Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Strong Female Characters

Today I’m over at the Blood-Red Pencil, answering a question sent in for the series, Ask The Editor. Since editors are looking for strong female characters, the person writing in wanted to know what defines such an elusive character.

Clearly today’s female protagonists are not the same as they were fifty or even twenty years ago. As the cliché says, we’ve come a long way, baby. Women in books carry guns, stand up to danger, and can even land a punch, but that’s not necessarily the “strength” editors are looking for. They also look for strength of convictions, strength of beliefs, commitment and a belief in oneself. Women are rarely portrayed as air-head bimbos anymore. They more closely reflect real life of today’s woman.

So, today, I’m over there answering the question. I’ve given some characteristics, along with an example of an exception. I’d like to hear how you define a strong female character and how you think this concept has changed over the years.

24 comments:

  1. Hi Helen,
    I'll be heading over to check out this post. My protagonists have all been women so far, so this will be useful information. :)

    I just wanted you to know that I gave you a blogging award. I know you get a lot of these, but if you'd like to accept it, you can visit my blog: http://alsonnichsen.blogspot.com

    Have a great day!

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  2. Thank you A.L. for the award. I will zip over to your blog. What a great way to start the day.

    And thank you Elizabeth for tweeting it.

    Paul- I love the word asap. We don't even bother with the dots between the letters anymore.

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  3. Excellent topic. I'll check it out.

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  4. Great topic of conversation, with lots of viewpoints I'm sure. I'm headed over ...

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  5. I'd forgotten that women used to be portrayed as bimbos. Or weak, like the Fay Wray character in King Kong. Cool that it's changed so much.
    Karen

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  6. Interesting post. I'm glad to see women role in books has changed. I'm popping over to check out your post.

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  7. I agree with you all. I'm glad female characters, for the most part, have grown into fully developed and real "people."

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  8. As my main characters are usually women, I'm interested in this topic. I'll pop over to find out more.

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  9. I'm bookmarking this post for future reference. Well written...and so true.

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  10. Liza, I loved your story on your blog today.

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  11. Guess I'm just full of shame - my book doesn't have any women, let alone strong women!

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  12. Helen,

    I grew up reading books from the early 1900s. The heroines in these books were all strong, principled women who gave me a sense of how to be in the world.

    Certainly times and modes have changed, but I feel at the core women and women in literature are still the same at heart.

    Janet Riehl

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  13. I remember women telling me in the 70's that they would look for stories with women villains because those were the strong women in fictio at the time.

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  14. Great post over there, Helen, and lots of interesting comments.

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  15. Good question. Today's woman wears so many hats.

    Heading over to read your thoughts.

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  16. Strong female characters; the first that comes to my mind is Ibsen's Nora in the Doll's House. At the time the play was published, it was shocking to the audience that she actually left in the end ...

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  17. Women's roles and how they exist in society has changed--but there's also the question of the continuing differences, too (I'm thinking physical strength primarily). Difficult to balance.

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  19. I write teen novels for girls, and think it's extremely important that YA writers create strong female characters as role models. Fortunately there are ton of talented writers who do just that.

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  20. The times, they have changed! Thankfully.

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  21. Heading across to check the post, Helen.
    As far as I am concerned, the strong woman has not changed in essence - she is the person who thinks for herself, takes her own decisions and doesn't waste time wallowing in "what ifs". She was there then, she is still there now.

    To me, the guns and things are only accessories.

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  22. I'm heading over. I've always been fond on strong female protagonists and shudder when they turn to men to make their decisions.
    Advice, yes.
    Helen, talk about strong women! Don't see how you do all you do.

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