Thursday, July 17, 2014

How To Write Girls: For Guys

     I've seen a lot of blog posts and stuff with advice for female authors on how to write male characters (which, don't get me wrong, is really useful, considering I am a girl writer and the majority of POV's that I write are male), but I've never really seen any posts helping out our male writer friends.

     Male writers do sometimes write in a girl's head. Even though I've never read any of his books, I know that John Green has done it. Rick Riordan has and continues to alternate between chapters that switch between a guy's and a girl's mind. Eoin Colfer briefly inserted a few chapters in each book of the Artemis Fowl series that changed to one of the female characters' perspective. C.S. Lewis was somewhat of an omniscient narrator, but he still wrote about Susan, Lucy, the White Witch, and other female characters from their point of views. Even if your whole book isn't through the eyes of a girl, you're still bound to meet up with some female characters, and it's important that you portray them correctly.

     Maybe there haven't really been any blog posts discussing this topic because girls automatically assume that guys should be able to understand us. Well, here's a news flash, girls: we're confusing, especially to the male mind. For goodness' sake, I myself am a girl, and I don't even understand us sometimes!

     So, male writer friends, I have decided to put this blog post together especially for you guys. You deserve a little help understanding how girls think, and since I am one, maybe I can help you out.

     - Girls are emotional beings. Some of us, more than others. It's perfectly okay for your female character to cry -- just please don't reduce them into melting into a sobbing puddle at every other word your other characters say. We may cry, but we're not that pathetic.
     - My dad tells me, and I've heard this from other places too, that guys usually think about one thing at a time. I can honestly say that has almost never happened to me. Like, ever. I don't just have 'thoughts'. I have thoughts that turn into other thoughts that remotely connect to another thought that then reminds me of another thought until finally I stop and go, "Wait...what was I originally thinking about?" This may just be me, but from what my friends have told me, that happens to pretty much all girls.
     - Guys, I know that you can somehow think of nothing. I have no fathomable idea of how in the world you can do it, but I know that you can. Girls can't. I have never met a single girl who can completely clear her mind and think of absolutely nothing. We are physically incapable of doing that. Believe me, I have tried. I end up thinking about not thinking. Like this: "Okay, think of nothing. Am I doing it right? Nothing, nothing....wait, I'm still thinking. UGH! I'm not thinking of anything. But I just thought about that. Aw, man!" Even just thinking about not thinking is stressing me out as I write this. Long story short: girls' minds are always moving. We never stop, we never go blank.
     - Girls usually don't act differently around guys. Some do. Some flirt with like, every single guy they see. As for the girls that are my friends, we don't. We act ourselves around boys. If a girl just wants to be your friend (or an acquaintance), she's probably going to act like 'one of the guys'. That's basically what I do with the guys at my youth group. Unless you're trying to make a point with an exceptionally flirty girl character, please tone all that down. Please and thank you.
     - All girls are different, but some can be interested in things that guys are without being tomboys. I personally love Marvel movies and the Lord of the Rings. Those things are like epic action movies/books, so most times they aren't considered something a girl would like. Would you think that I, being a girl, would get grossed out by seeing Orcs being skewered and beheaded on the big screen? I don't. My sister accidentally found some bones of an animal while she was digging up her garden. I promptly went out and examined them, even to the point of where I wanted to pick them up.

     To give you more specific advice, I'd actually need to know what your questions are and what you want to learn. Please remember that all girls are different! Some girls get grossed out by things that I don't. Some girls hate Lord of The Rings and think it's too violent. Some girls aren't as sensitive as others. We're all different, so remember that the points I have made are mainly from my own experience and what I have seen of others. A particular female character of yours may be the opposite of me - that's okay; these aren't definite molds that all girls fit into.

     So, guys: what do you want to know about writing female characters? Feel free to ask away, and I would love to give you more specified answers. Hey girls writers, do you have any other advice for our male writers? Do tell!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Flawed Characters Are Fantastic Characters

     A common misconception is that readers want perfect characters. Well, as an avid reader and writer, I'm here to debunk that myth. No one - and I mean NO ONE - wants to read about a completely perfect character. 

     Readers want to relate to the characters in one way or another, and not a single person can relate to the flawless complexioned, always-nice, never-gets-into-trouble and always-gets-A's character. This isn't saying that your MC (or any other charrie, for that matter) can't get good grades or be an all-around nice person. But while you're thinking up all the good aspects of your character's personality, be sure to remember their flaws, too.

     I have flaws; believe me on this one. Sometimes I'm too loud or too talkative, and I often think before speaking. I fight with my sisters sometimes. At times I overthink things. All these things are real. You can probably relate to at least one of those situations. If I get into trouble for saying something I shouldn't have and I go to read a book to get my mind off of it, I don't want to read about some perfect person who does no wrong and never makes mistakes. I want someone who tries to be good, but messes up sometimes because they're human (well, they could be some kind of creature, depending on the genre, but still, you know what I mean). 

