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mae cooks
I know it has been a while since I started waggling my arms around yelling 'Ladies in books! Let us SPEAK of them!' but today that time has rolled around again.

I am afraid I am also going to have to talk about my own book a lot, with spoilers! Which is not to say that I think I am the One True Feminist Icon for this age (sadly, far from it) or that my book is without any of the unconscious weird things that end up in everyone's books. But, I can speak for my own feelings in a way I cannot speak for anyone else's. As I have not yet been dipped in toxic waste and gained the power to read minds.

Also a lot of the responses to girls in my book has made me think more about the responses to fictional girls in general. So I find them a good starting place.

I would also like to say that I love young adult books. It is my genre, and I will be discussing it! (Though not exclusively.) It is awesome that it's a girl-dominated genre, too. It's unusual to have a boy narrator in YA.

There are still all sorts of problems with them. There is the problem that a lot of said girls are concerned with their dreamy boyfriends and nothing else. (Which is indeed a problem: as someone who definitely lost a ton of readers by writing about a family drama with some romance rather than a romance, believe me I know.)

If someone said, Sarah, I am in the mood for some fabulous lady-centred books! I could not recommend my own. I would say, Come back in a few years, I hope to have something for you then! In the meantime, take Margaret Mahy's The Changeover, Diana Wynne Jones's The Time of the Ghost, Justine Larbalestier's How To Ditch Your Fairy, Karen Healey's upcoming Guardian of the Dead, Saundra Mitchell's Shadowed Summer, Malinda Lo's Ash, Holly Black's Valiant and Alaya Johnson's upcoming Moonshine and you know, get down with your bad self. They are all extremely good. They are also books I'd classify as lady-centred (a girl's point of view, who cares about a lot more than her boyfriend and has issues unrelated to him, and girl side-characters as well).

Now, sometimes books have ensemble casts full of boys and also girls, and sometimes they are likewise awesome. Like Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games and Cindy Pon's Silver Phoenix, which are alike in that both have a great heroine whose relationships with boys gets the most page time, but who also have several important ties to girls and aforementioned great heroine.

And then there are books who are boy-centred. I would count the Demon's Lexicon trilogy among them - for me it does expand into an ensemble cast and the second and third books are from a girl's point of view, but since the running thread of the trilogy is about Two Brothers and Their Relationship, and the majority of the main characters are boys, I think we shall leave it there.

However this does not mean that boy-centred books do not have to have girls in them who are important, because no books in the world should be dismissing half the world. (Just like the girl-focused books I mentioned above have many excellent guys in them. ) Since that is gross and insulting and also means the books are not as good as they could be, which is a shame. We should be able to read anything and not have it contain insulting terrible things, but since such is not yet the case: without further ado here are some boy-centred books which I think also have good treatment of ladies.

Naomi Novik's Temeraire series is a boy-centred book: the two main leads are boys. (One is a fine gentleman in a cravat. One is a dragon.) She's obviously thought about women in it, though: carved them out a place in the dragon corps very specifically, has an awesome scarred officer lady, a plucky girl trainee, a naive young captain lady, and a girl who lives in normal Napoleonic-era English society and has to make her own decisions based on the life she is confined by, independent of her feelings for a guy.

Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, starring Miles Vorkosigan, lunatic accidental leader of a mercenary team in space. Which at first consists mostly of dudes, and Miles's strongest emotional tie seems to be to his killer bodyguard and his killer daddy issues. But he does have a childhood friend turned fellow mercenary, and the most awesome mother of all time. About whom there are prequels. And women crop up more, and more. Being people. Refusing to marry Miles all over the place! And once, proposing to him.

L.K. Madigan's Flash Burnout is a boy's point of view, with a strong boy friendship - which is also about being wanted by two girls. A nice situation in theory, but very complicated given that girls are individuals, and have needs and problems our teenage narrator doesn't fully understand. It doesn't work out well for any of them: they all emerge with dignity.

Holly Black's White Cat, which has a boy narrator and is deeply concerned with his relationship with his two criminal brothers, but which also has an extraordinary heroine, a fascinatingly terrible mother, and all the ladies have agency and quite obviously lives independent of guys. I can say no more because! It is not out until May.

