?

Log in

No account? Create an account
StephenT [userpic]

Writing female characters

27th January 2010 (11:19)

I've written 46 Buffyverse stories longer than 200 words. Of these:

35 had a female main protagonist or POV character - 76%
30 passed the Bechdel Test - 65%
44 had at least one female protagonist - 96%

So my recommendation for the people on metafandom  complaining about the lack of interesting women characters in fanfic is - become 'Buffy' fans! :-)

More detailed breakdown under the cut for those who like statistics.


The stories of mine which definitely pass the Bechdel Test ("Two women have a conversation which isn't about a man") are:

Intrusion (Willow and Kennedy)
Hiywan's Story (Hiywan and Biftu, Heran, her mother, Esyete and Haymanot)
From Ancient Grudge (Willow and Faith)
That Kiss (Buffy and Willow)
That Other Kiss (Buffy, Willow and Tara)
Product Placement (Willow and Dawn)
For A Few Kisses More (Buffy, Willow and Tara)
Netherlands to Nepal (Willow and Dawn)
...And Shopping (Satsu and Buffy)
Unstylish Yet High-Priced Boots (Satsu and Buffy)
Stockton Gala Days (Faith and a female OC)
Legally Dead (Willow and Kennedy)
And All My Secrets Laid Bare (Willow and Saga Vasuki, Kennedy and Tara)
Matthew 1.23, Except Not (Buffy and Willow)
We Just Declared War (Buffy and Ellen Ripley)
In Sure And Certain Hope (Willow and Kennedy)
Past Imperfect, Present Conditional, Future Tense (Buffy, Willow and future!Buffy)
Performance Review (Kennedy and Satsu)
One Day In The Life Of Buffy Summers (Buffy -in the last chapter- and Willow)
What Can Change The Nature Of A Man? (Ravel, Buffy, Kennedy and Willow)
Lost And Found (Kennedy and Buffy, via email)
(Dis)Connection (Buffy and Faith)
Retrograde Tactical Manoeuvre (Willow and Honor Harrington)
Which Of You Is The Man? (Willow and Kennedy)

The ones which don't are:

Hell's Heart (Only one female character, Faith)
Learning To Drive  (Only one female character, Drusilla)
Angel And The Dragon (Lessa is female and she talks to her female dragon, but it's about Angel)
Stealer of Souls (no female characters)
Getting In The Game  (Only one female character, Faith)
Dead Letter (only one character, and he's male)
Caught Sleeping (only one female OC character, who doesn't speak)
On The Whispering Wind (only one female character, Buffy)
It's Curtains For You, Slayer  (only one female character, Buffy)
I Am Destruction (only one female character, Hiywan)
Warning: Character Death (only one female character, Willow)
Majestic Creatures of Legend (only one female character, Dawn)
Behind The Mask (only one female character, Adelle DeWitt)
Blood, Some Of It Mine (only one female character, Hiywan)
Buffy's Little Secret (only one female character, Buffy. I assume her rocket launcher is not female.)
Brief Encounter (only one female character, Drusilla)

The following are judgement calls: (Let me know what you think!)

This Isn't About Hate
Amy has a conversation with The First, which is currently in female form (as her mother) but is not, technically, a woman. 
The Phonecall
Faith and Harmony have a conversation, but the subject is "Why are you answering Angel's phone?" I'm not sure whether to count that as a conversation about a man.
A Storm Coming In
There's a group conversation which includes Xander, but he mostly interjects a few one-liners while the bulk of the conversation is between female characters.  Also, one of the protagonists is a Terminator designed to look and act female but not technically a woman.
How Willow Discovered Online Porn
Again, there is a group conversation which includes Willow's father, but most of the talking is between her and her mother.
Once And Future
There's a very brief conversation between Willow and one of the Priestesses of Avalon, but our POV character doesn't hear what's said. (Though as writer, I know they're talking about Buffy).
Reorientation
Buffy and Willow have a brief private conversation with each other in front of Giles and Xander.


