I’m thinking of writing Han Solo-type characters who happened to either women or non-binary. I’m inspired by women both in fiction & real life, such as Gentleman Jack and Julie d’Aubigny, roguish types who make other women (& few people) swoon while swashbuckling bad guys, rustle high societies & go on adventures. As a straight guy of colour myself, how do I write her or their backstory properly? What sort of cliches & tropes I should be aware of and avoid? How do I write a Han Solo-type who happens to be a woman or nonbinary?
Hey Zack, thanks for writing in!
Chris and my philosophy on gender is that in most cases, you can write a woman the same way you’d write a man, and this seems to be one of those times. While there are certain experiences where gender plays a big role, being Han Solo probably doesn’t qualify.
Unless you’re writing in a world with lots of sexism, your character can just do the same things a male Han Solo would do: swash buckles, charm cuties, defy death, and possibly have a character arc about learning to care for people other than themself. Of course, there is one Han Solo trait you don’t want to duplicate, and that’s his occasional disregard for consent. That’s not a good look on any main character, no matter their gender.
In fact, the place where male writers most often run into trouble with this kind of character is their rush to communicate that they are writing a woman. This is how you end up with stories that spend a creepy amount of time on the protagonist’s breasts and butt, and stories where the heroine makes choices through inscrutable space logic like they’re some kind of alien from Saturn.
If you’re having trouble, you can try writing the character as a dude, then change the pronouns when you’re done. In all likelihood, you won’t have to change much. A lot of female characters have been written this way over the years, most notably Ripley from the Aliens franchise. I’d also recommend checking out Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir, if you’d like to see a heroine who can match Han Solo for one liners and daring do any day of the week.
As an important caveat, this could all change if you’re writing in a setting that has a lot of gender-based discrimination. In that case, the only way forward is to do a lot of research on sexism and how it affects people’s lives, along with all the ways it can intersect with other types of discrimination. If that’s not an appealing route, then you can always change the setting to be more egalitarian.
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!
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Comments on How Do I Write a Female Han Solo?
I agree with Oren there.
Write a character, don’t base it all around the gender. If you want to take a look at why Gentleman Jack or Julie d’Aubigny had the choice to actually take up the life they led, read up on them and their backstory. In general, however, there’s not much need of it. Han Solo’s past is shrouded in mystery (at least until “Solo”), the same can go for your female version of him.
A few tips from a woman, though.
The only difference between a male character seducing women and a female character seducing men would be a quick thought on how the character keeps herself from getting pregnant. Yet, that you can just handwave – female characters in general only become pregnant if the author wants them to. A female character seducing women, of course, doesn’t have that problem at all.
I’d try to keep away from too much physical description of your character – don’t do more than you’d do with a guy and keep to the same general parameters. Keep away from overly sexualizing her description – being a badass swashbuckler is sexy enough, believe me. Also, from a more practical standpoint, she’s probably not going to be too curvaceous – a successfull buckler of swashes needs to be fit and in training, so she’d be more slender to athletic than buxom to plump (which can be a very pretty shape, mind). Still feminine in shape, if you want her to, but not extremely so.
“A female character seducing women, of course, doesn’t have that problem at all.” Unless the character or her target is trans, of course.
Speaking of a female character seducing women, another piece of advice is to avoid objectifying fem!Han’s partners, just as creators should (though not enough do, unfortunately) when writing about a man who seduces women.
Thanks for catching the trans part!
Yes, the possible partners shouldn’t be objectified, either.
On the topic of a female Han Solo, one random tidbit that came to mind is that I’ve always thought that “Paper Planes” by M.I.A. sounds like a very Han Solo-esque song.
I’d add that it can’t hurt to do some research into avoiding cisnormative and heteronormative tropes, as well as the “not like other girls” trope, which is sexist. For example, don’t let your character say that she’s definitely still a woman despite doing/wearing/liking things that might be associated strongly with masculinity in your setting in a way that erases or puts down trans (including nonbinary) people. Or in a way that puts down other women or things associated with femininity. She can just be herself without putting others down.
I’d love to see a female (or nonbinary) character like this. Given Star Wars has been more inclusive lately, perhaps we’ll even see it (there are some nonbinary characters in the books now) while Han’s sort-of-wife Sana is a bit like him (she’s also bisexual, which I find cool).
I want to write someone like this myself in the future. Red Sonja is a character I’m fond of, and she’s a bit like a female Conan (though we can do without that chainmail bikini, which is sexist and just stupidly impractical).
Anyway, to echo those above it seems like the best approach would be just echoing characterization for a male character, unless in a sexist setting. I’m leery of doing that, since it’s hard to do justice. Best to set it in a more equal setting with it being acceptable for female (or AFAB) people to do things like men.
Now we could go for a female character like Luke Skywalker to balance out the Han Solo type. Luke made mistakes, but he did the right thing all around.