Strong Female Characters

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Esmale
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Strong Female Characters

Post by Esmale » April 15th, 2010, 12:22 pm

How do you build strong female characters?

In the story I'm working on right now, I've got two female characters in particular in mind that I want to be very strong (central) characters. But the more I think about it, the less sure I am of how to build specifically female characters. Anyone have any suggestions?

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dios4vida
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by dios4vida » April 15th, 2010, 1:31 pm

1. Make sure they know what they want and are willing to work to attain it, even against the odds.

2. Strong female characters never let a man dictate their life for them. Love and companionship can still flourish, but they will not change themselves or let go of their dreams just to be with someone.

3. They have to be willing to speak their mind, whether or not the person to whom they are speaking wants to hear it.

4. A strong woman never allows herself to be left in the dust. When they are faced with someone stronger than them, they will work to better themselves as well.

5. Strong women are confident. Sometimes they have trouble showing or expressing their real emotions, especially if they are afraid or confused.

6. They will not let stereotypes rule what they do or do not accomplish. A strong woman will work for a black belt or science degree even though men are "better" at it than they are.

7. Strong women are willing to fight for what they want and what they believe in. They will often fight more fiercely than other people as well.

8. They often have very strong concepts of family, love, and loyalty. Many people don't see this, but when you get to know the woman you'll find that she holds those she loves especially close to her heart.
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gonzo2802
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by gonzo2802 » April 15th, 2010, 2:29 pm

dios4vida has some excellent ideas, but I caution you also have to be careful not to use all of them, all the time. Most readers like strong female characters, but they also like them to still feel feminine and real.

Strong female characters don't often play games with other people (unless they are serial killers, in which case that's a whole different kind of strong). For example, she's not the kind of woman who would try to turn a guy on for the sole purpose of making herself feel better.

They often tend to have some extent of independent streak -- again, how big that streak is depends on how terse or soft you ultimately want her to feel.

And strong female characters tend to have one goal -- whether it's a person they love, a dream career, etc. The drive to reach that goal is so strong they often push themselves through circumstances that scare the hell out of them in order to bring themselves closer to achieving that goal.

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polymath
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by polymath » April 15th, 2010, 4:38 pm

If what is meant by "strong" is dramatically potent female characters, then I'm inclined to believe female characters experiencing credible, insuperable dilemmas is an answer. Young adult fiction obviously will require age appropriate and credible situational central female roles, like any young adult story, females fashioning an adult, feminine--modern or traditional--self-identity against insuperable odds. Middle grade fiction, again, age appropriate characters exploring their barely initiated self-identities outside the normative situations of secure home lives. Secure home lives are dramatically impotent, though.

Adult fiction, adult situations, adult characters in age appropriate, credible circumstances, identity issues being large in whatever story type. The Feminist Art movement reflects women's lives and experiences, in literature as well, of course. The spectrum of women's literature runs a gamut from reactionary to appeasing to egalitarian to uniquely womankind's attitudes. The tyrranies of purported biological imperatives and caregiving obligations play a big role in Feminist Art rhetoric.

The dramatic strength of a female character relies on her internal personality traits and her issues with self-identity. What does it mean to be female in a story's settings? is a question I ask for my female characters. What makes her empathy worthy? Are her attitudes and values relevant to targeted audiences? How will she be transformed? Who is she in the beginning; who will she be in the end?

If what is meant by "strong" is female characters with the power and efficacy of Herculean Amazons. then the main characteristics are external traits prone toward traditional masculine ideals.

In other words, the story type depends on whether there's internal and/or external conflicts to resolve, ideally both in parallel. So plot, setting, discourse, and theme as well as characterization come into play in determining female character and personality traits, just as with male or neuter characters.

Wkipedia lists eight traditional stock female character types and traits. It's a good discussion for getting a sense of how supporting stock female characters contribute to a story. In my opinion, what it doesn't say speaks volumes, archetypes to break out of for developing well-rounded, credible, "strong" female characters.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fe ... characters
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by Sommer Leigh » April 15th, 2010, 10:57 pm

I think the question is better asked of you the writer. What do YOU think a strong woman is?