This is how many times I used each character as my main protagonist. Deciding that was usually easy, but sometimes difficult to decide; who is the main protagonist in an all-dialogue fic, for example? In such cases I tended to go for the one who had the most activity or speech, or the one who was asking the questions rather than answering them. So:

Buffy - 13 fics (28%)
Willow - 8 fics (17%)
Xander - 4 fics
Kennedy, Faith, Hiywan - 3 fics each
Angel, Spike, Satsu - 2 fics each

If you extend this to count the leading two or three protagonists in stories without a single POV character, it becomes:

Buffy - 17 fics
Willow - 14 fics
Faith - 6 fics
Kennedy - 5 fics
Xander, Satsu - 4 fics each
Spike, Hiywan, Angel, Dawn - 3 fics each
Drusilla, Tara - 2 fics each

Also for the record:
7 of my fics (15%) include explicit sex; one M/F, five F/F and one F/F/F.
Another six include a fade-to-black sex scene.

4 of my fics are all-dialogue.
4 fics are written in the first person (or first and second person in one case), 41 in third person.
8 fics are written in the present tense (not counting the all-dialogue fics), 33 in the past tense.
1 fic is written in found-objects form.

2 fics include no female characters at all: 'Stealer of Souls' only involves Angel and Elric (and Stormbringer), 'Dead Letter' only involves Xander (though even there, he's thinking about Anya for most of the fic even if she doesn't actually appear in it).

Comments

Posted by: none of the above (frogfarm)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 13:51 (UTC)
faith S4 puppy

Clearly this proves that like Riley, you are an honorary lesbian.

I should see if someone else feels like doing this analysis on my fic. I'd love to, but I'm afraid I'd lose the momentum I've built up...

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:10 (UTC)

Well, your S7 stuff with Xander might fail the Bechdel test, but it's hard to see how femslash ever could. Though someone on a metafandom link was saying she just found a story that did, so... Maybe it had two women having sex without ever speaking to each other? Or the only conversation they had in the entire fic was about men?

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:18 (UTC)

Ah, that person on metafandom said it was an HP femslash fic with the two girls making out while fighting about a guy. So...the entire thing was about their confrontation over a guy.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:34 (UTC)

about

Or "an ironic counterpoint to".

At least it would be if I wrote it. :-)

Edited at 2010-01-27 15:38 (UTC)

Posted by: erimthar (erimthar)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 14:49 (UTC)
pic#82749049

Interesting. I just realized I've only ever written one story on LJ that had a male POV character (the Dr. Horrible one from Hammer's POV). Though I am planning another.

In fact, Xander, Giles, Warren, D'Hoffryn, and Sid are the only male canon Buffy characters who have appeared "on stage" in any of my fics.

Clearly, I need to expand.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:13 (UTC)

I think the secret to diversity is writing ensemble fics set during the TV show canon; you can't help writing men then.

It crosses my mind that I've never written Riley; and the only Oz I've written was in an unfinished story fragment that never got beyond a paragraph or two.

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 28th January 2010 02:11 (UTC)

I think the secret to diversity is writing ensemble fics set during the TV show canon; you can't help writing men then.

Yeah... that was actually my downfall in the Bechtel test, lol. I'd have a nice conversation with multiple female characters, not talking about a man... and then Xander or Giles would chime in with a line and invalidate that convo.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 28th January 2010 02:50 (UTC)

Now personally, I would still count that as passing the test, if the important part of the conversation was between the women and the man's line could be skipped without affecting the meaning or the plot. :-)

Posted by: eowyn_315 (eowyn_315)
Posted at: 28th January 2010 02:56 (UTC)

I'd have to go back and check, but in most of them, I don't think that was the case. In most of my ensemble scenes, I try not to have anyone there who could potentially be taken out without changing the scene, so the men are probably going to have at least one important line.

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:06 (UTC)

So my recommendation for the people on metafandom complaining about the lack of interesting women characters in fanfic is - become 'Buffy' fans! :-)

I've been thinking the same thing. Stop stealing my thoughts!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:15 (UTC)

'Buffy' doesn't have enough hot men on the show, or something like that. Apparently.


Stop stealing my thoughts!

Well, I've already stolen your clothes so I thought your thoughts seemed the next logical step...

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:21 (UTC)
laughter

Spike is all the hotness BtVS needs.

Though I imagine the reasoning is more like: Buffy's too selfish and whiny. Willow's a passive bitch. Anya's too shrill. Tara's just BORING. Dawn's annoying and whiny (Death to Dawn!). Cordelia is just so flat and dull. Faith's just a male wet-dream on screen.

See? No likable/interesting female characters!

Well, I've already stolen your clothes so I thought your thoughts seemed the next logical step...

