C.J. Cherryh Explains The Key To Creating Terrific Female Characters

Illustration for article titled C.J. Cherryh Explains The Key To Creating Terrific Female Characters

How do you go about creating female characters that have the same charisma and depth as the male ones? People debate this endlessly, and come up with complicated arguments about one aspect or another. But Downbelow Station author C.J. Cherryh has a refreshingly simple answer to this question.


Writer and regular io9 contributor Andrew Liptak was interviewing Cherryh for Kirkus Reviews, and they had this exchange:

Your novels are notable for their female protagonists in a field that was considered male-dominated: how was this received by readers while they were being published?

My goal is to create characters that men can identify with just the same as women identify with the male heroes. Everybody wants to be a hero in what they're reading.

In other words, just as female readers are perfectly capable of identifying with male heroes, male readers can identify with female ones — if they're compelling and heroic enough. It's so simple, it might just work. [Andrew Liptak via SFSignal]



Personally, I hope we've reached a point where characters can be written so vibrantly, and with such a unique voice, that their gender is way down on the list of things that defines them.

Here's a test: if you reach the end of writing a work of fiction, ask yourself how much editing and tinkering would it take to change the gender of a main character?

If your answer is 'not very much', there's a good chance you've created a unique, complex character that anyone can identify with.