Strong Female Characters
By Stacy Green
I’m very excited to be guest blogging at Open Book Society! My current novel, INTO THE DEVIL’S UNDERGROUND, is a heavily edited version of my debut novel that originally release in 2012. Scenes and characters have been gutted, and one of the toughest tasks was making sure the heroine was strong in all the right ways.
Emilie Davis is stoic, used to taking care of herself, a master at keeping secrets and stubborn to a fault. She’s also loyal and smart, with just enough vulnerability to make her relatable.
So why is it so hard to write strong female characters? After spending way too many hours agonizing over this question, I think I have the answer. We’re focusing on the wrong things. Just as this great article by Annie Neugebaur states, singling out women as needing to be strong characters implies that we’re weak, and that women in fiction are weak. Wrong.
As women, we play many different roles: wife, mother, sexual goddess, career climber, etc. There is a fine line between creating a female lead who can take charge of her life without making her come across as dislikeable and masculine.
Strong is an ambiguous, misleading word. All characters need to be compelling and relatable. Think about the people in life you respect. What traits do you notice the most? For me, it’s intelligence, compassion, independence, self-awareness and resilience. Get the right combination of those and you’ve got unforgettable characters: Clarice Starling, Jane Rizzoli, Kay Scarpetta, Sookie Stackhouse––the list goes on.
Strong characters take action. They’re willing to take risks and make mistakes, but they also hold themselves accountable for those mistakes. Strength doesn’t mean a character can’t cry or show weakness–the ability to overcome vulnerability, even when all hope seems lost, makes for a compelling character.
Think about Éowyn from The Lord of The Rings (The Two Towers and Return of the King). She’s beautiful and classy, soft spoken and delicate. But she can also handle herself in battle and kills the Witch-king of Angmar. How’d she pull it off? Determination, resilience, and sheer love for her family.
And what about Hermoine Granger from the Harry Potter series? She grows from a know-it-all, pushy little girl to an intelligent, compassionate and loyal woman. Without Hermoine, Harry fails.
Neither of these great characters are memorable because they were women. We remember and love them because they stood up in the face adversity. In the final turning point, when all hope was lost, Hermoine and Éowyn stepped up and soldiered forward. The fact they were female is just icing on the cake.
What are your favorite female characters? What drew you to them?
- For more information about the author and her books visit her at her Official Website here.
An Excerpt from INTO THE DEVIL’S UNDERGROUND
“Time to assess the damage.” She stared at the oval mirror in horror. Her already fair skin
looked sickly, making the bruises stand out. A large, purple contusion covered her left cheek,
and a smaller discoloration adorned her temple. She touched the spot with trembling fingers. The
man had hit her with the gun. Another inch to the right, and I could have ended up blind.
Her gaze traveled to her exposed left shoulder. It, too, was bruised, courtesy of the concrete
floor. Two of her fingernails were broken, and her knee was skinned.
Otis hopped onto the porcelain sink and appraised her.
“You didn’t tell me I looked this bad.”
The cat blinked his large green eyes.
“Well, it could have been worse. At least I’m here to feed you, right?”
She ran a hot bath in the hopes of relaxing. Otis sat on the edge of the tub and swatted at the bubbles as she tried to clear her head The heat helped her aching body but did nothing for her racing mind. Carefully, she dried off and slipped into a t-shirt.
Padding across the plush carpet, she made sure her blinds were closed before climbing into her queen-sized bed.
Deep breaths. Focus on your breathing.
She reached for the faded picture on her nightstand, cradling it to her chest. It was one of
the few treasures she possessed from childhood. She missed her grandmother so much her heart actually ached. “I wish you were here, Mémé. You would make it all better.”
Born in Indiana and raised in Iowa, Stacy Green earned degrees in journalism and sociology from Drake University. After a successful advertising career, Stacy became a proud stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. Now a full-time author, Stacy juggles her time between her demanding characters and supportive family. She loves reading, cooking, and the occasional gardening excursion. Stacy lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Rob, their daughter Grace, and the family’s three obnoxious but lovable canine children.