How to Write from a Girl’s POV

 

How to Write from a Girl's POV | Writing from the #POV of the opposite gender can be challenging. Here are some tips for guys for writing female characters! Earlier this week we looked at How to Write From a Guy’s point of view. This time, we’re going to explore how to write from a girl’s point of view.

Fellas, I’m going to try to help you out the best I can here. I know a lot of you are confused by us females and the thought of getting into a girl’s head to write a story from her perspective might be kind of scary.

But I’m going to try to help you understand us girls a little better, and give you pointers for writing convincing female characters.

Now, into the fray!

body language bonus

Person First, Girl Second

To help take some of the pressure off, remember that a girl is a person just like a guy. Be sure to write a person first and a girl second. Sure we may see some things differently, but we’re connected by the human experience—we’ve all experienced pain, loss, joy, fear, excitement, etc.

Though sometimes it may seem like we come from another planet, girls are human too! 😉

Avoid Gender Stereotypes

Not all girls are good at cooking, wear makeup, love fashion, freak out over bugs, obsesses over their weight, cry at sappy movies, suck at math or science, are clueless about cars, can’t use power tools, are helpless damsels in distress…shall I continue?

This doesn’t mean you can’t have a girl character be any of these things. Just be aware of the stereotypes and add more to her character than a labeled identity. Which brings me to my next point…

Create a Character with Depth

Give your heroine more than a pretty face–develop her character and personality. What was her childhood like? What’s her worst fear? Her dreams for the future? What does she like and dislike? What are her talents? Her interests? Make her more than the hero’s love interest or a damsel for him to save.

And please don’t make her impossible, super-model gorgeous. You know how you hate when female authors do this with their male characters? Yeah, we don’t like it either when the tables are flipped. We want a female character we can relate to. And unattainable beauty is not relateable.

Some Things for Guys to Consider About Girls…

**DISCLAIMER: Girls are unique individuals just like guys. Not all of these will apply to every girl, just like some things (like being athletic or good at math) don’t apply to all guys. So get to know your character first.**

Emotions

I know there’s probably nothing more terrifying than girls and their emotions 😉 We can’t help it; we tend to be more emotionally driven like guys tend to be more physically driven. We crave an emotional connection and intimacy, which is why girls value friendships so much.

Girls like to talk about their feelings–it’s how we deal with them. Most of us are more comfortable with letting our emotions show than guys. We want to be understood, and we want to share our innermost selves with you. It’s how we make a connection and deepen a friendship or relationship.

Girl Talk

Girls love to talk. We gossip, we talk about boys, we have heart-to-hearts, and we share the dumbest little details like what we ate that day. To us, talking is how we get to know a person and form a bond with them. Guys bond through physical roughhousing and sports, girls bond through talking and sharing emotions.

For us, silence can be uncomfortable. Why aren’t you talking to me? Is something wrong? Are you mad? Did I do something? For a girl, silence might signal a rift in the bond.

Girls also aren’t as direct as guys–we don’t always come out and say what we’re thinking. Which is why if a girl snaps at you that she’s “fine” you should assume she’s anything but.

And by the way, if there is a cute guy in the room you had better bet if we are with our girl friends we will probably whisper and giggle about him and point him out to each other if we can get away with it without being caught.

Over-thinking

Girls have a lot of stuff going on in their brains. When a guy tells me sometimes he can simply think about “nothing,” I can’t comprehend that. My head is always full, my thoughts are always darting from one thing to the next.

Picture an internet browser with 20 tabs open. Yep, that’s the female mind.

But not only do we think about a lot of stuff, we also tend to over-think anything and everything. From what we should wear today, what color we should dye our hair, what book we should buy, to…does he like me?

I don’t think there’s anything girls over-analyze more than a guy’s behavior.

If we like a guy, we will look for any excuse to give us hope that me might like us back. Even if that means making excuses for his words and actions or interpreting them the way we want to hear/see them. (If you want to see a funny representation of this, watch the movie He’s Just Not That Into You. Good insight into the female thought process 😉 ).

Traveling in Packs

So this completely bewilders guys. Why do girls always go to the bathroom together? Why are they always traveling in packs? Sometimes, girls don’t even understand it themselves.

But basically, it’s not just a social comfort thing  and our need for friendship, it’s also a safety thing (even if we aren’t aware of it). This is hard for a guy to understand, but sometimes being a girl feels like being prey. Guys “hunt” and “chase” us…and unfortunately sometimes even stalk us.

