Sunday, September 11, 2011

Strong Women

Though I haven't been vocal, I've been busy.  Children Of A Clouded Skye is in editing, I've been prepping the dead tree version of A Clouded Skye, and writing my neolithic fantasy story.  That aside, I thought I'd talk about strong characters.

I wrote my first novel, or maybe it was a novella, when I was in high school.  It was the story of an island girl kidnapped by a passing ship of what was an analog of the British empire.  The character was certainly lovable and had strong moral fiber (or whatever) but pretty much reacted to everything that happened to her, a passive figure.  For this and many other problems with the story, it will not likely see the light of day.

Fast forward fifteen or so years and I have a new protagonist in Skye.  Though raised in the street as an orphan, she is anything but a passive woe-is-me victim.  Being alone and independent just came naturally because to survive, she had to be.  In the sequel, Children of a Clouded Skye, several of the children of those introduced in the first story are strong willed capable girls as well.  Maelekin's daughter Channa, King Cardeness's daughter Usoya, and King Mathanias's daughter Bella.  Skye's son Vitalie is strong too but he doesn't count in this argument because he's a boy. 

There's been enough stories where the woman was nothing but the prize to be won or the victim to be saved, even when supposedly she is a competent spunky go-getter.  I feel this portrayal does womankind a great disservice. One of my considerations of whether a story is good or not is how that half of our population is portrayed.

One of the reasons I struggle with Superman and Spiderman is that both of these superheroes are stuck with perpetually helpless girlfriends in Lois Lane and Mary Jane.  Sometimes you wonder how the girls survived childhood without their heroes.  I'm not against bad things happening to the girls in my stories but I want to see them get out of the danger and solve the problems on their own.  They shouldn't have to rely on some man to do it for them.  Do it once and I'll tolerate it.  Do it over and over and then I start hoping the girls die to put them out of their own misery (Disclaimer:  I do not favor or condone the killing of helpless women in real life.  Really, I don't.).

One common danger of writing any story is that you make the villain more interesting than the hero.  If the hero always reacts to the villain, the villain will be the more interesting character.  The hero can react to the villain in the first act but by the second or third act, they had better be scheming and acting on their own to defeat the villain or they'll be dull flat reactive characters.  Good stories have strong protagonists.  As a guy writing about girl protagonists, it can be easy to fall into poor stereotypes.  I must be extra careful to avoid that pitfall in my writing.  Fortunately, I grew up with a large gaggle of strong intelligent sisters and a loving mother that gave me great examples of women and womanhood.

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