Characters

Creating Strong Female Characters: It’s Not What You Think

A strong female protagonist is something hundreds of us writers have been scrambling to write correctly since…forever.
Usually the female characters are all weak and pathetic or else they’re way too physically strong.

So how do you find the mix? How do you find the place in between the two where the character is a strong yet likeable person? How do you find what’s right?

That’s what we’re going to be talking about today!

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1. To Make Her Strong She Must First Be Weak

This is definitely a backwards way of looking at things when it comes to creating someone strong, but it actually works.

First off, something I’ve noticed authors do when trying to create a ‘strong’ ‘I-can-do-this-myself’ character is that they forget that they’re human.

All humans have flaws, all humans make mistakes, and all humans are weak in one way or another. Sometimes there are people in this world where you can’t even begin to imagine that’s possible, but it is.

In one way or another, your strong character is probably going to be one of those people who other character’s can’t imagine are actually capable of having flaws or being weak or making mistakes. But how can we make it feel that way?

Simply this:

Your character is strong because they have learned to accept their weaknesses.

I feel like maybe I saw a quote similar to this, but I couldn’t find it again, so I just had to made it up and tried to make it sound as wise as possible. (I also tweaked it and put it in my email today for those of you awesome people who follow my special email list will know about!)

The thing is, your strong character is human and does have flaws, makes mistakes, and is weak. But your character is strong because of those faults. They have to have accepted themselves.

And just by that your character is already the strongest one on the team. 

2. To Be Strong She Must Struggle

Here’s where we take #1 up to the next level!

Just because she’s come to peace with the fact that she’s human doesn’t mean she just stops making those mistakes. 

So show her struggling

Next, have her overcome those struggles. She can accept the fact that she’s weak, but she’s strong because she’s grown from it, meaning that if you want to portray her as a strong character, she must be able to show that she is one.

Here’s some examples:

  • If your protagonist is a strong female character, you could have her weak, then have her except her weakness, then have her become strong, then have her face something that tests her knew-found strength, and finally have her overcome it.
  • If you have a minor character who is a strong female character, simply have her accept her weaknesses and face something that plays on those weaknesses, testing her knew-found strength.

For example, let’s say your character is afraid of heights. She excepts that she’s afraid and decides not to let that hinder her. She practices hiking up mountains higher and higher every time. Then one day when she’s on a trail with her friend, her friend slips and is now grasping onto a horribly tiny side of the cliff. Leaning down, a tidal wave of dizziness crashes onto your strong-female character – it was so high. But her friend was in danger, so she slowly but surely reaches down and hoists her friend back up. 

TADA!

…yeahhhh that example came off of the top of my head.

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Extra: Misconceptions of Strong Female Characters

I just wanted to provide a quick list of misconceptions most writers have of strong female characters so that you can be aware of exactly what not to do: 

  • Just because they’re called a ‘strong’ female character, that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be a physically strong person. Actually, your strong female character could be a wimp physically but internally she has an incredibly determined and brave heart.
  • Just because they’re called a ‘strong’ female character, doesn’t mean she has to be all tough and cold. I know that maybe overcoming her weaknesses have left her maybe more solid than other characters, but she could be a perfectly kind character. I’d argue that, yes, she’ll probably be a bit tough in some ways, but that doesn’t mean she has to be brutally cold and ‘strong’ to the other characters, unless you want it that way.
  • Just because they’re called a ‘strong’ female character, doesn’t mean they can’t be happy. Okay, so this one sorta plays off of the last one, butttt just because they’re all amazingly strong doesn’t mean they should pull themselves away from others. I feel like usually strong female characters are portrayed in a way that they’re so set apart from everyone that they don’t really like anyone, and they’re always so…moody.

Well, those are just a few misconceptions, but whatever kind you might happen to have…BURN THEM.

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Just because they’re strong doesn’t mean they’re stone warriors of strong…ness…

*coughs*

…Anyway, always remember that they’re human

They have flaws, weaknesses, fears…

…They’re simply the first ones who’ve done anything about it.

By the way, there are many different ways to creating a strong character-female or male-but these were just some random ideas that I had going on inside my head, so I just decided to splat them out to you guys today. SOooo sorry if some things weren’t exactly very cohesive…I tried 😝

Do you have a strong female character?

If so, what’s her weakness?

 Can you think of any other misconceptions or techniques on strong female characters?

Like these posts? Wanna have more? Subscribe to my email list to receive inside info and lots of fun! 

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment down below.

Thanks for reading!

Mary

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12 thoughts on “Creating Strong Female Characters: It’s Not What You Think”

  1. I loved this post! You make so many great points. I honestly love flawed characters that find inner strength through following their values. For instance, Katniss being scared as she volunteered, yet she was following her strong need to protect her little sister.

    Had she not been scared (a perceived flaw), I would have put the book down.

    I love human qualities (as you mentioned) and I’m not in any way interested in every single female character being super strong and hard as iron. Bleh. Sounds more like a marketing scheme than a human character.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Yari!!
      Yess those characters are the GREATEST. Ohh yes, that’s a really good example 👏
      Agh, yess female characters being super strong and iron-like is…yeah…just…BLEH. 😅

      Thank you so much for reading Yari!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post – and I hope I learned something from it.
    There are two characters in my story that might fit this topic. Can’t say too much because the story’s still in development and I don’t want to hint too much…
    First is Princess Nadyenne (her name is a twist on the word for ‘hope’ in several Slavic languages) who wants to walk in the footsteps of her mother and try to overcome some disagreements between specific noble houses (won’t go into detail too much now) but, in her young age, her optimism and idealism will lead her to clash with the reality and some of the less pleasant truth behind that feud.
    The second is a character I won’t name. She got her hands on a strange type of magic few understand but one moment she was exasperated and lost control of it. Since then, it left her afraid of her power apart from the few safe uses she found for it – and reluctant to ever let that power grow. And then, as it tends to be, she learns her powers could help to save the world – but taking part in that would need her to face her own regrets and fears as well as dealing with a responsibility she never imagined she could face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Tomas! Haha I definitely hope you have 😝
      Ooh really? Wow, that’s such a cool name!

      WOW…that is incredibly interesting…I need you to write this so I can read it lol!! 😂 Those two character definitely sound like they could fit into the ‘strong’ character type of group 👍

      Thanks so much for the comment! I definitely can’t wait to read your book one day!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your words are encouraging, thanks!
        Well, the Princess’s story happens in #2 and the other woman’s in #3 (though there are hints at the end of #2) and I’m still working on #1 so it’ll take some time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. No problem!
        Ohh I see, so I have to wait an EXTRA long time 😂 Ooh that’s cool!
        I know books take a LONG time, but definitely tell me when you’re done-I’d LOVE to read them!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m in the 8th draft for #1, second draft for #2, and first draft for #3 – and would love a late 2020/2021/2022 release but I have no idea if I’ll make it.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. WOW, 8th draft!? That’s impressive! I’m only on my third I think…Ooh, yes, those are some great goals! Don’t worry, you’ve got this-keep up the great work and you’ll be there in no time!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This post is very good and useful…it will help me in building my female lead. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful idea with us, Mary.🙏🙏

    Liked by 1 person

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