Girls have to be more careful than guys because as much as I hate to say it, I know for me at least there is that fear in the back of your mind of being attacked and raped. Now of course I don’t think about this all the time, but there are certain situations when I become very cautious.

For example, when I have a night class I don’t walk out to my car alone. Girls are taught to stick together, use the buddy system, avoid dark alleys, don’t go running at night, don’t walk alone at night. We carry mace or walk to our cars with our keys threaded between our fingers as weapons.

We’re also discouraged from traveling alone. As a girl who wants to see the world, this really gets under my skin. I hate feeling limited because of my gender. In fact, it pisses me off. But I have to face the facts: I have to be careful because a guy is physically stronger than me. If he wants to hurt me, I’m at a disadvantage.

So basically, try to understand the vulnerability girls may sometimes feel.

Other Tips

Talk to the girls in your life and don’t be afraid to ask them questions! Observe us, watch some chick-flicks, try to get into our minds. I’ve also created a free guide to male vs. female body language to help you understand communication differences. You can get the guide (plus access to all my free worksheets), by clicking the button below!

body language bonus

Also, read books from the POV of female characters. That will help you to get a feel for writing female characters more than anything! (I’d also recommend The Fault in Our Stars by John Green–he writes the female character very well.)

And be patient. It may take practice and time for you to feel comfortable writing another gender. And if you still have doubts, have a girl read your story. She will be able to point out any faults and you will be able to learn from your mistakes.

Any other questions about writing female characters? Post them below!
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13 thoughts on “How to Write from a Girl’s POV

  1. Let’s see now…other than the “traveling in packs” thing, I think I’m doing all my female characters right. (And even then, my girls usually do have friends to go around with at all times, but they tend to be co-ed packs – and, in one case, her fellow pack members are a gay couple.)

    I’m honestly surprised by the “20 tabs open” thing, too. That’s actually me a lot of times – usually when I’m browsing Cracked or TVTropes. 🙂

    The one thing I’m worried about is the way you don’t want to see supermodel-gorgeous girls. Most of my female leads are very pretty, but then all these characters are viewed through the lens of a male protagonist who’s very much in love with them. And you know what they say: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” The only problem I find is that whenever I try to draw my girl characters, I’m unable to properly capture how beautiful they are – mostly because of my own amateurish drawing ability.

    tl;dr – at least I’m getting a lot of stuff right! (And I’ve been complimented by girls for doing a good job of writing female POVs before, so there’s that.) 🙂

    1. A pack can be a pair, or it can include guys sometimes. Girls just rarely do things solo.

      I’m the kind of girl who prefers hanging out in pairs rather than a pack, and I’m also not afraid to do things solo. I’ll go to the movies alone and my friends and parents will immediately go “You went by yourself?!” like it’s totally mind-boggling to them.

      I’m an independent woman and I’m not gonna miss out on something I want to do because no one else is available. Other girls would never go to the movies by themselves in a million years. So it depends on your character 😉

      I think it’s okay for your characters to be pretty, especially if they’re being described through the eyes of a guy who likes them. But don’t let that be their defining trait, develop them internally too.

      Give them flaws, and consider physical flaws as well. Don’t make them too physically perfect to where it sounds like some sort of guy fantasy. Think Bella in Twilight–we’re constantly reading about how flawless and perfect Edward is and being bombarded with physical descriptions.

      Perfect is boring, flaws make a character interesting. I don’t know about guys, but for me if I like a guy I notice their physical flaws as well as their physical beauty. But instead of being a turn-off, its actually charming/endearing to me because it’s unique to that person. Especially the more I get to know the guy, the more I will accept his flaws and admire/love them as much as his beauty.

      So keep it balanced and don’t overdo it and you’ll be fine 😉

  2. What can I say? I am a dumb Englishman married to a French psychologist. Over lunch today we discussed your article (which is quite something because the French usually discuss food during a meal) and her opinion is that I “should have known all that!” and that it was obvious that I didn’t.
    You have one admiring fan in the French world of letters, however she appears to hold out little hope I will be bettered by the knowledge being as I am a man and an Englishman to boot.
    But I found it a very useful analysis, thank you.

  3. Now that I’ve read this one, too, I think it really only lists stereotypes about girls and women 🙁 I do like your advice though to think of a female character as a person first and a girl second.

