Most female authors are comfortable with creating interesting female characters, the heroines, or the MC (main characters). But compared to a male MC, there are certain characteristics specific to females.
Females think more (and often worry more), they are more demonstrative with their facial expressions and body language, and they talk in long sentences compared to their male counterparts. Your female MC can be feisty, adventurous, brilliant, haughty, humble, or shy. But she will have a lot of inner thoughts, conflicts, and self-deprecation or self-doubt.
Two important features are Characteristics (what she thinks or does) and Descriptions (how she looks).
Each female character should have her own unique characteristics, highlighted via dialogue, inner thoughts, and actions. In this situation, the reader cares about what she is like rather than what she looks like.
If your MC is witty, she’ll have interesting comebacks in her dialogue. Short, crisp and incisive.
If your MC is shy, she’ll hesitate with ums and ers.
If your MC is conflicted or under-confident, she’ll obsess about what others are saying or doing, wondering how she should react, thinking she is being too forward, worrying about what others feel about her. If she is confident, her inner monologue with be what she anticipates other people will say. If she is shy, she will try to blend into the background and try not to express her thoughts and feelings.
The shy, nervous one will wring her hands together, knit her eyebrows, drop her gaze or sit with her feet crossed, hands in her lap. The haughty one will stick her chin up, her eyes flashing. The angry one will clench her jaw or tap her foot. The one in love will look into her guy’s eyes, her pupils dilated, her lips parted.
While the reader is happy enough knowing what your MC is like, they like to imagine what she looks like. Not every female MC must be a stunning blonde, blue eyed beauty. So, how do you show what your character looks like? Don’t fall for the cliché ways like looking in the mirror and describing how she looks. She knows she has blue eyes. She knows she has dark hair. It’s better to slip it in surreptitiously in dialogue, actions, or inner thoughts.
For minor characters, a quick way is to cut short description by telling important details: Her blonde hair was now peppered with grey (she is getting old). In two inch heels, she towered over most men (she is tall). She stuck a strand of silky black hair behind her ear (Her hair is black). She gets sunburnt in ten minutes and envies those who tan (she is pale). The dress that fit her well last year now stretched across her hips (she is putting on weight).
For more important characters, try to blend the descriptions with dialogue, inner thoughts, or actions.
Someone can mention, “You couldn’t have missed her. She was at the party. The platinum blonde. White as porcelain, red collagen-infused lips, baby blue eyes.”
Or you can slip in something like: “He bought me a sapphire ring to match my eyes.”
He can give her a peck on her nose and say, “Love those freckles.”
Inner thoughtsShe can think: “Why wasn’t he attracted to her? Did he hate brunettes?”
She can think: “If only her hair was like her mother’s golden waves. But she was stuck with straight black hair, falling like a curtain around her face. No amount of heat treatments or curlers gave it a kink.”
To describe brown hair, pointed chin and full lips: “He tucked a stray strand of her brown hair behind her ear and ran his finger down the side of her face, coming to a stop at her pointed chin. Then he pulled her closer and pressed his mouth against her full lips.”
Instead of “She was voluptuous”, you can write: “She slipped into a clingy dress which emphasized her curves, the low neckline showing off a cleavage models would kill for.”
She put on the padded bra and looked at the sides, wondering if the mastectomy scar would show.
Finally, a good writer combines characteristics with appearance to make memorable, interesting female characters, be it the curly-haired, witty, brilliant Hermione, or the toad-in-pink soft-voiced, wicked Dolores Umbridge.
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Sunanda Chatterjee is a practicing physician in Southern California. When she is not by the microscope making diagnoses, she loves to write fiction.