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September 22nd, 2012, 12:16 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2009
- Los Angeles
Writing from a FEMALE TEEN viewpoint
I now have three books in my Shapechanger Tales series self-published as ebooks and print-on-demand books. They are labeled adult SF. So I decided to that my fourth would be a young adult novel.
This is partly in the hope that those YA readers will then seek out the adult titles. But it also is a challenge. Iíve long wanted to write for teens. Now Iím sure enough of my skills Iím going to do that.
But to get help writing a teen girl character, since Iím a male much older, I asked for help from several nieces and sort-of nieces, asking them to also pass on my request to those they thought might be willing to offer insights.
The replies have been coming back for the last several days and some patterns are beginning to emerge. I wonít feel certain of my understandings for a while, but here they are so far.
______________________________One young woman apologized for offering up stereotypes, but said she found them often to be true. Many of her friends and acquaintances were very self-centered, unsure of themselves but covered it up with bravado, strongly resisted adult perspectives, and felt immune from harm. The future felt very far away and only until their last year of high school did they start to think beyond high school, often with feelings of panic. They were interested in the opposite sex but afraid of them too.
My own memories of my teen years, incidentally, was that these stereotypes are just as true for boys. We especially are likely to put up a brave front.
______________________________Another young woman (in her mid-twenties now) said that all through high school she thought of herself as a ďdude with boobsĒ - a phrase I had used in my broadcasted email as a downfall of the female characters many male authors create. This from someone whom I saw grow up from the age of three, and who always seemed very conventionally feminine in appearance and activities.
Except - she was also always spirited, self-assertive, and had lots of initiative. She started parties and outings, enlisted others to help with them, stood up to bullies, and talked back to adults. In short, she ACTED the ways males are stereotypically supposed to.
It helps, I suppose, that she is short and attractive and loves fashion. A six-foot fullback male doing exactly the same things would trigger a resistance reflex, whereas she was often met with compliance. (Though never more than once treated as a joke. Thatís when her (verbal) steel claws came out.)
It helps, I think, that she and other ďdude with boobsĒ females I know are very active physically. Activities I know about are jogging (almost all of them), soccer, basketball, and dancing (salsa, ballet, and Argentine tango). I suppose when you feel physically fit you feel more emotionally sure of yourself.
______________________________Then there are the activities conventionally associated with females, such as shopping. Comedians make jokes about this, portraying men as hating shopping. My experience is that we LOVE shopping - but of things like cars, guns, electronic devices, and so on. I think shopping is a human activity, but the content varies according to gender and culture and individual preferences.
There also may be a general sexual difference. Female shopping tends to emphasize appearance, males functionality. How much is inborn and how much learned the psychologists of the future may be able to determine, but for now it's futile to argue the origin of these preferences.
______________________________I see I've strayed away from the TEEN GIRL topic I'm most concerned about. So I'll end by saying this.
Those are the general impressions Iíve gotten so far. I also got lots of specifics and examples. Some of them I'll eventually end up using in this or some other story.
September 26th, 2012, 12:49 AM #2
- Join Date
- Jan 2011
- A house on a hill somewhere in Australia.
- Blog Entries
I'm just going to throw some myths out and comment on them.
Teen girls are the trend-setters of sayings and memes and stuff on Facebook. I forget why, read an article in a paper I respect; maybe it's a gossip thing?
Guys Like Action, Girls Like Drama: men are from mars (god of war), women are from venus (goddess of love). Think of hunter-gatherer society: men hunt, women gather, and especially, they gather berries of a red or pink variety, that's why pink is associated with girls... except that apparently, it was Hitler who designated Blue For Boys, Pink For Girls. But I think there's a lot of truth, at least socially-ingrained, in the saying. Women carry babies for 9 months. Men go out to war and die. Men are also, apparently, wired to be like animals who "plant their seed" and move on to repeat the process as much as possible with as many women as possible. Girls get broken hearts and prom babies, when that happens. It takes a man controlling his inner nature to stick with one woman.
Teenagers Obsessed With Sex: I asked about teenagers once, and the response was unanimous - if they're having sex, it's all the time, if they're not, they're thinking about it all the time.
