The Truth Behind “Strong Female Characters”

Today I got to have a chat with a fellow writer who’s just starting out. She and I had a very fun chat that started with a discussion on superhero films. It quickly changed to a discussion on the “strong female character” trope in television and literature. It was easily one of the most informative and revealing discussions I’ve ever had with someone on the topic. If she stays with this way of thinking, I think she could go pretty far in the writing industry.

This is the slightly edited version of her side of the conversation.

*Warning: Occasional Language*

I think that women in superhero movies are often really dumbed down to either two stereotypes:

1.) Helpless or

2.) “I DONT NEED A MAN I AM WOMAN IM SO POWERFUL AND SEXY YEAH I HAVE NO FEELINGS I AM A BRICK WALL- oh wait I’m gonna soften up.”

Strong women don’t always need to be one of the extremes. Here are some examples of “strong” characters that I honestly hate: Michonne from the Walking Dead, Black Widow, Catwoman. [They’re] the kind of sexy but very stone-faced characters. [Michonne] is one of the stereotypical strong women that doesn’t like to feel emotions outwardly, and I’ve just seen that so much. I love Lori and Carol because they’re so dynamic and not just sexy, strong, and stoned-face. That’s just my opinion.

I just get annoyed when I see females like that, because I think that people try to overcompensate for women. They try to make them as strong as possible, but then it makes them the typical “oh look how strong I am, I don’t need a man, I can shut out the world”.

I like characters who are both strong and loving, especially mothers. Honestly, my favorite characters are usually mothers like Molly Weasley. She’s so caring, kind of cute and sweet, but is extremely strong.

Honestly if there’s one thing I’ll say [about her], J.K. Rowling did an amazing job with female characters.

  • Hermione – strong, smart, physically not beautiful, but so loving,
  • Tonks – kinda scrappy and awkward but a fighter,
  • McGonagle – badass but caring.

It didn’t have to be the modern superhero sob-story, sexy angst-fest.

I feel like it almost adds to the sexual appeal when the “strong women” are really stone-faced and emotionless because then it becomes the man hero’s job to try and make her feel again, which is usually what happens. Michonne and Rick, Gamorah and Starlord, Black Widow and Bruce. And it’s funny, because these “strong” women are usually actually very sexualized. When I see a “strong woman character”, I often cringe. If they’re trying to make her strong, chances are they’re trying too hard. I love mother characters. Extreme love, extreme strength.

A lot of other “strong women” honestly are just bitchy.

I do like Rey, too. She’s a strong female that wasn’t over sexualized and didn’t come off as unfeeling. At first I thought she was, but it wasn’t overly so.

Lori was amazing because although I didn’t like her as a person, she was really complex, and often got faced with a lot of moral choices. I would sometimes say “Oh, she shouldn’t have done that!”, but then [I thought], “Honestly, I may have done that.”

Any female character that is badass and knows it and then continues with it, [she] just seems a little laughable to me. Please chill out and stop defining yourself only by your strength.

I “like” Michonne but, honestly, people are like, “wow, she’s so strong and badass”. I’m sorry, but in a woman, badassery is fine, but if that’s your defining quality it gets old. Michonne is the same but she really just becomes predictable. And [she’s] always so bitchy. I’m just so sick of strong female characters. Just make them characters; complex, not as badass as possible.

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A Very Sad Update.

So I think it’s well known that I hate killing off characters, but if I think it is needed in the plot, then I do so. For the final draft, I will get around to killing off a certain main character that I refused to kill off in the previous drafts. It just seemed ridiculous to me that they stayed alive, really. I only kept them alive because of how scared I was to kill them. It changes the plot of the second book slightly, but it’s important that it happens. Otherwise, it’s not realistic and the whole point of the story is not as compelling.

I REALLY hate myself for doing this. The fans will probably hate me just as much, but I can live with that.

To end this off nicely, for the final draft, I will finally do what I proudly proclaimed I would do initially. Now, half of the book is from the protagonist’s perspective and the other half is from the antagonist’s perspective.

Basically, what I’m telling you is that there is now no antagonist or protagonist. There are just warring sides. And really, that’s what I should have done all along.

Gabriel, out.

Reaching The End

I finally rewrote the end of the novel for the second draft. In the end, it’s far closer to what I wanted than what I had originally. It actually feels like the end of a book this time. Is it emotional? Oh yes. Does it leave room for a second book? Definitely. Am I asking too many questions? Most certainly. Should I stop asking them? Ok, ok, fine.

Anyway, I’m much happier with the end product than I was before. I still have tons of stuff to edit. About 50-100 pages, to be precise. It’s actually far less than I’m making it out to be, but it’s a decent sum. 

In case y’all want a real emotional trip, here’s link to the song I listened to while writing the end. 

It’s a trip to Sad-Mart, where your greeters are Melancholy and Dismay.

It’s pretty sad.

In good news, I have recently arrived at school for my senior year at good old Liberty University! I have an excellent year in front of me, mainly because I never have to wake up before 9:30 for any reason whatsoever. I mean, I still do because they give me bacon if I come to breakfast, but I don’t have to. Technically.

This is the life of a Fine Arts student. 

In the meantime, I plan to raise awareness of the awesome Dark Veil Saga by creating the life size version of “Leviathan Killer” in some media besides metal. I don’t want to kill anyone by fake-stabbing them, which is the ultimate purpose of this endeavor.

I also now have an Instagram (sirgabrielpenn) so you should all follow me for cool book/writing/reading stuff! I’m super sorry about those awards and challenges I’ve missed recently, so now that I have so much time I’m going to try to get to some of them. “Try” is the key word. There’s a lot of them.

Expect a revamping of short stories and Faith Friday soon!!

An Apology and An Explanation

So I haven’t written anything in a long while. Social Media has been bereft of my presence far too long, and I want to fix that. The reason is simply that I have been taking up most of my time with writing. Writing, writing, writing! I’m trying to finish the second draft of Dark Soldier before the end of July. That’s quite a feat. But I’m keeping myself back by one problem.

Publishing anxiety.

Now it’s not to say I don’t love the characters. I find them fun and organic, witty and human. I don’t mind showing the book to an editor. I don’t even mind sending out bits of scenes to the general public. But the whole book? That feels… odd… to say the least. The fact is that once something’s out there, it is out there to stay. So I have been perfecting it to the best of my ability. I know that I’ll have someone editing before it’s published. And yet, I worry about it a great deal. I’m taking a risk, and as with all risks, there are second thoughts. These are mine.

Perhaps I shouldn’t put my worries out there on the internet, yet here we are.

In a concluding thought, I am considering changing the name of the book. It is currently “Dark Soldier”. My other name plan is “Monsters Within”. Thoughts?