assignment. Quinn claims no gender or real identity unless in character. One of Quinn's characters is Allison, a lady in her late thirties. She enjoys antiquing and books and has a mischievous streak. She was created for the sole purpose of getting close to another character and is tailor-made to be her friend. (I'm still fleshing out Quinn. Just one “character” so far, but I have others in mind.)

Just some newer examples. My way of making characters start with a concept and develop themselves into “real people” over time through their actions and dialogue as well as how others perceive them.

I have no doubt that your “old busy body” will develop into something more than a trope. Besides that, I don't think it's necessarily negative. I love when a trait normally seen as negative is an asset. She sounds a bit like a few 50+ ladies I have known in southern VA. I know one lady who seems to live for drama. She likes to be the center of it though. Others love other people's drama. This does seem to be a female trait from what I've seen. Heh. I also like the idea that she puts on “sexy” to shock young people. I enjoy when older people mess with younger ones like that. Sounds like fun.


Hey, I live in southern VA ! Virginia Beach actually.

I tend to mix and match things from people I know.
I think your Quin character sounds interesting. is it Science fiction? or just covert ops? There's so much room for character development there.
last edited on March 15, 2016 6:29AM
Bruno Harm at 5:24AM, March 15, 2016
(offline)
posts: 121
joined: 10-18-2015
bravo1102 wrote:
And when working in the senior apartments I befriended a woman almost be precisely like how you describe even down to the Mae West quotes.

You don't tend to think about elderly people as sexual beings, but when you spend time with them, they are still the same people they were when they were younger in a lot of ways, and it's funny how surprising that is. I think that's the whole Betty White thing in a nutshell.
last edited on March 15, 2016 6:28AM
usedbooks at 9:59AM, March 15, 2016
(online)
posts: 2,980
joined: 2-24-2007
I think your Quin character sounds interesting. is it Science fiction? or just covert ops? There's so much room for character development there.
It's set basically modern day and real world. Quinn works for a crime boss, basically part of his intel team. Another team member is a tech genius who apparently has a form of sociopathy or possibly autism. (He doesn't really acknowledge other people or react to social situations. He's very focused on codes.)

Technically, they are antagonists in my story but neither is a “bad guy,” imo. I really enjoy character development. Unfortunately, that leads to a lot of people to keep track of. I have another really bad guy who is a vicious misogynist. I thought it would be interesting to play him off Quinn a bit.
Kota at 8:33AM, March 16, 2016
(online)
posts: 86
joined: 1-4-2006
I tend to write everyone as flawed but capable in some way regardless of gender these days and it's working out so far. :)
Kota Otan
http://www.drunkduck.com/Mailbox_Rocketship/
and
http://www.drunkduck.com/The_Errant_Apprentice/
-
“If Jeff Bridges is stupid enough to do this, I'M stupid enough to do this!”
MegaRdaniels at 6:01PM, March 24, 2016
(online)
posts: 86
joined: 3-18-2016
Whenever I write in a character for my comic book, they'll usually be goofy, funny, and intelligent. More like how I write my male characters. Now for my female antagonists, that's a different story.

Hawk at 1:38PM, March 25, 2016
(online)
posts: 2,790
joined: 1-2-2006
I've actually seen stories get destroyed when a group of people sit down and say, "Let's make a 'Strong Female Character'“. Why? Well, on the surface they're thinking of making a good character for women to enjoy, but beneath the surface they're thinking of TV demographics, political correctness, and merchandising.

The term ”Strong Female Character“ carries baggage with it. The first trait people think of with that as a prompt is, ”Well, she's strong.“ And that leads to connected traits like ”brave“, ”feisty“, ”defiant", and more… all perfectly fine traits, mind you, but it leads down the same path for basically everyone. You start to have a cookie cutter character.

Then we get to her flaws. Let's face it, due to the previously mentioned scrutiny that was talked about, people are afraid while creating female characters and political correctness kicks in. Now, the only flaws she receives are the ones that seem to make her cooler. "She's too bad-ass!“ ”She plays by her own rules!“ ”She has trouble mastering a skill that is pretty much difficult for everyone."

Soon, you have Korra from Legend of Korra: Season 1, or one of the dozens of female characters just like her.

