Charles Yallowitz is a good friend of mine. He has appeared on my blog many times, and me on his. If you are the kind who read comments, you’ll find us getting into some fairly deep topics on one site or the other. Charles has what I see as a major accomplishment. He’s completed the final volume of his Legends of Windemere series. As a writer of stand-alone books I am in awe. This series is epic fantasy, and epic in proportion at fifteen volumes.
Many months ago, we got into a discussion about writing characters of the opposite gender. This isn’t something that comes easy to every writer. Our discussion morphed into the following post, and it’s part of his blast to announce Warlord of the Forgotten Age to the world. Read the post, join in the discussion, and get your copy of the book. I’ll also note that if you’re one who likes to wait for completion before starting a series, this is the time to jump on the Windermere train.
Oh, and if you would use those sharing buttons, we would both appreciate it. I’ve released enough books to know that spreading the word is super important.
Thank you to Craig for helping me promote Legends of Windemere: Warlord of the Forgotten Age, which is also the last of the series. That works for the necessary sales pitch because I want to get to the fun.
A while back, Craig wrote a guest post for my blog about how he writes female characters. This is a question I’ve seen come up a lot in forums with people asking members of one group how they write characters from another. It’s almost like readers are surprised when a man writes a strong, interesting female character or a woman comes up with a great male character. Although, more the former than the latter because many female authors admitted that they find heroes and villains easier to write than heroines and villainesses. By the way, ‘villainesses’ is a word that doesn’t get used nearly enough So, where do I stand on this?
Honestly, I never really thought about it until now. Since I was a teenager, I focused more on how the characters acted and evolved. The gender was important only to denote romantic interests, pronouns, clothing, and physical appearance, but the core of my characters was to make them human. My heroines had to be able to pull their weight on teams and have unique skills that made them stand out. In my earliest stories, I gave all of my characters roles and the female protagonists did tend to fall into caster and healer roles. Only recently did I revisit these characters and redesign all of them to flush them out more. To be honest, the males weren’t any better, but I think most of us have started out with flat characters.
In regards to the women of Windemere specifically, I started with a character that was introduced in the connected D&D game. Selenia Hamilton isn’t the best example of how I write female characters. The reason is because she’s a tough, legendary mercenary who now runs a warrior school, but has eliminated her femininity to the point where she’s very masculine. A lot of authors seem to think this is the way to go for a ‘strong, female’ character. I considered changing her, but realized she’s one of Windemere’s pioneers in terms of proving women can be strong warriors. So, it would make sense that she went this route and paved the road for characters like Nyx, Sari, Kira Grasdon, and Dariana. Does this mean Selenia Hamilton is a bad character? Not in the least, but it does show one way I used to think when it came to creating tough heroines. The thing is that you do have people like this in the real world, so I don’t see why it would be a problem to have fictional versions. I’ve met plenty of women who decided that the only way to get ahead is to act more like a man. So, here we have me observing different types of women (men too to be fair) and using the variety. After all, not every character of the same gender has to be the same.
That’s really the biggest thing that’s helped me write female characters in general. I look around to see how women respond to things, listen to what they would like to see in heroines, and watch for various personality traits. This really began because of Nyx, who is easily the most powerful hero in Legends of Windemere. Seriously, who’s going to try and tell her that she’s not? Nyx started as my wife’s first D&D character and I worked with her to do the transition from game to book. I had to keep the personality the same while making it deeper and more flexible since she was going to be facing monsters instead of finals. It wasn’t easy because the game Nyx wasn’t nearly as powerful, but still ran into battle and tended to get knocked out in the first round. Mages are NOT supposed to rush into hand-to-hand, which is why the book version knows how to fight and has a massive defiance streak. This experience led to me doing the same thing, but it gets difficult with characters that don’t have a real-life counterpart. For those, I paid attention to heroines and villainesses from movies, shows, games, books, and whatever else I could find. I was looking at how other creators handled female characters and went on forums to see what people thought. Usually, I found more complaints than praise, but it helped me figure out the details.
After all of that, I still came up with one important fact that I use for all of my characters. It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female. I write about heroes who stand for good and villains who wish to do bad. They’re motivations, personalities, and abilities might be different, but all of them stand for something more than what’s between their legs. I want all of my characters to be seen as strong and flawed, which is why I pay more attention to the core than the fleshy coating. Personally, I think that should be the goal. Make a strong character of either gender that everyone can enjoy and you’ve done something special. Thanks again to Craig and hope people check out Warlord of the Forgotten Age to see how Nyx, Sari, and Dariana do against the Baron. Oh, I guess the guys will be there too.
Author Bio & Social Media
Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.
All cover art done by JASON PEDERSEN