Schrödinger's Hamlet

August 2016

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a query.

What are the rules for writing an engaging - and still feminist - narrative without resorting oneself to the typical "flirty, strong woman" stereotypes? When does narrative end and personal wish fulfillment begin?

Do these questions actually matter to anyone else except me?

Comments

Oct. 7th, 2013 11:55 am (UTC)
Short answer: I don't think there are any rules.

Longer musings: I've been weirdly insecure about my female characters over the years -- an innate terror of either a) writing too much of myself, or b) hewing too closely to the virgin/whore dichotomy, which I have definitely done before -- so man, I don't even know. Right now, am chipping away at having my main female OC be feminine without having her also be a sexxxxy sasspot black widow, but also not a badass~ tomboy.

WHY ARE GENDER STEREOTYPES SO HARD
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:02 pm (UTC)
I agree with you because I think, in a stroke, we have to make do with what we have as this kind of collaborative writing is all about playing off your fellow writer. So, I guess, it's more a pastiche of perspective and intention. However ... I also think that there has to be some kind of alarm bell going off within a generally self-aware person who looks at a representation and says: this is ultimately flawed, because xyz.

It's super hard. We've got these archetypes totally encoded into the way that we understand narrative and sometimes even the most well-meaning writer can fall victim to using them. And I get that. Self-policing is tiresome at best and at worst, it's extremely anxiety inducing. But where is it significant and when does it start to be troubling? Gurl, I dunno. But I think it's important to ask. I spend a lot of time asking myself these questions and attempting to really crack that gender code so it pisses me off when other people don't do it.

And I'm not being like, pesky and specific about any one player or narrative. I'm just venting in general.
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:02 pm (UTC)
Are we talking about writing for potential public consumption or RP? Because RP is all about wish fulfillment. Toning it down to some wish fulfillment puts you ahead of a lot of folks.

These questions matter, but on the other hand, people bring the baggage to your writing and characters that they bring. You cannot control other people's perceptions, not even by writing foolproof characterization. (No such thing.) Sometimes the reason people see virgin/whore or tomboy or sexy or whatever is it's what their vision is stuck on.

The only rule is: Write. Fail. Fail better next time.
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:04 pm (UTC)
Tell me more about RP being about wish-fulfillment. Because you are the first person who has ultimately admitted this and I've had it brewing in the back of my head forever without really being brave enough to bring it out into the open.

(I adore you.)
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:19 pm (UTC)
The only rule is: Write. Fail. Fail better next time. I like this.
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:16 pm (UTC)
Ahhh, I have so much to say & no time to say it until later. :(

please hold a space for meee
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:18 pm (UTC)
Darling, there are always spaces held for you. In my heart.
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:32 pm (UTC)
This is something I ask myself always and have no ideas what the answers are. I've finally gotten to the point in my brain where in rp I don't care as much because I am forcing myself to subscribe to RP is for fun, but it basically paralyzes me from trying to do anything original, because my brain goes TUMBLR IS GOING TO EAT ME ALIVE.

I think the most important thing is that the characters are well rounded and fully developed, and that the lady characters have their own story/ aren't just there to further a dude's. idk if that makes sense.
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:50 pm (UTC)
There is no one I know who regularly writes these amazing, fully-developed characters as you do. And I think I would love to see - like - Hestia or Marlene explored in novel length because I think you have the material to just go there and then some.

Fuck tumblr.

and that the lady characters have their own story/ aren't just there to further a dude's

If I could make this the cardinal rule of writing in the post-Modern age, I would make this the cardinal rule of writing in the post-Modern age. Like for rp writing or novel writing or list writing or whatever. Fully developed characters with their own sense of self, their own purpose and their own motivations.
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:56 pm (UTC)
that the lady characters have their own story/ aren't just there to further a dude's.

Quoted for truth.
Oct. 7th, 2013 12:44 pm (UTC)
I have an idea of what the character is like, a stereotype, and then I add things that don't fit the stereotype, tbh. Because no one is a stereotype. IDK. I just try to make any woman I play a full fledged person.
Oct. 7th, 2013 02:12 pm (UTC)
I think that is a very good place to start.
Oct. 7th, 2013 01:12 pm (UTC)
SIGH, I feel this way all the time. I think this is subconsciously why, whenever I write female characters, I tend to make them asexual (or effectively so), eventhough sexuality is such a core, inner part of our beings -- but the fear of being characterised as a "writing a woman for a ship" is enough to deter me from ever exploring that part of her being.

