Writing Strong Female Characters: Defining a Bitch

Publish date:

If you’re interested in breaking the mold with your character, there is no single criterion for a bitch. However, you might want to consider making several of her dominant traits negative or what society has typically not expected of females. For example, her traits might include being manipulating, selfish, cunning, power-seeking, or vengeful. Or, perhaps your bitch character cannot connect to others emotionally, or she is sexually insatiable. Or maybe she’s simply a nonconformist who is opinionated, mouthy, aggressive, ambitious, or confident.

how to write mean characters | jessica morrell

How to Create a Bitchy Character

The juxtaposition of what women are supposed to be—sweet, feminine, compliant, and vulnerable—and what they are truly capable of being—tough, athletic, powerful, and violent—creates a natural friction that can yield fascinating results in fiction. With this in mind, you might want to brew a blend of traits that hold contradictions or create conflict. Perhaps your character is ambitious, yet is living at a time in history or in a culture where women have few options to express their ambitions.

Another aspect that cannot be ignored is that today, women’s lives are shaped similarly to men’s lives—most women leave the house each morning for their nine-to-five jobs, they explore the world independently, and they experience sex outside of marriage. So, because women face the same pressures and experiences of men, they might not fit into the archetypes of storytelling and instead might be feeling the disquiet of our times. Like men, they might feel sexual restlessness. Or they might be searching for their authentic self, questioning what fulfillment means for them. Or their main conflicts might be within, or they feel isolated or adrift in their roles. Or, if they’re working mothers, the double demands of job and family might lead them to act out.

As an author in today’s society, you have much more latitude than writers of previous generations when it comes to writing female characters, and you can write stories, especially endings, that don’t provide easy answers and don’t punish women for fl outing convention. Perhaps your bitch character is not a clear-cut bad ass to focus the reader’s anger on. Perhaps she can raise much more complicated truths or issues, and thus create a much more interesting story.

Your characters can confront moral dilemmas and hot-button issues; form complex relationships; question their unfolding identities; be tempted by sin or crime; be delighted by ordinary or forbidden pleasures; or struggle with illness, aging, fidelity, and power. In other words, your characters can face universal themes and issues.

Tips For Writing Strong Female Characters

When writing a female character who is a bad ass, you must decide if you want the reader to question preconceived assumptions about women, or if you want the reader to fear or admire her. Perhaps you want to write about especially spunky women because you admire this trait. But then maybe your aim is that the reader asks how she dare be so uppity or bold. This might require that she’s particularly abrasive, or that the story is set in previous centuries when such behavior was typically frowned on.

Do you want your reader to be appalled when your bitch character dares not to follow the rules? Or do you want the reader to be silently applauding from the sidelines? If your character has children, you need to make clear decisions about how she sees her place as a mother, even if that means she’s ambivalent about motherhood. So if your bitch leaves her child, as happens in the film Kramer vs. Kramer, the reader must understand why she takes this drastic step. Or if, after leaving her marriage and finding a new love, your character places her child in danger, as Anna Dunlap does in Sue Miller’s The Good Mother, the reader must clearly understand her motivations for leaving and feel empathy for her new life.

On the other hand, in genres from chick lit to thrillers, sometimes the reader is also cheering for a bitchy (meaning she has at least several supposedly negative traits) character. Some readers are thinking good for her, she’s broken the rules, she’s shattered the glass ceiling, she’s enjoying great sex, she’s taking risks—it’s about time! The bottom line is that you need to make choices about how sympathetic your character is. Consider using tightly woven themes that will likely somehow comment on some aspect of society.

This excerpt is from Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches by Jessica Morrell. Buy the book and learn how to write:

how to write mean characters | jessica morrell
  • Unlikeable protagonists
  • Anti-heroes
  • Dark heroes and bad boys
  • Antagonists, bullies, and mischief makers
  • Sociopaths and villains
  • Dangerous Women
  • Monsters, creatures and lost souls

Buy Bullies, Bastards, and Bitches now!

The Story That Drove Me to Write

The Story That Drove Me to Write

Award-winning author Stephanie Kane shares the book that launched her career and provides insights for how you can pursue your story.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Epiphany Moment

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Epiphany Moment

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character experience an epiphany.

Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

Eat Your Words: Your 8-Point Checklist for Writing Original Recipes

Food writer, cook, and committed vegan Peggy Brusseau explains how you can craft a cookbook that engages your reader and stands out from the crowd.

Flash Fiction Challenge

28 Writing Prompts for the 2021 Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge

Find all 28 poetry prompts for the 2021 February Flash Fiction Challenge Challenge in this post.

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

How to Not Write in the Pandemic, Early Days

Novelist Rebecca Hardiman gives us an insight into the obstacles that cropped up for writers at the start of the 2020 global pandemic.

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

7 Tips for Writing Police Procedurals That Readers Love

Mystery and crime novelist Russ Thomas explains how best to create a police procedural that will hook your reader and keep them coming back for more.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 560

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an alien poem.

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

3 Tips for Writing with a Co-Author

Shakil Ahmad provides the top 3 things he learned while co-authoring the book Wild Sun with his brother Ehsan.

Viet Thanh Nguyen | The Committed | Writer's Digest Quote

WD Interview: Viet Thanh Nguyen on The Committed

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses the challenges of writing his second novel, The Committed, and why trusting readers can make for a more compelling narrative in this WD interview.