     Perfect people don't exist, and neither should perfect characters. Don't be afraid that readers will hate your character because they have a few flaws; it'll be completely the opposite. Perfect characters turn out - what's the right word - ANNOYING. Like, I-want-to-smack-this-character-with-a-frying-pan-Tangled-style-and-throw-this-book-across-the-room annoying. 

     The solution? Make your characters have flaws. It doesn't even have to be a lot of flaws; take some of the characters from the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series for example. Percy Jackson's fatal flaw is loyalty - although that's a good thing, sometimes he's so loyal to his friends that he'll forsake saving the world for them. Another PJO character, Nico di Angelo, has problems with holding grudges. Annabeth's is hubris (or pride).

     As for me, I enjoy giving my characters flaws. I know that it makes them more realistic. My MC's best friend is (sometimes!) nice, and he's very talented, but he's a thief, and he tends to be snarky, sarcastic, a bit of a flirt, and can appear heartless. Another character of mine is really a sweet, caring guy, but he tends to come off very arrogant and egotistical. He's also a bit too reckless and impulsive.

     So, long story short, don't make perfectly annoying characters. Don't be afraid to make your characters imperfect. Let your character smart off every once in a while. Let them make mistakes. Let them reach the limit of their patience sometimes. That'll go a long way to making it easier for your readers to fall in love with your characters like you have!

     It's your turn! What flaws have you given your characters? Have you ever encountered a 'too-perfect' character in a book? Please tell!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Captain Consistent

     What do you like most about Captain America? That he happens to have Chris Evans' face? Well...yes, that's definitely an upside. However, the reason why Steve Rogers is such a lovable character is his personality. The epitome of what Americans (and people in general) should be, Steve Rogers is brave, selfless, kind, compassionate, and an all-around good guy. 

     Now, keeping that in mind, let's pause for a moment. Remember how in my last post, I talked about how you should let your characters stay consistent? Steve is a perfect example of that. When we first meet Mr. Rogers, he isn't considered great in any sense of the word. In fact, he's undersized, sickly, weak, and rather...ordinary. Despite all that, Steve stands up for what he knows is right. Although he does get into fights (that he badly loses, may I add), he is not a violent person by nature. When asked if he wants to kill Nazis, he adamantly replies, "I don't want to kill anyone. I don't like bullies; I don't care where they're from." He cares about justice prevailing, but he'd rather get that equality by peaceful means. He's also probably the most selfless person ever - he throws himself onto what he thinks is a real grenade to save his comrades, and he tells his best friend that he wants to join the war because "men are out there laying down their lives. I have no right to do any less." 

     In short, Steve is awesome. He sounds like the kind of main character you want, right? There's good reason for that. It's even better when he is scientifically altered to become all muscular and fast. Yeah, that's nice, but it's still the same Steve inside. He doesn't change; he's still as sweet, kind, and awkward as ever. He still does what he knows is right even if it means putting himself on the line. So, there's my first point:

Characters' personalities often do NOT drastically change. Steve was always an incredibly nice, polite gentleman - becoming Captain Amercia didn't change that. He didn't magically become arrogant and proud because he got taller and started wearing a red, white, and blue suit. 

However, over time, characters' personalities DO develop. As we all grow older, we gain more life experience that shapes who we are. We learn lessons that mold us. The same thing happens with characters. They may still have the same personality, but by the end of the book and/or series, they should've grown and expanded due to what they've experienced. Let's look at Percy Jackson (from Percy Jackson and The Olympians). He starts out as a dorky, troublesome outcast in The Lightning Thief. By the end of the fifth (and final) book in that series, he's matured into a slightly less dorky, skilled, and intelligent (albeit absentminded) young man. He's faced countless monsters, embarked on dangerous quests, and fought a war; of course he's changed a little bit! He's no longer twelve years old; he's grown up. It can be best explained as this: consistent is staying yourself, while developing is yourself growing.

There are some ways that you can get away with dramatically altering your character's identity. The biggest loophole is 'extreme circumstances or events". We're gonna go back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for this one. Here we have Bucky Barnes, best friend of the aforementioned Captain America. After being presumed dead, Bucky is captured by an enemy organization and tortured, brainwashed, and experimented on, shaping him into the Winter Soldier, a fierce assassin who has no regard for human life. Bucky and Bucky as the Winter Soldier are completely different. Pre-war, Bucky is shown as a happy, sarcastic, and charming young man who cares very deeply about the best friend that he sees as his little brother. On the other hand, the Winter Soldier is cold, calculating, deadly, and a merciless killer. So, how did Marvel succeed in completely redirecting his character and still keeping him essentially Bucky?

     Simple. They used extreme events to explain his change of personality. If you REALLY want to change a character's personality to something completely opposite, choose this road. For example, if someone is being controlled, is under the influence of magic (in a fantasy novel), has been tortured, brainwashed, or experimented on, there is a good chance that this will alter their personality and who they are. Other than that, remember to stay consistent and always develop your characters. No one wants a wildly fluctuating character, and no one wants a boring character who stays completely one-dimensional. 

     How are you developing your characters? Have you taken advantage of 'extreme events'? How does your character grow and mature in your book? I would love to hear about it!