Hello, friends. Today, we’ll be talking about female characters in modern literature.
As a female myself, I identify with several aspects of several female characters. For example, Cath Avery from Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. Like Cath, I spent a great deal of my time absorbed in fictional worlds. Books are just so much safer than reality. Or maybe Hermione Granger. I wasn’t quite the know-it-all she was, but I was definitely teacher’s pet. I also had the outrageous, uncontrollable curly hair. Or what about Katniss Everdeen, perhaps my favorite modern literary heroine? I would go to any lengths to protect my little sister. I would rather die than let any harm come to her. That’s what big sisters do, and Katniss is just… wow. I love her.
Of course, all these characters have their flaws, too. Cath is timid and antisocial. Hermione is stubborn. Katniss is cold and hardened after the loss of her father and having to become the primary caregiver and supplier for her entire family.
There is a big push today for writers – of books as well as movies – to create what is known as the STRONG female character. We’re not talking about a damsel-in-distress whose one goal in life is to meet Prince Charming, fall in love, and live happily ever after. Although I have to say, I have friends who want just that and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Who doesn’t want to find companionship? It’s a basic human need.
But you know what I’m talking about. The swooning schoolgirl just isn’t “in” right now. And that’s fine also! I love female characters who are intelligent, ambitious, witty, independent, talented, powerful, etc… What I don’t like is female characters who come off as rude, ungrateful, sarcastic, and pretentious.
Why do I bring this up? Because I’m reading a book with exactly that type of “strong” female character right now. Or should I say I WAS reading the book. To be totally honest with you, I hate this girl so much that I probably won’t make it much farther. Disappointing too, because this is a book I really thought I was going to like. I downloaded it on Kindle on a total whim. It wasn’t one I had planned on reading. Now it’s on that I don’t plan on finishing.
I know what the author is trying to do. She’s trying to make her female protagonist “different.” She’s super smart, totally focused on her studies and her budding career (more power to her for that), but she’s totally aloof, unimpressed with anything the other girls find interesting. That’s fine, you don’t have to fawn over Harry Styles if everyone else does, but don’t look down on them for doing so. This girl acts so snobby and above-it-all that I can’t imagine why she has any friends in the first place! She’s so completely rude and unappreciative to everyone she meets, even when they treat her with nothing but courtesy and respect because she’s so smart and special… It just drives me crazy! Of course *spoiler alert* she gets the guy in the end, the one that she scoffed at all the other girls for swooning over.
I try to take a whole different approach to the STRONG female character in my books. I like my heroines to be independent and smart and witty… but I also like the to be genuine. I like them to be honest, to struggle over what’s right and wrong, to enjoy what they enjoy, and to not be ashamed of being themselves and loving what they love.
Take Mel in Boy Band. She’s not particularly intelligent or ambitious, but she’s loyal and she’s a hard worker and in this new book, boy does she struggle with what’s right and what’s wrong. She’s a good friend and she’s so completely in love with Sam, but that doesn’t make her weak or anti-feminist. It makes her her.
Kate in Cemetery Tours is a bit different. She’s older, more ambitious, more intelligent, and she doesn’t let anyone tell her what to do. She’s brave and adventurous, but she also loves nothing more than sitting around in her pajamas and marathoning her favorite television show.
I love my female characters. I wouldn’t enjoy writing them if I didn’t. And I don’t love them because they’re STRONG. I love them simply because they’re them. They’re real to me. That’s what I’ve always tried to achieve with all my characters. I want them to feel like real, fleshed out people. Not a jumble of characteristics on a page with a name attached to them.
It’s important for women to be strong, but it’s just as important for us to be real, to be genuine, and to be happy and proud of who we are no matter what. We’re all different. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.