  4. Person first, girl second – yes.
    Everything else – not so much.

    The Guy POV post talked about avoiding stereotypes. This one felt like yet another instance where girls are put into a box. A pink one where they all talk about boys and clothes. Like in kindergarten when boys got blue homework folders and girls got yellow and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to have a blue one.

    I know I’m not girly, and sometimes I’m a little tomboyish. But I wouldn’t describe myself as unfeminine, or masculine. Yet almost everything under all four points, I disagree with. (I’m totally okay with silence. Often it’s a relief. Gossip and talking about boys – what a nightmare!)

    Maybe the four points do describe a lot of females, but it also sounds like the kind of character I wouldn’t want to read. If her main thoughts are boys, what to wear, and does he like me, it’s tiring to read.

    For my characters, male or female, old or young, rich or poor, etc. I try to write them primarily as a person. I ask myself what affect would being old/male/ugly/rich/female have on them in this situation. Keeping that in mind, and keeping in mind that it’s This Specific Character, how would this person act/react/think/feel?

    1. I amend my comment. I went back and reread the beginning, and you do address stereotypes. (But the four main points–emotion, girl talk, overthinking, traveling in packs–still feels like a list of stereotypes that for the most part don’t describe me or any of my friends.)

      Sometimes I struggle with this in my writing. I don’t want everyone to look like a stereotype, but the other end of the pendulum is characters seeming unrealistic (or too weak, too unfeeling, too moody, too macho, too oblivious, too happy, etc.) No matter where on the pendulum a character falls, I worry (s)he’s too cookie-cutter in this trait, and then too unrealistic in that trait.

      A good way to deal with this is to create a lot of varied characters. Some can be closer to stereotypes, some can be further away. Mix up the balance within each character.

      (All that’s to say, I wasn’t just trying to rail against the post. I just honestly, respectfully, found most of it far from describing me, a 25-year-old woman.)

  5. Overall, I really like this article–even though I was looking for one the other way around. 😀 But I liked your style and got stuck reading. And I realized: Even though I am a girl/woman, I am not at all writing girls the way you describe. Or even am a girl according to the characteristics you give here. 😛

    Here are a few thoughts I had while reading this article. First of all, you explicitly warn not to use stereotypes–and then, on the other hand, in the last section titled “Some Things for Guys to Consider About Girls…” I felt that you present a very stereotyped, almost cliché image of girls (one that I would primarily attribute to teenage girls or young adult women), that I personally could not identify with at all. I felt that it was very outdated. And it can’t be that I’m just very “manly” in my behaviorisms, because most of the women I know are similar (though, there are a few who would fit the image you present perfectly 😛 ).

    Let me go through it point by point:

    Emotions

    I partly agree with this, though to generalize this behavior for all girls is too oversimplified for me. Basic character traits like “introvert” or “extrovert” play a major role in this. So to me, if I’m reading an introvert female character who goes around sharing her emotions constantly, I would feel like the author missed the point.
    Then character history is important. Does she have a reason not to feel safe while sharing her emotions? Is there a traumatic experience (childhood f.ex.) that would have an effect on the way she shares emotion? And so many more.
    What’s her level of education? Highly intelligent girls will not spend most of her free time sharing emotions. In fact, most average women I know won’t.
    And lastly: how old is she? Extrovert teenage girls will throw temper tantrums and often talk about their emotions. But for women in their 30s, 40s or 50s that often changes–and is all together if they’re introverts.

    Girl Talk

    We do love to talk. Though whether that talk is gossiping and talk about boys would again depend on our characters. Again, introvert or extrovert? Intelligence level? Education?
    I’ve read many lit crit articles recently criticizing that stereotypical portrayal of girls or women, when they seem to have nothing else to talk about than gossip and men. So I would be very, very careful here. (The Bechdel test actually scores the realism of the portrayal of females in Hollywood productions with exactly that factor in mind!)
    Women have problems too, and unless they’re a teenager, they usually have many problems to think or talk about–and not even a quarter of them are love-related. Topics usually include: job issues, money issues, general path of life issues, etc. Overall, not different from most men. So especially if I’m not writing a romance novel, I’m usually very careful not to overdo it.

    I’ve also learned that this apparently makes a huge difference in active and passive female characters. Ironically, it can make a female character much more active by just writing her “human”, and not a “swooning, hormone-ridden woman pining over the guy she wants”.