As you can see I think all these books are awesome too. (I also think said books are awesome because sometimes readers will gravitate towards boy-centred books, perhaps because they have issues about girl-centred books, and then the girls being cool in that series will make them more receptive to other books in which there are ensemble casts or girl-centricness.)

So I already have two essays about girls in books, and our responses to same: Ladies, Please! and Ladies, Please Carry On Being Awesome. If you have not read them, do so, for they contain many of my points! Reasons why girls are awesome, and reasons why people might be biased against them.

After examining how boy-centred narratives are much more awesome for having girls in them, I also have some stuff to say about the excuses people make for why they don't like the girls or how the girls are not awesome. (Yes, sometimes these excuses are known as 'reasons.' But I see them so often, I begin to think of them as 'excuses.')

I Add A Disclaimer Here: Not liking some girl characters, including one or all of those written by me, does not mean people are prejudiced! Some people (for instance) don't like Mae, some don't like Jamie, some don't like Nick, and so on. Dislike away! But I still do feel that these reasons are used often enough that they're worth examining.

1) One of the very strangest to me is 'Maybe the writers do not like their girls as much as they like their boys?' I just don't believe many writers feel that way. I love mine. There has never been an instant of time in which I did not love them as much as the boys, and now since reading the responses people use about all female characters, and which they naturally use about mine too? She's too perfect/kind of a ho/just not as well-written/not necessary to have her there at all/too awesome for me to relate to/maybe the writers don't like them as much/she should be more 'something'/girl characters are constrained by the writer existing in a sexist society/not as well-developed as men. Well, in a protective fury, there are moments I love the girls much more now. But from the start, as much. Of course, as much. It would be bizarre not to! Most writers write their character because they love them. So thinking about why said writers love them might help other people love them too!

2) She's Too Perfect. I see people say this while talking about how they also don't like the girl's flaws! I remember someone telling me Mae never made any mistakes. When I said blankly that she fell off a roof due to being kind of a rash dumbass taking pride way too far, that didn't count. Sin's also too perfect, despite the fact she appears in one chapter and - among other things - goes 'People with disabilities, gross! I'm out.' In that case, Jamie is definitely perfect as well.


3) She's kind of a ho. Everyone gets to make out with whoever they want, people. Unless they have made a prior commitment to someone else, it is only their own business! Also, make sure you hold up guys to the same standard of morality.

Also: girls should be judged by their romantic relationships to dudes alone! Really, now?

4) Not as well written. This is a judgement call I cannot make for people. I can only put up my hand and say, same amount of effort put into writing each character. I presume this is a general-writer-thing rather than a Just-Crazy-Me-Then thing, unlike the fact I survive on thirteen cups of tea a day.

5) Girls Are Not Important to the Plot: I have heard this said about Mae, that Demon's Lexicon could have been done without her. It is not true. She is the instigator of the entire plot. (She is not the protagonist, however. I've heard that, too, that she's the main character and the book is about everyone wanting to date her. I... don't know what to say about that!)


If she had not come hellbent on a mission to save her little brother (as I may have noted before, ladies on rescue missions, I find awesome. Gentlemen on rescue missions, I like too! But it happens quite a lot more.) then a) Jamie would have died b) Mae herself or her mother would have got possessed in turn c) Nick would have found out about himself in an entirely different way, which might have gone considerably worse, leading to things like d) Alan's death e) Nick's enslavement f) the world being conquered by magicians. Alan is a good manipulator of events and people, but he doesn't instigate anything. (Which is not to say that he's useless. Obviously he also has a lot to do with saving the day. So, for that matter, does Olivia. The day takes a lot of saving!)

6) Too Awesome For Me To Relate To: Honestly this just makes me want to cry. Girls are awesome, often! Boys are awesome, often! I don't actually often relate to characters, so I may be missing the boat on this one, but most days I can look at myself and think 'room for improvement, but not at all bad.'

