Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

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Older, not entirely relevant posts

Say it with me: Women are people. So just write people.

I woke up this morning to a bit of a kerfuffle in the writing world. The short version is that a well-known male YA author gave an honest answer to an interview question about why he sucks so bad at writing female characters that could possibly be taken as a sexist answer, maybe, if you tilt your head just so and squint really hard at it while wearing sexism-colored glasses.

And it just so happened that a female YA writer read the article while tilting her head just so and squinting really hard through her sexism-colored glasses, and then went on her Tumblr blog and ripped the guy a new one for his sexist (according to her) attitudes and called upon women and feminists everywhere to join her in a campaign of public shaming.

As a result, some of her followers did just that, although she also received quite a bit of backlash from people asking her to please stop making feminists look crazy-pants and distracting people from the real issue, which is why so many male authors in our society are so terrified of even attempting to write women.

On the positive side, this has opened up some more dialogue about women in fiction, and it seems like a good time to round up some good links on writing female characters, like this excellent article from Writing Women Characters as Human Beings by Kate Elliott

And this one, also from Tor: Oh No, She Didn’t: The Strong Female Character, Deconstructed

There’s also the one I wrote a few weeks ago that says pretty much the same thing: How to write [insert adjective] female characters

And the Chuck Wendig post that inspired that one: How “Strong Female Characters” Still End Up Weak And Powerless (Or, “Do They Pass The Action Figure Test?”)

Or I could just distill it all down to this: women are people, dude. Just focus on writing a well-rounded, complex person, and don’t let the fact that that person is attached to a pair of boobies throw you.

Let me tell you about how ridiculous this day is. should not be blogging right now. I should be editing my client’s book. But my client’s book (and all the edits I’ve done on it so far) live on Google Docs, which for the last couple of days has refused to let me access it. After sitting here fighting with it for literally the last two hours, I’ve managed to get it to let me download a copy (which will hopefully have all my edits and editing notes saved), and right now I’m downloading Apache OpenOffice, which I will attempt to install and run. I’m not actually sure this computer has enough available RAM to run it, which is why I didn’t just do that in the first place. At any rate, hopefully it will run and all of my edits and notes from GD will carry over and I can get back to work. Otherwise, all of my current freelance work will be stuck on hold until Google Docs gets its act together, which is not really an option, because deadlines.

And that’s just part of the utter ridiculousness of this day, which started out with yet more plumbing issues, because this house has the crappiest pipes (no pun intended) of any house I’ve ever inhabited. So instead of walking around the neighborhood for a nice, invigorating and calming session of exercise and prayer like I’d planned, I ended up instead walking all over Home Depot with Matt looking for a toilet auger (after I hiked all the way to the back to use their restroom because ours was unusable).

Thankfully, the auger did the trick, so at least we can use our bathroom now. But it’s now almost 3:30 PM and I haven’t actually accomplished anything useful. Which might not be so bad if I wasn’t already looking at a hectic week and an overflowing work load.

And oh, good! The bulb on my bedside lamp just burned out, and I’m not sure we have any light bulbs in stock. It just gets better and better.

Here at last is some (tentative) good news, though — OpenOffice started up just fine and the book file has all of my changes and notes. I’m hesitant to officially declare it as good news because it remains to be seen whether it will let me do my work without crashing. I really need to step away from this infuriating devil-machine for a little while before I find that out.

“But what about your goals for this week?” you might be asking. This week, my goals are simple, as there is really only one goal: to get through this week with my sanity and peace intact. So far, today I’ve already bungled that goal. Hopefully the rest of the week will be better.

By the way, this may be the only blog post I end up having time for this week. We’ll just have to play it by ear.

How about you, dear reader? Any big stuff to accomplish this week? Anything going on where you could use some cheering on? PLEASE tell me your Monday is going better than mine. If not, let it all out in the comments, where I promise virtual hugs and pats on the back and there, there’s.

This week’s follow-up post – how I did the first week of March how’d I do? Eh, it could’ve been worse.

