Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gender Stereotypes in Fantasy

I was recently thinking about what the general public thinks of gender stereotypes, specifically in fantasy novels….

When I sat down to write Covenant of the Faceless Knights, I wanted to create a core group of characters that were slightly different from the norm, but not so different that I would get bored of writing about them! I knew from the start that I wanted to write a series, which meant several books about the same characters and their interaction in my Realm of Ashenclaw setting. I began to create my core group of characters, I set out with a specific goal in mind, like when I created the female barbarian character, Saeunn of Chansuk, for instance. I wanted a physically strong female role to ride into battle with a greatsword strapped to her back, unleashing fury on the wrongdoers of Wothlondia instead of the typical male warrior. I felt that this might attract a new breed of fantasy reader that might welcome a strong female warrior type that could deliver hardcore action! This was a conscious decision. As was the naïve and non-violent male elf. I wanted to portray a sheltered elf that could possibly have existed for some forty years of age, but had never really experienced much in the way of the world and especially combat.

Another strong female role was the thief archetype, Rose Thorne. I wanted to cast away the idea that the woman here was simply a presence that remained in the back and supported the group. I wanted to have her possess a dark side as well as have a strong role in the group. She also uses a strong sarcasm to deflect attention and her wise cracks will only grow as she gets to know the group.

There is also a very strong female type in the core group of antagonists, a succubus named Phaera Sine, who uses her wiles and charms (both naturally and supernaturally) to influence certain events taking place. She is pertinent in the architecture of the overarching storyline as well as inserting herself and her people as a dominant role in significant future events. She was detailed a bit here on Succubus.net.

So, how do you like your characters? Do you want to see the damsel in distress or the woman that can not only handle herself, but might beat you in an arm-wrestling contest?

Do you need to have your men in the front lines or can they take a back seat in a support role?

Let me know your thoughts—I’d love to hear from you all!

See you in Wothlondia! Cheers!

Please visit MY HOME PAGE to enjoy an extended reading experience, see direct links to purchase Covenant of the Faceless Knights and to see what else Ashenclaw Studios, LLC has in store in the future!

Photos from Stock.xchng.

All maps, names and content copyright Ashenclaw Studios, LLC 2011 unless otherwise noted.


  1. I am definitely in favour of strong female characters, and depth of character in any character, regardless of gender. Lacl of character development and connection to the protagonists are what made me put down several recent authors, Terry Goodkind most notably. I will be interested to see if you can carry through on your promises, Gary! Here's hoping you do.

  2. Thanks for checking in, Doc!

    I feel as both a reader and an author, that if you do not care about the characters or understand their motivations, you will stop wanting to read about them. Writing emotionally driven characters that have feelings and are not impervious to harm are things that I am striving to achieve! Take care!

  3. I like the strong female characters who can beat you at an arm wrestling contest. But if they're not emotionally driven, if there's nothing below face value, then I have no interest in them. I like what you said about characters who are not impervious to harm. That's very important.

  4. Thanks for chiming in, M.J.! I am glad that you like strong female characters and strong characters in general. It is essential to readers that they can relate to what they are reading on some level.

    I am hoping that when my fans and readers delve into my work, they come out of it with a bond to them, whether it be the antagonists or protagonists. I try to give a layer of depth to all of the characters as much as possible without detracting from the story! There is where most authors run into issues, I think! Thanks for sharing and look forward to hearing more opinions from you in the future.

  5. Based on you post I will like your characters. I like strong female characters, but I also like those who overcome their weakness/fear and become strong. I hate those who just stand still screaming while a huge monster attacks the hero. Throw a rock or something!

    I also have a place in my heart for male character who react badly (faint, wretch...) when they see gore or death for the first time. Instant "awww, I want to hug you" reaction, but they have to grow out of as the story progresses.

    I always finish a book if I care for the characters or enough for one character. I've stopped reading a few because the characters were flat or the one that evoked feelings I wanted to punch in the face.

  6. Thanks for posting a comment, Emilia! I am glad that you enjoy a strong female role, because I have got a few for you to enjoy!

    I am hoping that your review of Covenant of the Faceless Knights (and the ones that follow) will be done well enough for you to strike a chord in your heart. I am very much looking forward to more of your comments and possibly even a review. Take care and have a great weekend!

  7. I tend to like "warrior women" characters whether they're in traditional fantasy or urban fantasy, with or without a side of smartass. Generally, though, I don't consider any woman to be a gender stereotype unless it's clear that she only exists in the story to shore up a dude. The hooker with a heart of gold, the magical girl, the seeress...they can all be powerful, dynamic characters if the author puts the thought into making them three-dimensional.

  8. Hi, Mari! Thanks for coming over to comment. If you like the strong female type, then I have some good one for you. I have the stoic barbarian-warrior type as well as the smart-ass, wise-cracking rogue as part of my main group. I have two short stories coming out in the next few months focusing on these two if you would like to get a taste.

    A Rose in Bloom and Tears of Blood will focus on Rose Thorne the rogue and Saeunn the barbarian respectively. My focus in the fantasy novels, despite the setting, is to deliver characters that are very real.

    Again ,thanks for the comments and I look forward to reading more from you in the future!

  9. I too want strong female leads. That is why I wrote my books that way. I have always been like this too. I liked the origjnal Conan but I liked Red Sonja even better. I always like mythology bit especially strong females. When I play video games you better have a main female for me to play or I wont give you the time of day. So naturally my first book focused on a strong lady. My series with Daughter of Ares did as well. I find that I have strong women and weak ones with a few males here and there. That is what I like to read primarily so that is what I write. I do enjoy some stories with weak women roles but usually if the male is the lead there is a hefty dose of strong lady in there somewhere. I am going to have ti check out your books once I get this new book finished!

  10. This is an interesting topic. As a male writer, looking back on my recent work, I think I can safely say that none of my female characters have been shrinking violets. However, I don't think their characterization was deliberate. My characters, regardless of gender, tend to appear fully formed, bursting onto the scene like Athena emerging from Zues's brow. They are amalgams, I suppose, of the women I've known in my life and very few of them have been the shy retiring type either! :)