The Art Of Writing Female OCs

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Television and film writers, I get it. You wanna have more awesome girls to even up the playing field and level out these awesome guys you’ve got to work with – and that’s great! But there is a way to go about it, and there is a way to NOT go about it. As a woman, and a writer, will you please…just listen to me? Because I’m about to give you all the secrets to creating strong original female characters.

*Note, this is an article focusing on creating female OCs for media based on pre-existing material. Not that it can’t help with purely original works either.

Comics have been dominated by men since forever (even though their female audience is larger than they realize), so naturally, there are a lot of strong male superheroes. Yeah, we’ve got our Wonder Womans and our Black Widows, but let’s be real: when you think of  “superhero”, you probably think of Superman, or Batman (because money is totally a superpower, right?), or Spiderman. I mean, how many of you have actually heard of Ms. Marvel? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

With shows like Arrow and The Flash, stories about boys saving the world, there’s a crying need for a female counterpart. A Bonnie for every Clyde, a Scully for every Mulder. Oliver Queen has Felicity Smoak. Barry Allen has Caitlyn Snow and Iris West. Even Kara Danvers on Supergirl has her sister Alex. All badass secondaries in their own right. But the grandmother of all these awesome OFCs is the intrepid right hand of Smallville‘s Clark Kent – Chloe Sullivan.

Chloe was my idol growing up. She was whip smart, witty, brave, and indomitable. She wasn’t just a love interest or just a sidekick. She was a person, with an identity and a personal life and a mind of her own. Yes, she did have a crush on Clark for a while, but it didn’t define her. Helping Clark and the Justice League was important to her life, but it wasn’t the only aspect of her character. She wasn’t stuck as a prop in the narrative. Chloe was so freaking awesome, she actually was put in DC Comics as a real canon character. That is the way you write new female characters.

So let’s just make a little list of dos and don’ts when writing strong, three dimensional women:

  1. DON’T make a woman just a love interest or helper for the main protagonist.
  2. DO give your female characters a backbone (or have them develop one over the course of the narrative – because character development is always a great tool for a writer to use!).
  3. DON’T presume that a “strong” female character just means a woman who punches people a lot (because let’s be real, without the ass-kicking, Black Widow would just be Ms. Fanservice).
  4. DO give your female characters a storyline of their own! If they don’t have a life of their own, they’re not really a character, they’re just a object in the narrative. There’s an easy test you can use called the Mako Mori test. There’s only three requirements: 1) have a female character, 2) who gets her own story arc, and 3) her story arc doesn’t support that of a man. That’s it, that’s all there is to it. Believe me – it’s not as hard as you think.
  5. DON’T make a woman a damsel in distress. It’s fine if she gets saved sometimes, but it’s great to turn the tables occasionally! Lois Lane saved Superman a few times, you know.
  6. DON’T define a woman by traditional gender roles (romantic interests, mothers, etc.) – be original!
  7. DON’T have “strong” women be romantically interested in jerks or weak guys – because that doesn’t happen in real life. I know men don’t really want to have to try when it comes to getting women and they think they just deserve us because that’s what our society has taught them, but in reality, truly strong women don’t love men who obviously aren’t good enough for them. Instead, have a man truly earn her love – that does not mean automatically receive it just because. Or have the man and the woman be on equal footing from the beginning. When a woman says she’ll never love a man because he’s a jerk, DON’T have her do a 180 by the end of the episode and throw herself at said jerk (lookin’ at you, Supergirl).

This is turning into a rant, I’m gonna stop myself now.

To provide a cautionary tale of what NOT to do, I’ll bring up the infamous BBC Sherlock. The original Holmes canon doesn’t lend itself very well to strong ladies. It’s essentially the excellent adventures of two “heterosexual” male life partners. The only long running female characters are Mrs. Hudson (sometimes Turner), the voiceless housekeeper, and Watson’s beard wife, who except for the one story where she’s a client, pretty much has no dialogue either. So naturally, there’s a crying need for girl power.

Enter…Molly Hooper. Oh, Molly.

