The Lack of Important Roles in Fiction for Women (and Blacks, and Gays, and Latinos, and…Name It, It’s Missing)

I was rivited by this post because it speaks to so much of the frustration I feel with MANY novels in MANY genres. So, although I haven’t read this particular book, I am thankful for this in-depth analysis and comments…especially those that offer simple solutions.
I’m an author an a heavy fiction reader. I love all kinds of books but am constantly disappointed by how few “good roles” are given to women. I give GREAT roles to women in my own novels. Not to make up for the broader lack but because they are strong women with strong minds and they want to make a difference in their worlds.
I’ve found that this “oops, I didn’t include any women” (or black, or lesbian, or other underrepresented group member) comment comes from authors who aren’t putting themselves in others’ minds.
Authors first and foremost must transfer themselves into other people. They have to expand their compassion and their intellect to see, feel, hear, taste and smell the world as some other. So when men don’t write women and white people don’t write Latino characters and straight authors ignore gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning folks, they fail. They fail their stories and their readers. They fail our society, because nothing helps us reach across boundaries better than great fiction.


5 thoughts on “The Lack of Important Roles in Fiction for Women (and Blacks, and Gays, and Latinos, and…Name It, It’s Missing)

  1. AnnaJPalm

    Some writers seem to forget that the characters in their story aren’t just “characters,” their people (or impressions of people). So when an author fails to successfully portray a woman or a non-white person – anyone who can be referred to as “the Other” – then we’re not getting a good sense of how this individual functions, who he or she is, ect.

    One thing to keep in mind is that if you find yourself in the dark, not knowing how to write a certain character, simply become more knowledgeable about that person’s demographic, culture, possible background and so forth. Google, visit the library, talk to people, just expand your horizon.

    For example: At the moment, I’m in the process of creating this lesbian couple who lives in London in the beginning of the 21st century; one of the two women grew up in England with a British mother and Russian father. The father moved to England in the late 60’s; keeping that in mind, ask yourself, how has this man influenced this woman growing up? What kind of man is he? How does her sexuality affect the relationship? Here it doesn’t hurt to look up facts about Russian culture and family dynamics. There are several other things to consider, such as the British law prohibiting gay marriage until 2013 and the (lenient) Civil Partnership Act of 2004; how will that affect these women’s relationship? How are they treated by friends, by outsiders? Then you got the traditional stuff to figure out, of course, like personality traits, common interests, habits, pet peeves, ect etc.

    You see my point, right? If you’re creating a person unlike yourself and you find yourself knowing nothing outside your norm, research, research, RESEARCH.


    1. Laine Cunningham Post author

      Excellent tips, and great details to demonstrate your points. For me, writing a novel is a journey through this type of research. Answer one question, ask five more…the deeper you go, the deeper and more nuanced your characters (and the plot) become.
      Thanks for sharing your journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: How to Write Women | The Writer's Corner

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