Boys mature slower than girls: male brains supposedly aren't fully formed until 25. Female brains have had probably 5 years on males' (the articles I've read are that "men are slower to develop than women" but didn't actually say when women's brains matured, that I can remember, but knowing a few under-21 females I know it's not till at least that age).
Women become more sexual with age: I've heard this, but I've also heard the opposite, so you'll have to do research. Sexy research, maybe. Men peak in their youth, women peak much later in life. SUPPOSEDLY. Which is very unfortunate.
Teens are immature and under-developed. Their English skills are sh!t, though that might be the education system's suck-tastic fault. But have you seen how they type? I get headaches trying to understand what language they're typing in.
Most Fanfic Writers Are Girls: girls write most fan fiction and thus, most of it is centred on romance and relationships (especially squick-inducing Slash Fiction, which is their Main Character Bromance Taken To Sexual Levels, even if - especially if - they're actually perfectly straight). Most Writers Are Male: men write with action in mind, and Most Editors Are Male, so they'll pick up male-oriented fiction... except that many editors seem to ACTUALLY be female these days. Academics were all male at one point, or so it seems.
Fantasy is Female, Science Fiction is Male. 'Nuff said. Terry Brooks said that something like that was prevalent in his day, which was around the 50's. But today that's been broken down.
I hope that gives you food for thought, and I doubly hope I've made it clear that these are popular assumptions and not absolute truth. And that they help with the teen female angle.
September 27th, 2012, 04:40 PM #3
Firstly, this whole... Men are x, women are x thing is a dangerous cycle to get into. All that matters is what your character is. People fall all too much into these stereotypes and rely on them for the sake of realism, or to try and show they are in some way understanding of variants.
It's as Martin said. Someone asked him, 'Writing female characters must be difficult. How do you make them all so unique and interesting?' His reply? 'I've often found that women are people.'
It's going to be different depending on the other factors, for example; Setting mainly; is your character able to just go to school everyday, worry about social issues? Worry about grades? Or is she some part of dystopia or pre-society type culture where all she's going to give a **** about is protecting herself and anyone she cares about, getting food, water, etc.
I could then go on to say that that would affect the way she thinks about the 'stereotypical' elements - for example, a female teenager in a society where everyday was a fend for survival would likely care less about romance and more about finding a mate who's strong, able to offer protection and healthy children.
What's wrong with that phrase? Oh, yeah. Personality.
Personality is everything. Not every teenager cares about sex, not every girl cares about relationships, not every teenager has a **** grasp of language, though that will depend on the education of your book.
I'm not really scared to say it any more, since I've had a lot more expirience with other communities, writers, published or not, more people, more of life - a lot of people posting on here have some of the most sexist viewpoints I have known. Not derogatory, really, more so just immensely stereotyping. Everything is brought down to a very blunt, straight forward, simplistic view in an attempt to show realism, but it becomes so cynical or simple that it is no longer realistic.
I think if there are things you want to enhance it should be the really obvious things. Like the hormones, the independence wanted, the not worrying about consequences, the... self-centered, self-rightious nature. Most things are happening for the first time, so they're huge. The key thing is a lack of expirience.
But again, add it up with personality. So, for example, if your character is asexual, and never feels the desire for sex or a relasionship she see's others display, that's cool, that makes a hell of an interesting character. But balance in the other things, to show realism of her age. For example, the lack of planning for her future, the want for freedom. If your girl is really, really clever, a prodigy, who does think about consequences, future plans, can control or suddue hormones with logic then make her over dramatic - when one of her plans goes wrong or she is introduced to an idea she never thought of, make her implode. Make her so self-centered.
September 27th, 2012, 05:16 PM #4
September 27th, 2012, 07:38 PM #5
I had an asexual friend when I was about sixteen. He was a male, but I guess the same thing could apply. He understood the beauty of a female form eastetically, but I mean, it was just laughable to him that so many people fell over themselves to get sex. It was like a duty, or a genetic process he just didn't give a damn about.