In the very first scene she’s in, it’s made apparent to everyone that she has a gigantic crush on the eponymous detective. Okay, that’s fine. But that’s literally where her characterization begins and ends. Throughout the entirety of the series, Sherlock either ignores her, makes outrageously rude remarks to her, or uses her feelings for him to get her to do things for him. There was a brief respite in the beginning of series 3 where it seemed like there was some growth for Molly’s character in being able to move on from Sherlock, but in the last episode of the show, Molly has hit rock bottom in the pit of patheticness, getting weepy over Sherlock and demanding that he tell her he loves her, even though she knows it’s not true, instead of just realizing that Sherlock is kind of a dick to her and moving on with her life.

I pity any woman who thinks they should have been together. If that’s your idea of romance, don’t be surprised when none of your boyfriends respect you.

So, TLDR, don’t make a Molly Hooper. Make a Chloe Sullivan. ~TRL

How To Speak Fandom

It occurs to me that I’ve used some jargon that someone who doesn’t spend half their life on Tumblr might not understand. So here’s a quick manual to knowing the lingo of fandom and fan fiction.

  • Ship – (can be a verb or noun, depending on the context) derived from the word “relationship”. To ship two people is to believe that they should be in a relationship.
    • I ship Mulder and Scully so much. Mulder/Scully is my ship.
  • Pairing – a synonym for ship.
    • The pairing of the Joker and Harley Quinn is problematic.
  • OTP – “One True Pairing”; two characters you ship so hard, you could never see either party with anyone else.
    • The Doctor and Rose Tyler are the OTP of many fans of Doctor Who.
  • BroTP – two characters you ship, but only in a platonic sense (brotherly love).
    • A lot people think Sherlock Holmes and Molly Hooper should date, but I just see them as good friends. They’re my broTP.
  • NoTP – two characters you are very against being together.
    • Wincest is my noTP, because Dean and Sam are brothers.
  • OT3three characters you ship together (yay polyamory).
    • Kirk/Spock/McCoy is an OT3 for some Star Trek fans.
  • OC – “Original Character”.
    • For my Walking Dead fan fiction, I created an OC who dates Daryl, but then gets turned into a walker.
  • OOC – “Out Of Character”.
    • It was so OOC for Superman to kill Zod in Man Of Steel.
  • Canon – recognized or established by the source material.
    • The Star Wars expanded universe is supposed to be canon, but has some continuity issues with The Force Awakens.
  • Headcanon – a personal theory by a fan, not necessarily canon, but could be supported by the canon.
    • I have a headcanon that Harry Potter is bisexual.
  • Fanon – a fan theory that is accepted by pretty much the entire fandom, even though it’s not actually canon.
    • Will Graham from NBC Hannibal is probably on the autism spectrum, but it’s never really been confirmed by the writers. It’s mostly fanon.
  • Slash – fan fiction that is romantic or sexual in nature and focuses on the relationship between two men. This term arose in the 1970s when many viewers of Star Trek believed Captain Kirk and Spock were actually in love, and began to share their Kirk/Spock (Kirk slash Spock) fan works. The term slash later became a general term for works about men in amorous situations with each other, even though the “/” is now used to denote gay, lesbian, and heterosexual pairings alike.
    • I was reading a fan fiction about Captain America and Bucky Barnes last night. It was very slashy.
  • Femslash – the same as slash, but with female/female pairings instead. The first significant femslash pairing was Xena/Gabrielle from Xena: Warrior Princess.
    • I wish there were more Swan Queen fan fictions to read. Everyone seems focused on Captain Swan and Rumbelle. Femslash is such a small community.
  • RPF – “Real Person Fiction”. Writing about real life people, namely celebrities, and sometimes shipping them with other real people.
    • There is a surprising amount of RPF about the members of One Direction.

6 Pairings That Romanticize Abuse

Abuse

Every time, I swear to God, every time I fall in love with a new TV show, some asshole comes along, sweeps up the main character, and brings down the entire show, causing me to stop watching in disgust. I’m not kidding, this has happened three times this year alone.

Abusive relationships being romanticized is one of the things that I absolutely hate with a burning passion. But gone are the days where the hero dudes go around smacking their girlfriends, because if that happened, everyone would be up in arms. No, TV and movies have found sneaky ways to paint abuse as “true love” and get away with it scot free. But luckily for you, my little raspberries, I’m here to expose their malpractices with the light of truth!

