As I typed away at what is likely the last chapter of Clause for Women, Children and Infirm, I noticed a pattern in all my stories.

John Watson of A Study In Magic started it. It almost happened again with my BBC Sherlock one-shot The Sword of Solomon. Now, I’ll likely do it again with CWCI, reluctant though I am to do the “same old thing”.

I want ladies to be likable and strong. My favorite characters include Princess Kushana, Lady Eboshi, and Nausicaa. Most of them are characters by Hayao Miyazaki.

It’s hard for me to describe fully why Miyazaki’s Ladies strike such a chord with me, compared to other “strong female leads”. Miyazaki san’s ladies are known for their strong independent streak and competence. They have their own dreams, they walk their own path, they do not apologize for their gender and they aren’t compensating for the prejudices against them. It’s not a problem they put much thought. I think this, more than anything, is what I admire about his female leads. They are women, they are as competent as men, they are often stronger than men, but they don’t seek to overwhelm men. They are true equals. There are no zero-sum games involved.

 

The lack of zero-sum game is another key factor why I vastly prefer Miyazaki san’s ladies more than any other female characters I’ve read so far. I don’t know what it is, but nine out of ten, the author includes a multitude of scenes of the Strong Female Character beating others, particularly men, to demonstrate how “strong” she is. But that’s the extent of her character building. Where is the rest? Who is she when she’s not beating up others? Why should I care that she does?

When I survey the landscape of stories, there are a lot more men characters than there are women characters. I don’t read romances, so I’m probably setting myself up to encounter more male characters. The fanfics I enjoy are male character dominated. Is this because most fanfic writers are ladies? I don’t know.

When I follow recommendations on strong lady characters, I’m usually left disappointed. I shy away from recs now. But seeing the lack, I want to fill it. Here I face a challenge: English pronouns.

There are certain biases and assumptions a person brings the moment they learn a character’s gender. I wish it were not the case, but it is what it is. First impressions are incredibly important, and I don’t want to miss the mark. Therefore I feel forced to make people assume a character is male if I want to demonstrate a character’s competence from the very beginning. I wish I didn’t have to pull this trick. Why so hard? Is this my lack of skill? Or am I working against very real obstacles? I’m inclined to think the latter, but I must acknowledge a hefty amount of former is involved.

One day I would like to create a story about a lady who would make Miyazaki lovers proud.