You can just... basically, make anyone, any personality, and add on the teenage parts later. Maybe think how that person would act through all different stages of their life, child, teenager, adult, middle aged, old, to be able to better grasp the differences.
I think in some way, all of the most intriguing characters are a little unrealistic - or, no, unlikely - only in the way that if you met them in real life you'd question if they were joking with you, if this was real. You have to balance them.
September 29th, 2012, 12:30 PM #6
- Join Date
- Mar 2009
- Los Angeles
OK, so when building female characters of all ages, go with a pan-human approach first: we all love, hate, are depressed or happy, etc. We have physical needs and physical desires (possibly conflicting: we want a good-looking mate but we need a trustworthy one as well, for instance). We all are pressured by our society to do or not do certain actions.
At the other end of generality continuum our characters have very specific qualities. My 16-year-old heroine Bethany is bright but not very motivated academically. She routinely gets Bs with occasional As in her classes, and she's in the Cs in math. She's short, 5'1", and very athletic in ability and body and love of using her body, which is channeled into cheerleading. She has X and Y and Z other physical characteristics. Her family situation is thus and so. She lives in Burbank, California, a few miles from Pasadena's Rose Bowl. In an alternate history which includes the characters in all my other Shapechanger Tales books (four novels so far, self-published on Amazon and Barnes & Noble).
Now I'm puzzling about qualities in the middle levels of generality: ones which many but not all women share. Which ones do I choose for Beth? For instance, most of the women I've known were and are quite conscious of their appearance. They might be indifferent to social pressures to "be beautiful" but they are also aware of them. My Lesbian room-mate of many years (we shared a bisexual lover) dressed casual and rough, partly for comfort but partly to project an image. But when we three went to LGBT parties she wore tight leather clothing and a collar with spikes, for instance.
Men (straight ones anyway) are also aware of our appearance, but the pressures on us are less and our choices of clothing and grooming are a lot simpler.
So, can my Beth love the "girly" ritual of shopping for and trying on clothes? Will she like the group experience of descending on a mall with her close circle of friends?
September 29th, 2012, 02:27 PM #7
Actually most straight men are not really aware of appearances. Not in the same sense like women. It's a bonus when a straight man does it. Half of us are color-blind, the other half near autistic, and most happen to wear whatever their wifes/girlfriends buy them. Besides, it's not being aware so much as thinking that whatever they (we) do is okay, so why waste time?
P.S. Not sure about women, but I know for a fact that most men are the same as they were in their teens; sometimes the circumstances of their lives change them, but to use a gross generalization, they are more or less the same.
September 30th, 2012, 11:00 PM #8
If, for example, you say she is not very motivated, maybe she goes a long with the trips because she... wants to feel close to people? She doesn't enjoy them, but it beats sitting indoors all day and losing the edge in that social group. Social group status can be murder. If you're not in on the latest joke, weren't there the last few times, etc. So it kind of fits her personality. Just like her grades. She knows to put effort in, but never tries too hard, thus C/B and occasional A.
Or maybe she likes something else at the mall? Like the street performer guy who's there sometimes and she quite fancies or admires, or the shop with the creepy supernatural gear? Or, maybe, she just really loves shopping. It's okay for that to happen, too. Maybe it's the one time she shows motivation. When it's going to pay off straight away in stuff. Or just the 'made over' expirience, a fresh start in fresh atire.
I don't think it's true that straight men don't care about appearance. They want to look strong perhaps, because they are from a rough area or on a sports team, they want to look witty with their friends so buy t-shirts with funny slogans, or game slogans. Or they want to appear charming or invesable if they are going into business or anything that'd require it. If you want to fit in you gotta' have that new hoody, if you want to get a girl you gotta' buff yourself up. Stereotypes, again, but all true. I think everyone cares about appearance to some degree - even those who'd use it to show that they are NOT approachable or interested in social interaction with you. Also, people who have no confidence in their appearance, think they are too short/tall, fat/thin, ugly, etc - that tends to have a huge impact, even subconsiously. Why? Not because they are vain or weak minded, but because they can not portray properly the image they want to give off. Appearance is a useful thing. Animals use it in nature, male or female, just as we do.