With Wonder Woman dominating the box office this past summer and all of the AMAZING female protagonists we have in the mainstream and blowing up the fantasy genre, I thought it a perfect time to revisit a post I wrote back in 2008. It’s heartening to see that in less than a decade, women in fiction have come so far. Little girls have so many female heroes to look up to now!
(PS: my money is STILL on Daenerys to rule Westeros #teamfireandice #motherofdragons )
But writing a “kickass” heroine can come with some pitfalls. Make sure you watch out for them!
A kick-ass heroine can come in many forms and her strength does not always manifest in the physical realm. She can be on a crusade for her cause, fiercely protective of those she loves, enduring some immense emotional burden, surviving a cold harsh world that has turned its back on her, or simply aware of her own feminine power. I, for one, fully support a world where the simpering Bella Swans are a minority. But if you’re considering writing a strong female protagonist, keep a lookout for these common pitfalls.
Leave Room to Grow
One of the worst things you can do is paint your heroine as a Mary Sue. No one wants to read about an all-powerful character who fights her way out of every sticky spot with hardly a scratch, and whom everyone else worships. Give your heroine flaws. Give her weaknesses. Stack the odds against her and make sure she’s fighting an uphill battle, that way it will be that much more satisfying when she finally reaches her goal. Don’t be afraid to knock her down a few times and teach her some lessons too – she’ll be that much more beloved by readers for overcoming those shortcomings.
Give Her A True Counterpart
Don’t surround your strong heroine with a bunch of swooning suitors jumping at the opportunity to do her bidding. Keep it real. In the real world, a tough woman is not all that adored by men, especially those she’s surpassed in skill or accomplishment. It takes a strong man to stand beside a strong woman, so make sure your love interest is up to the task. Another thing to look out for is painting a hero who loves your heroine in spite of her strength rather than for her strength – a very important distinction.
Don’t Cross the Line
There’s a difference between confidence and cockiness. It can be as much of a turn-off for a woman to be full of herself as it can be for a man. Snark comes with the territory when you’re writing a woman in a man’s world, but be careful you don’t cross that razor-thin line between sarcasm and sadism. Don’t make your heroine too much of a b*tch, or even your readers won’t like her.
Remember She’s a Woman
No matter if we’re talking about female super heroes, doctors, or fighter pilots, at the end of the day, they’re all women. Remember to give your readers something to connect with. Don’t write your strong alpha female like a man. Make her sensitive, maybe even a little girly. Give her a chocolate fetish, or a stuffed animal, or a compulsion to buy shoes (okay, not something that cliché, but you get the picture). It’s okay for her to have a tender side, and it’s definitely necessary that you show it.