Tuesday was awesomely productive. I had a long To Do list, and I did every dang bit of it. It’s also the only day this week I managed to get any writing done on the novel, but I did over 1,100 words, which is about as much as I’ve been managing each week, so that’s fine. Anyway, here’s the breakdown:

Big rocks:

  • Daily devotions
  • 30 minutes a day writing GHOST

Nope. See above.

  • Vaccuum the house
  • Do laundry*

*I did some laundry — two loads on Awesomely Productive Tuesday — but then winter returned with a vengeance, and since the washer and dryer are out in the garage where it’s freezing, I decided to save the rest for warmer weather. I should get the remaining loads done over the weekend.

  • Finish the Fiverr critique
  • Edit 1/4th of one of my clients’ book projects*

*I’m four pages behind where I’d hoped to end up today, but I have a good excuse for that. See below.

  • Stretch and move daily

Ha ha! No.

And these were the pebbles:

  • 2 or 3 blog posts
  • Re-enroll Dominion of the Damned and Midnight Snacks in KDP select
  • 15 minutes a day reading Story by Robert McKee
  • Tea & Creativity sessions

All of the time that would’ve gone to this ended up getting spent watching Chess the Musical in Concert on YouTube. I regret nothing.

At any rate, clearly I’m having an easier time fitting in the pebbles than I am certain “big rocks.” So I’m going to have to re-evaluate how I’m managing my time.

This weekend, in addition to doing laundry, we also still have to do our Aldi shopping. We normally go on Thursday mornings, but this week we were snowed in. We tried to get it done this morning, but when we got in the car we were greeted with a dead battery. My nephew was kind enough to drive all the way into town to see if there were any other problems and give Matt a lift to Autozone to get a replacement (thankfully, it was still under warranty, so they replaced it for free). Meanwhile, I spent the morning doing emergency-company cleaning, and then I babysat my great niece and nephew while the menfolk worked on the car. And that is my excuse for being behind schedule on my client edits.

I’m also hoping to find some time (and mental energy) this weekend to do some Deep Thinking about my novel. I feel like I’m close to a breakthrough in figuring out what it’s really all about, and I need to do a proper outline and sort out the character arcs, but it’s been difficult to find time where I can just sit and think about it like I need to.

How did your week go, dear reader? Any big plans (or things you hope to accomplish) over the weekend? I’d love to hear about it — even if those plans involve your DVR or Netflix.


On leveling up and achieving your dreams: it’s not all its cracked up to be.

Into the Woods image via WSJ

Take it from Into the Woods – getting what you want isn’t a guaranteed recipe for happiness.

I haven’t seen the recent film adaptation of Into the Woods, but I’ve seen a couple of iterations of the stage version and mainlined the Original Broadway Cast recording enough times during the heyday of my Broadway geekdom to be familiar with the story’s themes. It’s easy to sum the story’s message up as, “Be careful what you wish for,” but I think it goes a little deeper than that. In this, the real world, where wishes aren’t magically granted after undergoing a quest through the dark and dangerous woods, a more relatable but no less true message is this: don’t pin your happiness on accomplishing your dreams.

I’m currently living one of my dreams. I’ve actually realized a few dreams in the last seven years or so. Back when I had a steady, safe job as a cubicle jockey, I dreamed of being a freelancer, and all of the apparent freedom that went with that. Freedom to set my own schedule, to write when I feel like writing, to decide who to work for and which jobs to take on, to not put on pants or makeup unless I just felt like it. It all seemed so awesome.

And then I got laid off during the lowest point of the Great Recession when there were no jobs to be had, and I turned to freelancing out of sheer desperation and survival (note: these are not ideal circumstances under which to begin a freelancing career. I really don’t recommend it if you can avoid it). And yes, I won’t lie: certain aspects of freelancing ARE awesome, like the aforementioned flexibility, and that whole pants and makeup thing.

But freelancing — especially doing it without a safety net — was fraught with its own set of problems, and it turned out to be very, very hard work, with long hours, and no benefits or job security.

