Opinion: Females in fiction are often written poorly


I remember the first time I read a book on my own. I was 5, sitting on the couch with my mom. Out of all of my earliest memories, that one is my favorite because of how clear it was at that moment that my lifetime of creative thinking began. 

I was one of those kids who couldn’t stop reading in elementary school. I’m not going to lie, it became a problem at some points in my daily life. There was something about the magic of storytelling that enchanted me: the way I was immersed in the fictional world, invested in the characters and their storylines as much as I would be in a real person’s. 

For me, characters have always driven the story. A well-written character draws you in, allows you to form an emotional attachment and makes you worry about what is to come of them. A poorly written character simply ruins a story.

As I grew up and learned more about writing, I began to see more of these ill-written characters in the fiction books I loved, targeting mostly female characters within these books. I was so drawn to reading female characters because I could see myself in them, but as my pursuit of reading continued, I noticed more and more female characters that just felt detached. 

One example comes straight from a book I finished recently called, “The Host” by Stephanie Meyers (yes, the author of “Twilight,” and, also yes, “The Host” is not any better.) Even though she was the main character, Wanda’s entire storyline revolved around the love interests and her only character trait was a deep, deep love for Cheetos. For me, Wanda almost felt like a joke. She’s helpless and needs all these guys to save her consistently and yet, you’re still supposed to believe that she’s this strong independent woman you should look up and relate to. 

With these female characters, I think my main problem is that it seems like their sole purpose is to affect the men’s lives in the story. “The Host” revolves around Wanda and yet she makes no real impact on the plot. It makes me sad to see characters with so much potential written in such a bland way.

Although there are many situations of women being poorly depicted in books and television, there are a few, rare instances where they outshine their male counterparts and live up to their promised leading roles. There’s one show that I personally love, one that truly portrays a variety of women that have as much depth and impact as a real person. That show is “Arcane.”

“Arcane” has common tropes such as the “kick-butt girls” and the “seductive morally gray woman.” It also includes a character that has a “crazy girl” stereotype you could compare to Harley Quinn. “Arcane” takes these tropes and twists them into something that goes deeper and far beyond these surface-level cliches. 

For example, a character in the show named Vi kicks butt. You see her get beat up, and yet you also see her being vulnerable. Not just as a love interest, but as a sister – a friend. She can throw a punch, but she doesn’t let that define her strength. She has firm beliefs and goals that are reflected in her actions and, unlike Wanda in “The Host,” they affect the story intensely. The emotional depth in her character is what makes her inherently human. That’s what makes her believable. That’s why I love her character. 

The writers took all these tried and true tropes women tend to be given in literature and fleshed them out into genuine characters that truly felt real. That’s what makes me love the show so much and hope for other books and films to live up to the standards “Arcane” set for me.

It really makes me mad to find so few things that have really good female characters. It’s not that hard. Women don’t need to be written over the top, women don’t need to be written to be dependent on men, women just need to be written as women. It really isn’t hard to find a reference. To quote a video essay I love, people shouldn’t write female characters, they should write female characters. 

I feel like the bar is set rather low when it comes to creating and writing female characters and it makes me sad to see so many of the popular books and movies I’ve watched fail to reach it. There is a ton of potential that authors and screenwriters can achieve through creating a successful, relatable female lead, and that can only be earned through writing female characters with the genuine humanity that makes a character truly good.