I have worked pretty hard to avoid them. The novel is mostly set in a rural halfway house, the first main female character was a well-meaning therapist who works at the halfway house, and the other main female character is the wife of the protagonist. Maybe I am overly sensitive, but I worry a lot when I write female characters now. I read a lot of criticism about female characters, about how they can’t be too dependent upon male characters and all of the other issues people have.
However, when I write, I forget those things. I make my female characters the same way I make my male characters. I decide what their part is int he story, build in my mind how they got there and who they are, and then see how they react to what is happening, usually in surprising ways.
The Wife didn’t play much of a part in the novel when I started. She was there to show that the protagonist had gotten his shit together during the two year gap at the beginning of the story. She would have a few scenes, but she wouldn’t be much more than “What he could lose.”
Then, last night, a plot twist showed up that I wasn’t expecting, and it ratcheted up the danger and gave the protagonist a new choice. As I was writing, I realized that I wanted him to talk over the choice with someone, and the wife needed to become more of a realized character, but I wanted to avoid the cliches. She ha her own life, since they married later in life. She’s her own person, and they are together because their lives intersected in the right way for it to work. So, now I have to puzzle out, how will she react to what she’s told? What are HER choices? What brought her here.
And, as I started writing her, I realized that she is MUCH smarter than my protagonist. She’s not a femme fatale, but she does have a big part to play, so tomorrow, I need to write more about her.
I’m letting the characters run things. It’s the only way I know how to do it.