This is quite a short read, and the actual meat of the advice contained in it doesn’t start until about the 60% mark. The first part of the book is basically some statistics on why you should include female characters in your story, which basically boils down to ‘women buy books and watch movies and TV’ which strikes me as common sense, but then I suspect that, being female, I’m not really part of this book’s intended audience demographic.
Some of the advice in the book is excellent, regarding making your female characters realistic and three-dimensional, and honestly? You can’t beat free, which is the permanent price of this book.
I do, however, disagree with the author on two fundamental issues. The first is the Bechdel test, which she airily dismisses as ‘a 30-year-old comic strip’. 30 years on from that comic strip, if your story fails the Bechdel test, you’d better have a really, really exceptional reason why, because if you don’t? Believe me, that female audience whose dollars you’re trying to court are going to notice.
The second issue I have is that the author seems to take issue with the very existence of critics, with a ‘haters gonna hate’ kind of attitude. And yes, I do think Anastasia Steele and Bella Swan were terrible examples of female characters, and yes, their existence in popular literature does actively contribute to a culture where women are (still!) viewed as weaker and lesser. If pointing that out helps even one woman to recognise and escape an abusive relationship, I’ll proudly wear the hat of a Twitter troll. Ignore the court of public opinion at your peril. (Just look at how E.L. James’ latest book is doing, if you don’t believe me. In comparison to 50, it’s sunk without trace).
In conclusion, there are parts of this book I disagree with, but again, I don’t think I’m really part of the target demographic. The lack of concrete examples that don’t work, rather than just pointing to ones everyone knows DO, makes Hay look as though she’s afraid to be honestly critical, and therefore I’m not really sure how useful her advice can be. If you’re approaching this as a non-female person wondering how to include female characters in your writing, this could be useful, but for me? It’s a resounding Eh. Two stars.
How Not to Write Female Characters is available now, and it's FREE.
Author Bio –
Lucy V. Hay is an author, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. Lucy is the producer of two Brit Thrillers, DEVIATION (2012) and ASSASSIN (2015), as well as the script editor and advisor on numerous other features and shorts. Lucy's also the author of WRITING AND SELLING THRILLER SCREENPLAYS for Kamera Books' "Creative Essentials" range, as well as its follow ups on DRAMA SCREENPLAYS and DIVERSE CHARACTERS.
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