On Strong Female Characters, Part 2

by - July 27, 2018

Greetings, followers! Time for another "Strong female characters" post, a continuation of the last one, which you can find HERE.

In the first post of this series, I talked about different ways the "strong female" archetype fails and some ways to fix it. However, I don't think for a second that being physically imposing is the only way for a woman to be strong. This post will cover some different ideas as to how to craft strong, lovable female characters who AREN'T out to kick people's tails.

This is probably a more controversial post than the last--I've seen countless people grow LIVID at the very idea of celebrating women who are feminine, do feminine things, act emotional, or aren't fighters. This infuriates people, for reasons I don't entirely understand. I mean, it's not like we bookworms are out slaying dragons and kicking up guys, are we? (At least I hope we aren't)

I'm not advocating sticking all your girls in skirts and making them sit around doing nothing and just providing nice ornaments to the guys--because let's face it, that's no fun. But how about less physical kinds of strength? What if more female characters carried EMOTIONAL strength, or a quiet presence that makes them able to stand up in severe pain? 

Picking on my own story again: The protagonist (and titular character) of The King's Daughter is seventeen-year-old Esma Pentegreen. She's loosely inspired by me, although she's become her own person over the years that she's existed. 

Via Pinterest

Esma is a very emotional person in the midst of a world where putting on a mask and concealing the way you really feel about EVERYTHING is valued. She's good with a throwing knife--oftentimes actually hitting the target dead center--but she will not murder. The idea makes her sick. Even in battle, even if her life is at stake...it would have to be something incredibly important for her to use that skill against someone.

I fully expect that if and when I publish the Pentegreen Series, there will be readers who will lash back against Esma. People who say that she is weak and overemotional and doesn't have a backbone. But you know what? She doesn't exist to make a point. She exists because she is the character my story needs, and because characters of all sorts deserve places in fiction.

There's a number of such characters I can think of, and the rest of this post will be listing some wonderful strong women who defy the stereotypes to become fascinating and memorable characters in their own rights.

>A five-foot abuse survivor who's the best hacker in the galaxy, sings opera in the shower, and loves fashion and fancy dresses (Cress by Marissa Meyer)

>A lady who follows her duty to her father and people in a sexist culture, but who dares to follow her heart when it comes to love, defeats a besieging army, and does the unthinkable--learning to read. (Dragonwitch by Anne Elisabeth Stengl)

>A terrified healer who must learn the hard way that she can find true courage through Christ, and faces down a terrifying villain multiple times. (Defy by Tricia Mingerink)

>A princess who spurns the true love shown to her by her Prince for lesser men time and again, and who must learn to trust him and allow him to save her when she is broken beyond repair (Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl)

>A crippled twelve-year-old girl in a dystopian society who starts a revolution by sewing images of the future and teaching girls to read. (Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry)

>A woman who lost her husband, her home, and her mother but continues to raise her children to be the people she truly believes they can be (and wields a sword only to protect them). (The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson)

>A girl who must realize her true weakness is that she's been trying to be strong and fight on her own for too long, and that the thing she truly needs is a family who loves her. (Also from The Wingfeather Saga)

>A queen, senator, warrior, and excited expectant mother with a full-time job. (Star Wars prequels)

This was a shorter post than I was expecting, but I'll conclude it with the following words: Fiction is populated with dozens of beloved male characters with personality, unique quirks, and different goals. From Sherlock Holmes to Captain America to Bruce Wayne to Han Solo, they're interesting and fascinating characters who capture our imagination over and over again.

Why should women be any different?

Who's your favorite unique female character in fiction? What do you think of my examples? Is this post ridiculously short? xD Talk to me in the comments!!! 

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  1. YES YES YES! This is EXACTLY what we should aspire to do in our writing: Make female characters that are flawed, different, and above all, feminine. All those examples really drive the point home: this isn’t impossible! Why should we settle for less-than-realistic women when we can create women characters that are both strong and feminine?

    Anyways, if you’ll excuse my rant up there (*coughs and clears throat*) great post, Faith! I love this so much. You’re going to do amazing things with your writing! Keep doing what you’re doing!

    1. BOOM. I love this so much, Nicole. <3 Very nicely phrased.

      And I will absolutely excuse it (and advocate for it. XD) Thank you so much! I can't tell you how much your sweet words mean to me. <3

  2. I completely agree. I love it when a girl is girly and likes nice things. You can be tough and wear pink at the same time. And like you said, there are tons of ways to be tough without being able to kill someone without blinking.