Initially, I had dreamed of being a freelance editor. I had even started taking editing classes through Mediabistro right before I got hit with the layoff. I finished up the classes post-layoff, but I couldn’t get anyone to hire me as an editor. At the time, the only ones hiring freelance editors were mainly newspapers, magazines and websites, but thanks to budget cutbacks, they were turning more and more to having their writers edit their own work.

So instead I set myself up as a virtual assistant. I offered copy editing as part of my service package, and a few people took me up on it, but I also offered my HTML/CSS skills and that proved to be way more popular. It was also something I could charge more for, so after a while I moved the focus of my business to web design and development, even though that’s not something I ever really enjoyed doing as more than a hobby.

Still, business was good for a while, and I was living out my freelancing dream, so I tried not to complain. And then the web design business went belly-up and I went months–long, scary, stressful months–without being able to find work of any kind. I found a lifeboat in content mills, but I’ll tell you bluntly, writing for content mills sucks. It sucks your energy, it sucks your spirit, it sucks you in like quicksand and doesn’t want to let go. I don’t recommend that either.

Sometime in the midst of all of that I’d managed to realize another dream — to become a published author. I caved in and turned to self-publishing to make it happen, which at the time felt a little like cheating, but I no longer feel that way. It feels great to have my books out there, and I have no regrets about how I went about it. Another dream realized — and when dreams get realized, they become reality, and reality continues to be difficult. Self-publishing is a lot of hard work. There are a lot of ups and downs. It’s worth it, but it’s far from the easy path, if there is such a thing.

And now I’m finding that my initial dream of being a freelance editor is coming true. I took a very meandering path to get here, and  I’m very happy and grateful to have finally arrived. But it’s not all lounging in my PJs and reading all day. It is, again, a lot of hard work, and fraught with its own set of problems and difficulties.

You may see a pattern beginning to emerge here.

Ultimately, my big dream is to make a full-time living from writing and publishing my own novels — to have them sell well enough that I don’t need to have any kind of “day job,” freelance or otherwise. I like to daydream about it and in my daydreams I have all this free time on my hands. I only need to work a couple of hours a day to make my word count, after which I can be free to play around online and have a clean and orderly house and craft and read and watch TV and basically spend the rest of the day doing whatever the heck I feel like doing.

Of course I know that in reality, writing and producing quality books takes a lot of time and hard work. Selling books takes even more time and hard work. Once I’m making a living as a novelist, if that day ever comes, my days probably won’t look that much different than they do now. I’ll still be sitting here in my pajama pants, trying to balance my laptop precariously on a lap filled with furbabies, still wishing my house could be cleaner and fighting the temptation to watch last night’s episode of whatever and forcing myself to get work done, it’ll just be a slightly different type of work. But it will be work, and it will be fraught with its own set of problems and difficulties.

I’ve come to realize over the years that life is a lot more akin to a video game than to a storybook: reaching a goal or realizing a dream doesn’t mean achieving happily ever after. Rather, it means you level up to a whole new set of challenges.

Does that mean dreams aren’t worth pursuing? Of course not. As much as I fantasize about getting to take it easy, I subscribe to the notion that most things that are worth doing are hard. This looks kind of insane on paper, but I think most people are this flavor of insane. Things that require hard work are usually more rewarding than things that are easy.

I mean, sure, a Saturday afternoon spent lying on the couch mainlining your favorite show on Netflix is a reward unto itself. But after a whole week of that? Chances are, you’re going to start to feel like you’re wasting your life.

On the other hand, after a week of putting in hard work in the pursuit of something worthwhile, you’ll feel perfectly justified in spending that afternoon being a couch potato. You’ve earned a break, and knowing that lets you relax and enjoy it. Not so crazy after all.

I really think that even if your day-to-day life looked like a Corona commercial, you’d still have problems: sand in your shorts, having to worry about sunburn, plus eventually just sitting there sipping beer and staring out at the ocean is bound to get boring and you’re going to want to go somewhere and do something that involves having to put up with people and traffic and all of life’s little frustrations.

