Let's see, from what I understood;
A "realistic" female character is a female character that shows a lot of ugliness of the gender and is often reserved in works geared towards the gender. A good example of this would be Wintergirls. To show how broad this could be, My Little Pony would also be a good one. A male example would be Fight Club.
This is basically describing characters that highlight certain issues that are typical of, or specific to the given gender; works for men that employ characters like these would portray topics that might be male-specific (Fight Club
being a notable example here). There is an emphasis on how the cultural expectations for their gender affect their behaviour, with the unique problems that arise as a result. Quite a few female characters are also written this way; in fact, I think it might be more common to portray women in this manner than it would be for men, since men are often the gender that is defaulted to when people write characters (as this thread has shown)*
. This isn't necessarily limited to gender dynamics; any culturally enforced division can be portrayed in this way with any given character. It also needn't be the main subject of the story; it's just one where gender (or race, ethnicity, age, or really, any division one wants to create) is a clear influence on the character's personality.
An "archetypical" female character is a main character who just has a slightly female flavor. Her problems may or may not be based in gender, but her flaws are not. Archetypical characters are meant to appeal to both sexes. A good example of this is Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. There are not a whole bunch of characters like this. A male example would be Harry Potter. This shows how pervasive a male character is in this position.
This is basically any character that's not written with gender in mind. They are written simply to be characters, and while they are normally clearly male or female, their gender has very little to do with their portrayal in-story. It's much more common to see men playing this role than it is to see women, because again, males tend to be the default gender when authors are creating characters. Like the previous category, this isn't limited to gender.
An "idealized" female character is a main character who has a female flavor and is meant to appeal to men — therefore has feminine traits that appeal to men and are stripped of feminine traits that do not appeal to men. This pretty much holds the entirety of "hot chicks in leather kicking ass" genre but there are other subtler versions too. There's also the reverse, male characters who are meant to appeal to women. I can't really think of any good examples off the top of my head, but you know what I mean.
This is a character who's basically meant to appeal to the opposite gender*
. So, this character panders to whatever the reader's supposed positive bias (or, much
more likely, the author's
) toward that gender is going to be. A female character who's meant to appeal to men is going to look quite a bit different from a female character who's meant to appeal to women; the same goes for male characters meant to appeal to women and male characters meant to appeal to men specifically. They aren't necessarily a token character, but they are
meant to show characteristics that the author (almost always
the author, whether deliberately or not) or women/men would find appealing in a man/woman.
To get a better idea of it, it might help to see it as a continuum between idealization and realism rather than a strict categorization, since I don't think I've seen a character who's managed to be both realistic and
idealized (unless Tyler Durden and the narrator count), but I have seen "archetypical" characters that leaned toward one side or the other. Now, being on any part of this scale isn't necessarily a good or bad thing (some stories are better served without gender complications slowing things down, others might need the extra dose of realism), but it can help to see if you're adding characters only to be Fanservice
(something which I think most writers have been guilty of doing, though probably not always on purpose), or, conversely, if you've made your characters a wee bit too androgynous for the story's purpose.
edited 24th Dec '11 10:18:07 PM by tropetown