Even today, when I am writing a blog post instead of going to the bank. While wearing, I will conceal nothing from you blog readers, a pink ruffled dressing gown. Very girly. And awesome: it's fuzzy. (And my six-foot-four weights fiend brother bought it for me, because he thought it was awesome.) You are probably awesome, girl reader! You can relate to the awesome all you like. And you are probably awesome, boy reader! (I know my brother is.)

7) She should be more kickass/patient/understanding/strong. All perfectly relevant criticisms! But, I see them levelled at girls more to the extent where what I hear is 'like a boy.'

8) The Sexism, it Exists! We are all undone, undone!

There is a feeling that because sexism exists, writers are hampered in their writing of women, and therefore said female characters are necessarily limited.

Well, I mean, yes. It does exist. We've all noticed.

There are also issues with writing people with disabilities, people of colour, people who are gay. There are even issues with writing straight white guys, because they too live in a world where inequality exists, and this affects them too! All these issues! That's why it is impossible to ever write any characters at all. And so all my writing goes like this 'the void... BLANK PAGES ... the void... BLANK PAGES.' It's very deep.

Oh no, wait.

So - yes, I am confined by my desire not to be sexist. And not to be racist or homophobic! And this applies to all my characters. Not just the girls. Or the gay ones. All of them! Until I write a book set in a strange Everyone Is Equal Utopia, and let us face it, probably that won't work out well. (See George Orwell's Animal Farm, a book about lots of animals trying to live in happy equality on a farm without humans. You can assume it does not end well from the fact it has left me with a life-long distrust of pigs.)

Anyway, I will now descend into further analysis of my own novel. Okay, so one of my favourite scenes in my book is this one. (Nobody else has ever mentioned liking it at all, though I did once read it out once to an adult audience who laughed a lot! So it's entirely possible the scene is terrible.) My hero is lying about being deeply seasick. My heroine has come down to check on him and make sure he doesn't choke on his own vomit (ah, l'amour).

Since the hero is a) physically helpless, b) prone on a bed, and c) discussing his lack of dating experience the question of innocence comes up. Being aware of classic romantic traditions through a) them both existing in this world, b) the hero's brother being a fiend for costume dramas and c) the heroine being a keen reader, they then have a little dialogue in which Mae expresses the idea that it's no fun if someone's not going to fight and Nick proceeds to explain that he is extremely reluctant to make out yet finds her wicked ways oddly alluring.

In a world which has a bunch of issues about people going around being girls, being boys or having sex, I managed to have a lot of fun with something kind of problematic!

Similarly I get to do things like the Chosen Vessel of the Future of Mankind strikes back, a boy whose driving motivation is taking care of a baby he brought up, a shady businesswoman who is ultimately on the side of right, and the real boy (the muscular, into-cars-and-ladies, man of few words) not being a boy - not being a human being at all.

(Conversely, as I've said before, if I'd written Nick as Nicola - someone very strong, someone who didn't attach much emotion to hooking up, someone who wasn't in touch with her feelings, well, that would have been great. Until the end when I said 'Ha ha, that girl, the one you don't see enough? Of course she's literally a demon. No human girls are like that, you should have known!' Which would have been gross, and a betrayal of the girls who connected with that character.)

I write all characters with a bunch of issues dancing around my head. I never get to be irresponsible - that's bad writing. I still have fun doing it: I love writing them all.

9. She's not as well-developed as the boys. Again, this is pretty much a judgement call, though sometimes characters develop Over Time. I would be totally foxed if Jamie didn't exist here. For Mae isn't as developed as Nick and Alan, just like Arthur isn't as well-developed as Mae: she doesn't get as much page time. But she does get the same amount of page time as Jamie. Mae likes: books, homework, the idea of Sumerian, Goblin Markets. Jamie likes: jokes, other people doing his cooking, maybe not magic. I just do not see Jamie dismissed as often as Mae! Not that I wish to see Jamie dismissed, mind you!

The summary of all these tangled thoughts is this: all kinds of books can be awesome, and one of the most important factors in their being awesome is to try and write all characters in them as individuals, and with respect.

