Flaws Are Sexy

A few friends on the media social were linking to this piece on “strong” female characters and it’s well worth checking out. It discusses the notion that what’s more interesting and three-dimensional are female characters with flaws and personalities and, you know, those things that humans have.

The author links to this other piece from the New Statesman that inspired her. It’s somewhat more substantial, especially for its notion of the “Strong Male Character” and the potentially few examples of such a narrow-minded concept, like so:

Batman’s insistence that he can, must, will get into the Strong Male Character box comes close to hysteria, but there’s no room in there for his bat ears and cape and he won’t take them off.

As you can tell it’s also pretty funny so I’d heartily recommend that too.

As a guy who writes women (as well as men of my own gender) and worries that he’s making them too flawed, that people won’t get that I’m making a statement with a character or just trying to give them enough depth to be interesting and seem real, it’s somewhat comforting to read pieces like this and know that I really am just overthinking things.

Wait. It’s comforting to know that I’m just neurotic?

Um. Yeah, I guess.

I kind of wish I’d been able to read something like this a couple of years ago when I started working on Scars, that horror/drama/comedy screenplay I occasionally blather about that has a female protagonist and a reasonably diverse supporting cast of characters. I won’t spoil the story for you but it concerns a young woman named Laura who comes back to her hometown after an extended absence and starts to fall into old patterns that aren’t necessarily too healthy for her. Naturally, this meant she had a few problems, and I was terrified that I’d be crucified for making her seem like a “bitch” or a “slut” or any number of other derogatory, reductive stereotypes.

This was, of course, pretty dumb.

I’d bash my head against the wall trying to make sure Laura didn’t come across as the kind of character who would offend anyone when really I should have been more concerned with ensuring her motivation made sense and that I cared about her enough to get other people to care about her too. That kind of second-guessing can drive you mad, so I’m glad I gave it up before long.

Which isn’t to say you shouldn’t think critically about your work as a writer or an artist of some description. That’d be pretty dumb. But you can’t let the guiding principle to any work be “who might be offended by this portrayal of so-and-so?” – that’s the death knell of creativity. Instead, I’d suggest the advice that’s been given a million times before: just get it written. Beat that first draft out without giving it too much thought and then look back on it to see if the result matches up with your intentions. If there are a few glaring contradictions and howling errors in what you’ve done then congratulations – it’s definitely a first draft and deserves rewriting to within an inch of its life. And hey, if you’re so mired in the intricacies of the story that you can’t see your characters for the plot, just get your nemesis to read it. They won’t be shy about telling you if your characters suck, believe me.

Okay, I think that’s all I have to say about that. I’m starting to do that overthinking thing again.


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