One Woman: A Dispatch from the Bureau of Serious Literature

Maddie Rodriguez

Staff Writer

Maddie Rodriguez is a freelance writer and communications specialist who earned her MA in English Literature from the University of Victoria by writing about The Age of Innocence and Gossip Girl (yes, really). When not writing, Maddie can be found reading or watching television; she has Too Many Feelings about both activities, and expresses them via expansive hand gestures or ALL CAPS (depending on how far away the conversation's other party is). Maddie and her fellow reader/writer partner live in Ottawa. They share their apartment with an ever-encroaching tower of books and two calamity-prone cats. Life is never dull. Twitter: @MaddieMuses

From: The Bureau of Serious Literature

Subject: One Woman


Dear Author:

As liberally-minded Creator, you are doubtless aware that the serious literary Establishment has come a long way since boorish authorial practices that relegated women to brief, underdeveloped roles (see previous communique, “Female characters: wives, mistresses, and shrews”). For many years now, women have now been graciously embraced by the Establishment, and permitted to secondary or even primary status via the creation of the One Woman character.

The One Woman character has always been a fascinating, complex creature: tough (but always needs a man), sexy (but never tries), and smart (for a woman). Most importantly though, she has been the embodiment the Author’s desires and ideal of womanhood.

Unfortunately, this admirable and time-honoured practice is being increasingly criticized as “tokenism” and serious literary Authors are being called upon to do the unthinkable: compromise their Art with the inclusion of more than one female character.

We at the Bureau of Serious Literature are here to tell you not to be alarmed. The sanctity of the One Woman can be preserved.

If you find yourself faced with the imperative to increase the number of female characters in your Work, the One Woman character can easily be maintained by simply portraying all other women as stupid, frivolous, or shrill, ideally some combination of the three. In this way, the One Woman continues to function, just as the One (Interesting) Woman.

And though it may seem counterintuitive, the inclusion of more than one female character can actually simplify your writing process, as it is widely known that the easiest way to make a woman interesting is to define her against all other women. This fact informs the primary guiding principle for writing a fictional world populated with additional women: the most important trait of the One (Interesting) Woman is that she is not like those other women.

The One (Interesting) Woman, for example, must be the only reasonable member of her sex. Under no circumstances should you include more than one female character who is portrayed as rational; this will only confuse your readers and appear highly unrealistic. Savvy readers understand that a logical, intelligent woman is very rare and that most women are frivolous and vain.

As has always been customary of the One Woman, the One (Interesting) Woman must continue to have as few typically “feminine” traits (other than her perfect appearance) as possible. Her specific interests should vary based on your own, but should always be vigorously masculine in nature (see: vinyl, athletics, politics, pool, whiskey, etc). The inclusion of one or more additional female characters with lesser, girlish interests will only serve to highlight the superiority of your One (Interesting) Woman.

Please note that if you are writing historical fiction, the One (Interesting) Woman ought to embody all the modern ideas of femininity you deem desirable in direct contrast to all other female characters, who should be portrayed as hopelessly and period-appropriately backward (and are to be disdained for same).

Although it is risky and in most cases unnecessary, in certain circumstances the One (Interesting) Woman may be shown to have actual female friends. In this case, both she and the reader must be made to understand that the the One (Interesting) Woman is superior to her so-called friends in every way. The One (Interesting) Woman might indulge these other (petty, superficial) females from time to time, but she prefers the company of men exponentially. This will also have the added benefit of imbuing your work with raw and unflinching realism, as is proven that all female friendships are based on competition.

We acknowledge that writing more than one woman is both an unfair requirement and a tremendous artistic hurdle, but we at the Bureau believe that with the guidelines provided above your creative Genius more than up to the challenge.


For further reading on the subject of women, please see

  • Writing Your Lolita and Your Truth: Yes, the sexual ideal of every teenage girl is a middle-aged man
  • Cold Fish: The Wife Is Always The Problem
  • A Dead Woman is the Best Woman (for Plumbing the Depths of Male Feeling)



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