Why I dislike the term “Strong Female Character”

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I don’t like the term “Strong Female Character.”

That does not mean I prefer weak female characters. This is not a black and white world in which you either swing swords with swagger or cower in a corner. There’s a vast spectrum in between.

The reason I can’t stand the term “strong female characters” is because women described that way are usually one-dimensional, monotone cutouts of what the writer thinks a strong woman is. Often she’s a woman who can shoot a gun or throw a punch, and that’s enough. She never cries or feels uncertain or has any internal struggle whatsoever, unless of course it’s just for a minute to get the plot going and then she knows exactly how to deal with it. (Probably by shooting a gun.)

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Writing diversity: not exactly a how-to, more of a think-about

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This is a tough subject. A meaty subject. A big ol’ gristly steak of a subject that takes a lot of chewing and will not be thoroughly digested within a single blog post, but let’s dig our teeth in, shall we?

As writers, our characters probably look, act, and live like people we’re used to. If you’re white and straight, your characters are probably white and straight, because that’s what you know, and writing someone black or gay or Muslim or in a wheelchair takes some extra thought.

But here’s a really cool thing: the world is a far more interesting place than just white and straight (and male, and Christian, and able-bodied, etc etc), and there should be stories to reflect that. Because all stories deserve to be told. As citizens of the earth we have a duty to represent more than just our limited bubbles.

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The INSTA-LOVE trope – just add water! (repost in honor of Valentine’s Day)

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There are few things more grating to me than the insta-love trope seen so often in fiction. This device essentially involves shoving two characters in the same room, then poking them with a stick until they have nowhere else to go but each other’s arms.

The development of their relationship usually looks like this:

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How to write what you know (even when you don’t know)

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It’s as ubiquitous as “Show, don’t tell.” You probably can’t even remember the first time you heard it, it’s touted so widely – in advice books, in classrooms, in movies about writers. Even the most non-writiest nonwriter who hasn’t held a pen since high school knows to write what we know.

But what does that actually mean?

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The INSTA-LOVE trope: just add water!

love5

There are few things more grating to me than the insta-love trope seen so often in fiction. This device essentially involves shoving two characters in the same room, then poking them with a stick until they have nowhere else to go but each other’s arms.

The development of their relationship usually looks like this:

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In case of zombies, learn karate

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“So is this a loony bin or something?”

Kryss (short for Crystal but DON’T EVER CALL HER THAT) is milling around my hospital bed in an oversized sweatshirt and strategically ripped jeans, a skull-and-crossbones clip holding her bangs. She’s here under duress with orders from the principal to deliver my assignments. Her bored eyes stare at me from above the pink, stretched, pregnant-belly flesh of a bubble gum bubble.

“Nah, just a regular hospital,” I reply.

The bubble pops. Smack smack. Her low, monotone drawl: “Um… But there’s like… posters of brains all over the place.”

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Hobo Stories

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In their threadbare, fingerless gloves the two stories warmed their hands over the bin fire. The flames whipped about like those inflatable tube-men outside car dealerships and the stories were careful not to catch a swipe on their equally threadbare cuffs.

“How long’s it been for you, Fantasy Comedy?” asked one of the stories, blowing hot air on his knuckles.

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Oliver tries online dating

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“What on earth are you listening to?” bellows Fernando from around the corner, barely audible over the heavy beats pumping through my speakers. The sound of a door closing follows.

“Disco,” I call back with a pant, pausing my dance break to lower the volume. “You don’t listen to disco in the afternoon?”

Fernando enters the combined kitchen and living area, where he sets down a bag on the counter. “Jesus, Oliver. It sounds like the seventies exploded in here.”

“Now that would be a pain to clean. Sequins everywhere.”

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Beard Man

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I ring the bell for Sofia’s apartment, trying to imagine what could possibly be in store for me. On the phone she had used a scramble of incoherent phrases such as “self-actualization crisis” and “my inner flower has been frosted over by the tundra of creative impotence.” Or something like that.

“Olive! Thank god you’re here!” Sofia shrieks as soon as she opens the door. “Okay, here’s the problem. Do you remember how I’ve been feeling really anxious and frazzled lately?”

“Sure,” I say, stepping into her apartment. Sofia starts pacing.

“Well, I’ve been reading this self-help book because I can’t afford a therapist, not to mention those guys assault you when you’re hypnotized—I read about it—and anyway this book has described my life to a T. It’s as if the writer has been following me around, watching me in order to write this book.”

“Does he prefer the tree outside your window or does he leave nanny-cams in your bedroom?”

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