...was wondering where my clothes went. Huh.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 15:37 (UTC)

Cordelia is just so flat

*Remembers that 'Playboy' nude photoshoot CC did, which proved that this is not at all true, not even a little bit.*

*Realises you meant the word in a different sense.*

*Says 'huh'*

Posted by: The One Who Isn't Chosen (gabrielleabelle)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 19:49 (UTC)
will10

Did you just confess to having the Playboy of CC's nude photoshoot? Hmmmmm?

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 20:39 (UTC)

Not at all, no. How could you think such a thing!

But someone posted links to scans of the magazine on the old alt.tv.buffy-v-slayer newsgroup, and I'm sure some disreputable people might have downloaded them. Shocking, I know.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 20:48 (UTC)
Buffy Sproing

Who doesn't have that?

Posted by: harsens_rob (harsens_rob)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 19:29 (UTC)

I would have gone with the DVD collection next, then possibly the CDs and then hit with the thought-stealing. But I like to sort of sneak up on the big moments.

Posted by: Emmie (angearia)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 20:46 (UTC)
Buffy - More Beer

I second this - both the become 'Buffy' fans urging and that stormwreath needs to stop stealing my thoughts!

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 21:14 (UTC)

But I already have Gabs' thoughts, and I want to collect the whole set!

Posted by: harsens_rob (harsens_rob)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 19:26 (UTC)
character as my main protagonist

You know me and Gabe (gabe_speaks) had a conversation about this subject. He was of the opinion that the protagonist is nearly always the character which the story (or series) revolve around. That would usually be Buffy, though in my series it would be Xander and Spike.

I've never divided characters up this way (must be that lack of an English major). While writing, I consider instead "who is my main character(s) in this story (or even chapter), who is the secondary character(s), who are the tertiary character(s) and finally who is the background character(s). I then allocate the amount of time I'll spend in a character's point of view based on where I see them in that story (chapter).

To Gabe, Spike and Xander are always the protagonist in Spanderverse because that is the focus of the series. To me, Xander and Spike can be anywhere from Primary to Secondary depending on the story... Buffy could just as easily take focus (and has), so could Willow or Dawn.

I think it gives me more leeway to switch views and allow characters to be focused on their own stuff (rather than have to make everything about 'how does this affect Xander? Spike? Both? Neither?'). And that allows me to have subplots and developments completely separated from the Xan/Spike ship.

But, like I said, maybe I'm just going about it wrong because I don't care about 'writing rules'...? What do you think? Can a character be the default protagonist, even when a story isn't about them and their feeling/opinions about whatever the plot is about?

Perhaps I just don't understand the real definition of 'protagonist'.

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 27th January 2010 20:37 (UTC)
Re: character as my main protagonist

I don't have a degree in English either, y'know. :-) To me, 'protagonist' simply means the main character; the one the story is about. It's a descriptive term.

If you're writing chapters of a longer story, or stories within an arc, then the identity of the protagonist can switch from chapter to chapter. Or you can say that Character X is the main protagonist of the entire story, but in Chapter Five our focus temporarily shifts to Character Y who is the protagonist of that story.

It's no different to saying that Buffy is always the main protagonist of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer', but Xander is the protagonist of 'The Zeppo'.

Whether it's a good thing, from a literary point of view, to switch protagonists like that is another question entirely, of course. It adds variety and gives a different point of view, but risks losing focus and direction.

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 1st February 2010 11:24 (UTC)
Buffy Faith you think we'd go for tea?

BtVS is indeed a goldmine when it comes to female characters, considering there's never been a single regular or semi-regular character I haven't been interested in(except Glory. idk.), and there's just so much story potential.

And your breakdown is adorably geeky ♥

Posted by: StephenT (stormwreath)
Posted at: 1st February 2010 13:21 (UTC)

And your breakdown is adorably geeky

That's because I'm adorably geeky. :-)


I think the Buffy writing team was about evenly split between men and women, wasn't it? At least in the later seasons. I wonder how that compares to other TV shows.

Posted by: M (spankulert)
Posted at: 1st February 2010 13:57 (UTC)
BSG Roslin would kick Palin's ass

Oh, I know. It's just because of how vastly underrepresented women are on most any other show that BtVS seems so dominated by the female characters, when in fact it's pretty even.

Most TV shows have to be pretty damned interesting for me to put up with it for too long if there are no female characters of interest that get, you know, actual storylines and character development. It's a miracle I watched Supernatural for as long as I did :p

24 Read Comments