I’m Tired of “Strong” Female Characters Part Two ~ Three Tips On Crafting Strong Female Characters

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? 

I’m Tired of “Strong” Female Characters Part One

You know her. She’s got an athletic build and the uncanny ability to wield any weapon. Occasionally, there’s some superhuman power. More often than not, the title of savior/chosen one/leader/queen/princess/empress/insert-important-title-here is thrust upon her. She’s got a great distaste for anything pink, sparkly, or remotely girl (although she’s known to rock a dress when forced). Usually she’s got a handsome boyfriend that she ends up having to protect. And in the midst of it all, she’s keeping a bunch of secrets beneath her warrior-queen exterior.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the strong female character.

If you haven’t met her, then you obviously haven’t read a lot of YA fiction. She comes in many forms, such as the fantasy/sci-fi version I painted a picture of above. She can be found in pretty much every genre. She can be the main character, the secondary character, a background character… She’ll probably be there somewhere, if not in a book, then in a TV show or movie. And to be honest….

I’m tired of this “strong” female character cliché.

This is not to say that I don’t like some typical cliché strong female characters. In fact, they can be done very well. I’m thinking of memorable characters such as Katniss Everdeen of The Hunger Games and Parvin Blackwater of the A Time To Die series. But it seems to me that we have begun to define strong women by physical strengths, talents, and powers, their boyfriends and multiple love interests, their positions of power, their ability to go it alone, a hatred (or at least some form of dislike) of all things feminine… The list goes on.

Why does a girl have to be a warrior-queen to be strong?

I know lots of strong women, and none of them are half ninja. They find their strengths in places other than their looks and their ability to beat up boys and lead rebel nations. Strength, in our culture, has become more of a physical attribute than anything else. Strength is defined by how you carry yourself, how athletic and muscular you are, how intimidating you are… The list goes on. But the strength that these strong female characters have isn’t true strength. 

True strength doesn’t come from being a rebel leader or wielding a bow and arrow. 

True strength is something that comes from within, not from the outside. True strength isn’t ignoring your feelings, it’s confronting them. True strength is finding the courage to do what’s right. It’s staying strong though all life throws at you. True strength comes from faith in God. True strength is something that female characters in YA fiction desperately need.

I want girls to know that their strength doesn’t come their fists. 

I want them to have real strength, not the fake version that has been offered up to all of us in today’s movies, books, and TV shows. I want them to be inspired to be truly strong by the stories I write. Fellow writers, we get the privilege to change this cliché and inspire girls to become truly strong women though our stories. We get to do more than just entertain with the stories we spin. We get to inspire. We get to motivate. We get to encourage. What an awesome privilege that is, am I right?

Next week, I hope that you’ll join me for part two of this series as I offer some tips on how you can make the female characters in your writing truly strong. 

What are your thoughts on strong female characters? What do you think is true strength? Who is your favorite character that falls into the “strong woman” cliché? 

5 Places To Find Inspiration For Your Writing-Guest Post At Audrey Caylin’s Blog

Guess who did a guest post? MMMMMMEEEEEEEEEE. =D Click here to head over to my friend Audrey Caylin’s lovely blog, where you’ll find me rambling about five places to find inspiration for your writing when you desperately need it. And while you’re there, be sure to leave a comment and stick around! Audrey has an amazing blog, and she’s one of the most inspiring bloggers out there. =) I hope to see you there!

Guest Post: A Bit of Writing Tips and Encouragement by Jeanette van As

I’m super excited about today’s post, because today my bloggy friend Jeanette van As has taken over Notebooks and Novels! I’m not going to hang around too much more, but before you continue, you need to know that Jeanette is an absolutely amazing person and her words are super helpful and encouraging. Read on, and be sure to visit her blog when you finish! =) 

I’ve loved writing since . . . well, since I could write, I guess! I love the feeling of getting lost in a world I’ve created, seeing characters come to life as a story unfolds, and the exhilaration on days when the right words just seem to flow. Here are some of the things I’ve learned over the years, and I hope some of it will be helpful 🙂

Write what you love. 
Writing isn’t easy. If you write a genre you don’t even like reading, it’ll just make things harder. You’ll be far less likely to finish your story and you won’t enjoy the process at all. 
Moreover, what you’ve written will reflect your lack of passion, and it shouldn’t be that way. Writing, like all art, has to mean something to you, or it won’t mean much to anyone else. When you write, you strive to create something that adds sparkle and song to normal life. You can’t do that if you don’t write about what matters to you.

