She Doesn’t Have to Be an Amazon to Be “Strong”…

April 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm (Casualties of War, fantasy, writing) (, , , , , )

I noticed on a friend’s blog that archeologists have uncovered proof of another female gladiator in the Roman arenas. It brought me back to a discussion I had with a writer friend regarding strong female characters. When I suggested I like to see strong female characters, she automatically jumped to the idea that I was implying the stereotypical fantasy swordswoman, battling alongside the men with her rippling muscles, bronze brassiere and Xena-like war-cries.

Far from it.

All I meant was: “please don’t give me another story where every woman significant to the plot is either a doormat, an ornament or a victim.”

I admit – I do have warrior women in some of my tales. I have female Templars, soldiers like my Dee Aaronsod or Brianna, and my apprentice mercenary character, Carlisle. In fact the head of my Red-Sun mercenary guild is a villainous woman named Minerva. But a lot of my strong female characters are miles from the stereotypical Amazonian fighter. They range from a stout little middle-aged, ex-school teacher who is willing to brave a mountain full of dangers for the sake of helping others, my Reeree in the soon to be released “Casualties of War”, to my super-mom, Margot, who works as a financial administrative assistant and takes on some exceptional responsibilities, in “Just Another Day”. I even have a primary female character in my unpublished Snowy Barrens trilogy, the shamaness Fawn, who is extremely strong, despite being a healer, a social outcast because of some disturbing facial scarring, and a pacifist. I consider Sarah one of my strongest characters in Fervor, but she is not physically strong, wilful, contrary or bold. She is loving and understanding and offers as much of herself as she can possibly give, even though it might put her in danger.

Strong doesn’t just mean emotionally fierce and physically powerful. Strong can mean taking action, not bending when others oppose you, offering commitment to follow through on the things you’ve started and showing resolve when things get tough. It can mean not turning away and leaving things for others to fix, if they go bad. It can mean staying true to yourself, and helping those you love, or even helping complete strangers who need you, for that matter. Strength comes in various shades and designs, not just a single stereotype.

I’m not playing the feminist card and saying every woman in the story should be strong, for the sake of serving as a positive role model for any girls/young women who might be reading it. Fiction should reflect life, and there are a range of people out there, including doormats, ornaments and victims, so these personality types will play a part in stories – what I’m saying is there are an awful lot of women out there who make a very positive impact on others’ lives, and that should be reflected too, especially if you want me, as a reader, to be able to relate properly to your story.

So please, give me something other than just damsels in distress or women who can’t go on without their man. Give me something strong.

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3 Comments

  1. cherylmoore said,

    I think once the reader is receptive to strong characters who are female, anything is possible, especially if those characters are relatable. This is the case whether they wield a sword or scrub floors, it’s believability that’s key, and of course the empowerment aspects which ‘De Dor Mat’ women in fiction.

  2. cherylmoore said,

    Make that Door Mat! :O

  3. Sean Jenkins said,

    Agreed.

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