Problems and hardship are a constant part of life. Achieving your dreams won’t deliver you from having to deal with hard stuff. There will always be a new set of challenges and things to complain about. Which is why it’s a really bad idea to look to your dreams to make you happy. Contentment is a daily state of mind, and there’s joy to be found in the pursuit.

All of which is to remind myself to be grateful and enjoy finally being a freelance editor, and try not to complain too much about the new challenges it brings, or spend too much time daydreaming about being a full-time novelist, but to do what I need to to achieve that dream, too.

What do you think, dear reader? Do you agree or disagree? What dreams are you chasing, and how do you expect your life to change when you catch them? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Writing and Other Goals for March 2 – 7, 2015

Bullet journal

Trying to start March off right.

I’m adding a few new elements to my bullet journal this week. One of those elements is a weekly To Do list, because the monthly list alone isn’t cutting it. The weekly list is going in the far-left column of my weekly 2-page spread, the rest of which will be taken up by daily lists.

I’m trying to keep this week’s list simple. I have a lot of editing to get through, and that’s going to have to be my main focus. But I also can’t neglect my writing, and I really need to vacuum and do some laundry this week. So these are the big rocks that will take up most of my time jar:

  • Daily devotions
  • 30 minutes a day writing GHOST
  • Vaccuum the house
  • Do laundry
  • Finish the Fiverr critique
  • Edit 1/4th of one of my clients’ book projects
  • Stretch and move daily

And these are the pebbles:

  • 2 or 3 blog posts
  • Re-enroll Dominion of the Damned and Midnight Snacks in KDP select
  • 15 minutes a day reading Story by Robert McKee
  • Tea & Creativity sessions

I also added a Word of the Week and a Verse of the Week at the top of the spread. The WotW is a reminder of what I want to stay focused on throughout the week–sort of a weekly theme to guide everything.

This week’s word is “Health.” I have NOT been making good choices lately and I’m feeling the results of it. With so much on my plate, I’ve really got no choice but to take better care of myself, which includes eating right and getting exercise so I’ll have more energy and be able to think more clearly. This might mean I have to get my husband to hide all of the breakfast pastries we’ve been stocking up on lately because winter makes us lose all good sense when it comes to food. I might also have to hide all that instant Pho from myself, because while that stuff might be gluten-free, it’s definitely not low glycemic. At any rate, this is why “stretching and moving” is designated as a big rock this week.

The verse of the week is Ephesians 6:7 (NASB): “With good will render service as to the Lord, and not to men.” This is to remind me to be thankful for the work I have and to maintain a good attitude about it while doing the best job I possibly can for my clients. This is something I try to apply all the time, but when my plate begins to overflow and I start to get overwhelmed and stressed, it’s good to have a reminder.

So that’s the general shape of my week to come, God willing. What about you guys? Any big projects hanging over your head and making you twitchy? I’d love to hear about your goals and plans for this week, both big and small. Share them in the comments!

Weekly Goal Follow-up: Feb 23-27, 2015

Well, I got my wish to get out of the house this week. The sun came out on Tuesday and cabin fever got the better of both of us, so we went out on a lunch date to a Thai buffet we’d been wanting to check out (JK’s Thai Buffet in Broken Arrow; not a big selection, but what they had was definitely worth the trip), then stopped by Krispy Kreme to take advantage of their free donut giveaway (and, in what was probably an unwise move, picked out a dozen to munch on over the next few days). Then Wednesday, after our semi-weekly Sprouts run, we paid an impromptu visit to Oklahoma Joe’s to try out some of their bbq sandwiches for lunch. Afterwards, we swung by our favorite used book store, where I picked up a good grammar reference book along with a Jennifer Crusie paperback and a Steampunk novel.

By the time we got done with our weekly Aldi & Walmart run on Thursday, I was ready to not leave home again for at least a week. Which is a good thing considering we’re in the process of getting snowed in again as I type this.

