Patrick Stutzman: Do You Have To Be Female To Write Female Characters?

There was so much positive response to a recent post on women and science fiction that when I had the chance to invite a male author who writes strong female leads beautifully, I jumped at it. Here is Patrick Stutzman, author of ALONE ON THE EDGE and his new release ALONE IN PARADISE.

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Writing can be a lot of fun, but it can also come with its challenges. Among those challenges can be making your story and/or characters believable, getting the story to flow smoothly and logically, and avoiding the pitfalls into which many authors inadvertently fall. My primary problem involves being a man and writing about a woman.

My series of novels revolves around a woman who finds herself left alone, away from civilization, and must cope with her situation to the best of her abilities. I have received compliments from a number of women that I have somehow managed to pull off the ardent task of hitting the nail on the head as far as accurately portraying female characters. Those that don’t know me figure it is because I am secretly a woman or that I am gay. The last time I checked, I am a male; I have guy parts. And, my wife can assure you that I am not gay.
How do I do it? No, I don’t follow Jack Nicholson’s formula in As Good As It Gets where he says, “I take a man and take away reason and accountability.” It all falls down to observation and error-checking.

As a gamer, I liked to play female characters in my games. I create women player characters in my Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars roleplaying games, and I have a female character in World of Warcraft and Skyrim. Why? Most of the other players played males. I wanted to have women come along on the adventures, too. With characters like Red Sonja, Wonder Woman, Jean Grey, and Sheena as inspiration, women have just as much capability to kick some major butt as the men.

I live in a house with three other women: my wife and my two daughters. Learning what women are like and how they think, though it is still an exercise, comes a bit easier for me because of that. When I create the women in my books, I take what I know from the three ladies in my life and apply parts of them to the characters.

I cannot honestly say that it’s that easy. After I complete the story, my editor steps in and checks my portrayals for accuracy. It really helps that my editor is a woman, too. If something seems askew, we discuss it and make any necessary changes to finalize the character’s depiction.

I am not the only man that creates female characters, but I am willing to bet that I am one of the few that does not make my women damsels-in-distress or really butch. I have always strived to be as realistic as possible in my stories, and having women properly represented is something I am proud to do.

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Please feel free to visit each blog on the appropriate day and comment about the blog post, the book, me, or whatever you choose. One lucky person that comments on the blog stop that day will win a free e-copy of the book. Spread the word to your friends and come read about the continuing adventures of Anna Foster in the exciting sequel, Alone in Paradise.

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3 thoughts on “Patrick Stutzman: Do You Have To Be Female To Write Female Characters?

  1. With my book THE CURE, I had a fabulous beta reader who gave me insights into how a woman would react in the particular situations given in the story. It helped immensely, based on the feedback I’ve received from readers. Not that my character was *far* off, but tiny details came to light (such as concentrating on her child’s corpse first, versus her husband, that sort of thing)…

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