Monday, January 14, 2013

News and Strong Women

Well, my last post got a good response, so I guess I'll keep doing posts like it. There are so many formulaic ways of telling a story, I doubt I'll have a problem with several more. Comment and let me know if there is a specific genre you'd like me to break down and satire (like romantic comedy, high fantasy/science fiction, for example). That being said, I will say that I LOVE ANY STORY, IF IT IS WELL-WRITTEN. Just because something is a tragic romance, or whatever, does not automatically mean I hate it. It's just when the writer sacrifices skill for whatever tends to "work" that I get a little peeved. Stay tuned: I'm definitely going to do more of those.

So...my publisher puts out a magazine, featuring certain kinds of writing. Emerald Sky is science fiction and fantasy, and guess what? It's featuring a sneak peek of my upcoming novel, The Shifting. Take this link to their current issue, read it, and tell your friends. I'm just new enough to things like this to still get giddy seeing my name published.

That being said, I want to discuss the writing of strong female characters. I think this is really tricky to do in today's society, because no matter how you do it you're going to tick someone off. With some readers, and writers, it seems like there's a continuum between "Strong" and "Feminine" and the more your character leans to one side the less she can be on the other. So how can a write create a female character who is strong and capable, but who is also not a male character named Jamie instead of James?

I'm not sure of the answer. It's not easy to figure this one out, and again, this battle cannot be won. If the female character is, for lack of a better word, girly, there will be readers who don't buy her strength and bad-mouth the story for having a "weak" character. Conversely, a super-strong female may seem too manly to be a woman. Maybe you want this. Maybe you don't.

In my mind, there isn't a continuum. I think a character can be strong AND feminine. Hermione, from the Harry Potter books, is a good, well-known example. It's clear she's female; the way she speaks, acts, interacts with other characters, makes this clear. It's also clear that she's strong. She affects the plot, and without her, the story would not end happily. Eowyn, from LOTR, is also a good example of this. She is female, feminine, and she stabs the King of the Nazgul when no one else can. She's no pushover, but reading her character, I can't fit a man into her role. Her character is female. I can keep going, but I won't.

Here I am, speculating on what "strong" means in this context. I guess I figure that a strong character, of any gender, is one that acts, that is able to move the plot along. Someone that has a will that isn't shaped by another's character but is that character's own, and changes the way the story moves. I like characters that get stuff done. I guess that's why I have issues with Bella Swan as the heroine of the Twilight books. I feel like I'm scraping for ways she influences the plot, even though she is very stubborn and self-sacrificing.

Ultimately, I guess it always comes down to your character. Maybe she is weak and girly, maybe she is strong and kind of manly. But if you sit down to write a "strong, female character", I don't see why one aspect has to trump the other. A lady can like makeup, charm men, and rule a nation in peace and war. Queen Elizabeth the First managed it okay.


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