I think we can all name off dozens of characteristics that might be found in a strong woman, but those characteristics, ultimately, are not important. The strength of character in the woman is found in how she handles herself against the world. It's no different than building strong male characters. It's not really whether she can stand on her own two feet without a man or woman to support her. It's not necessarily that she knows her own mind and has the answers and knows what to do when the going gets tough. Because many amazing, strong women DO need the support of a men and women in their life, both romantic and platonic (Like Buffy! Like the women of Designing Women! Like Katniss in Hunger Games). Strong women don't need to be a little island unto themselves, shoulders squared against the harsh realities of the world. Plenty of strong women need their best friends, the love of their life, and their family. Strong women have flaws, doubts, exceptions, troubles, and they don't always know their mind at every challenge. They don't always make the right choices. It's really that she MAKE a choice instead of allowing all the choices to be made for her.

I think that the important thing to remember about writing strong women is to write them fully. Give them all the flaws, the strengths (physical, emotional, and mental), the capacity for love, the capacity for hate, the capacity for understanding and the ability to make her own choices. Right or wrong.

If she chooses to stand by her strong male hero love interest, let her, but don't bury her away beneath the weight of HIS capacity for love, HIS capacity for hate, HIS flaws, HIS strengths, and HIS choices. Give her free will to make her choices with him or against him.

Good luck!
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maybegenius
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by maybegenius » April 16th, 2010, 1:04 pm

To me, a strong female character is one with a clearly defined personality and drive to succeed in whatever her endeavor is. I agree with Sommer that it doesn't mean she needs to be completely self-sufficient at all times and never rely on anyone else, but she should never be overshadowed by another person's desires or goals. She can be flawed, but not meek, silent or over-accommodating. If she, say, doesn't want to get married, she shouldn't be "talked into it" by another character.

I think if you make sure the character is well-drawn and clearly her own person, her strength will follow.
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by bronwyn1 » April 16th, 2010, 5:27 pm

maybegenius wrote:To me, a strong female character is one with a clearly defined personality and drive to succeed in whatever her endeavor is. I agree with Sommer that it doesn't mean she needs to be completely self-sufficient at all times and never rely on anyone else, but she should never be overshadowed by another person's desires or goals. She can be flawed, but not meek, silent or over-accommodating. If she, say, doesn't want to get married, she shouldn't be "talked into it" by another character.

I think if you make sure the character is well-drawn and clearly her own person, her strength will follow.
I agree with this entire comment!

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Regan Leigh
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by Regan Leigh » April 21st, 2010, 1:07 am

Yeah, I definitely think you should make a list of strong female characters from other books you've read. Maybe your top 3 or 5. Then consider all the reasons why you viewed them as strong. You might be surprised at how many strong characters are still beautifully flawed. Don't forget those flaws and mistakes. You don't want a Mary Sue character.
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r louis scott
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by r louis scott » April 22nd, 2010, 10:17 pm

I've been lucky enough to know many strong women in my life, so it is easy for me to look at their qualities when it comes time to flesh out a character and borrow some of their attributes. As Sommer says, however, there are as with all humans the flaws. Balancing these makes a character that remains human and avoids the superhuman.

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Hillsy
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by Hillsy » April 23rd, 2010, 12:34 pm

Follow this recipe:

1. Learn what makes a strong character.
2. Make them female.

You'll find whatever applies to point 1 will not hamper point 2.

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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by Joel Q » April 23rd, 2010, 7:49 pm

Watch out for the cliches.
Make her real.
Give her a flaw she fights, and overcomes.
Pick one or two personality traits that stand out and use those as her foundation.

Also, know what she believes, her foundational philosophy, things she won't stray from w/out cause.

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ocelott
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Re: Strong Female Characters

Post by ocelott » April 24th, 2010, 6:48 pm

The best way to write a strong female character is not to think of her as a strong female character.

Just create a character who's real, with likes and dislikes and abilities and flaws and what have you. Make sure this is a person first, and a "female" second.

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