I’d briefly mentioned the importance of offering a diverse cast of women in the post about “agency,” and now, we are going to explore that thought in depth. Diversity is an important component to include in any story — and not just with female characters, of course — because it is good for the reader and it is good for the writer.
For readers, diversity offers a greater possibility that they will develop a personal connection with at least one character — and through that connection, the story becomes more personal. It is also a way to introduce readers to walks of life they might not be familiar with. As for writers, it stretches the creative writing muscles and allows us to step into an infinite supply of new shoes, as it were. I also believe a diverse cast opens the way to a more interesting story that sometimes takes writers down paths we might not have considered for the plot beforehand. It also opens the opportunity to shine the light on women who aren’t always portrayed in fiction — or positively portrayed.
Often times, women in fiction get pigeon-holed into set molds, particularly as damsels, femme fatales, or the unfleshed out “strong” woman (just check out TvTropes.com for the basic feminity tropes). Women in real-life are a full spectrum with different interests, goals, physiques, strengths, weaknesses, beliefs, and personalities. By showcasing those differences in fiction, a layer of realism is added.
A multitude of different women can also reduce the “wedge” effect discussed in Monday’s blog post. By having women that a FMC can relate to, get along with, or simply work with, it lessens the starkness of the only other woman within the covers of the book being viewed so poorly by the FMC as she has other women in her life that she likes and/or values. Of course, there is no excuse for not fleshing out that antagonistic character or villanizing them without supporting actions within the narrative’s framing.
Diverse female casts allow for the exploration of various relationships and how people from varying walks of life might interact with each other. There is also the opportunity to further explore different choices and how characters have a right to their choices even if others wouldn’t necessarily arrive at the same choice or even agree with them. It can make for interesting drama (not the junior high type of drama) and a chance to really push readers’ (or even the writer’s) own understandings.
For some reason, women characters have picked up a reputation for being hard to write — not everyone is of this opinion, of course. Really all it takes is pausing, looking at all the women in your life, or going to a coffee shop or some other public space, and actually watching and listening. Or as Campbell Soup would say, reflect the “real, real life” happening in front of your eyes on the page.