People should be trying to make GOOD female characters. Give her some REAL flaws! Risk allowing some people not to like her. Let her make mistakes and for heaven's sake let her suffer consequences. Let her be wrong some times.

Kota wrote:
I tend to write everyone as flawed but capable in some way regardless of gender these days and it's working out so far. :)

I think that's a great approach.
 
last edited on March 25, 2016 8:08PM
Bruno Harm at 4:04PM, March 25, 2016
(offline)
posts: 121
joined: 10-18-2015
that's kind of what I was saying when I made this thread.

I wanted to knock around ideas to change the situation, more than discuss the situation itself.

You have any ideas for a character?

I think “real flaws” is a great place to start. what Flaws do male characters have that haven't translated well yet?
ozoneocean at 8:18PM, March 25, 2016
(online)
posts: 26,723
joined: 1-2-2004
Things like a drinking problem would be good. That's an old standard for male characters and works GREAT! It's a classic. Very noire yet totally modern, a bit kitsch but also timeless.

Whenever you see female characters with a drinking problem though (not in comedy), it's always because it's their “self medicating” coping mechanism or something, covering memories of abuse, an abusive relationship, something sad and horrible like that. Never just because they love to drink and overdo it, like most normal people who do that- like all the women I know who love to drink in their down time.

Just make the drinking its OWN flaw. Don't try to be a “clever” psuedoFreud. Freud was wrong about most of that stuff and so are you (that's the rhetorical “you”)
 
fallopiancrusader at 9:00AM, March 26, 2016
(online)
posts: 206
joined: 12-27-2013
Years ago, I illustrated a comic written by someone else. The author specified the sex of the main character, but not for any of the numerous secondary characters. I flipped a coin to determine what sex I would draw them as. As a result, the sex of the characters was completely arbitrary relative to their personalities and their role in the story. I still use this method for characters that might appear in the background of a panel, unless the scene has a sex-specific context.
Kota at 10:49AM, March 26, 2016
(online)
posts: 86
joined: 1-4-2006
ozoneocean wrote:
Things like a drinking problem would be good. That's an old standard for male characters and works GREAT! It's a classic. Very noire yet totally modern, a bit kitsch but also timeless.

This isn't a bad idea! Make her like a female Eddie Valiant from Roger Rabbit. Make her have to fight those demons.
Kota Otan
http://www.drunkduck.com/Mailbox_Rocketship/
and
http://www.drunkduck.com/The_Errant_Apprentice/
-
“If Jeff Bridges is stupid enough to do this, I'M stupid enough to do this!”
last edited on March 26, 2016 11:28AM
Kota at 10:51AM, March 26, 2016
(online)
posts: 86
joined: 1-4-2006
fallopiancrusader wrote:
Years ago, I illustrated a comic written by someone else. The author specified the sex of the main character, but not for any of the numerous secondary characters. I flipped a coin to determine what sex I would draw them as. As a result, the sex of the characters was completely arbitrary relative to their personalities and their role in the story. I still use this method for characters that might appear in the background of a panel, unless the scene has a sex-specific context.
If I'm not mistaken, that's how they did it in the original Alien film. No one was initially conceived as a specific gender at first. It's a great way to do it!
Kota Otan
http://www.drunkduck.com/Mailbox_Rocketship/
and
http://www.drunkduck.com/The_Errant_Apprentice/
-
“If Jeff Bridges is stupid enough to do this, I'M stupid enough to do this!”
last edited on March 26, 2016 11:28AM
Sway at 8:10PM, March 26, 2016
(online)
posts: 32
joined: 1-29-2015
I never consciously go out of my way to create a character of any particular gender; I more or less sketch out what the purpose of the character is, then assign that detail later. As it comes so late in the process, there's no baggage to developing the story around it one way or another. However, it can then be used from there to further develop the story in new and interesting ways.

Case in point, Sawgirl started out with a very simple idea: most superheroes don't kill. What if one did, and what if it was done in a really comically dark way that would leave no ambiguity to the horror of the violence inflicted? After deciding I would create a superhero who used a chainsaw, I begin to develop the user of said chainsaw. Ultimately I settled on a female lead because I thought it would serve as an interesting pivot from the male-dominated superhero medium, especially since the story would be as much a deconstruction of it as it would be an homage. That being said, I've never intentionally written Sawgirl's dialogue in a feminine way. She just is who she is; she also just happens to be a woman.