In other news, I finally did our taxes this week, and I don’t want to talk about how that turned out. I’m just glad I can finally check off that square in my bullet journal. As for the rest of this week’s goals, here’s how those turned out:

  • Daily prayer time
  • Daily novel writing

I didn’t manage to write every day, but I added over 1,100 words, which is a big improvement over last week, and I outlined the next several scenes to keep things on track.

  • The critique and editing gigs that filled up my Fiverr queue over the weekend, plus a sample edit for a potential direct client.

I’m taking a break from the last of these as I write this. I’m hoping to get it done before I shut down this evening, but I may have to end up working tomorrow to clear it off my plate so I can start in on book editing projects next week.

  • Write & post two more blog posts
  • Finish reading Let’s Get Digital
  • Update the descriptions on various Fiverr gigs
  • Add some features & static content to this website

Nah. I barely managed time to blog, let alone add anything extra.

  • Make a pot of chicken soup from scratch

Hah, no. Partly because my husband keeps cooking hearty casseroles and partly because I’ve got all this instant pho stocked up from last week’s trip to the Asian market. Maybe I’ll finally make it tomorrow, though.

  • Get out of the house for something other than groceries

See above.

So it hasn’t been a terribly unproductive week, but it could’ve been better, particularly on the noveling front. At any rate, it was enough to tire my brain out, so I’m looking forward to a weekend of vegging out with another Gilmore Girls marathon.

How was your week? Any big weekend plans, or would that require shoveling snow?

He lived long and prospered.

So, Leonard Nimoy passed away. I’m not usually one to jump on the celebrity death commentary bandwagon, but I gotta say, this one hurts. But it’s a comfort, at least, to know that he did, indeed, live long and prosper.

I wish I could think of something more poignant or elegant to say, but I’m too busy being bummed. Besides, his final tweet does a better job of it than I could:

Thanks for many perfect moments and memories, Mr. Nimoy.

Weekend recap & goals for the last week of February, 2015

bullet-journalWelp, I did not get my taxes done this weekend. I don’t have an excuse, really, other than that I just didn’t feel like it the least little bit. Saturday ended up being a lovely, spring-like day, so we lit the fire pit and spent most of the day hanging out in the backyard, recovering from one week of wintry weather and bracing for the one to come. Sure enough, on Sunday it snowed, and I couldn’t be bothered to do anything more rigorous than crocheting whilst huddled under a thick quilt on the sofa and watching Gilmore Girls all day.

I did manage to finish a set of boot cuffs I started last weekend, though. And then in an attempt to use up the yarn I also made a lacy hair kerchief. See?

Weekend #crochet output: boot cuffs & a lacy hair kerchief

A photo posted by Jean Bauhaus (@jmbauhaus) on Feb 23, 2015 at 12:54pm PST

All of which means that taxes are one of the big rocks that needs to be sure and get done this week. Possibly today, even, depending on how the rest of my To Do list goes.

This week’s goals are focused on putting the “big rocks” in the jar first — and learning to discern what is really a big rock and what is merely a pebble; sometimes it’s a lot harder to tell the difference than you’d think. For me, the big rocks are A) things that definitely must be done and can’t be put off till later, B) things that are necessary for my health/sanity/well-being that won’t get done at all if they don’t get done first thing, and C)client projects with an impending deadline. Everything else is pebbles, gravel or sand.

Other than the taxes (which for various reasons fit definition A), the other big rocks I’ve identified for this week are:

  • Daily prayer time
  • Daily novel writing (so far, so good — I got over my block enough this morning to get a decent start on the next scene of Ghost of a Chance)
  • The critique and editing gigs that filled up my Fiverr queue over the weekend, plus a sample edit for a potential direct client.