    Also, working in a largely male-dominated area, let me tell you: men gossip. Oh boy, do they gossip. It surprised me too at first, because everybody in society always tells you “women gossip, men don’t, because they use the direct approach”. Um, no. Many men gossip. And since many men are a lot less afraid to use crude language than women are, their gossip is often worse than I’ve ever heard from any woman. 😉

    Chick Flicks

    Um… please don’t watch chick flicks for a clue on how women work. Please. Many women can’t stand chick flicks. Mostly because they represent a very cliché version of female characters, who usually have the depth of a sheet of paper. They are NOT an actual representation of most women.
    I personally find them boring and annoying. It’s fine watching chick flicks if you like them. But saying, watch chick flicks to know how women work is like saying watch The Fast and The Furious to know how men work. It’s stereotyping and cliché.
    We’re talking about genderized Hollywood productions here, that often get their representations wrong.

    There’s actually a scale that measures Hollywood movies and tv shows according to their realistic portrayal of females – the Bechdel test (I already mentioned it above). And many productions who get high scores for their realistic representation of females are not what we would expect! Power Rangers, for example, received a very good score for their very holistic portrayal of Kimberly and Trini. Surprised me a lot, since I last saw it as a teenager (I was a huge fan of that show 😛 ) and never thought about it much from a gender studies perspective, but after reading into it, I can totally see it.

    Both Kimberly and Trini have screen time alone (girl-time so to speak), but they don’t just pine over boys, or exchange make-up tips. Occasionally a crush comes up, but mostly they talk about current problems, their hopes and dreams for the future, school homeworks, fighting and other things. I never realized how valuable they were as rolemodels back when I was a teen. 😉

    Over-thinking

    Yap. Definitely. Though we’ll never be able to scientifically prove whether overthinking women really think more than overthinking men. Yes, the men exist, though it’s usually related to many other character attributes again (just like with women): do they have anxieties (social anxieties) that would prompt such behavior? Are they extremely intelligent? Are they dominant or submissive? Are they insecure or self-confident?

    I find it hard to say that overthinking is a gender-bound issue. I know I overthink. But not because I’m a woman. It’s because I usually juggle many projects at once, live alone so gotta take care of all the everyday-life-stuff, and on top of that am a socially awkward introvert who constantly worries they might say something stupid, or accidentally offend the other person. 😉 THAT makes me overthink, not the fact that I’m a woman.
    Of course we could now go into gender studies and talk about whether the differences in men and women’s brains (which may create certain character traits) are biological or socially constructed and trained. But then this whole post would just exeed all limits. 😀

    Traveling in Packs

    Um… yeah. I’ve seen some women do that. I have never done that and never felt the urge to, and thankfully have none of my friends.
    Then again, behavior like this might be linked to other character traits again: like introvert/extrovert and so on.

    I live in a big city. Yes, I’m also concerned that I will be mugged or raped, but the logical reaction to that for me was to learn self defense and take Kung-Fu when I was younger. I’ve never heard the argument that girls travel in packs for safety, but it’s an interesting point that I never considered. I can see that as a valid reason in night clubs. But not necessarily in restaurants, schools or workplaces. :/

    Emotional Manipulation

    You also described some passive aggressive characteristics as being typically girlish that I was horrified by. Yes, some women do them, but the reason for that is usually rooted in a very gender-aware upbringing. Being passive aggressive and emotionally manipulating is usually a human defense mechanism to cope with behavioral restrictions or the absence of the active or dominant character trait.

    Many girls are trained to be passive, kind, gentle, not to raise their vice or be violent. (“Good girls don’t behave like that.”) We differentiate between girls and boys when raising children. Many parents will scold girld for stuff that boys are excused for. A girl getting into a brawl will usually be punished much more sever than a boy (who is often excused with the dreadful 2Boys will be boys” argument).
    By such behavior, we train girls to be passive and submissive. A passive and submissive person cannot assert what they want, and so in order to still get it, they will revert to passive aggressiveness and manipulation.

    BUT especially when writing contemporary heroines, I would be very careful with that, because many parents don’t raise their kids with those strict gender norms anymore. (At least in my country that stopped in the 1970s and 1980s. I know the US is still a very socially conservative country when it comes to feminism and female equality, so it might be different. Then again, the US is also the country who gave us great feminist heroines esp. on tv and in the movies in the 1990s. So, not sure.)

