Chasing my crazy dream in the writing world…

Monday Musings: Writing Strong Female Characters May 25, 2015

Filed under: Blog,Publishing,writing craft — chasingthecrazies @ 6:45 am
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At the RT Convention last week I attended a session titled, “Writing Strong Female Heroines.” Renowned authors like Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy series), Lauren Oliver (The Delirium series), and Kresley Cole (Immortals After Dark series ) were among the panelists.



In the course of the session each author spoke about how they created their female characters and what the end goal was for each. No matter what each writer said, they all agreed on one point: whether their characters were warriors, or struggling in a dystopian society, they had to have layers and make both good and bad choices in order to be believable.



While I wholeheartedly agree with these points, I have to state that writing strong female heroines (no matter how many layers they have) is still a HUGE struggle.



In the last two books I’ve written, my female leads have had a very clear vision of their goals. They’re driven and highly focused on what they want/need and are not ashamed of their place in the world. But no matter how hard I try to make them three-dimensional, I still get push back on the level of their strength.


I’ll often get comments like, “Would she really make that decision?” or “Wow! That comment seems harsh.”  While frustrating, because I know I’d never get these comments if I was writing a male character, this kind of feedback pushes me to fully embrace every spectrum of what it means to be a woman.



When writing females I try to remember the following:


1) You can let them make bad decisions.


2) It’s okay to let them be surly – even when people insist the character should be more vulnerable.


3) They can fight for what they want and not be ashamed of their ambition.


4) They embrace standing on their own two feet.


5) When confronted with conflict, they handle their own battles knowing “Prince Charming” is not going to ride in and save the day, and are perfectly okay with that reality.


6) A quiet heroine can still be a powerful heroine.



For me this is not some huge statement on women and their place in the current world, but more of a real view of women in my own day-to-day landscape.



I have female friends who are pilots and doctors. Family members who are high-powered attorneys and successful business owners. Not once have any of these women apologized for going after their dreams. For putting off marriage and children to fulfill their career goals. Each of them goes about their business, quietly kicking ass, and not being ashamed for wanting to be successful.



This is the true female character I want to share in my books. And even though I might still get pushback on their level of strength, or unabashed quest to achieve their dreams, I won’t stop writing them. These are the real women who are out in the world. I believe they deserve to be portrayed in the pages of books, and I’ll keep writing them without shadowing any part of their life (whether good or bad) because this is the true and diverse reality of women today.



Do you write strong female heroines? How do you balance their character? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


8 Responses to “Monday Musings: Writing Strong Female Characters”

  1. Great post! And I agree making strong characters in general can be a struggle because they have to feel human. And no person is perfect so there will be good decisions and bad like you said, but they definitely need to feel in characters and properly motivated. And like you said there are many kinds of strong and lots of ways to show it.

  2. this is a great post for me since i am writing a book with a strong female lead in the future. i will definitely use this.

  3. rmlambie Says:

    I LOVE this post! So true. I am writing for YA and my main character is a pilot (as am I). I have gotten a lot of comments from people who say things like, “Would someone that young really do that?” The answer is yes! I was 16 when I started flying and I’ve always been known for speaking my mind.
    Keep writing those awesome characters!

  4. yakinamac Says:

    Hear hear!

    I love what you say about letting your strong female characters make bad choices. They don’t have to be perfect, they don’t have to be either invulnerable or wet, and they don’t have to turn every minor issue they confront into a life or death battle for the soul of feminism. They just have to stand on their own two feet and make their own judgements about what’s right.

    Here’s to the quiet ass kickers!

  5. Connie MacElroy Says:

    Love this post. It’s good to have strong female characters as role models AND to make for a more interesting story. The more responsible and active any character is, the more they drive the story into challenging (sometimes excruciating) situations. (I love the Buffy and Hermione clips.)
    I understand the pushback. Ugh. I’ve done well in a lot of RWA chapter contests. When I don’t, it’s almost always because a judge scored down my strong female characters for being “bitches.”

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