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.