Let’s Get Real Have you ever picked up a book, started reading it, and noticed that certain characters had special qualities that they were very fortunate to have? Or perhaps a character had a property that was totally unrealistic, or at least rather annoying or lame? Perhaps you’ve read a book where a woman was randomly stronger than a guy when they were practically having a wrestling match. Or perhaps a male character described as really tough and grim acted really whinny or wimpy.
Perhaps you’ve never encountered a book like this; chances are it’s because the books weren’t very popular for generally the same reasons mentioned above.
Now, what is the moral of the story? Don’t create characters that can do unrealistic things, and don’t have characters that aren’t really true to who they are or how you describe them. Writers that try to make someone too cool or too heroic when that person really shouldn’t be fail to possess a necessary facet of logic that all stories should have. A medieval peasant can’t randomly develop a talent for fighting with a spear, a modern, lazy teenager can’t somehow become amazing at handling a pistol, and a regular ninja can’t unlock his chi better than anyone else unless he has a good reason.
Just to give you some friendly advice, if your main characters start out as nobodies but must become super-tough warriors, make sure they have a lot of training instead of just relying on the, “Oh, he just happens to be a natural at swordsmanship/shooting a gun/magic”.
Let’s think about the different skill-sets that male and female characters have. Who is usually physically stronger, a man or a woman?
Let me give you a hint: it’s not a woman. I am not trying to be offensive, but to give you some more friendly advice, be careful with how you form your female characters.
Who is usually more physically fit? Who is usually the better warrior? Who is better at fighting with a sword? Who is better at handling a gun? A bow? A spear? Questions, questions, questions…
Allow me to clarify something: when choosing the skill-sets for your female (or male) characters, make sure you don’t make a bad decision. It’s more likely for a woman to fight with a gun than to be good at hand-to-hand combat (unless you’re Black Widow). It’s more likely that a woman would find it hard to wield a sword as well as a man. Female characters, unfortunately, have a smaller skill-set then men; I’m sorry ladies, but it’s true. Action stories with main characters as females tend to portray them as women who can fight just as well as the next guy…literally a guy. Unfortunately, this is realistically, and probably statistically, untrue. Women aren’t necessarily meant to be warriors; you can tell by how a woman’s body is built. Men, on the other hand, have bodies built to protect (or assault).
I hope I’m not disappointing too many of my female followers. Don’t worry, however; there is a solution. Although there are certain things that women cannot easily be portrayed as doing, there are some things that are perfectly fine for warrior-women to do: Use long-range weapons. In spite of the fact that I’m not a fan of The Hunger Games, I have to respect Katniss for being such a talented warrior. Suzanne Collins accurately displays the skill-sets of her characters.
Think about it. Katniss doesn’t run around in the Hunger Games and hew people down with a sword. She doesn’t do cart-wheels and somersaults and crazy drop-kicks. She uses a bow. Another competitor in the Hunger Games, Clove, uses knives to kill her opponent. But she doesn’t use the knives in hand-to-hand combat style; she throws them. Likewise, for Collins’ male characters, Peeta and Cato use their strength to survive the bloody battles of the Hunger Games, and each of them uses a weapon that requires the strength they possess. When creating female characters, be careful with just how physically capable they are. Although my book does indeed have warrior-females (it’s okay, they’re elves), I think it’s always nice when women are portrayed as they really are: sweet, gentle, and peace-loving.