For this article, I’ve avoided obviously abusive pairings, like Joker/Harley Quinn and Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham, or pairings that have been beat to death by the mainstream like Bella/Edward (seen above) and Anastasia Steele/Christian Grey. I’m choosing to focus on those pairings who are the darlings of their fandoms, who can obviously do no wrong. Oh, but they can, my ducklings! They can. I’m about to rock your world.

**Warning: mild spoilers ahead for various media, including Star Wars: The Force Awakens and BBC Sherlock.**

1. The Phantom and Christine Daaé, The Phantom Of The Opera

Because every girl’s fantasy is to be stalked by a murderer in the shadows and be forced into marrying him or have to watch her childhood best friend be strangled to death. I don’t give a shit how many roses he leaves in her dressing room – that’s wrong.

Not to mention, Christine in 18. Eighteen! She’s barely legal as it is. She claims that the “Angel of Music” (the Phantom) has been tutoring her and watching over her since she first came to the opera house. She’s been living there since she was eight years old. And thanks to Madame Giry’s flashback, we know that Erik is only a few years younger than Madame Giry – so he’s 40, at least. This is a fully grown adult who’s been stalking a child and gaslighting her until she’s old enough to bang. That’s disgusting.

But, you know. Some free music lessons and a candlelit boat ride through a swamp make everything okay.

Gaslighting: a practice in which the abuser gains the trust of the victim and uses that trust to manipulate them into doing things against their will, all while maintaining the pretense of someone who has the victim’s best interest at heart.

2. Rey and Kylo Ren (Reylo), Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

It honestly shocked me that this was even a popular pairing – or a pairing at all. Not as popular as Kylux (Kylo Ren and Armitage Hux), but it’s up there.

There’s not much to go on here, as there’s really only a couple of scenes between them, but what is there, is pretty frightening. I’m going to put aside the fact that Kylo straight up murdered Rey’s friend and father figure. I’ll even waive all the physical abuse in the lightsaber battles because, hey, this is Star Wars, and it isn’t exactly Star Wars without lightsaber battles.

But there is the creepy torture scene (torture isn’t a very good premise for a romantic relationship, now is it?) where Kylo is trying to get information out of Rey and threatens her with a line about how he can force her to tell him what he wants to know, and J.J. Abrams himself admits that this is supposed to be a “rape” scene. Getting inside a person’s head and violating their thoughts is mind rape. Plus there’s the disgusted, fearful look Rey makes as Kylo reaches toward her face that tells us all that Rey is in distress. Rey is trapped in the room, tied down, and can’t escape this situation, where she’s under the threat of physical violence and having her mind raped by Kylo. And that is abuse.

3. Kara Danvers and Mon-El (Karamel), Supergirl

This is what I was talking about earlier when I said TV shows often get ruined by some asshole (Mon-El) swooping in and becoming the protagonist’s “true love”. I’ve stopped watching Supergirl because my once beloved show about a strong, kind lady hero has been hijacked by this entitled jar of mayonnaise.

Upon crashing down in National City, Mon-El has done nothing by lie to Kara (not telling her that he’s the prince of Daxam), insult Kara and everything she stands for (“You fly around, rescuing people, like you’re just pure of heart, but that is crap. Because you love that attention. You love people loving you. You are not selfless.”), and go against Kara’s wishes (“You have ignored what I need from moment one today”), and generally just be a piece of shit (“I never said I wanted to save the world.” “Oh my God. You are so selfish!”). When she doesn’t return his affections, he whines and guilts her into loving him. And somehow – he ends up with her! What kind of message is that sending young girls?

Also, telling someone you allegedly love that they’re your “Kryptonite” (weakness) is NOT romantic. Love is supposed to make you stronger. If your romantic partner makes you “weak”, that’s a bad sign. Believe me, I know.

4. John Watson and Mary Morstan, Sherlock

I’ve been a little harsh on men in this list. But women can be abusers too, and this is a prime example.

