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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Challenge of Writing Superheroines

When it comes to supeheroes most comic book writers can tell a great story. However when it comes to superheroines oftentimes they struggle.

One of the reasons many comics featuring superheroines struggle is because a lot of comic book writers make the mistake of believing that they can write heroines just like the heroes. Why doesn’t this work? Because Men and women apply completely different approaches to life. And a story model that works for a male hero just won’t tell a compelling story with female heroine.

In most superhero stories the focus is primarily on the character and the action and adventure they’re involved in. And that works primarily because men are logical. What motivates a male character to move a story forward is primarily external, focusing primarily on solving the problem and HOW they use their powers, gadgets and abilities to catch the bad guy or stop the menace out to destroy the world.

However, a story featuring a heroine a writer has to use a different story approach. Why? Because women are emotional. And the primary focus in a heroines’ story isn’t actually her powers, gadgets, or abilities. What moves a story forward with a heroine relate to her internal character traits, focusing on things like her core values, and the beliefs related to her mission. It’s not about what power she uses to beats the villain, it’s primarily about WHY she wants to beat her.

In addition what also drives a story with a heroine are the relationships she has with the villain or her relationships with supporting cast members. In women’s fiction and romance novels it’s the interpersonal relationships the heroine has with the love interest, friends, and antagonist that makes the story compelling to readers. Unfortunately, there’s next to no focus on internal character traits or interpersonal relationships in comics featuring superheroines. And due to that lack of focus on these core story elements, there’s no chemistry for a compelling read featuring a superheroine.

Due to the lack of focus on internal character traits, most comics with superheroines in the lead fall flat. Without that strong internal characterization there’s no personality or “voice” that speaks to the reader. And without those internal character traits to stimulate the readers’ emotions there’s no for the reader to connect with the character and identify with them, their mission or the values they stand for.

And due to the lack of focus on interpersonal relationships between the heroine and her villains there’s no chemistry to create around their stories. What drives a superheroines’ story is based on the emotions the characters feel about each other. The heroine has to HATE that BITCH enough to want to KICK HER ASS, and the villainess has to HATE that BITCH enough to KILL her.

A catfight between two heroines may sell a comic or two. But a catfight between a heroine and a villainess who HATE each other will sell MILIONS. Most comic book writers don’t understand how to build that kind of heat with their superheroines.

The biggest problem with comics featuring superheroines is that writers rarely give readers a reason WHY they need to read her adventures. Superheroine adventures are interesting from a technical standpoint, but rarely compelling from an emotional one. There haven’t been many comics featuring a relationship between the heroine and her villain that got really intense. That got PERSONAL. That gave the reader a reason to CARE. That gives them an incentive to buy the next issue. That gave them a reason to tell their friends to pick it up.  

In 75 years comic readers haven’t really gotten a rivalry like Xena/Callisto Buffy/Dark Willow or Mickie James/Trish Stratus. And it’s a shame. Because if a feud got that INTENSE and that PERSONAL people would have a reason to pick up comics featuring superheroines and tell their friends about them.

Plain and simple, a feud between heroines has to get PERSONAL. When it’s PERSONAL it stimulates the readers’ emotions. Readers see the challenge to the heroine has maintaining her morals and core values in the face of the emotional obstacles the villainess is placing in front of her and are compelled to see how she overcomes the challenge to her beliefs and ideals.  

That makes the reader understand WHY she needs to beat her villains.

As a writer of strong multidimensional heroines in everything from fantasy fiction like the Isis series to screenplays like All About Marilyn and All About Nikki and YA fiction like The Thetas and romances like A Recipe for $ucce$$ and Spinsterella, I know for a fact that the story model for writing heroine is completely different than the one applied for a male hero. And a writer has to be able to apply the right approach to storytelling if they hope to create compelling stories featuring superheroines. If a writer is focuses more on the internal characterizations of their heroines than their external appearance they could create comics that would have readers anticipating the next issue of a heroines’ adventures month after month and telling their friends to pick up their adventures.

1 comment:

  1. Aren't male heroes work the same way as well? We may be supposed to be strong but that doesn't mean we're not sensitive.