Hello Dear Reader or Listener,
Did my title pique your curiosity as to the next list of epic eye roll causing, facepalm inducing, I-cannot-believe-someone-thought-this-was-ok-to-publish snippets?
If the answer is yes, I get it. I’m partial to perusing those lists on occasion myself. I enjoy a good laugh even if I then have to chase my eyes that are still rolling off somewhere in the distance.
If anything, I’m almost disappointed sometimes when I read them, only to find out my own body doesn’t have the sort of mood ring reactions as some authors think women’s bodies do. (Let’s just roll with the structure of that sentence, please).
It’s definitely become a bit of a running gag or meme to comment on the abysmal takes on women written by some men, and while, as I said, I do amuse myself with these kinds of Twitter threads or posts on whichever social medium of your choice, I have to admit they also tire me. The causes can be many, but frankly, I’m not here for them.
This isn’t a feminist rant on the fallacies of the patriarchy or the blatant shows of ignorance and prejudice. Not even gonna mention fantasy fulfillment stuff. All topics which people far more well-read on them than me have weighed in on, and are rather good reads.
Also, anyone who knows me knows already that I hate, no, loathe, pointlessly leery male gaze heavy texts. So I’m not here to tackle such a discourse because it’s not very useful other than for finding authors to avoid and/or block. Nor do I advocate for finding people to trash or attack.
So what are we here for then? Well, the title is pretty self-explanatory, but rather than the usual, and varying degrees of amusing or bewildering, bad examples, this is a bit of a spotlight post on male authors I’ve enjoyed reading, who can shine as great examples of writing female characters like the freaking normal and multifaceted humans that we are. (Again, let’s roll with the pretense that I can be counted among the normal ones, please). We are here for positivity, people!! And, the way I see it, a list of bad examples brings, at worst, scorn and anger, at best some laughter, whereas a list of good examples can bring fun, inspiration, and satisfaction.
(Sidenote for the maliciously inclined, cause I sadly know you’re out there, this isn’t meant as a condescending “look at you, even your little mind did it!” kind of text. I don’t roll like that.)
So then, good female representation, just like any sort of rep really, is something that I greatly appreciate finding even when not actively looking for it. To make things even better, I think adult SFF is doing wonders in being better and better at it in recent years. Moreover, it’s always heartwarming to see oneself reflected in some way in a character that you’re growing to admire and love as you read. It feels like you’re being understood a little more, and it’s one of my favorite things to go through when reading. It doesn’t even always have to be a case of relating to the characters either though! It can also be instances of recognizing the genuine and natural behavior of a character, which in turn, helps you as a person to relate more to others and understand them better in real life!
Reading is an exercise in empathy, in my opinion, but that’s for another time to ramble on.
So then, it’s not a question of knowing how to write a female character specifically, but rather one of “does this author show his skill at writing all kinds of characters in all genders without fetishizing them in some way or falling into stereotypes”? The versatile ones do. That’s all there is to it.
For some disclaimers then: this list isn’t all that long, not because I haven’t found authors that can write women, but because firstly, it’s only a limited list with authors whose main point of view protagonists are women. This will inevitably leave out several amazing authors who do write female characters wonderfully, but they’re side characters in their stories. Secondly, it’s based on those that I’ve read in most recent years.
And lastly, this list is so short because, if this is something that people like, I would happily make it a repeat thing in the future, with more entries that others can contribute to as well!
So for my first three choices for Male Authors Writing Women:
Garth Nix: The Old Kingdom series
Sabriel was the very first heroine I read as a teen that I utterly looked up to and admired. I saw her as someone I could become growing up and, together with Lirael in the later books of the series, they were some of the best early rep of kick-ass young women who had their weaknesses and insecurities but learned to navigate them, if not even overcome them to some extent.
Christian/Miles Cameron: Artifact Space
Marca Nbaro is my most recent favorite character and I love her dearly. Her inner dialogue is rich and genuine. Her interactions with other female characters are as natural as can be and especially relatable for the socially aware among us. She struggles with social cues and has to learn what it’s like to be part of a crew, as well as how to navigate interpersonal relationships. And it’s all so wonderfully natural and simple in its complexity.
Django Wexler: The Shadow Campaigns
This is one of my top favorite series of all time and one of the many, many, reasons why is the amount of incredible women in it! Of these, only two are main points of view and those are Winter and, from book 2 onward, Raesinia. These two are some of the most natural and realistic women in adult fantasy literature that I’ve ever read. They fight against prejudices, let themselves lean into their personal melodrama upon occasion, or enjoy the unintentional hilarity of dark but absurd situations.
These women have lots in common, they are brave, loyal, smart, and inventive, but they are also struggling to overcome past aches or wounds. They have no-nonsense attitudes but also weaknesses that they don’t miraculously set aside, but rather find ways to fight through them so that they may also heal to some extent if not entirely. They also make an effort to ensure that those around them aren’t as alone as they have felt first hand. They make the best of their situations and, most often with a healthy side of sarcasm and swearing, they find solutions. In fact, in having to deal with an awful lot of responsibility and struggles, they do so in ways that remind me of any time I or a friend has made light of a bad situation cause what is the point whining? Might as well get to it best you can.
I don’t know about you, dear reader/listener, but these look like some amazing examples to me. Both for the literary prowess of these first three authors, and as characters I’d like to be more like!
As always, if you have any suggestions that I should look into to further add to this list then go on ahead and comment below or on Twitter! Same goes if you want to see more of these suggestions, let me know!
Until next time,
Eleni A. E.