Thanks to poor writing from misogynistic, self-satisfied dipshits, Mary Morstan’s characterization has been all over the place. But two things is for sure: Mary is a psychopath and a pathological liar. It eventually was revealed that Mary wasn’t as sugary sweet as she initially tasted. She was actually a killer for hire before meeting John, which she kept from him for almost an entire year, even after they were married. And the lengths she goes to keep that secret from him are outrageous. Namely, attempting to murder John’s best friend – the very same friend who had been missing for two years, whom John had been grieving over, which Mary had to know would devastate John at losing Sherlock all over again. But does she have any regards for his feelings? No. She would rather kill her husband’s dearest friend then have to come clean.

John does eventually find out, and naturally, is a little pissed off by it. So much so that he leaves her. When John finally does agree to speak to Mary again, she immediately guilt trips him – for being rightfully angry about Mary lying to him and trying to murder Sherlock. But for some reason, John takes her back and all is forgiven and forgotten.

(By the way, she never actually says that she’s sorry for shooting Sherlock in the chest. Not until she herself is dying, but honestly, series 4 is such out-of-character, bizarre, melodramatic, sloppily written horseshit that I don’t take any of it seriously. But that’s an essay for another day.)

And beyond all that…she’s just not a nice person. She makes fun of everyone, treating them all like they’re so beneath her. At one point she implies that John is so stupid, a dog is superior to him in intelligence. She’s manipulative, critical, and conniving. And yet, even though there’s little to no affection shown between John and Mary, she’s supposedly the great love of his life. His saving grace. His angel with a sniper rifle. *noise of disgust* Whatever.

5. Emma Swan and Captain Hook, Once Upon A Time

God, where do I BEGIN with these two?

Captain Hook completely ruined Once Upon A Time. He’s been sucking the soul out of Emma Swan for four seasons, and now she’s pathetic, codependent, and completely unrecognizable from the amazing, badass female protagonist that rolled into Storybrooke in a beat up Volkswagen seven years ago.

Hook started off, appropriately, as a villain. He gets into a sword fight with Emma right off the bat and makes lewd, rapey comments towards her. Emma was sensibly repulsed.

Then in season three, Hook decides he’s going to become the guy everyone loves – especially Emma. “I will win your heart,” he growls in her face. Again, another line that’s supposed to sound romantic, but is actually really gross.

Eventually, Emma was hooked (get it?), and her character development was sacrificed for makeout scenes with this guyliner wearing piece of shit. Like Mon-El and Mary, he lies to her constantly, doesn’t respect her wishes, manipulates her, and verbally abuses her when his world isn’t going perfectly ducky. In season 5, Emma saved Hook’s life by using dark magic, turning him into a Dark One (long story). She erased his and everyone else’s memory, but he does inevitably find out, and boy, does he drop that sweet boyfriend act fast. He hits Emma right in the emotional chink in her armor – by saying that all she’ll ever be is an orphan. He knows Emma’s trigger and uses it against her in the most brutal fashion possible. But are there ever any repercussions? Nope. Because Hook is the love of Emma’s life, and he can do no wrong!

Luckily, Jennifer Morrison, who plays Emma Swan on OUAT, has announced her retirement from the show after the end of season six, and this godawful romance can die a festering death. Let’s just pray Colin O’Donoghue (Hook) gets fired and the show is left to be run by the only two likable characters left, Regina and Henry Mills.

And number six…

6. Severus Snape and Lily Evans, Harry Potter

I get it, Internet. You pity him. He never got the girl of his dreams. It’s the age old love story: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy calls girl a racial slur – wait, what?!

There was no fucking excuse for Snape to EVER call Lily a Mudblood. James was bullying him, Lily stepped in to defend Snape, Snape got his sensitive little male ego bruised and had been hanging out with a bunch of wizard white supremacists, and called Lily the worst word possible. She was his best and only friend, and he called her that. So no, I don’t feel bad for Snape at all. Especially since he carried his butthurtedness against her and James past their deaths and onto their orphaned child who had endured domestic abuse for the last ten years of his life. Snape gets no sympathy from me.

Okay. Rant over. Hopefully next post will be something more cheery. Thanks for reading. ~TRL