First of all, I’ll state, for the record, one of the first rules of writing: Perfect people are BORING.
Every character, in order to grow and create an interesting story, needs a flaw— sometimes more than one! With my male characters, I can heap on the flaws— pile ‘em on with a big spoon. It’s easy to write for men; it’s comfortable, and I can get away with most of bad stuff I invent for them. People don’t ask why this guy is a former-alcoholic liar with anger issues, or a blatantly racist skirt-chaser pedophile. It’s given that it’s his character and this might be important to story.
When I create flawed female characters however, something weird happens: everyone asks why I did it. Why does this character have body issues? Why does this character hate her mother? Why is this character a callow bitch? Why did I choose to represent women this way?
I get confused by questions like this, especially because my answer is always, “Because that’s her character. That’s who she is.”
When a woman sees a female character in a male-dominated story, we tend to suddenly latch onto that character and say, “This is me. This is all of us.” And when we see her do something we don’t like, we collectively groan. “She’s let me down. She’s made me embarrassed to be a girl.”
I do this with my favorite female characters. I do it constantly, which is why there are so few female characters in comics and books that I actually like. I’m often too terrified to make female characters of my own. I’m scared of letting us all down.
I’m gradually getting over my fears; Skeleton Crew has no less than five female characters from a range of ages and backgrounds. We’re also introducing a female villain shortly and she’s loaded with flaws. I have to credit my awesome brother and co-writer for this, who was the first to invent all these girls before letting me run rampant with their dialogue and designs. To his credit, he never stopped to think, “What if I get this wrong?”
In the end, I just do what I do, not because I want to give traditional comics the bird, or to create the ultimate girl character. I honestly forget the fact I’m a girl—a lone skirt in a field of slacks. That’s not important. I do it because I love it, and if no one read my comics/books, I’d probably keep doing it anyway.
I write what I write because I have stories to tell and I think you would like some of them. I want to create characters who you relate to no matter what your gender, race, orientation, or lifestyle might be. I want to create people that feel real to you with enough seeds of truth in them that you can say, “I get that. This speaks to me.”
Tangent Artists is a predominantly female-owned and operated webcomics and publishing company in Northern Virginia. They run three weekly webcomics: horror comedy series Skeleton Crew; Swords & Sorcery & Sarcasm series CRIT! ; and nerd-life comic, Donuts For Looking. Monica Marier is a co-founder and working artist/writer for all three series. She has also published three fantasy novels through Hunt Press, including the much-lauded first book in The Linus Saga, Must Love Dragons.