These days there seems to be a trend in fiction and in film to write strong female characters, characters that are strong on their own without the need for a romantic interest. We can find examples of these most recently in Mad Max: Fury Road and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
However, as the trend continues (as has happened with the superhero genre, the vampire romance and the dystopian future story) it can become cliche and boring, something that is rehashed over and over again until we no longer see the poignance of it all.
Female heroines, strong female heroines, are extremely important and interesting right now. I found them to be so interesting in the aforementioned films that I realized that my first novel in the Five Rims series, The Terminarch Plot, has a strong female character already embedded, and this was before either of those films debuted. Dervish is a female guard of the Queen’s inner cadre of guards who is tasked with protecting the last human in existence, a human who is not really that lovable and is actually kind of a jerk. She tolerates his “man-ness” and there is not any hint of romantic involvement at all. They become equals, but actually he has to rise to her level and try to emulate her nobility rather than her trying to be more equal to him.
That being said, I have spent some time thinking about how I could include strong female characters in my novels without them becoming tired or cliche. Here are the three thoughts I had about the subject:
- Equality Must Be a Normality – There are many texts out there that include strong female characters. Dune is one of them. However, in Dune the female characters are strong in that they are trying to be like the men in their lives or control the men in their lives. In order to make strong female heroines a writer must realize that we are past the whole idea of “the liberated woman” and that we must write these characters keeping in mind that women no longer have anything to prove. It should be normal that the female heroine does what she does, not that she is trying to be like a man, but she doesn’t need the man to help her with the tasks of being a hero.
- Don’t Rush To Find Romance – I always used to struggle with making my characters fall in love. I don’t do that anymore. There are so many other great conflicts to throw at characters that are much more three-dimensional than “the love interest”. If we give our female characters time to breathe, to become who they are on their own, they will not have to identify themselves as “so-and-so’s girlfriend”. They will be Furiosa, a woman who just has a deeper goal of freedom and escape from slavery. They will be Rey, a woman who is trying to find her own destiny her own way.
- Keep Them Feminine – Femininity is beautiful in its own unique way and also amazingly powerful. To strip a woman of her femininity to make her more masculine so that she can deal with more difficult conflict is really a shame to the strength of what true femininity can be. Our patriarchal society has created a definition of “feminine”, but we need to break that and show what real femininity looks like, to emphasize its strengths and show the beauty of it alone, which is not something that crouches in the shadow of masculinity.
If we keep these tips in mind we will create believable and interesting female heroines who will keep our readers turning pages, no matter their sex. We read books all the way through that have interesting characters, characters who are believable and quirky who are not cookie cutter copies of tired old modes of thought.
Write great women into being. You will be a better writer for it, and your readership will appreciate the unique characters you create.