With that in mind, do think of all the reasons not to like women that are applied to fiction, and every time, do try to think about whether it's a reason or an excuse. Also, name me boy-centred, girl-centred and ensemble cast books where girls are done right!

For my part, I will keep trying too!

Comments

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azurelunatic
Jan. 25th, 2010 02:59 pm (UTC)
Your comment about Animal Farm reduced me to helpless giggles.
ghd_iv_styler
Jun. 26th, 2010 03:56 am (UTC)
Brilliantly put.
lots42
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
Even G.I.Joe, of all fandoms, managed awesome female characters. Just don't get me started on how they dropped the ball with the black dudes.
hermes_bags
Jun. 26th, 2010 03:12 am (UTC)
I need to share this on my facebook.
archangelbeth
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:05 pm (UTC)
Boy-centered book with pretty awesome girls -- the Lightning Thief and sequels (Percy Jackson series) by Rick Riordan.

Oh, and there's that Harry Potter thing.

*beth makes notes to take her book giftcard to the store along with a note saying "Brennan"*
insane_duckfish
Jan. 26th, 2010 05:30 am (UTC)

Boy-centered book with pretty awesome girls -- the Lightning Thief and sequels (Percy Jackson series) by Rick Riordan.


I'll second that - I nicked this off my brother when I was desperate for things to read and missing the YA genre, and I loved it a lot. With guy-centred anything, I usually spend the entire time holding my breath, waiting for the girls to get sidelined or vilified, and for once I was pleasantly surprised. :D
harborshore
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, yes. Too awesome? What? Or too serious, or too sexy, or too violent, or too tough (or not tough enough). What bothers me the most is the tendency to write women not as people but as archetypes, like The Mother or The Girlfriend, which, ugh. They often tend to react to instead of act themselves, which makes their characterizations so inconsistent. But sometimes it seems like people find them easier to read that way, and end up bothered when the girl is too much like a real person who reacts and acts. Does that make sense? I get angry about this a lot, and sometimes I end up incoherent.

One of my favorite ladies in fiction in a girl-centric book is Ronia, from Astrid Lindgren's Ronia, the Robber's Daughter. (You might recognize Lindgren's name from that other very famous girl-centric book Pippi Longstocking.) Ronia's trying to figure out how to be herself in a world that contains mostly men (the robbers and her father) and her deeply, deeply wonderful and non-stereotypical mother. When she starts to venture into the forest on her own, her father tells her not to do x, y, and z, so of course she has to practice not doing them, like so: in order to practice not falling into the waterfall, she has to go play on the rocks next to it. In order not to get lured away by the dangerous creature who sings alluring songs at dusk, she has to be outside at dusk. Etc. FAVORITE.
sarahtales
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
It does, though I hasten to say that this is another one - a woman can be archetypal - like, a devoted mother, and still be awesome. One such woman is the heroine of Cherie Priest's Boneshaker, in which the heroine Briar's sole motivation is to save her child (from a zombie-infested steampunk Seattle).

I do keep hearing about Ronia, The Robber's Daughter. Noted!
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kadharonon
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:22 pm (UTC)
I hope that whenever I actually manage to write down some of these stories that are bouncing around in my head, I manage to make the female characters awesome. So far, I have Lara, who is naive and whiny about the fact that she has no magical talents, and her aunt Nima, who has crazy-awesome accounting magic, and makes her living by putting peoples accounts in order and occasional blackmail. Lara wants very much to live inside social norms and marry a nice man and use her non-existent magic to make his life and business easier. Nima lives outside the social norms and is having a rocking time doing it, and keeps trying to convince her niece that she should too. So far, though, all I have is essentially this:

NIMA: Niece, I think you are a pansy. Also, you should move in with me so that I can make you less of one and chastise you over tea more conveniently.
LARA: Aunt, I really do not approve of your habit of adding sugar directly to the teapot. And your unorthodox relationship with your housekeeper makes me feel awkward.
NIMA: While you are living with me, you should get some of your friends to call on you. Especially the really pretty one with the curves. You can even use the nice tea set I reserve for business.
LARA: I am guessing you never married a man because you like women. Especially your housekeeper. Who would appreciate it if you stopped ogling my friends. Which, by the way, also makes me feel awkward.
NIMA: Also, what is the name of that gorgeous young man who visited the other day? You should invite him over as well.
LARA: Never mind. You are just secretly a letch.
NIMA: Nonsense. There’s nothing secret about it. Now invite all your friends over for tea so that I may flirt with them.
blamebrampton
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
Excuse the interruption, but I had to mention that, aside from the fancying the boys, you seem to be psychically attuned to what it is to take tea with my mother. Experience has dispelled the awkwardness by now ...
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richyisrichy
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
Actually like my boys better. I mean, I love my ladies! I would love to meet Sophia and Darla (those are their names right?) from Dull Boy because they where made from shear awesome. And if Deryn popped up to say hi I'd kidnap her just to watch her escape.

But I find that when I'm wandering through the library I'm more attracted to those YA novels with male leads. Especially vampire books. Where female vampires angst out about their many vampiric lovers, a male vampire sits back and giggles to himself when people look at him and say "bite me"

In this case I'm thinking of Suck It Up in which our vegan vampire lead has to "come out" for all vampiring kind and 8th Grade Sucks (or bites or bleeds) where our hero is being hunted down by the great big bad vampire world while trying to keep people from noticing he doesn't put spaghetti sauce on his pasta.

Then again, a lot of those books have awesome girls as well as awesome boys. I guess I just get tired of hopping for awesome women and only finding out that they're super gay best friend is a million times better.
sarahtales
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
Yes, but unless we keep hoping for awesome ladies, they will not come to pass! Keep hope alive. *waves a torch*

I agree Sophie and Darla and Catherine from Dull Boy are all excellent characters!
teenygozer
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
Sarah, your essays are always informative and so much fun to read. I want every young woman I know to read them! Better yet, I want every *reader* I know to read them, because they are always thought-provoking. Even as a girl, I was never really into YA novels (bizarrely, my favorite writers when I was in the single digits were James Thurber and Jean Shepherd), but now I find myself picking them up and loving them to bits!
robinellen
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:33 pm (UTC)
I just finished GIRL OVERBOARD, by Justina Chen Headley -- and I love her girls! There are so many layers, and the book is about family more than anything, but the hints of romance are definitely realistic (imo). I've long been a fan of Tamora Pierce's sheroes too.
sarahtales
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:34 pm (UTC)
Karen Healey just recommended that book to me - clearly it is fate!
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blamebrampton
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:40 pm (UTC)
What about Joan Aiken's girls who routinely save the kingdom? And have fabbo male friends including sundry surprise Dukes, sailors and elephant owners who provide stalwart support. Joy!

Your summary is something I wish would be taken to heart by all writers. Alas, there's still an awful lot of twaddle going on when it comes to how people think people act.
sarahtales
Jan. 25th, 2010 03:45 pm (UTC)
Joan Aiken must also be celebrated for writing the only non-Austen-authored Austen-related book I like!
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themadpoker
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness, it's like you tuned into my head for the PERFECT post for me. See a few days back my brother finished reading Forging the Sword by Hilari Bell (contains awesome noble girl Soraya) and came to my room looking for something new to read. I recommended him Silver Phoenix and Daughter of the Flames because he likes action/adventure type stories and though I haven't read them yet I was assured by reviews that those were the kind of stories they were. And then he said something along the lines of ':/ No thanks, why do you keep giving me all these girl centred stories?'

