Last week, I talked about why I’m tried of “strong” women characters and why we need truly strong women characters in this blog post. This week, I’m going to offer up three tips to help you craft truly strong women characters in your stories. Let’s begin, shall we? =)
1. Let Her Be Feminine
Take a moment and think about some of the characters that fit the “strong” woman cliché. What is one thing that they all seem to have in common? Pretty much every single one of them is barely feminine. This doesn’t mean that they don’t just not like the color pink. This means that they are rough, fierce, sarcastic, etc. One could say that they are more masculine than feminine. All so that they can be “strong.”
Since when did actually being feminine become looked down upon? Since when did it make a woman weak? The message that all of these “strong” women are sending girls is that to be strong, you can’t be feminine. And I’m just not talking about the difference between being a tomboy and being a girly-girl. I’m talking about almost everything that makes a woman a woman being viewed as weak.
God created girls to be different than guys. Shouldn’t this beautiful truth be celebrated in our stories instead of glossed over and tossed away? Why not celebrate the feminine aspects of women such as their gentleness and grace? Why not fill strong women with compassion and love? Why not let them find joy in serving in ways, such as cooking, helping with kids, and cleaning? Why not let them be women?
The Take-Away: Your strong female characters are allowed to be feminine. Let them like girly things, have feminine pastimes, act feminine, etc. Let them be WOMEN.
2. Let Her Have Feelings
A message that I feel is promoted in YA fiction today is this: Ignore all of your feelings, and you’ll be stronger.* This is a message that I believe girls around the globe are soaking up, and that is definitely not okay. Why can’t a girl face her feelings and make wise decisions instead of ignoring them? Girls are very, very emotional. Our emotions are a big deal! We need to see women in the stories we read handling how they feel the right way.
In the Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen is notorious for shutting out her feelings or acting purely upon them, both of which have dire consequences for her and the people she loves. Both aren’t healthy ways to deal with emotions. What would’ve truly made Katniss stronger would have been her facing her feelings and learning how to deal with everything she felt.**
The Take-Away: Let your character have feelings. Don’t turn her into a ninja-robot. Allow her to be able to confront her feelings and handle them in a healthy way.
*Either that, or let your feelings do the driving, but that discussion is for a different post…
**I am by NO MEANS trying to hate on Katniss Everdeen (she’s one of my favorite cliché strong woman characters). I’m just trying to make a point with someone whose way of dealing with her emotions drove me nuts. xD
3. Let Her Need Others
Strong women are often applauded for not needing a man to save them, for being able to everything themselves. But what’s wrong with being the damsel in distress every once in a while? Isn’t it a mark of true strength to acknowledge that you can’t do some things on your own and to accept the help of others? Why then should strong women not need help, from men (especially men) or other women? Why should having a man help a woman make that woman weak?
Two strong women (or should I say girls?) in fiction are Susan and Lucy Pevensie of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. One of Queen Susan’s gifts from Father Christmas in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, besides her bow and arrow, is a magic horn that can summon help when it’s blown. In the films and the novels she uses it a few times when she and Lucy get into trouble. Does calling for help and receiving it make these queens of Narnia any less strong? Absolutely not!
In reality, we can’t do much of anything alone. We all need saving at times. Why should the strong women in our stories be able to do everything themselves and be strong on their own? To “empower” women? To prove a point? To promote feminism? If so, those are terrible excuses for making women in fiction weak in the name of strength.
The Take-Away: Your character doesn’t have to do it alone. Let her be the damsel in distress every once in a while. It doesn’t hurt to need saving every once in a while! Put your character in situations where she’ll have to rely on others and/or work with them to achieve her goals.
I hope that you will join me next week as I continue this series on strong women in fiction by offering my last (big!) tip on crafting a truly strong woman character.
Which of these tips do you find the most helpful? Why do you think that strong woman characters aren’t very feminine? Do you have any tips to offer?