    1. Tough and wear pink=YES. Thank you for reading--I agree 100% :)

  3. THANK YOU!! Emotionally strong females are sooo important (and are usually some of my favorite characters).

    Awesome post!

    I love too many female characters to list them all, but I love Annabeth Chase (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), Katniss Everdeen (Hunger Games), and Hazel Grace (The Fault in our Stars)--to name a few. (I tried to pick ones from popular books so people would actually know who I was talking about. :P)

    1. Yessssss I agree. And you're so welcome <3


      I still haven't read Percy Jackson, but Katniss and Hazel (especially Hazel! I actually meant to point her out in this post) are both awesome characters <3

    2. Yassss Hazel Grace is such a good and relatable female character!!

  4. Yes to EVERYTHING in this post! It's so absurd when people get infuriated at a female being FEMININE. We're fighting for "girl power" and all this stuff, when really it's just fighting to be just like guys and just...????? Don't we want to celebrate GIRLS?! I am so confused.

    "She doesn't exist to make a point. She exists because she is the character my story needs, and because characters of all sorts deserve places in fiction." <---THISSSSSSS. This is SO powerful. When a writer puts in a character to make a point, their agenda just screams off the pages and takes away all authenticity. Characters should be natural, no matter what.

    I absolutely adore your examples of great female characters. Cress especially! I was really proud of Marissa Meyer for putting a sweet, innocent, rather timid female in her stories. And people LOVE Cress. Which is proof that we can have gentle-hearted females in fiction!

    And you made a huge point that really struck me--how there are so many beloved male characters out there, but not that many great females. I've always favored male characters over female ones. I can name off dozens of male characters I LOVE without a thought, but thinking of female ones takes more time. I always thought that was strange, but now I realize WHY. Because people aren't MAKING awesome female characters. It just never occurred to me before! You've really opened my eyes to this.

    I just loved these posts so, so much. Thank you for being brave and sharing! <3

    1. I know! I don't understand modern feminism at all...it's like simultaneously struggling for turning women into men while also showing that we're better? Like I'm a first-wave feminist but I don't get anything after that. XD

      THANK YOU. <3 I always try to avoid agendas...if the character happens to BE strong or BE something else I roll with it, but not just to prove a point. Heavy-handed agendas are so annoying. :P

      Cress is so great, AND everyone loves her! So I don't understand why people are so averse to writing similar characters :P

      I actually read that as a point in another blog post (I'm not sure which post...I might have linked to it if I could have found it again xD), where it was sort of an afterthought that really made me think. Even in the MCU alone (just as an example) there's so many epic and varied male superheroes...but the girls come in two sizes: weak wimpy love interest, and kick-butt heartless assassin girl. Marvel is so good at creating nuanced characters...why can't they do this with the gals? *crying*

      Thank you, Christine <3 Your words mean so much to me.

  5. Oh my goodness, your character picture is the same as my MC for my current WIP!! That's so cool that we have twin characters who're probably super different lol.

  6. Yes, more female characters who are allowed to be girls. Your character sounds awesome!

  7. Your character sounds so epic, omw! Great post!!

  8. I LOVE this series!!! I'm so glad that my series inspired you to write this-it's so important to talk about strong women in fiction.

    I love that you said "Fiction is populated with dozens of beloved male characters with personality, unique quirks, and different goals... Why should women be any different?" That is an AMAZING point, and I just want to say THANK YOU for spreading the word about this and starting meaningful conversations about women in fiction.

    Micaiah @ Notebooks and Novels

    1. Your series was brilliant, and I'm so glad you enjoyed mine! <3

      And thank YOU for your sweet words! This is something near and dear to my heart and I love to talk about it. <3

  9. CRESS!!! <3

    NIA!!! <3

    ESMA!!! <3

    Great post, Faith. I agree 100%!

    1. YES!


      And oh goodness thank you!!!!! XD (I love that you love her, btw...that makes me so beyond happy.)

      Thanks! <3

  10. I love your wrap-up point! There are tons of quirky male characters...why should females be any different?

    Honestly, the quirky ones are always the best!!

    1. They really are! I love quirky characters. <3

  11. This is an amazing post!!! I loved the woman characters in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series and the Wingfeather Saga. <333 Is Cress a good book? It sounds awesome just because of that character. :-D Thanks for sharing about this topic!!! I love hearing what people have to say about this topic. :-)

    1. Cress is part of the Lunar Chronicles series, and yeah, I'd say it's pretty awesome ;) The character herself is great, too! And you're so welcome. Thank YOU for reading. <3


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