Writing While Woman: The Unlikeability Quiz

Is your woman-identifying character truly unlikeable? Or are they simply a woman? Below is a handy quiz to help you figure it out!

Directions—Place yourself in the mind of an authority figure in your character’s life (a doctor, a boss, or a police officer, for example), then answer the questions below as that authority figure.

  1. Circle the words your authority figure would use to describe your main character:
    1. Emotional, Flighty, Mouthy, Bitch, Frigid, Honey, Cute, Annoying
    2. Passionate, Eccentric, Confident, Assertive, Professional, Sir, Nice, A “Go-Getter”
  1. Your character uses profanity when speaking. Does your authority figure:
    1. Admonish the language
    2. Overlook it entirely, or laugh
  1. Your character does not have any current romantic attachments. Does your authority figure consider them:
    1. A lesbian (???)
    2. Solitary and/or mysterious

By now, you might be getting a sense of whether or not your character is unlikeable or simply a woman, however, there is one final question every author must ask themself before making a final decision:

  1. Who exactly describes this character as unlikeable? Do you wish to align yourself with their ideas of unlikeability, or would you be proud to reject them?

Unlikeability is a fluid, subjective thing, and women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized groups are much more likely to be labeled “unlikeable” in some way. This translates to our writing and to reviews of our writing. Pacific Standard touched on the gender bias in book reviews as well, stating, “Women are less likely to receive reviews when writing about topics that aren’t deemed ‘feminine.’”

In an article for Book Riot, Kelly Jensen delves into young adult literature specifically, stating, “…data showed that despite YA being a category of fiction where more women publish more books each year than men, it was men who bring home awards like the Printz most frequently.”

While this quiz is obviously meant to be facetious, please take special note of question 4. Not every person will like your work, but understanding who exactly decries it the most will not only help you as an author to reconcile poor reviews, but might also help to hone your target audience and refine your work to appeal to said audience.

Obviously I’m not saying anything new—there are oodles of blogs/article/essays on dealing with sexism in business and in art—but sometimes it helps to hear it again. It helped me to write it. I hope it helped you in some tiny way to read it.