Gail Simone's Take On "Write What You Know..." ~ What'cha Reading?

Gail Simone’s Take On “Write What You Know…”


Gail Simone's Take On "Write What You Know..."

Writer (and What’cha Reading favorite) Gail Simone has this great tumblr she calls “Ape in a Cape” where she’s been known to discuss pretty much every topic under the sun. Some of her most interesting posts are when she answers questions. On April 19th a reader/fan sent in this question…

hythrain asked: The other day I saw your tweets about how a lot of the female empowerment message is mediated through guys. I agree with this completely, but I’m also concerned. Why? Well, I’m a guy myself and I want to be a writer. For years I’ve been improving on my writing of female characters and trying to make empowered female characters and spread that message. What are things I should avoid to make the message come out more properly and not filtered?

Gail’s response wasn’t surprising (to me) or controversial (well actually it kind of was), she took the time to walk through what she feels are the “qualifications” (?) for writing strong female characters. And it was refreshing, to say the least…

I often get this nagging feeling that because I am talking about women and female characters and female creators so much, people might think I automatically have something against male creators.

I don’t. Every new writer is a blank slate to me, everyone gets a fair shot. Everyone is capable of doing good work until they show otherwise.

The gender someone calls themselves doesn’t bestow any magic powers or insight or ability. Some of the best writers of female characters identify as male and some of the worst do not. I would rather read a Greg Rucka female than a female by a merely average female author.

And what could follow that great Rucka shout out? How about a few stereo-types to avoid? Take notes fellow writers, she really spells this stuff out well…

Some things I hope people watch out for…

1) The Perfect Everything. Often, we see guys write female characters as without flaws. This isn’t really what we want…look at the books that have huge female audiences. We do not tend to embrace the perfect woman who never makes a mistake. You can make your females have flaws, just be honest about it and avoid making them similar to stereotypes of the past.

2) The Character With No Steering Wheel. Even more often, we see women who have no agency and no direction or motive of their own. These characters are solely dependent on following a man. I am not saying never write this person, but keep in mind if that is a character YOU would enjoy reading about.

3) The Mystery Of Woman is Bullshit. I hate this trope, the woman who is supposed to represent what mysterious, sexy, tantalizing but unknowable creatures women are. It’s a staple of noir fiction, and it always sucks. Women aren’t treasure maps.

I don’t often see advice like this, reasonable suggestions to take the time to try to understand the characters you’re writing for and avoid the pitfalls of those who came before. When the author of The Secret Six, the series with some of the most realistic and relateable characters (no small trick considering they were all super villains) takes the time to talk about this stuff, it’s definitely information worth sharing.

Go follow Gail on tumblr and twitter and go buy her comics!

All quotes attributed to Gail Simone taken from Ape in a Cape (April 19th 2014)

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Chuck Suffel is the Owner/Editor-in-Chief of He loves comics, movies, tv shows. When it comes to comics his first loves are independents and small publishers. Feel free to drop him a note anytime at

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