I know that it can be hard to be a woman in this day and age, and it can be just as hard for male authors to write female characters. I’m not saying that as a gay and black male writer I’ve got it just as hard as my female friends who also know what it’s like to be treated like a second-class citizen who has no rights, but I always proceed with the utmost level of caution with my female characters.

Take my Furious character Bisset Torres. Bisset is a modern-day black woman who has wings, the ability to heal, and wields a sword that can cut through anything, but she’s only this person during the day. As soon as night falls, Bisset’s other personality, The Dragoness, takes over. The Dragoness believes that there is wisdom to be gained in mental/physical/emotional suffering, can withstand being hit with a missile, breathes emerald fire, and is an all-around bad mammajamma…at least I think so. Even though Bisset is the only female member of The Furies, she’s actually three characters: Bisset, Seraph, and The Dragoness. Through her I get to explore three different female perspectives. Bisset feels a bit like a teenaged girl for the second time who is adjusting to the mental and physical changes she’s experiencing, Seraph is the nurturing mother, and The Dragoness is…well, you’d probably think that she’s just a super-powered bitch until you get to know her.

I don’t set out to make all of my female characters badasses, nor do I set out to make my female characters victims, sex objects, powerless, nurturing, nerdy, gamers, geeks, powerful, angry or anything else. What I do try to make my female characters is genuine. I don’t want my reader to feel as though I’m forcing certain traits on my female characters, nor do I feel that I have to write a female character a certain way just because it’s popular and something that moves books off of the shelves.

Rape and abortion are very much hot button issues right now. I don’t like to shy away from any kind of subject matter as long as it’s relevant to the story, but I don’t want to include a rape or an abortion strictly for the shock value. Readers can tell when writers are going for the throat, and a writer’s female audience might become deeply offended if the attempt isn’t particularly well done. Not to lump all women into one category, but when a woman doesn’t like something, she’ll most definitely find a way to let you and everyone else (like the rest of your readers) know. This isn’t to say that writers (both men and women) shouldn’t let the story have its say, just that the story should have its say in the most conscious and cautious way possible. While there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, a writer who hopes to become successful has to always keep their audience in mind.

I don’t ask my female friends to tell me what they think of my female characters and if their actions are what a real woman would do. Since I’ve always had more female friends than male friends and I’m in touch with my feminine side (yeah, I said it), I feel like it’s no problem for me to put myself into my female character’s high-heels, combat boots, bare feet or whatever other kind of footwear she might be wearing. Even though it’s easy for me to write female characters, I’m still quite careful to make sure that I’m not subconsciously using my female characters as a response to or a representation of current events. At the end of the story, I feel that what’s most important is that I write human characters.

Have you ever struggled to write characters of the opposite sex? Why or why not?

Next post: The Shock Factor: Does it sell books?

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