Which I was rather shocked to hear because this is not so! I really wish it was but nine times out of ten I will give him boy protaganists because those are who he is interested in. I mean even Rise of a Hero only has one girl protaganist out of the three POVs followed. So when I asked him to elaborate he was like :/ In Rise of Hero Soraya gets the awesome army-destroying powers. It should have been one of the boys with that! Not cool. D=

I was deeply deeply dismayed to hear that he held such views. Clearly I have not been doing an awesome job as an older sister if he believes such a thing. I ended up picking up The Demon's Lexicon to give him yesterday because I am hoping to gradually bring him over to the Awesome Girl Appreciation side through the power of Mae. I figure he reads the first book, he gets hooked, and will want to read The Demon's Covenant despite the non XY chromosome point of view. =DDD

Oh my god, this comment is really overly long. >_> But yes. That is basically why I saw this post and went 'OMG Uber Awesome Post of Uber Awesomeness, How Did You Know???'
harborshore
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
The slow and subtle convincing works! I definitely did that to my brother. *grins*
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dhobikikutti
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
And so all my writing goes like this 'the void... BLANK PAGES ... the void... BLANK PAGES.' It's very deep.

::snickers::
beuk
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
Whoa, an Others See Us reference, unexpected.
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thegreatmissjj
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:16 pm (UTC)
I love a good female character. In fact, most if not all of my favourite characters are women. Anne Shirley, Lyra Belaqua (and her mother because Mrs. Coulter is kind of my idol), Jane Eyre, etc.

I prefer to read books from female POVs, mostly because I so often dislike how women are portrayed from male POVs (even if the author is a woman). Also, portrayed from a male perspective, females can (exception exist everywhere, of course) seem somewhat "flat". Or trope-like. I mean, I adore John Green and think he writes pretty decent women, but filtered through the lens of the male narrative, his girls are symbols more than real characters (even though he addresses this in PAPER TOWNS quite directly).

I have trouble with this because I actively seek out female-centered narratives, but have difficulty finding one that isn't all about the Romance. Now, I like a good romance, don't get me wrong, but I want the story to be ABOUT something else.
thegreatmissjj
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
Of course, there are exceptions to this everywhere. I think Shannon Hale's YA books are really great examples of strong female-centered narratives. THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS is particularly amazing.
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captain_jezebel
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:21 pm (UTC)
I recently read Lili St. Crow's _Strange Angels_, and I'm reading _Betrayals_ now.

The heroine is a teenage girl who was raised first by an Appalachian grandmother who rocked the folk magic, and then by her vampire/werewolf/other things that go bump in the night-hunting father. She is totally, totally bad-ass but she is also scared and confused. She kicks ass--and she cries. But she always handles her crisis, then breaks down when it's all over--I totally relate to that. She is a very real character and I love her! Also the books are major adrenaline-pumping danger and excitement. Do not read if you have a heart condition, I think.

But ALSO! There is a really wonderful BOY character! And they have this very cool way of relating to each other, and much bigger concerns than "does she/he like me?".

Very fun! The only sad thing is that she lacks awesome female friends. Of course, she lacks friends in general until she meets the aforementioned awesome boy, so . . . maybe that will change before the trilogy is finished?
evilangel101
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:41 pm (UTC)
I love Strange Angels, Dru's an awesome character. She really does need to meet some other girls soon, though.
evewithanapple
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:22 pm (UTC)
The question of writing good female characters in a boy-centric story is one that I grapple with a lot, because my current WIP is a period piece with a main male character (even though I kind of love the ladies more. I'm sorry Robin! Your POW is just more relatable to me!) The bigger problem (and this relates more to writing historical fiction) is that when you're writing in Ye Olde Tymes, when women tended to get victimised by men a lot, how do you write convincingly about women and their lives without being either hyperfocuses on the oppression or being unrealistic? But I guess that's a whole 'nother issue.
rj_anderson
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:23 pm (UTC)
I do not get and will NEVER get why anybody has a problem with Mae. Never.

Anyway, I love these posts and cheer loudly for them. Why do people not realize that all the books they like with drippy heroines who passively cling to the legs of the Awesome Guy Who Alone Gives Their Lives Meaning would be ten times better if the heroine were not drippy and went out and Did Stuff that was not all about the Awesome Guy? And that the girl being a fully developed character in her own right, with her own goals and aspirations, actually makes any romantic elements in the book more satisfying and not less?

