Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday Wanderings

Twice that I can clearly remember, someone has accused me of creating and featuring too many female characters.

The first time, I was something of a wee thing.  This was back in the days of Compuserve (I imagine *that* dates me - if anyone even remembers it!), and I was writing a collaborative story with someone I had been corresponding with.  After a while, he commented, "The reason (mainvillain's-name) wants my character must be because he's the only male in the world."

At that age, I was unfazed, even indignant.  I pointed out where I had male characters in the storyline.  They just didn't happen to be prominent or central movers in the plot.  That was that; we continued writing for a bit longer, than gradually drifted away from the tale.

It never occurred to change my writing habits or push myself to change the genders of characters.  I remember thinking that most of the fantasy I was reading at the time (this probably more effectively, if less specifically, dates me) featured primarily, often exclusively, male characters - why shouldn't I write the opposite?

The second time was many years later on a MU*.  For those unfamiliar, a MU* is a roleplaying environment, but instead of having a single GameMaster who leads a static (... mostly) group of characters through a linear adventure, there is a freeform environment where characters can interact, and multiple GMs run their own storylines in one-shot scenes.  To make a long story short (too late), this means that while I was creating plots, I wasn't the only fish in the pond.

And this time, the claim was two-fold:  first, that I didn't have enough male characters; and second, the male characters I had were weak and played for laughs.  The individual pointed out a specific character who had a tendency to petulance and an ill-controlled temper.  I countered that particular argument by pointing out that I had female characters who were also played for laughs - for instance, one was an over-the-top flirt.  Wasn't that just as ridiculous?  The individual said that it wasn't the same thing.  I could never get an answer as to why.  (Maybe this is a guy thing?  Moving on.)

My reaction was different, too:  I became intensely self-conscious and set about laboriously altering future characters to make sure I had more males and certain personalities.  The result was that the characters I had pushed into a different mold fell flat and ended up disappearing into background.

Eventually, I decided that the person who told me this was making the problem much larger than it was.  I stopped panicking and decided that I should pay attention to gender balance, but give it smaller, more organic nudges.  Perfectly fifty-fifty?  That rarely happens even in real life, no matter how much the odds would suggest it.

As for the personalities of my male characters, I wasn't as concerned by that critique, though it took me until quite recently to pinpoint my beliefs on the subject.  I don't necessarily build male characters - especially romantic leads, though that's for fiction, not MU*s - with traditional masculine strengths.  That didn't mean they were weak, just that they might not be ... well ... manly men (in tights - tight tights!).

Okay, scratch the tights.

Over time, I've become comfortable with what I write and the characters that come to me, and I think that more than anything has provided balance:  my imaginary worlds have subconsciously grown and become more organic, and barring circumstances like Anaea's home space station (populated only by women), that includes both sides of the gender conversation.

And yes, I'm aware that there are more than two sides to the gender conversation, but that's a topic for a future me to tackle ...

1 comment:

Sylvia McIvers said...

tight tights, huh? gonna have to youtube that scene now that you put it in my head, THANK YOU