That’s enough to keep me pretty busy all week. As for pebbles — the stuff I would really like to get done if there’s time — they include:

  • Write & post two more blog posts
  • Finish reading Let’s Get Digital
  • Update the descriptions on various Fiverr gigs
  • Add some features & static content to this website
  • Make a pot of chicken soup from scratch
  • Get out of the house for something other than groceries

For that last one, we might go out for a lunch date and check out a new Pho place nearby. We’ve also talked about taking our work to a Panera or Starbucks for a few hours a week for a change of scenery. As much as I complained a couple of weeks ago about how tiring it is for us introverts to have to go someplace every day, I admit that even I start to get cabin fever if I stay cooped up for too long, and all this snow is making us both a little stir crazy.

Your turn! What are the big rocks that are going in your time jar this week? How do you distinguish between what is an actual big rock and what is just a pebble? Or do you think Stephen Covey needs to take his rocks and shove them someplace really dark and unpleasant? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

How to Write a Novel in 16 Easy Steps!

Image by mpclemens via Flickr Creative Commons

Step 1: Get a new story idea that you’re totally stoked to write.

Step 2: Spend hours outlining and plotting that puppy.

Step 3: Start writing!

Step 4: Write about three chapters, then decide your B plot should be your A plot and your A plot should be put aside for the next book in the series.

Step 5: Throw everything out, including the outline and start pantsing it from the beginning.

Step 6: Just as momentum starts to build, have life become unusually hectic and force you to stop writing for about a month.

Step 7: Get back on that horse. Make progress. Sluggish progress, but still, progress.

Step 8: Get to what you think is the halfway point and celebrate!

Step 9: Get a little bit past the halfway point and realize you have no idea what needs to happen next. Spend days opening the file, staring at it while munching Cheetos, then closing it without writing anything.

Step 10: Feel like an utter failure, fraud and phony who will never finish another book again. Eat more Cheetos.

Step 11: Debate whether to throw it all out and start over, or keep going, knowing that probably at least 50% of it will have to be completely rewritten.

Step 12: Decide to keep going, because a finished broken draft is better than an unfinished draft and you’ll never finish if you keep going back to square one.

Step 13: Push yourself over that wall, bit by bit, one word at a time.

Step 14: Get sudden inspiration as to how everything comes together and get totally stoked.

Step 15: Write like the wind!

Step 16: Reach the end. Collapse. Have some celebratory Cheetos. Try not to think about all the rewriting ahead.


Currently, I’m at steps 9, 10 and 11 as regards Ghost of a Chance. I haven’t written on it all week, save for 334 words on Monday that I’m pretty sure are going to get deleted. I think the problem is that I’m at a point where what I feel is best for the main character and the story is conflicting with my own personal morals and values.

That might sound odd, but for a writer who happens to be a Christ follower but who doesn’t market herself as a “Christian Author,” this tends to be a thing that happens. My characters want to have sex! But they’re not married! And my mom might read this! And people from church! And what will God think? Will I be glorifying sin? Am I gonna get in trouble? Arrgh!

I always end up going with what’s best for the story and truest to the character. After all, not all my characters share my beliefs and values, so it would be weird for them to behave as though they did. Still, as a rule of thumb I try to write things I won’t be too embarrassed for my mom to read, and sometimes that rule gives me anxiety.

Sometimes that rule has to go out the window. This may be one of those times.


What about my end-of-week update on how I did on my goals for the week? Here it is: outside of getting caught up on my freelance editing queue, I got frick-all done besides. Between the weather and hormones, and all of the gluten- and cheese-filled comfort foods those two things compelled me to munch on all week, my focus and energy levels were shot. This means I’m going to have to spend tomorrow doing our taxes, but really, I’m just happy to be caught up on the client stuff, and I’m really, really glad it’s Friday.

How did your week go, dear reader? Better than mine, I hope. And for the writers in my audience, what kind of conflicts tend to derail your writing, at least temporarily? I want to hear all about it in the comments!

How to write [insert adjective] female characters

Your “strong female character” doesn’t have to be a Buffy clone . . . although she’s not a bad template to start with.

I see variations of this question from time to time on writing blogs and forums: “how do I write ___ female characters?” Usually the blank is filled with either “strong” or “convincing.” I also see various answers. The most recent iteration was on Terrible Minds, wherein Chuck Wendig makes the very excellent point that making a female character physically strong does not make her well-developed.