Remember your readers. 
When you write, don’t try to write for everyone, lest you end up pleasing no one. Choose a target audience. Decide who you would want to read and enjoy your work, and then write for them.

Ask yourself about your audience as you write. Which issues are relevant to them? What sort of humour would they appreciate? What kind of characters would appeal to them? Questions like this will help “tighten” your writing, making it more focused.

Don’t overwrite. 
Be careful not to be too wordy. It can be tempting to use a string of adjectives like, “The house stood empty. Ruined. Abandoned. Desolate.” Very often, though, less is more.

Try not to describe things to death or state the obvious because you’re scared your readers may miss something. Leave a bit of the figuring out to them and let them use their imaginations to fill in the details you haven’t stated explicitly. They’re smarter than you think! 😉

Put yourself out there. 
Often the scariest part of writing is taking the manuscript you’ve agonised over for months and emailing it to a friend to read, clicking “publish” when you’ve spent hours crafting a deeply personal post, or swallowing your fear and finally entering that writing contest.

It’s terrifying, but it’s true. If you want to grow as a writer, you have to put yourself out there. Pour your heart into your writing, and share it with others. Start blogging. Submit an article. Invite people to read what you’ve written and ask them for constructive criticism.

This is when you start to grow. It’s not easy, and it requires lots of prayer and deep breaths, but it is so worth it!

Write for God. 
God is the One who created you with a love and talent for writing. Remember this, and let your writing be a song of thanksgiving to Him.

Give your writing to the Lord and ask Him to use it for His glory. He may use it differently than you expected Him to, but you can rest in the fact that He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him. And He’s got the Master Plan for your life and your writing. 🙂

About Jeanette

I’m Jeanette, and I’m His 🙂 I’m a nutty South African bookworm, writer, muso and drama queen. I love Middle-earth, Narnia, Discworld . . . oh, and all things Celtic! I recently started blogging and it’s been quite a journey so far. I’d love to have you come visit! Click here to visit Only by Grace.

*applauds* Wasn’t that great? Thank you so much, Jeanette, for being on Notebooks and Novels! Be sure to chat with Jeanette in the comments and check her blog out. =) 

