On Writing Strong Female Characters

Too often, fiction has sacrificed depth of character, skimmed over that important aspect for the sake of heightening drama, or gore, or comedy . Theme and action becomes more important than the people that should be translating/illustrating theme and action. The men and the women, and most frequently, the women, become nothing more than pretty vessels employed to carry the story from one place to the next. Worse, of course, is when those pretty vessels passively watch the story from the sidelines. And never get a hair out of place. I really enjoyed the following discussion on “strong female characters”, and I particularly like the writer’s last bit of shared wisdom: “Write a realistic, human character who just happens to be a woman. Strength will follow.” Wisdom that can be applied to any characters, yes? Yes.

Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks

harkavagrant Couldn’t resist. Copyright Kate Beaton at Hark! A Vagrant.

I have a lot of thoughts about how to write strong female characters, but first I wanted to address the idea of “strong.” For female characters, strength tends to be equated with physical prowess. Think of “strong female characters”, and most people will immediately list the Buffys and the Xenas, because they are warrior women with superior fighting skills. But in creating strong female characters, it’s also important to look beyond the physical. The Sansa Starks of fiction are not any less strong than the Arya Starks just because they can’t pick up a sword and slay their enemies. There are the Felicity Smoaks of the world who find strength in their intelligence, and the Cersei Lannisters who use manipulation and cunning to drive their enemies to their knees.

To quote Neil Gaiman on this subject:

The glory of Buffy is…

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