So, to keep in mind with the original thread idea, let's take a super masculine character. Let's take Conan the Barbarian, alright? Big, muscle-bound dude with a sword? Okay, but let's make that character female. Discard any of the fantasy tropes of buxom beauties wearing makeup and silk in a prehistory wasteland; let's see a female barbarian built like a brick shithouse covered in battle wounds, who decapitates her enemies and leaves a trail of sexual conquests in her wake. Let's have a female character who is defined as much by her incredible strength as her male counterpart, and not with the caveat that she still somehow has the figure of a supermodel. I think that'd be rad as h-e-double hockey sticks.
last edited on March 26, 2016 8:11PM
ozoneocean at 9:52PM, March 28, 2016
(online)
posts: 26,723
joined: 1-2-2004
@Sway- that kind of genderswap has been done before and the problem people have with it is it's often too obviously a male character that just happens to have a female body. You do have to be careful about that.

That worried me with my character Pinky, that people would think she was just a man with a woman's body- though in the end people didn't see her that way fortunately. The only issue I had was people sometimes thinking her face was too “manly” because I made her features very sharp without much softness, and often don't have her wearing makeup- both normal things for many women but people are too used to seeing the stereotype rounded cheeks, red full lips, and small smooth snub noses.
 
Bruno Harm at 9:34AM, March 29, 2016
(offline)
posts: 121
joined: 10-18-2015
I agree that there are factual differences between gender identities however myriad they become. Generalizations are based in observation, and to dismiss it outright is as much a disservice as stereotyping. I think a thoughtful and well rounded character is the best choice, and a person's sexuality is part of that character. If I was a woman tomorrow, I imagine I would experience life very differently, and probably be a different person as a result. we are more than the sum of our parts, but we do not transcend them.

Darn.. soap boxing.. sorry.

Let's try this. You need a character that loves to work on cars.

Boy that loves to work on cars… done

Girl that loves to work on cars.. ? is it pandering? is it a tomboy stereotype?

How do you write this character?
bravo1102 at 1:02AM, March 30, 2016
(offline)
posts: 4,634
joined: 1-21-2008
Product of her environment : loads of brothers or an influential father/uncle who shared his love of cars with her while she was growing up.

An oddball; everyone else played with dolls she went for working with her hands. Obsessed with how things work.

In other words, what motivates the character. Forget the gender typing and write about a person. I've met a few of these too as well as loving the movie My Cousin Vinny.
last edited on March 30, 2016 4:07AM
usedbooks at 9:54AM, March 30, 2016
(online)
posts: 2,980
joined: 2-24-2007
Agred with bravo. Why is the boy who works on cars “done” because of his gender? He doesn't have a backstory or motivation? I know dozens of males and about 0% of them likes cars. My mom likes cars though. She could tell you a hundred things about the models and makes, especially classics. She played with toy cars as a kid and grew up in the 50s when muscle cars were THE thing. She's not going against any norm. A male who likes cars might have the same exact backstory. He still needs a reason to have the passion.

Granted, a female mechanic might have faced different hurdles as she moved forward. Maybe her mom thought she should be a teacher or a homemaker – or maybe her parents ran an autoshop and fully supported her to learn the trade. The same could be true for a male. Maybe his parents wanted him to be a doctor or they talk about nothing but him getting married and giving them grandkids. I'm not saying gender isn't important. Certainly people with interests seen as “masculine” or “feminine” deal with different pressures or hurdles. The lady mechanic might struggle to get customers or get talked down to more than the male. But just because a male likes something masculine or a female likes something feminine, it doesn't give them a free pass for their character. Your Y chromosome didn't come attached to a monster truck, a football, and an X-Box.
Bruno Harm at 10:34AM, March 31, 2016
(offline)
posts: 121
joined: 10-18-2015
usedbooks wrote:
Agred with bravo. Why is the boy who works on cars “done” because of his gender? He doesn't have a backstory or motivation? I know dozens of males and about 0% of them likes cars. My mom likes cars though. She could tell you a hundred things about the models and makes, especially classics. She played with toy cars as a kid and grew up in the 50s when muscle cars were THE thing. She's not going against any norm. A male who likes cars might have the same exact backstory. He still needs a reason to have the passion.