Is Writing A Real Job?-Guest Post By Tessa Emily Hall

Today, I’ve had the opportunity to swap blogs with YA author Tessa Emily Hall! =) Check out my post on researching for your novel over at her blog here. Enjoy reading! =) I hope to see y’all in the comments! 
At 18-years-old, I faced a crossroads in my life: Pursue my heart’s desire to write, or settle for a stable career. A career that most people would consider to be a “real job” as opposed to being a writer.
I wasn’t at this crossroads for too long before I remembered I have absolutely no other passions or gifts that aren’t related to books and writing. (Other than acting, which isn’t necessarily considered a “real job”, either.)
Now that I’m 23 and have been journeying along this writing path for seven years now, I can say with confidence that, yes, writing isa real job. No, it’s not just a hobby. If it was just a hobby then I would not be making an income right now.
Think about the text we’re exposed to every day: Textbooks. Novels. Non-fiction books. Magazines. Newspapers. Newsletters. Ads. Manuals. TV and film (scripts). Catalogs. Greeting cards. Website copy. All of this text is written by a human, a human who was most likely paid to provide their content.
Young writers, be encouraged. There are many avenues that provide opportunities for you to offer your gift of words. Don’t let the naysayers convince you that this world does not need your ability to paint sentences with ink, or that you can’t make a living by working with words of some sort.
You may be saying, “Yeah, but it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a novelist.” That may be true. Being a novelist alone doesn’t necessarily pay the bills—unless you strike gold and become a huge best-selling author. Unless you establish a loyal readership and produce multiple books per year. And unless you can cultivate other streams of income in areas that would allow you to contribute your expertise in this field.
So if you’re at a crossroads, struggling to understand how to make a living as a writer, here’s a list of writing/book-related jobs that would give you the opportunity to work in the field of your passion.
·      Become a freelance editor
·      Become a freelance writer
·      Become a greeting card writer
·      Become a journalist
·      Teach writing/editing courses—online and offline
·      Work for a publishing company
·      Work for a literary agency
·      Work at a bookstore
·      Tutor kids in creative writing/English
·      Offer marketing/promotional services for authors
And in case you’re asking, “How are you doing it? What path did you choose after high school?”
Great question! After I graduated high school, I enrolled in a community college. About a year later, I pursued a Creative Writing degree at Christian Leadership University. I am now a part-time student and juggling the many hats I wear in the industry. Here’s what my roles look like:
·      I’m an author
·      I work as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary
·      I work as a YA Acquisitions Editor at Illuminate YA (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas imprint)
·      I’m a freelance writer
·      I’m a freelance editor
·      I teach workshops at writing conferences across the US
·      I manage a Christian teen magazine I founded, Pursue Magazine
·      I coordinate blog tours for authors
·      I teach creative writing to young writers through my online mentorship, Write Now
Remember: You’ve been given your ability and passion to work with words/books for a reason. Do your research, receive wise counsel from your parents and advisors, and then prayerfully make decisions that concern your future. But please, if you feel as though you’ve been called into this field, then whatever you do, don’t write it off due to lack of faith. (Pun not intended!)  
About Tessa
Tessa Emily Hall writes inspirational yet authentic YA fiction to show teens they’re not alone. Her passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens lead her to a career as an Associate Agent at Hartline Literary Agency, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. Tessa’s first teen devotional will release with Bethany House in 2018. She’s guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 116 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, decorating her insulin pump, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is by connecting with readers on her blogmailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.
Have you struggled with the assumption that writing can’t be a real job? Do you hope to pursue a career in the writing/publishing industry?

The Voices of YA Tag

To start things off, let’s just say that I LOVE this tag. I mean, a tag all about the YA genre? Count me in! Thanks to Audrey @ Audrey Caylin  for tagging me and to Caitlin @ Quills and Coffee for creating this tag! All right, let’s start with the rules….

Thank the person who tagged you.
Link to the original creator.
Answer the ten questions.
Tag at LEAST two other YA writers/bloggers. 

What draws you to YA?

Probably the fact that I am a young adult. xD But seriously, all stuff that has to do with age/maturity levels/number of zits aside, I love the fact that YA is real. It’s raw. It’s relatable. It paints stories with darkness and light, stories that shed hope and grace. 
Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?
My writing process… I’m both a plotter and panster, so I first like to do some plotting. I’ll usually do some character sketches, research, and a plot arc. Then I can unleash the panster inside of me and start writing!
How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?
I’ve been writing for about two years or so. Currently, I’m working to get a novel together that I’d like to submit to agents and publishers. I don’t know what it’ll be, only time will tell, but I’d love to have a novel published by the time I’m 20. 
What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?
I don’t need anything to write, but I do like having a mug of salted caramel hot chocolate with me, and all of my notes on my story outlines, historical research, etc. I don’t mind having a great playlist with me either. =) 
If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (OTHER THAN “don’t give up”), what would it be?
My one piece of advice would be to be this: Instead of letting your writerly insecurities dog you, write with passion and fall in love with your words. You are an AMAZING writer with breathtaking words. Believe it. Go spin your tales and change the world. 

