Oh, Gods – it’s the dreaded cliché of strong female protagonists.

I’m sorry, if this doesn’t interest you there are other posts for you to read. If this does interest you – welcome to my post. 🙂

There are plenty of issues surrounding strong female characters and everyone will have their opinion on this matter. Mine – I decided – would be written in this post to share with the world. The biggest issue I have with the modern ‘strong female character’ is the unrealistic characteristics that are placed on them. They aren’t real women in emotion, intelligence, abilities… and that’s a problem for me. These female characters can easily have been made into better characters with very few changes… unfortunately that will never be the case.

 

So, here’s the problems and (my) solutions to creating a strong female character:

Note: some of these touch upon issues found in general character creation and not just in creating strong female characters. 

 

Real Women Don’t Cry:

I understand you wanted to show a tumblr_inline_my9btlWTk91sub342.gifstrong female character but that doesn’t mean void of
all emotion. Women have feelings – despite what some people may believe. We are happy, sad, angry, overly emotional when given a reason, protective, defensive… we cry, we shout, we break down, we laugh. Yet, for whatever the reason strong female characters have problems with this. They don’t cry or force back their tears. If someone dies they get angry not sad. They seek vengeance and don’t grieve…

Crying isn’t a form of weakness. Sadness, depression, grief aren’t signs of being weak. They are signs of being human. Not everyone starts a revolutions when a loved one dies. Not everyone goes on a killing spree to honour their dead family. Most people breakdown, curl up in a ball and cry out their problems until they force themselves to pick up their feet and try to start again.

Real people hold a grudge. Real people cry years later at the mention of a sad event in their life. Real people – women – don’t react emotionally like strong female protagonists appear to do.

tumblr_inline_nkhg86Q84q1t8i7jp.jpgAnd, it isn’t just with sadness or grief that they have issue with. Depending on the character they may have no issue being a pile of depressive mush. Their issues may lay with all emotions and be a walking ball of nothingness held together by a love triangle between two supernatural stud muffins that hate each other.

*cough* Bella Swan. *cough**cough* -.-

That was one reason why I didn’t draw from any of these characters when creating Liora. I instead drew from what I like to call ‘real sources’. Real women in my life that I consider strong female role models. They were teachers, my mother, my mother in-law, my grandmother, my friends, strangers I’ve met in passing, or news stories I’ve read online. Also it helps being a woman and therefore could think of things like, ‘how would I approach this situation?’ or ‘what would I be feeling if this happened to me?’

Yes, I know you aren’t supposed to put yourself in your writing or in your main character but if you are exploring ways of making your characters reactions be more realist… then I don’t see a problem with it. Emotions are important in characters; they are what drives them and shows the reader a deeper level of the story. A character’s emotions can tell more about a situation than the environment around them. It connects the reader to the character and helps them to relate to the situation.

 

I Like a Girl With Brains:

Intelligence is important but that doesn’t just mean book smarts. Intelligence can be people smart, street smart, book smart. Just like there are many different people in the world there are many different types of intelligence. You can be street smart but can’t read a book to save your life. You can be book smart but can’t read another persons facial expressions.

There is also a balance of intelligence needed. Most characters have the problem of being experts or instant geniuses; they need to learn and grow. They need to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Unless your character has a doctorate or has trained for years to become a master in what they know they don’t have the right to know everything.

No one knows everything…

 

Combat (Couldn’t Think of a Witty Title):

Mostly in fantasy/sci-fi fiction strong female characters are portrayed as these combat ready military experts. Within five chapters they go from ‘what’s a weapon’ to ‘I performed a expert ninja technique I just learnt that normally takes years to master’. What annoys me the most is when the author chooses to explain their amazing fighting ability away by saying it was genetic or a magical power.

I see what they are trying to do but maybe add in some problem like they swing and their sword gets stuck or they attempt a back flip and don’t stick the landing. Even expert combatants aren’t perfect in executing their techniques all the time, so realistically neither should your character. Have them miss their target with the first shot. Have them forget to block because they are too busy trying to remember how to counter an attack. Have their foot slip because they didn’t pay attention to the terrain.

If they have magic powers give them trouble with using them.

Tobey_Maguire_SpiderMan_3Remember how many tries it took Peter Parker to figure out how to shoot his webbing? No super hero knows their powers right off the bat and definitely doesn’t know how to masterfully use them right away. They may not work or maybe even miss the target completely because your character couldn’t aim it right… or maybe even have them try to use one power but their other power works instead (if they are set up like that).

Problems, complications, mishaps happen in fighting and way too often they are forgotten in writing. Maybe that’s due to flow but I think if written right even these issues would work into any fight scene well.

Another problem I find with strong female characters is the lack of using wit/intelligence as a weapon. One of my cerseifavourite sayings is ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ which can also be ‘words are mightier than the blade’.  There are a rare few that use their wit or cunning nature to dispatch their opponents. Most writers choose to use the hack-and-slash method because what woman can’t do a double back-flip over flames with twin blades? I don’t know… maybe it’s me but I enjoy a good, well written debate or cunning scheme over brute force.

 

Girls Don’t Have Issues:

People aren’t perfect. Women aren’t perfect. We have flaws – some more than others. When a character doesn’t have flaws that there is a fault of the author. Yes, we don’t want to give our creation issues. They’re perfect because we want them to be but perfection isn’t real.

So, when I read about a character that doesn’t have flaws I have issue with that character. There are a list of issues that can suit every character you create. Flaws are as diverse as the people you create so there shouldn’t be a reason for your character to not have one.

Are they awkward when talking about themselves? Maybe they are clumsy or don’t have a filter? Are they overly curious or ask inappropriate questions? Do they view themselves as perfect and believe they can do no wrong? They could be childish, overly protective, bossy, rude, have a fear of fluffy things, or don’t like people using slang.

A character can have one or many flaws but please give your character at least one. 🙂

 

She’s Beautiful (But She Doesn’t See It):

Ugh. -.-

You know how much I hate this one. I really, really hate this one.

It’s a cliché that so many writers rely on that I wish would just die.

A female character in my opinion shouldn’t rely on their looks – unless they need to because that is somehow their power or their way of working towards their end goal… which would be an interesting twist but at this point they know that their looks work for them and therefore excludes them from this section.

A woman is more than their hair, skin, hip size or bust size but if you are creating a falsecharacter don’t have the focus on physical beauty. If you do have focus on physical beauty, please don’t pull a One Direction ‘you don’t know you’re beautiful’ moment. We should be promoting
girls to be confident about their looks and not be afraid to voice that confidence. Have a female character like their flaws and flaunt their imperfections. Have them comfortable in their own skin or catch those around them off-guard with their replies to compliments.

For example:

“You know you look beautiful tonight,” he smiled as he stared into her eyes that shimmered in the moonlight like polished steel.

“Of course I do,” she tilted her head, giving him a coy smirk.

That there would throw off the reader because we are so bloody used to hearing this:

“You know you look beautiful tonight,” he smiled as he stared into her eyes that shimmered in the moonlight like polished steel.

“Really… I don’t think I do,” she blushed, turning her glance in mild embarrassment.

What’s wrong with writing a confident woman? What’s wrong with writing a woman that appreciates her looks or feels comfortable in her skin? There aren’t enough female characters like this… Girls need to read about female characters loving their body no matter what they look like rather than shying away from showing confidence in themselves. A strong female character should be a role model and what better way to be a role model than to portray body positivity, confidence, and self-worth. We may have girls with better self-esteem that way.

 

In Conclusion: Don’t write your strong female characters to be a Belle Swan – write them to be a Hermione Granger. 🙂