Granted, a female mechanic might have faced different hurdles as she moved forward. Maybe her mom thought she should be a teacher or a homemaker – or maybe her parents ran an autoshop and fully supported her to learn the trade. The same could be true for a male. Maybe his parents wanted him to be a doctor or they talk about nothing but him getting married and giving them grandkids. I'm not saying gender isn't important. Certainly people with interests seen as “masculine” or “feminine” deal with different pressures or hurdles. The lady mechanic might struggle to get customers or get talked down to more than the male. But just because a male likes something masculine or a female likes something feminine, it doesn't give them a free pass for their character. Your Y chromosome didn't come attached to a monster truck, a football, and an X-Box.


This is exactly what I intended to highlight. Neither character is rounded out in any meaningful way, but would we question the male mechanic's motivations?
You mentioned a football and an Xbox. Why? because we have preconceived notions based on societal norms. When you see something out of the ordinary, you question it. Maybe I'm not writing a “why is this girl a mechanic” story, it's just part of her personality, but now there's some pressure to explain it that might not be there if she was a man.
This isn't the best example. There are enough women mechanic characters around, that it's not too outside the norm. I guess my point is that making generic, non gender characters, and then flipping a coin isn't the perfect answer.
usedbooks at 4:34PM, March 31, 2016
(online)
posts: 2,980
joined: 2-24-2007
It really depends on the person. I simply consider gender like any other demographic. Of course it affects the person's character. So does race, birthplace, nationality, age, etc.

That said, if it's not essential to the role filled, flipping a coin can be fun – for any of those traits/demographics. At least, it can be a good way to BEGIN character development. If the person is already a fleshed-out character with entire story written, it *usually* isn't a great way to go about it. It can work in some cases. However, for a significant main character, at some point his gender might matter. It will influence his backstory and interaction with others as much as his race or age or weight. If you want a diverse cast, go ahead and flip the coin, roll the dice, and design the details of your character around the results.

If I need a new character, I often do flip a coin early on. There are few cases where gender matters for the role, but it does affect the further development.
Bruno Harm at 7:07PM, March 31, 2016
(offline)
posts: 121
joined: 10-18-2015
Fair enough. To be honest, I've designed plenty of characters with the roll of a die (mainly in Dungeons and Dragons).

Here's one I've got coming up in my comic. She was a one off character that I liked, and want to flesh out into a reoccurring character. An ex girlfriend that was a one night stand for the main character, and her rebound guy turned out to be a bad guy (in the story). So it's a little cliché right? always falling for the wrong guy. But what else is compelling about this character? She has good self esteem and a good job. She sees herself as unlucky, maybe she's superstitious? I'm still working on this
ozoneocean at 8:57PM, March 31, 2016
(online)
posts: 26,723
joined: 1-2-2004
This makes me want to start writing stories again- non comic ones. Characters take so long to develop in comics it's easy to forget things about them- their personality becomes so amazingly diffuse that it's hard to know who they are.
Non-comic stories are way tighter.
 
bravo1102 at 2:19AM, April 1, 2016
(offline)
posts: 4,634
joined: 1-21-2008
ozoneocean wrote:
This makes me want to start writing stories again- non comic ones. Characters take so long to develop in comics it's easy to forget things about them- their personality becomes so amazingly diffuse that it's hard to know who they are.
Non-comic stories are way tighter.


That's because it takes you six months to produce a page. You can have nice tight comic stories. There are plenty of short form stories here, except they take place with recurring characters over a longer narrative. There are also the anthology comics around. But they move faster than a page semi annually.


Even if the story is not about the character's motivation, it can still be the basis around which she is created. You never need allude to it, but that is what made the character who she is and is the “why ” that gives you the hook to write about her. Like was told to me back when I first started out, come up with a single sentence or even a single word that gives a basis for the character's behavior. Like my Captain Rickover as the charming, boyish rake who just isn't the grand effective hero type that Kirk is. Or Aura: steady, grounded parent but what made her that way is what determines her reactions.
last edited on April 1, 2016 2:20AM
Z74 at 7:05PM, April 2, 2016
(offline)
posts: 24
joined: 9-14-2015
I think that way too much emphasis is placed on sex and sexuality in many cases these days if a character is in an action or adventure story just write a good character and don't even worry about that stuff!

Forgot Password
©2011 WOWIO, Inc. All Rights Reserved Google+