Writing Musts: Follow Everyone Else’s Standards

One of the things people will tell you is that as a writer, you have to meet their expectations. This might seem like a challenging thing to have to do, considering that the world is full of billions of people, but it’s much easier than making up your own mind or having your own principles.

A simple question is all you have to ask – will this upset somebody? Yes? Then don’t write it.

It’s a little easier when you take into account that all readers are the same, but it’s even easier when you realise that they all want the exact same story.

One of the instigating thoughts for this post is about how it’s difficult to write women. I mean, who of us can really say we’ve ever met a women before? Not many is my guess. While we can write about magics and aliens and dystopian governments until the cows come home – and I suppose write about cows too – women are this great unknown. One of the usual pieces of advice are to think about women as people, but then how well do we know people either? It’s much easier to understand the detached logics of an automaton than to relate to a person affected by needs or emotions, unless those needs are battery power and the emotions are caused by a malfunctioning emotion chip unwisely embedded in a robot’s CPU.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Well yeah, women are hard to write, but that’s not the instigating thought. It was people talking about strong female characters that did it. Yeah, awesome women characters kicking arse just as good as any man character would. They naturally have those qualities that denote they’re not a man, but when MEASURED by the same yardsticks we’d use to measure the strength of a man character, a women character has STRENGTH. This is a solution.

Some might say that this is an erroneous approach to creating well-developed characters that happen to be women, and that this isn’t a great indicator of strength because you’re restricting yourself to one particular measure that’s rather male-centric in terms of validation of characterisation.

But what’s the alternative – thinking about it? Who’s got time for that? Evaluating a character’s strength by something other than violence or being a cinderblock of unmoving thought? Naaaah, let’s go with what we’ve always used to judge characterisation. Sure, strength could be extending support to loved ones when you’re under a lot of pressure yourself already, but it’s probably vanquishing demons and blowing shit up and not needing help from others.

So don’t worry about all that. Just write to the same standards everyone expects, and measure the strength of a character through how much they can lift and not how many they can carry, or whatever other stupid standard that’s not this one people want to use.

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