Tag: RavenCon

Action Scenes with Women Characters: We’re Not Men!

As a reader, I’m almost always never happy when I read action scenes with women characters.  Male writers default the action to the male characters, or they make the women like men.  Women writers either make the women into victims or give them super strength and healing, ruining the suspense.

One of the workshops I attended at Ravencon was “Writing Action Scenes.”  The panel consisted of three men — what, no women writing action?  I asked what had been a popular question at Alan Baxter’s webinar last year: “How do you write action scenes for women?”  The guys all got queasy and uncomfortable and started talking about not wanting to do “men are from Mars and women are from Venus.”

But there are differences between the genders, which either makes a story believable or not to me.

When I was in the army, these differences were apparent on the physical training test.  The original test was tailored to men and broken down by age group, but when women came in, the army had to create different standards for them, probably because of how our bodies are built and that we’re shorter.  Talk to any of the men, and they thought the women are getting over.  Talk to someone like me, and I had problems keeping up with men with long legs on marches.

Those differences make action scenes a challenge to write.  I had a scene where the heroine had to escape from a room guarded by two armed men.  Even if she’d known karate or judo (Nancy Drew anyone?), she would have been outmatched and outsized by the two men, so a traditional method of escaping was out.   I was surprised at how difficult it was to come up with an alternative!

Women don’t have the upper body strength, and would certainly have trouble against any opponents who outweighed them by fifty pounds or more.  But women do have a lot of strength in their legs and hips.  Day Al-Mohamed said that women make excellent mountain climbers because of that.  So the legs can be used in an action scene.  Tools like guns could also be used, but again, that’s not a matter of giving the character a gun without paying attention to the gender differences.

But the women would also need to be clever, think fast, and come up with unusual solutions that plays to their strengths.  Does this character know chemistry, or how to swim?  Maybe she’s a doctor.  What could be done with that?  If she has a gun, why does she have it?  I think it’s a greater challenge to characterization itself, because all of these pieces need to be built in and developed throughout the story.  Some of the best action stories I’ve seen have resulted from getting creative with solutions.

What’s been your experience — either as a reader or a writer — with action scenes involving women?  What do books get right, and what really annoys you?  I’d love to hear your opinions!


RavenCon – Promised Update (But not really)

Okay, maybe this isn’t the update but I promised, but I am writing one for this weekend.  Overall, RavenCon was an amazing experience, albeit an exhausting one.  And my first as a panelist. 

Let me clear, I’ve spoken on panels before, hundreds wouldn’t be an exaggeration, but that was with regard to my “day job.”  So it was always about politics and policies; laws and regulations.  This was about something a bit more personal (although I LOVE policy and law and take it VERY personally), but this involved my writing.  Those secret creative thoughts that I madly put down on paper in splattered ink from an overused fountain pen, hunched over a tiny wooden desk by candle-light.  Okay, okay it’s really me typing madly in the wee hours on my glass and metal desk, and drinking tea like it’s going out of style.  Regardless, it was still surprisingly difficult to put myself out there; one could say, I had a bad case of Impostor Syndrome. 

In spite of it all, I did manage to be relatively articulate (please, if you were there and thought otherwise, please, please, allow me my dignity and ignorance) as a panelist, and did a fairly good job of moderating (again, ignorance is bliss).  With 8 separate sessions that had my name attached to them, it was exhausting.  But the people made it worth it.  I LOVED the people.  They were just awesome.  AND I got to meet a follower of Unleaded.  *waves to Diane*  Wishing I’d gotten a picture now.  I don’t have any proof! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I met one of our 3 readers.  🙂  And if you’re old enough, you’ll recognize the Conan reference.

I also learned that while early morning panels are really rough (I moderated both Saturday and Sunday morning 9 am slots) it is a wonderful way to get 5 authors all to yourself.  It really felt like a converstion and I got to ask all the questions I ever wanted to, to my own collection of writers.  Very cool. And special thanks to both Bud Sparhawk and A.J. Hartley who also had BOTH of those same early morning panels yet were up and enthusiastic and really made my job easier.

There is so much more…but I shal stop and leave this as a small teaser.

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