What book still has you reeling from its plot twist? (*no spoilers please*)
What books are you most anticipating for this year?
I actually don’t have any books whose releases I’m anticipating. SOMEONE HELP ME AND FIND A BOOK I HAVE TO WAIT FOR!!!! 
In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?
Most unique…. Probably Illusionarium by Heather Dixon. Alternate realities, fanitllium, Riven… Way unique, if you ask me. 
What is your all-time favorite quote from YA lit (I know, I’m cruel)?
Umm…. ONE QUOTE?!?!?! JUST ONE?!?!?! *begins hyperventilating How? Why? HOW? *mopes* Fine, how about this one… 

What book do you most hope will have a movie adaption?
TO GET TO YOU SOMEONE GET JOANNE BISCHOF’S TO GET TO YOU A MOVIE ADAPTION. Like… Just imagine it. Two surfers, an old van, one skateboarder, a girl and her family in an Airstream…. THAT IS THE BEST BOOK EVER OKAY?!?! *whispers* Sorry, all other books. I still love you too. 
I tag…
Clara @ The Zephyr

What about you? What draws YOU to YA? What is one of your favorite YA quotes? HAVE YOU READ TO GET TO YOU!?!?!?! What’s your writing process like?What books are you looking forward to? Curl up with your favorite puppy and let’s chat!

Speech Tags and Action Tags: Part Two

Last week, we looked at the importance of having a great speech tag and action tag balance. Today, we’ll discover four tips that will help us achieve that balance.

Use Vivid Speech Tags

Using vivid speech tags such as pant, wheeze, mutter, hiss, spit, screech, rattle, gag, etc. help paint a picture in our reader’s head. Like I discussed last week, they can show instead of being “telly.” Click here to read a bit more about that.

Use Action Tags That Contribute

I mean, why would you focus on your character chewing gum in the midst of a life or death situation? When writing dialogue, pick action tags that contribute to the overall mood and goal of the scene. Don’t focus on your character fiddling with a pen unless it means something to the scene, such as your character feeling idleness, nervousness, or agitation.

Throw In Some Monologue

Because I write in first person, I love throwing monologue into my dialogue. It gives the reader a deeper understanding of what the character is feeling by showing them what’s going on in the character’s head. Take, for example, the snippet below:

“Hailey, truth or dare?” Jason shoves his hands in his pockets. 

I close my eyes. Not this again. I can’t afford to pick either. “Jason, I—”

“No.” His jaw clenches. “No. For once, let me talk.” He takes a step toward me. “Truth or dare?” 

I don’t think. Shaking like a windblown leaf, I whisper, “Truth.”

Jason doesn’t hesitate. “Do you love me?”

*whispers* Obviously, I’ve been reading The Language of Sparrows. =) But anyways, with Hailey’s monologue in the scene, her feelings deepened, and the scene grew even more serious than it would’ve been when void of monologue.

It’s Okay To Use Neither

All that said, it’s totally okay to use neither action tags nor speech tags, in instances such as arguments between characters or deep conversations, like Hailey and Jason’s. Let’s take a look at how that would pan out.

“Hailey, truth or dare?” 

I close my eyes. Not this again. I can’t afford to pick either. “Jason, I—”
“No.” His jaw clenches. “No. For once, let me talk.” He takes a step toward me. “Truth or dare?” 
I don’t think. Shaking like a windblown leaf, I whisper, “Truth.”
“Do you love me?”

Sometimes, using neither speech tags or action tags make a scene more dramatic and OH MY GOODNESS DID THAT JUST HAPPEN?!?!?

Wow. This is the end to my first blog series on Notebooks and Novels. HAVE I REALLY ONLY BEEN WRITING ON HERE FOR A MONTH?!?! *calms down* I hope this series has helped you write some fabulous dialogue. Let’s talk about it in the comments section, shall we?

Do you have any tips for writing dialogue? Everyone in the universe wants to hear them! What did you think of this short series of posts? Did anyone else watch allll the Hobbit movies this week? *wipes tears from eyes* SO GOOD. Let’s chat about all things Tolkien and writing!