That doesn't mean that the heroine has to be a sword-swishing martial arts expert who can defeat enemies three times her size (although I am not opposed to this idea either, in the right context). There are many ways girls can be dynamic and interesting characters who drive the plot that don't involve being thinly feminized versions of the typical male action heroes. And I would like to see more of them in books, please.
sarahtales
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:57 pm (UTC)
that the girl being a fully developed character in her own right, with her own goals and aspirations, actually makes any romantic elements in the book more satisfying and not less?

Like Knife! *dances happily around in a circle of joy for the existence of Knife*
(no subject) - ayamizuno - Jan. 25th, 2010 05:32 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - harborshore - Jan. 25th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
10littlebullets
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)

(Conversely, as I've said before, if I'd written Nick as Nicola - someone very strong, someone who didn't attach much emotion to hooking up, someone who wasn't in touch with her feelings, well, that would have been great. Until the end when I said 'Ha ha, that girl, the one you don't see enough? Of course she's literally a demon. No human girls are like that, you should have known!' Which would have been gross, and a betrayal of the girls who connected with that character.)


This reminds me of the epic facepalm I did when I finished reading The Monk, because Matilda was totally the coolest and most fleshed-out of all the characters, and was the only one I didn't want to smack upside the head. (I didn't dare smack any of the others, though, because they would've fallen right off their stands and landed flat on the floor, and at least when a cardboard cutout is standing up you can pretend it's a person.) I spent five minutes after I finished that book going "OH NO MATTHEW LEWIS YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT."
hakkai_duo
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
Animal Farm has also given me a distrust of pigs...evil pigs. lol

I absolutely love your essays on female characters in YA. I can relate to them, I am of the female pursuasion and YA fantasy is my favorite genre of book (I'm 21, mother tells me I need to stop reading Percy Jackson and the like and move on to more 'adult' books..bleh..)

I love books with both strong Male and Female characters. I also loove characters with flaws. Strengths and Weaknesses, yanno things that make humans (or Human-raised Demons ^.~) yanno Human. So I can never understand why some people out-right hate girl characters when they are written like this. It's not uncommon, sadly, to hear girls talk about a particular book and be like 'I hate that girl' and it's mostly the reason you listed. Which I think is just outright crazy, because those are the reasons that make the characters awesome. It's crazy.

Also, the whole Seasick scene (both trips) are some of my favorite scenes from Demon's Lexicon.

p.s sorry if this is somewhat uncoherent. I am taking a break from my Classical Greek and Latin homework and my brain is in hiding lol But main point is... I completly agree with what you said.
radioactivepiss
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
The 'This character is too perfect' and 'This character IS SO RUBBISH/TOO FLAWED' both being used thing comes up a lot in my fandom, Doctor Who. One female character is often decried as 'selfish' (a canon flaw) and 'Mary Sue because she's sooo perfect' in the *same sentence*.

This piece is really awesome, and very illuminating in how people approach female characters. The 'not necessary' bit is also very interesting, because really, plenty of things are not necessary in books but enrich them! And in the case of Mae, I wonder if maybe it's harder for people to focus on the female instigator as opposed to her brother because people are so used to looking at the male character for plot in books that aren't very specifically about women?
hanelissar
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC)
But none of the women are any good in Doctor Who, didn't you know that? They are all useless and too in love with the Doctor and too busy being independent from the Doctor and generally failing in every way to be remotely as awesome as any of the male characters.

Then again, I can't be too sarcastic because I have Strong Feelings about most of the DW writers' abilities to write women well and consistently.
(no subject) - radioactivepiss - Jan. 25th, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Donna? - (Anonymous) - May. 1st, 2010 12:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Donna? - hanelissar - May. 1st, 2010 03:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - lady_moriel - Jan. 26th, 2010 07:55 am (UTC) - Expand
boojumlol
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC)
It always bothers me when people complain about Mary Sues, but not the male equivalent. Shouldn't they be just as annoying? I think that heroines who do stuff and make decisions and rescue people are still so new that we're not used to them. It's been several generations, sure, but what's that in the history of fictional characters? A drop in the ocean. As recent as the 70s, romance novel heroes spent a lot of time raping helpless heroines.