But what I want to know is, are we women really so mysterious and difficult to write? Granted, there are some differences in how men and women process information and emotions that can be useful to know about when developing your characters. Men tend to be better at compartmentalizing whereas women tend more to let the different aspects of their day mingle and interact.

For example, say (hypothetically) my husband and I have an argument early in the morning. He’s going to have an easier time setting it aside to focus on his work and other relationships, whereas I’m more likely to stew and obsess and let it affect every aspect of my day until we resolve our disagreement and make up. But other than that, we both feel the same things: hurt, angry, frustrated, sad, etc., because minor gender differences aside, we’re both human.

And that’s the key to writing convincing/effective/strong female characters: remembering that women are first and foremost PEOPLE, just like you. We feel the same things and react the same way to situations and circumstances as you do. We, by and large, have many of the same interests, basic desires and motivations.

There may be some women out there who only ever want to talk about men and shoes and hair care products or whatever, just as there may be some women who only ever want to talk about their kids and housework and what pregnancy and breastfeeding did to their bodies, but these women are in the minority (and most likely women who appear to fall into these categories only do so in certain company or during certain phases of their lives and don’t deserve to be caricaturized like this).

Interesting women, MOST women — women worthy of being protagonists — might be interested in these things but they’re also interested in art and politics and religion and books and TV and film and pop culture and current events and their families and their pets and music and crafting and making art and food and cooking and good restaurants and good beer and good wine and good Scotch and comic books and role playing games and video games and sports, and, and…the list could go on forever.

Women generally want the same things men do: to be loved, accepted, understood, to have people in their lives who they can talk to and count on, for life to be more easy and uncomplicated than hard, to avoid drama, to get a good night’s sleep, to be respected and treated like competent adults, to be recognized and rewarded for accomplishments, to be emotionally supported and encouraged in pursuit of their goals. Women have big dreams and desires that often don’t include landing a man and/or having babies (although some women do dream of being wives and mothers, but that’s usually not ALL they dream of, just like how men who dream of having families someday also have other pursuits).

Want to write a strong/effective/convincing female character? Start with striking out “female” and just focus on writing a strong/effective/convincing CHARACTER. This doesn’t mean you should just write a man with breasts. What it does mean is that your focus should not be on making your character convincingly female, but on making her convincingly human.

Give her quirks and complications and interesting interests and desires and realistic motivations and logical reactions. Make her imperfect and screwed up in interesting ways that help drive the plot. Give her weaknesses that balance her strengths, and vice versa. Make her smart enough and emotionally strong enough to keep her head and take care of herself and others in a crisis.

Give her steel-toed boots and a big gun or martial arts training or superpowers if you want but know that physical strength is not a substitute for emotional and spiritual strength. Don’t make her so tough that she doesn’t have a soft side, or so soft that she can’t be tough when it’s required.

Just look at the character who started the whole “tiny butt-kicking girl” trend — Buffy Summers. Buffy is physically strong, yes. But what makes her a compelling character is not that she can beat up vampires. What makes Buffy a great character is that she fights, and survives, emotional battles that often take a greater toll on her than her many physical altercations. Buffy can train her body to be able to take on the biggest, baddest hell-beast out there, but nothing can prepare her for betrayal, or having to slay her first love, or losing her mom, or battling severe depression, or getting involved in an abusive relationship and having to find a way to heal from all of that. It’s not the super-powered Slayer side of Buffy that makes you care about her; it’s the human side, with her normal human desires, and all of the totally relatable human travails that she endures.

And that’s how you write a strong, convincing, interesting female character.

Did I miss anything? Let me know what you think makes a great female character in the comments, and while you’re at it, tell us some of your favorite female characters. I’ll start: Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre, Buffy Summers, Leia Organa, Marion Ravenwood, Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Kerrin Murphy, Suzannah Dean, Diana Scully, Olivia Dunham, Michonne, Aeryn Sun, Kate Beckett and Abby Mills, to name a few.

Your turn!

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