3 Simple Rules on Writing and Drawing Female Characters

Tutorial / 26 October 2020

In the debatably classic comedy "As Good As It Gets", Jack Nicholson plays a writer who, when asked how he writes women so well says: "I think of a man, then I remove all reason and accountability."

A hilarious moment, but definitely not an approach I would use in my own work. 

See, you can find something funny (or offensive) and not adopt it into your core identity (or storm the internet convincing everyone else to hate it because you do), but that is a subject for another day.

In the meantime you're here to find out my approach to creating female characters, so let's get on with it.


RULE 1: No damsels in distress. 

I'm sorry, but at this point in history, the damsel in distress is clichéd to eye rolling levels every time I see someone still using it. The weaker sex is a myth. And could you imagine being in a relationship with one of these characters? I don't care how hot Lois Lane or Mary-Jane are, after a few months of constantly rescuing someone from situations that could only be arrived at with poor judgement, that lady is getting cut out of my life. 

Now, some of this is personal preference and it will resonate with some and not others. That's fine, my opinion is not the end-all be-all of the creative process.

Helpless damsels don't do anything for me. Maybe they are the epitome of desirability and alluringness to you or someone else, the idea of saving the helpless woman and having her fawn all over her hero. Not for me, as said above.

I love the female form and I've looked on women as real living, walking works of art for most of my life. I love the female form, but I don't need to draw some weak, twiggy screaming waif being menaced by some beast for an excuse to draw the female form or put them in alluring, skimpy or shredded clothing. 

In real life I like strong, independent women. I don't expect anyone to wait on me hand and foot, have dinner waiting for me when I get home or helplessly run to me over every minor issue or dilemma. I like a boss bitch. A strong woman who knows how to handle herself, her business, earn her own money and have her own independence and individuality. Sure, we can cuddle in and have some fun after work, but there needs to be a mutual strength of character and mutual respect. 

I treat my female characters the same way. That's why in my work and the majority of my art, you won't see the stereotypical helpless girl. If I'm going to create a character of any gender, they need to be strong and strong-willed, otherwise, what's the point? Weak characters don't interest me. I make a conscious effort not to depict helpless women just cowering in fear of any menacing man or other threat. That's just me. I hate cliché'.


Rule 2: Depict realistic body type

In classic renaissance art women are full figured, voluptuous and generally beautiful while still looking like a regular human. I really don't know how this twiggy thin waif-like body style became the default body style for female characters in modern art and pop culture, such as comics. 

If a woman can lift 100 tons, she better have some muscle tone and an imposing body size. If she's not a physical fitness instructor and she works in an office., etc. there's no reason for her to look like a stick thin supermodel. 

I actually wish that some of my pieces had fuller figured women. I make an effort to use realistic and varied body styles and there are a few concepts and story ideas I have that center around full-figured and larger women, that my scheduled just hasn't allowed me to develop yet...but you will see them as soon as I have the opportunity. 

That's not saying that in real life I think that all women should be one way or the other, or that they should look a way that reflects their personality, or I only like big ladies. That would be crazy. I'm talking about art, which when boiled down is the skill of using visual communication to present an idea. If there are no words, you need to tell as much as you can about the character visually. 


Rule 3: Not everyone is white. 

I've been preaching about this in comics for about 20 years.

It's a good idea for any character, male, female or otherwise. 

Look around folks. Not everyone is white. Get some diversity in there once in a while, if you want me to believe the story you are trying to tell. 


Honestly, it's 3 simple rules that, if like-minded, you can follow and with practice I think you'll find that your render will become more interesting and compelling over time. 

That's all for today!

Thanks for reading,

Mike