My favourite girl focused YA novel is Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. I never know how to describe it to people, but it's a dark fantasy based on 'Snow White and Rose Red', it's beautiful and heart-fracturing and the most important relationships are between women.
ayamizuno
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC)
The fact that there is no male-equivalent word for 'Mary-Sue' reeeeeally annoys me. Especially because, if there was, it could rightly be applied to alot of the books that are especially beloved by the EXACT SAME PEOPLE who throw the word 'Mary-Sue' around to belittle a lot of YA books. I am thinking here of the books in which the main character is a jaded, middle aged, white-collar working dude, who then gets suddenly involved in extreme violence/drugs/a wierd fantasy world/a secret society which is conveniently dude-focused. Fight Club is one of these books, The Matrix is one of these films, and yet these things are near-UNIVERSALLY BELOVED. I'm not saying they're not awesome (because, um, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere totally falls into this category. And Neverwhere is awesome.), but the double standard just makes me cringe.
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charlotterhys
Jan. 25th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
One of my favorite books, the first real scifi book I ever read, is The Ship Who Searched. I love it so much, it is pretty much my perfect Heroine and Hero story. I love how Tia can be awesome and not have a body. A love story where the physical is not so important.

But then again I like most of Mercedes Lackey's books, and that book was far more Mercedes than Anne McCaffrey.
ryahhime
Jan. 26th, 2010 04:47 am (UTC)
Oh, word. That book was awesome!
dawn_metcalf
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
All I can do is jump up and down, hands clapping.

Thank you for writing this and the comments are golden!!
sarahtales
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)
*jumps with you* The comments are indeed excellence!
(Anonymous)
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
Libba Bray's Gemma Trilogy is amazingly girl-centric. One half expects the characterst to shout "girl power" every other page (this is amazing as it is set in Victorian England). Also, there are some very nice politics between the female and male groups of power.
be_themoon
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:10 pm (UTC)
oooh, female characters! they are just way too much fun.

Talking about female characters seen through the lens of males - last NaNo I wrote a story about magic and repression and revolution. It was in second person, through a boy named Jared, and it was mostly about the girls he was in love with him, and how they forced him to take off his rose-colored glasses and look at the world the way it really was. There was Nima, a woman who had been executed about eight years ago during the beginning of what was basically an ethnic cleansing who kept showing up in his dreams (MAGIC), and then Anna, his adopted-sister/lover, the new leader of the magic revolution, and Katie, the non-magic hacker with first aid skills none of the others thought would be useful.

oddly enough, I think a lot of my books tend to be like that. from a male perspective, but all about the women in his life. That's what the second Happenstance Harbor is about, actually, I didn't realize that. Cedric and the thief mistress and his sister and his secretary/nurse/information gatherer.

oh how I love thee, awesome female characters, let me count the ways. *joy*

oh oh! The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, while predominantly about Will the Ranger (spy!) and his master and his best friend Horace the Knight, also has Evanlyn/Cassandra, a princess who is learning how to be queen and doing ambassador trips and carries concealed weapons in the form of a belt that's actually a sling and a necklace that's actually ammunition for it, and who is very serious and dedicated about her job, even when she complains about lessons. it also has Lady Pauline, head of the Diplomatic Corps where Will grew up, who is made of hard boiled awesome and who nobody ever crosses, ever, and Alyss, Lady Pauline's apprentice, who is learning how to cheerfully manipulate people and is in no way above using her beauty to do it, and every so often Jenny shows up, who is plump and adorable and loved and probably the girl who gets the most action in the book. she's also a fabulous cook.

... uh. I rambled, sorry. :P
branquignole
Jan. 25th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
I'm one of those people who don't like the girls as much as the boys sometimes. But I don't hate on them with all my might, because I don't like not liking the girls! In fact, I would love to love them! Sometimes I just don't know what my problem is.

I try to be open-minded about The Girls nowadays and I have set my mind to loving Mae in the second book. Because I've come to realise that there are girls I can like; I've met a few of them in books I read last year. So that's it with the nonsense of not thinking The Girls awesome. I can do it! :)

Edited at 2010-01-25 05:13 pm (UTC)
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