    Contemporary women have changed. Not all, but many. There are a lot of assertive women out there who will tell you right on what’s wrong instead of snapping “I’m fine”.

    So when writing a character like that, I would weigh very carefully whether a submissive and passive attitude makes sense for her. I often cringe when I read novels about women in successful business positions who come across as very passive aggressive and manipulative. It almost feels like a glitch to me, because a job like that per se requires assertiveness–a trait which she doesn’t seem to possess. So how did she make it this far (unless she ‘slept’ her way up–which, again, would be a cliché. 😛 )

    Now, of course I would take other traits and even factors such as nationality into consideration. If I were writing a Japanese heroine, assertiveness would be difficult to handle, since that’s against that culture’s mannerism. But in modern Western societies? It’s absolutely acceptable.

    Conclusion

    It almost seems to me as though you didn’t follow your own rule in the last section of the article (no offense), because your tips for writing females seem very ‘stereotypical’ to me.

    Overall, I always follow the rule to write characters as humans, unless the setting requires for something different. If I write historical romance, I will of course have to abide by more traditional gender roles, as women were usually stuck in those at the time. But nowadays they aren’t. And many, many women have broken out of them.

    Especially in literature, there are more and more blogposts complaining about the stereotypical representations of women in novels. Readers are demanding active and assertive heroines–because contemporary female readers themselves have become more active and assertive, and they often just can’t identify with passive, manipulative, all emotional women at all.

    Women aren’t always open, emotional, social gatherers. They are, if their characteristics and traits, and experiences allow for such openness. But not solely because they are women.
    And men aren’t always closed off, brooding, action-movie loving sports fans. I know many guys who prefer a good philosophical discussion over a soccer game any day. 😉 But then again, there’s still much more of a stigma attached to men being emotional then there is to women not being emotional.

    I realize you may not agree with many of my points, and that’s fine. But I just wanted to present another perspective, because reading your article I occasionally thought “OMG, I’m not a woman at all”, because I don’t fit most of your characteristics–and reading a book that presented a female character the way you describe it usually makes me put that book down. The thing is: most of my female friends are similar–so I can’t be an abnormal mutation. 😛
    And other women I know are exactly like you describe.
    Which is exactly my point. Above all, we’re not man or woman, we’re human. And our characters are determined by so much more than our biological sex or gender.

    1. Being completely honest, I had the urge to roll my eyes at the post above, but now it feels good to know there (really) are women like me out there; short of introvert, who HATE girl talk, HATE dressing up, prefer time alone rather than go around in a pack or pair. Yeah, there are some girls like that in the world.
      In my opinion, male or female every character should have the characteristics the author/creator ( since the tips are for fiction ) wants them to have. Following any other author’s character or any other existing real person for inspiration can be a tint in originality. (There is nothing wrong with using friends or family for character traits. It’s just my opinion.)

      Being creative matters.

  6. Good post (writing characters first and women second is sound advice), but I’m going to throw my two cents in here along with the rest, if you don’t mind.

    1. I really like silence. I like simply sitting with someone in companionable silence, enjoying life together. I also like to talk, but sometimes silence is just better. Most of the pauses I experience are filled by me fishing my brain for a good question to ask (as this usually happens when I’m in the beginning stages of getting to know someone).

    2. I don’t travel in a pack, unless we are all headed to the same place. I’ll walk with a friend to the bathroom if she asks, but I usually don’t sweat it. Only within the past year or two have I realized that I probably shouldn’t walk back to the dorm (at camp) in the dark by myself.

    3. 99% of my conversations have nothing to do with boys, fashion, or gossip. I’d rather talk about the book I just finished, how I really need to practice, or that funny thing that happened on the way home. BUT I do know girls who like fashion and dressing up and talking about guys. Still, they also talk about other things.

    4. I do overthink things, from why my friend didn’t text back within three minutes to the way someone reacted to my latest round of craziness.

    5. I do love a good heart-to-heart, and I place a lot of value in my relationships. I am pretty open, however. I’ll answer most questions, but you do have to actually ask them first (a lot of the time, anyway).

    Of course, a lot of this could be chalked up to my past as a homeschooler and someone who didn’t have any real friends for a long time (meaning I had a lot of time in silence and by myself). Really, girls are all different, and this post only scratches the surface. If you’re a guy writing from a girl’s POV, I think the best thing you could do is show your work to a girl and get her opinion. Good luck!

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