Female Characters: On Being (or Not) PC

Hi Folks,

Awhile back, another professional fiction writer drank some Kool-Aid. Then he wrote a post about strong female characters.

Oh, except that you can’t qualify them as “strong” because that word has too many “male connotations.” So instead you have to “give them agency” and blah blah blah.

Holy crap. And wholly crap.

Do I have something against strong female characters? Hell no!

But I do have something against the writer acting as a god, making sure a female character is the prime mover in the story. Even if it’s a story about a Scout/Sniper unit in the Marine Corps, in which currently there are no women serving. And all the males (if you’re un-PC enough to even allow any) are absolutely weak and fawning like 17th century fops. That’s what I’m against.

Wait. I have an idea. How about we let the WRITERS decide what they want to write? You know, instead of trying to censor them?

And how about in ALL stories we just let ALL of the characters simply be who they are? How about that?

It isn’t an either-or world, folks. Despite what that writer or any other PC types say, a woman (and a female character) CAN be strong AND an object of sexual desire AND someone whom a man (or male character) wants to protect should HE think the need arises.

When a man (or male character) does something to protect a woman (or female character), that isn’t because she can’t protect herself and it isn’t because he assumes she can’t protect herself.

It’s because the instinctive, biological urge that runs through men, whether or not they deny it or lie about it, is to have sex with females and to protect females. It’s what guys want, and everybody knows it. If they didn’t, none of us would be here today, so there.

Now, do you want your fiction to be like real life or do you want it to be PC?

The point is, you have the right to choose.

If YOU want YOUR fiction to be strictly Politically Correct, that’s fine, really. I applaud your (ahem) choice to (ahem, ahem) “take a stand.” But you have the right to choose for YOU, not for me or anybody else.

Okay, I know whereof I speak. There were several strong female characters in my Wes Crowley series, and I didn’t conjure them up intentionally in order to be politically correct. I wrote what they said and did as they came into the story on their own. And they were wonderful.

One was a prime mover of the story early. She was relatively demure, but down to earth and very strong. (She had a great deal of “agency,” I think, although she never sold a house and never worked for the CIA that I’m aware.)

Another was a prime mover of the story that continued after the third book ended. She quite literally burst through the door into a quiet, semi-formal initial meeting, half-frightened and half-angered that I was going to leave her out of the book.

And three others were  strong but had only incidental, catalyst roles to play.

Can a character be a strong character and still play only as a catalyst? Sure. Why not? Don’t you know humans who do that?

Write what you want, folks. The Dark Ages of mandatory political correctness are coming to an end.

Does that mean you can’t still write PC stuff if that’s what you want to do? Nope. Not at all. It just means everybody can make up their own minds again now.

Happy writing, and if you need a great copyeditor, check this out.


6 thoughts on “Female Characters: On Being (or Not) PC”

  1. Harvey, you said it well. I’ve enjoyed creating a unique, strong modern woman protagonist, Michelle “Mitch” Santiago. She’s is beautiful and smart, self-centered but generous, gentle but lethal, – a modern woman in a dangerous business with many of the gifts and foibles of today’s young professional. Creating her was no different than creating strong male characters such as Yancy Quarterman. In a phrase, a good writer creates real characters complete with warts. Political correctness is not a consideration.

  2. Thanks, Harvey. I don’t like PC characters. They make me feel as if the entire piece/book is a dumb fantasy. Women (some of them) have always been smart, strong, competent. But we’ve always had to live within the eras of our birth. That changes have been made over the centuries proves that women have been strong, smart, competent. But I don’t want my historical fiction to read like a fantasy. I write fiction; I know it’s not real. Yet that doesn’t stop me from trying to make it feel real.

    I don’t read fiction about a young, beautiful, brilliant small-town girl who goes to NYC and within two years is running–brilliantly, of course–a multi-biliion dollar company and who spends page after page dealing with clothes and man troubles.Yuck. The male characters in these novels aren’t real, either. I once heard a speaker call such writing “woman’s porn” because it was wishful thinking that denied characters depth and realism, and even personhood.

    Thanks again for the common sense approach to creating fiction.

Comments are closed.