Let's be honest. We love strong female characters. In our books, movies, and tv: (think Katniss Everdeen, Daenerys Targaryen, Morgause, and Hermione Granger).
So we know we love to read about (and watch) strong female characters, but what makes them strong? How do you write a strong female lead, and why should you?
Strength doesn't necessarily mean physically strong...though with the likes of Katniss there's no doubting her physical prowess. Strong women know how to handle themselves (and they also know when they're uncertain).
What makes a strong woman?
When I think of a strong woman, I think of my mother and grandmother. Two women who would fight tooth and nail for their children, who were fiery and bold. Many mothers are strong - especially in that they will do anything for the survival and well-being of their children.
Lady Jessica Atredies of Dune had a huge influence over the Dune universe. Molly Weasley kicks some serious wizard ass.
Strong women know who they are -- and they're willing to defy rules and common practices to be themselves.
They face challenges many of us would shudder at.
They stick up for themselves and others, even at the expense of their life.
And importantly, strong female characters leave room for improvement (she makes mistakes and learns from them).
Which is why strong female characters we love don't always do the right thing. They flag and fail as we do -- because they're characters with depth and dimension. Strong female roles will reject convention. They get into trouble, and they get out of it.
They don't follow stereotypes or conform to the 'norm,' so they stand out.
While some of the female characters I listed aren't the main character, like Daenerys, Morgause, and Hermione, they have a huge impact on the central character and they also influence the plot in a big way.
Well, things are getting technical, so let's swing into the next question:
How to Write a Strong Female Lead
Your strong female lead doesn't have to be the heroine of the story. She could have a major role to play while being a secondary (or even tertiary) character.
Here are some ways to make your female character strong, and stand out.
Make her a mother. Often, strong female protagonists are single, hot, and badass. Having a female lead who's a mother lends her that extra edge (think Cersei Lannister) and allows you to have an immediate person to fight for (child).
Have her get over on the hero. It's so much fun to see a woman who knows who she is get over on another character. Hermione comes up with solutions to problems more often than Harry does, which draws us closer to her. Don't be afraid to let your female character's strengths shine -- to the point where she clearly excels over another character. This makes for rich (and fun!) scenes.
Have her live for something other than romance. Your strong female lead needs a reason to exist -- and not simply for the sake of a man. What is she passionate about? What is she fighting for? What does she want?
Highlight unusual skills. Sex is power, sure, but what else? Perhaps your female lead is adept at illusion and tricks; maybe she has an uncanny ability to empathize and even predict others' emotions and actions. What if she were a crack inventor or a persuasion maven? Stories become richer, and more exciting, if your female character has a talent other than being hot.
Be sure to remember -- above all else, make her human! (Or elvish, or alien, or undead...)
Want a collection of dark fantasy writing prompts to get the creativity flowing?
Download your free pdf!