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.

INFORMATION REGARDING NOGGARDS: A “Dark Soldier” Promo

APPEARANCE
Noggards are most similar to serpents, except for their proportionately short, stubby legs. However, they are not the typical size of a serpent, not even for Vaelan standards. Their adult form can sometimes grow to a length of about 12 meters. If these same adults lift their head, it will be over 3 meters tall. Noggard queens are said to be even longer, occasionally growing up to almost 20 meters.

They have something of a covering like scales. However, the tips are sharp at the end. They can sometimes become long enough to make tracks from their belly as they walk. 

Continue reading “INFORMATION REGARDING NOGGARDS: A “Dark Soldier” Promo”

Dark Soldier’s Fantastic Fictional Religions!

After I found some awesome info on building fictional religions, I thought I would share some of the ones I have planned for the Dark Veil books!

Followers of the True King

The followers of the True King believe that many years ago, a powerful sentient being arrived from the sky along with four other beings: Mother Autumn, Father Frost, Mother Earth and Father Summer. This sentient being, known as the True King, created the planet and placed the four other beings as rulers over the planet. However, many years later, a being by the name of Laecon, Father Frost’s protoge, made war with the True King and took control over the entire planet in a 400-year-war, including the four other beings.

Nobody has heard from the True King since, but the True King’s followers believe that the King will return to make war and defeat King Laecon once and for all.

Followers of the Universe 

These people believe that the sky, the sun, the moon and the stars are the body of a giant one-eyed goddess. During the night, the goddess is open to prayer and suggestion. During the day, the goddess begins her work from suggestions the night before or her own will. This goddess is fickle, and it is often hard to tell if she will actually listen to the people’s suggestion. The more open her eye is (the moon being her eye), the more interested she is in listening.

When a person dies, if they are good enough, they will become one of the stars in the sky, a part of this goddess.

They are firm believers in allowing change. Like the tides, they flow with the situations of life, as they do not believe that people can change their situation.

Followers of the Dark Veil

This, depending on who you ask, is either an offshoot or the precursor to the True King religion. The Dark Veil believers believe that there is a being even older than the True King known as the Dark Veil. Their ways are mysterious, their gender and appearance unknown. The Dark Veil, according to this religion, created the True King. The True King wanted to make their own creation apart from the Dark Veil’s universe. Therefore the Dark Veil allowed the True King and four other gods to do their work. But the True King would also reap the suffering of a corrupt world.

Many believe that the Dark Veil has a direct contact with King Laecon, who fought against the True King in a 400-year-war. Laecon has no problem with toting this belief everywhere he goes.

Followers of the Great Void

These people believe that there are gods, but that they are uninterested in their creation after they create them. They believe that all bad things that happen are a result of their feuding amongst themselves. As such, their only consolation in the world is to either accept the bad things of life or to die – to go into the void of nonexistence and never return.

They avoid having children and will often recruit orphans. Angsty teenagers often try to join but the priests insist that they consider their decision a while before doing so.

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.

Getting Out Of A Writing Rut

I was actually in a writing rut for a while. Bad time to be in one, since I’m on the last draft of a book I’ve been working on for some time. But something brought me out of that rut. Well a few things, really.

The first was the desire just to get it finished: to hold in my hands a hardcover book with a nice ribbon bookmark and a gorgeous cover and realized that all that work meant something.

The second was the thought that maybe someday I would be signing books and that someone would come up to me, place my own book in front of me and tell me how much they loved it, that it was their favorite. I would love to see someone fanboy / fangirl over my book just as much as I do.

The third is really just an extension of the second. I made the things that I’ve struggled with in life a key facet of my writing: depression, rejection, bitterness and loneliness. But though the characters I wrote struggle with many of these same things, I also made a light at the end of the tunnel, a happy ending, if you will. I would love to see someone come up to me to tell me how encouraging that book was for their own personal trials and struggle. I would love to hear that the book gave them the courage to press on even when they didn’t want to.

And finally, I would love to see some people come to faith in Christ through it. Although this is a fictional book in a fictional world, faith and trust make themselves key aspects of the novel. Faith is the very frame, the cornerstone for the entire book. I am not ashamed of this in the least. Now, I suppose you can read the book and see it as just a very nice story about sacrifice and faith and trust. But I would also add that it’s probably not going to be as intricate and interesting a story if you are not seeing it through this light. So hearing someone tell me that it changed their life would be fantastic.

Perhaps I have my expectations too high, seeing as it’s my very first book published. Only about a third of writers get their first books published, maybe less. But I’m obnoxiously hopeful! So I guess we’ll just have to see how big this project of mine gets.

Neil Gaiman Appreciation Post

After sending a couple asks on Tumblr, I realized that Neil Gaiman is probably a very busy author person, so I decided to make a post about it so that more people could see my adoration for this author and just how obnoxiously long I can make my sentences.

