Elements Of A Strong Female Protagonist19:00
There has always been a lot of talk about what goes into making a strong female protagonist. A lot of people have written some very good articles on the subject. And for a while now, I’ve been wanting to write my own post on the subject, put my two cents in. So I thought it would make a very appropriate subject for one of these Elements Of posts. I will start this particular post by saying, these points do not apply to every single female protagonist, nor is it meant to be a guide to write one by (I would love to do a completely separate post on that subject at some point). These are just some of the elements and points that I think should be considered when creating a strong female protagonist of any sort. So, let’s get to it!
Strength Is An Attitude Not A Skill
Not every strong female protagonist has to be a kick-butt type of gal. If that is the way she is, awesome. But physical strength doesn’t automatically equal a strong character. Your female protagonist doesn’t have to be good at everything. She doesn’t need to be completely self-sufficient, or amazing at fighting. Being a strong female protagonist is more about her attitude than anything else. Maybe she can’t do everything herself and needs help, but she actively seeks out the people who can help her take the next steps to complete her goal. It’s not weakness for her to need ask for help. It’s only a weakness if your female protagonist waits for someone else to do everything for her instead of being proactive about it.
Femininity Isn’t Weakness
There’s an almost alarming trend in book characters for strong female protagonists to need to be a female equivalent of a boy. Dresses, make-up, and pink girly things are often considered to be signs of a weak character. Which is totally untrue. It’s perfectly ok to have a female character who isn’t girly-girly, if that’s the way her personality goes. But at the same time, a character who likes typically girly things isn’t inherently weak either. It is entirely possible for a character to like to swan around in a ballgown or have a room painted in pastel pink while still being a strong character. It is not necessary to sacrifice femininity for strength.
Passion and Drive Are Key Attitudes
What makes any character strong? Their passion and drive to achieve their goals, and their will not to give up. It’s no different if your character is male or female. Female protagonists need just as much of a driving force behind them, one that won’t allow them to give up on their goals, no matter how hard it gets. There has to be something motivating their actions. All strong characters are proactive characters. Think about if a male character was in the same position as a female one. What elements would make them a strong character? These attitudes, their drive and passion and will to go on, are all the same elements that female characters need. When all’s said and done, female characters are people too.
A Strong Personality Goes A Long Way
Strong characters of any kind have good personalities. And by that, I mean that they feel like real people. They have strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. They react to story events in ways that feel natural according to the personality you’ve built up during the book. Whether they’re supremely capable at everything, or they need a helping hand, having a strong personality that readers can connect to easily goes a long way to making them a better character all-round.
A Rounded Backstory
All good characters, male or female, need to come from somewhere. Explore your female character’s background. Where did they come from? Who are their family? What events in their past have most shaped them into the person they are today? Putting a bit of thought and effort into working out their backstories turns them into a deeper character, and can also give you more to work with in the main story, which in turn helps them become a more rounded and stronger character. This is not mutually exclusive to female characters, but all strong female protagonists have a past, and strong reasons for why they are the way they are, and things that motivate them.
Exploit Their Strengths, Whatever They Are
Weak characters are carried along on the strengths of others. Problems are most often overcome with the skills of their companions. Strong female characters use their strengths in diverse ways to get around problems. Yes, they may need to rely on other people for help, but they should also have skills that can be used for their moments of strength. This might not necessarily be in fighting, technical skills, or endurance. Maybe they’re really good at empathising with people. Or they’re really good at thinking outside the box. They could be really good at improvising things, or organising, or seeing patterns. Whatever their skills are, use them. There are all kinds of strengths that can be utilised to give your female protagonist strength and purpose in the book.
These are just some of the elements that I’ve seen in well written female protagonists. As I said before, they won’t all apply to all female characters, but they are good things to remember. In the end, what makes a female character strong is exactly what makes any other character strong: Their motivations, goals, hopes, dreams, and their will to fight to achieve their end.
What else would you add to this list? Do you agree with any of these points? What strong female characters do you love? Have you ever written a strong female protagonist who wasn’t all kick-butt awesomeness (though I love those characters too!)?
Missed any of the posts in this series? You can catch up on them all HERE
Tell me, what topic would you like me to cover next time?
Elements Of A Good Villainous Plan
Elements Of A Good Supporting Character
Something Else (leave me a suggestion in the comments!)