Worksheet #15 – Writing Realistic Women
Strong, powerful, hell bent, warrior, perky, spunky, outspoken, fearless—these are typical adjectives used to describe “strong female characters.” But there are female characters who do not possess confidence and do not have agency, whose power is earned or lost or never obtained, and those stories need to be told, too. In fiction, the most compelling characters are those who take charge of a story and guide it with confidence–even if the trip is full of stumbles, potholes, and failures.
A story will demand certain things from its lead character, but whether a female lead begins with power or earns it, the writer should aim to write a female character who jumps off the page and makes a connection with a reader.
A starting spot to do that is to create a woman—despite the particulars of her circumstances—who is realistic and relatable. Below are some questions to consider when creating a realistic female character.
- What is your RW’s origin story?
- What incident in her life most influenced her?
- Is your RW already powerful or is she seeking power?
- What is her mission or quest?
- What is her motivation to accept this mission?
- Is the mission one that she sought, one that was pushed upon her, or for her own survival?
- Is your RW influenced or hampered by constraints of the times?
- Does your RW need to live within social expectations of the setting and period?
- In her story, what is at stake (external and internal)?
- What skills does she carry with her?
- What weaknesses or drawbacks will hamper her?
- What would she need (add or subtract) to be content (or more content) in her life?
- Who is her warrior idol?
- Who does she admire in her personal life?
- What actor would she choose to play her in a movie?
- What skill or trait does she desire?
- Does she feel she has control over her everyday life?
- When a crisis happens, how does she react?
- Is she an introvert or extrovert?
- Who does she tell her secrets to?
- Who tells her their secrets?
- If she could be any woman in history, who would she choose?
- If she died today, what would her epitaph say?
- How would she handle a rude server, clerk, or bureaucrat?
- What does she wish she could change about herself?
- How does she solve problems?
- What kind of working relationship does she have with her boss?
- What are her family and friend relationships like?
- What is her temperament?
- Is she active or reactive?
- What is unique about her?
- What do you, her creator, see as the most compelling thing about her?
- Is she based on any real person?
- If so, how is she like that person? How is she different?
- If she had a personal cause or charity, what would it be?
- What type of book would she like to read?
- Does she consider herself a strong person?
- Is she independent or dependent?
- What every day skill is beyond her abilities?
- Where in the plot does she meet the greatest challenge, physically? Intellectually? Emotionally?
- Do you think your character is powerful enough to open a movie?
- What can she/you do to make her more powerful?
- What does your RW do that surprises herself?
- In the story, how does your RW participate in her own rescue?
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