But I wish it didn't.
Oct. 7th, 2013 01:47 pm (UTC)
ELISA, COME HERE, LET ME HUG YOU. Basically, I want you to feel empowered to write what you want and at all times
Don't let the ink coagulate in your pens. Don't let the censor snuff out the spark, nor the gags muffle your voice. Put your shit on the paper.
Oct. 7th, 2013 01:53 pm (UTC)
There are some tropes/stereotypes that are super problematic, as we all know, but there are aspects of some like the "flirty, strong woman" that have merit when under the right writer. I feel like a character can be flirty and strong and still be feminist, maybe the important part is filling out all the other many, many details that makes up a character. Where that stereotype/trope fails is that those details become the only aspect of the personality, when we all know that there are hundreds of traits in any given person. It never boils down to one or two descriptions. So my guess would be that as long as you embrace all possible sides of the character, you're going great?

I also agree with [info]lemniscate that RP is wish fulfillment, and that we pick characters because of something in them that speaks to us. That maybe we connect with and/or want to be, and sometimes even so different from us that it's fascinating and we want to pick it apart and understand. I know I've definitely taken on some characters that I might not even admire/like, but they fascinate me and I want to get in their brain. And sometimes that even leads me to really connect with someone I never thought I would. Of course YMMV because everyone highlights different things.

I think those questions matter to everyone. Good writers always question their motives and portrayals, from what I've found.
Oct. 7th, 2013 05:31 pm (UTC)
Werd. I do agree with that whole "you creep me out, I want to get in your brain" aspect ...
Oct. 7th, 2013 01:54 pm (UTC)
#nope need more coffee / a better brain day for this one. hold the place, pretty please, because I have thoughts but not words.

(although it's a bit like that quote about pornography versus erotica sometimes, isn't it? 'i know it when i see it' &c)
Oct. 7th, 2013 01:55 pm (UTC)
All the places held for you. ♥
Oct. 7th, 2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
(although it's a bit like that quote about pornography versus erotica sometimes, isn't it? 'i know it when i see it' &c)
UGH I LOVE THIS TOO. y'all busting out these amazing quotes
Oct. 7th, 2013 02:44 pm (UTC)
I go to bed for like 2 hours AND THIS IS THE EPIC I COME BACK TO.

#yesgood. I've got nothing that hasn't already been said in words more sensible than mine!
Oct. 7th, 2013 02:52 pm (UTC)


You're worth every mile between us. ♥
Oct. 7th, 2013 02:48 pm (UTC)
i don't play enough women because it makes me too anxious to fail to make her interesting and multidimensional and real/be harshly criticized by other women (in a mean/bullying kind of way, not in a constructive criticism kind of way) :((((( so ....... i really couldn't say. but it should matter.
Oct. 7th, 2013 03:51 pm (UTC)
I would say, create a character, formulate this person in your head with all of the flaws and insecurities that come with being human, then figure out what the self-fulfillment of that character would be. How would she determine the best way to be herself, what is it that would make her feel like she's the best she that she can be?
Oct. 7th, 2013 04:44 pm (UTC)
this was so interesting to read
Oct. 8th, 2013 01:44 am (UTC)
I'm already late to the party and it hasn't even been 24 hours, but I'll write a little something anyhow.

Are you intending to write a character who is aware of a feminist voice or not? There's tons of women who know next to nothing about feminism other than burning bras and hating men, and those women can be just as intriguing as ones who are aware that they live in a patriarchal society and face judgement as a woman for a good portion of their actions. Even those women shouldn't fall into a madonna/whore trap because Madonnas still have wildly different views on sex and why they're not having (much of) it, and "whores" have thoughts about sex and why they're having (theoretically) quite a lot of it.

Strong women can flirt, flirty women can be strong, and if you feel like you have a grasp on understanding why they're doing the things they do, you're probably thinking about it enough that you're doing a reasonably good job of it.

Wish fulfillment is inherent in RP, imo, and I don't know that it's always a bad thing? We don't really want to read or write stories about people who go to work, come home, cook some dinner to eat while watching tv, read a bit before bed, grocery shop, wash cars, clean the litter box... the list goes on. We write in fantastical settings with heightened dramatics, and sometimes that requires characters who are a little bit more dramatic/powerful/courageous/sinister/deceitful(/list-also-goes-on) than we are in our every day lives. It may be a means of wish fulfillment; it may also be accepting that if a character had a "normal" life, they would be pretty dull, in an RP setting.




I rambled. I'm posting it anyhow. ♥