Make Her Whole: 3 Tips on Crafting Women in Romance Writing
This is a guest post by Eliza David
I’ll just put it out there: I love creating women characters. If there’s one thing I like more than writing strong & bold women, it’s reading about them. From Janie Crawford to Isadora Wing, I marvel at them. I’ve walked away from books by my favorite authors - Erica Jong, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and Judy Blume among them – feeling fuller for having followed the pages of their journey.
As a writer, I wonder where the character creation process comes from for these literary legends. How did Hurston make Janie strong enough to pull a gun on her rabid suitor Teacake? Where did Jong find the inspiration for Isadora and her quest for the ‘zipless fuck’? I often come back to these unique women characters to create my own. When I created CeeCee, Zoe, and Laney – the beloved figments of my imagination that spawned nine novels – I came back to the Janies and Isadoras of my favorite novels. From those experiences, I keep the following three guidelines in mind when creating whole, feminist-friendly women characters:
Create Layers – Any character worth a read has a rich backstory that supports her decisions, thoughts, and actions throughout the novel. One of my favorite wants to learn more about my character’s backstory is to use a character questionnaire. While every detail of your character’s past should be in the final draft, it’s helpful as the writer to know what type of childhood she endured, what her education level is, or how many times she’s had her heart broken (or how many hearts she’s broken – now there’s a story!).
Avoid Trauma As A Crutch – Too many times, women characters are abused, raped or otherwise destroyed in order to prove her strength in a novel. Of course, conflict is required for a story and it may not be pretty. However, using a traumatic event as an explanation for your character’s personality can be a disservice to your character and to your readers.
Give Her Goals Beyond Love – A romance novel cannot exist without a relationship of some sort. This is an undeniable factor of the genre and, in its greatest form, love is beautiful. It’s also important to give your main character other sources of satisfaction and happiness. Think about what fulfills your character’s soul – her career, her family, a hobby, anything that defines her personhood outside of her relationships.
Above all, be cognizant of the woman character you’re wishing to send out into the literary world. Give her a true voice that rings clear. You never know who will be touched by your happy ending!
Eliza David was born and raised on the noisy south side of Chicago, but now lives in super quiet Iowa. When she’s not writing, working full-time, or raising two children with her loving husband, Eliza enjoys reading Jackie Collins and indulging in the occasional order of cheese fries. She is a blogger for Real Moms of Eastern Iowa and has self-published seven romance novels. Her dreams include seeing her name on the New York Times’ Best Sellers List and convincing her favorite actress Nia Long to portray a character from her books onscreen.