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5 Ways To Write A Complex Female Character


Complex Female Characters

As a writer it can be hard to come up with fresh new characters. We have the unfortunate tendency to only write one type of character or to write characters as stereotypes.

However, writing your characters in this way does not make for a great read. Here are some ways that you can improve your female characters and make them complex and rich:

1) Forget She’s Female

One of the first obstacles you need to overcome is the idea that there are intrinsically female or male characteristics. Females are not always the mother type, weak, emotional or so on like stereotypes would have you think. Also, in contrast, males are not always strong, brave, or stupid. People are complex and they can have a variety of reactions. They can even seem to have ‘split personalities’ and react to different people in different ways.

Instead of making it all about your character being female then, try to come up with a character without thinking about gender first. Then once you have the character in mind you can assign genders. She might be able to bench two hundred pounds and she might cry at the drop of a hat. What is important is that her gender is secondary to her characterisation. MORE: The Truth About Male Writers And Awful Female Characters 

2) Discover Her Background

Once you have a character in mind, you need to figure out her back story. Even if it will not feature in your writing at all, having a back story for your character in mind helps to make them deeper or richer. They may mention a brother or sister in passing; talk about ‘daddy (or mommy!) issues’; or tend to be awkward around other women.

Because you know her background you can keep the reactions consistent. This means you can give your readers indications of her background without having to really go into it … As long as you know what it is first! These glimpses into a hidden background make the reader long for more and also help the reader to connect to the character in a real visceral way.

3) Find Her Motivation

As you discover the character’s background you can also uncover her motivation. Everyone is motivated by something. Love, money, power, loss, pain, redemption and so on are common motivations in writing. Motivations determine a lot about how a character reacts and what their long term goals are. A woman concerned with money over love will be more likely to manipulate others for her own gain, for example.

However a character that grows throughout the story can change motivations as well. Perhaps she started out as a lover and was hurt so that now she values power or control, or vice versa. Motivations can be a powerful way to move your plot along as well. Plots depend on action and motivation begets action. MORE: 23 Powerful Examples Of Character Motivation

4) Find Her Personality Type

Another thing that changes character reactions and increases character depth is their personality type. This is not to say that you have to ‘type’ each character as INTJ or ESFP and so on, but have a good idea of their personalities.

An introvert is less likely to seek social interaction than an extrovert, for example. A thinker is more likely to find a logical solution where a feeler will go with her guts. However you should not pick a personality type you are not comfortable with. If you can’t imagine thinking like that then don’t try to write a character that does!

5) Use Your Own Reactions

Speaking of being comfortable writing a character, once you have the character in place and know her background, motivations, and personality you can feel free to use your own reactions to make her reaction more real.

If you are an introvert and she is one too, how would you feel walking into a crowded room? If she is an extrovert then what would you imagine would be the opposite of what you would feel? Or, in contrast, what would you like to feel?

You are a complex character yourself, so using your own thinking and reactions is perfectly valid. Just make sure you don’t unintentionally insert yourself into the story. That tends to not work out very well. MORE: 21 Famous Filmmakers’ Genre Secrets 


Complex characters allow us to explore sides of ourselves that we never imagined. By creating another individual out of your own imagination and understanding you can open your eyes to new ways of thinking or better appreciate why you do and feel the things you do.

Creating a complex character is the same: male or female. The point is to make them real people that your readers can connect with. From small secondary roles to main characters, a complex character is one that readers will remember.

BIOThis post is contributed by Christine Maddox. Currently she is pursuing her Master’s degree from University of Texas as well as blogging for She loves to write anything related to parenting, kids, nanny care etc. She can be reached via email at: christine.4nannies @

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Grab your free B2W eBook, How NOT To Write Female Characters, HERE or by clicking on the pic on the left. Enjoy and don’t fall foul of those female character clangers!

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7 thoughts on “5 Ways To Write A Complex Female Character”

  1. This is great for both genders. No magic formula to writing female characters. Just remove all the stereotypes and we should be fine. Then again, a character could portray on how women are seen stereotypically in today’s time. So the writing could be intentional.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Pingback: 25 Posts From 25 Great Screenwriting Blogs #4 | The Screenwriting Spark

  3. How do you go about giving glimpses of the character’s background without facing them talk with themselves? Could you please ice me an example? Thank you for your insight.

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