I was introduced to Neil Gaiman by way of the Sandman comics. I absolutely loved them, but didn’t get a chance to read them often because Barnes N’ Noble is far away and gas money is, well, money. But I loved them. So when my brother told me that he had written word novels as well as graphic novels, I just about pissed myself with excitement.

So, after that, I got started on The Graveyard Book. I fell in love again. He was the first author I had read a book by that actually wrote like someone would speak. I thought that was very comforting, and that the plot was just brilliant.

So I began recommending the Graveyard Book to anyone who would listen. And then since I liked that one, my brother gave me more.

He gave me American Gods. I liked this one too, but not as much as The Graveyard Book. 

He gave me Ocean at the End of the Lane. I continue to rave about this one whenever someone needs a new book to read.

He gave me Good Omens, which I am still reading and may love the concept unto death, after which point I will love it all the more.

I would later learn that both Coraline and Stardust are his. I am not at all surprised by this currently. I wasn’t then either, but the point is that I’m still not surprised.

I’m terrible at conclusions, but the point is this – Neil Gaiman is pretty cool, and you should all read his books. He’s one of the most down-to-earth writers that I know. My favorite example of this is the raven scene inAmerican Gods that made the entire book that much better.


The bird turned, head tipped, suspiciously, on one side, and it stared at him with bright eyes.

“Say ‘Nevermore,’” said Shadow.

“F— you,” said the raven. [dashes added by me]


I like this one because a) it’s brilliant and unexpected and b) it’s exactly how I would respond if I were a raven… without the dashes, that is. It just takes too long to say “Eff dash dash dash you”.

Also, he’s a dark writer, but not utterly hopeless. Hopelessness is boring and well, hopeless. I like hope. I think perhaps the best term is not “dark” or even “bleak”, but “realistic”. He is very realistic.

Still, he makes the reader think. Simple, mindless gory plots are for boring people. (Well, maybe not boring, but they’re for people I don’t wouldn’t normally hang out with.) Ocean at the End of Lane is the best example. It is confusing, and I like it that way. Sandman is a bit similar to that, I guess.

Anyone who makes a reader both immersed and confused by the plot at the same time is a good writer in my mind. And he inspired my writing to be better than it ever could be before.

(I think that is how I will end this giant piece, mainly because it is midnight as I write this and I have finals to study for.)

Gabriel Penn, out.

Don’t Be Anyone But Yourself.

Perhaps as someone who hasn’t published much except a few things online, I don’t have much of a say in this. However, it seems to me that the writers who excelled are the ones who didn’t try to be anyone but themselves. They may have been inspired by other authors, even borrowing some things from their style. In the end, their stories were still their own.

I tried so long to be like J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Dickens and C.S. Lewis. It was all a failure, really, because I wasn’t reaching my true potential. My potential is not reached in trying to be someone else. I am not someone else. I am me. I write very distinctly and definitely with intensive detail. While I may be inspired by other authors, I cannot allow their styles to overshadow my own.

Maybe I’m going too far with this, but I don’t think I could be more insulted than being told I am the next version of an old author. I do not want to be the next C.S. Lewis, although I love C.S. Lewis. I don’t mind it being said that I write like a certain person. I have someone who I write somewhat like. I am fully aware that we have similar styles, and we’re actually good friends.

(This would be the fantastic Caitlin E. Jones that I am referring to, by the way. She is currently writing Chimehour, an excellent Gaslamp Fantasy.)

Still, our stories and content are very different, and I think both would be happy to say that we’re different.

Don’t try to be the next J.R.R. Tolkien or Emily Dickenson or Ernest Hemingway or Robert Frost. They’re all dead. Just try to be you, and you’re already on your way to greatness.

They’re all dead. Just try to be you, and you’re already on your way to greatness.

Just try to be you, and you’re already on your way to greatness.

Thoughts for Today

Write the book you want to read.

If there’s something you don’t like in books, make a point not to put it in yours.

If there’s something you think modern books need more, put more of it in yours.

It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit a specific genre completely. It doesn’t matter if absolutely nobody else likes it. Just write the thing. Write it for you, because you’ll regret it forever if you don’t.

Write what you want to write and screw what anyone else says.

Bearded Writers Association!

I have a new Facebook page known as the “Bearded Writers Association”. Here’s the rules:

  • Have a decent amount of facial hair
  • Write or have written stuff

That’s it. It doesn’t have to be a book. It doesn’t even have to be in English. 

Step up, my bearded fellows! You too can be part of this epic community, standing as a proud bearded writer just as Ernest Hemingway, Walt Whitman, Herman Melville and Charles Dickens did many years ago.