Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Guest Post: Give Me a Strong Female Character Any Time by @AndreaStanet #WritersLife

Give Me a Strong Female Character Any Time
By: Andrea Stanet 

My daughter performed in a play this weekend, and while the performances were all very impressive, the one shortcoming that struck me was that the main character was incredibly weak. I won't name the story, but the protagonist's main motivation is to change who she is in hopes that the hot guy will fall for the ‘new’ her. A familiar trope. I found myself wondering how the story might have been so much more interesting with changes. Some elements that make a strong female character, beyond the Bechdel Test, are balanced strengths and flaws, solid motivations, and agency.
Balanced strengths and flaws
Or any flaws at all. I find perfect characters to be kind of boring. Besides that, who can relate to them? If a character has no flaws, what kind of inner struggles can they possibly have? Consider how much less interesting Katniss Everdeen would have been if she were “perfect.” I want relatable characters, even if they aren't necessarily likable. Likability isn’t a requisite for a strong character. Katniss has a serious chip on her shoulder, and she gets worse as the Hunger Games series progresses because then she’s got PTSD, trust issues, you name it, working against her. Those flaws make her acts of selflessness more pronounced and profound.
Solid motivations
A strong female character has motivations that go deeper than ‘be pretty, be popular, get guy.’ Those basically boil down to the female character being defined by looks, others’ opinions, and their male counterpart. On the surface, my character, Merc, in Umbra’s Shadow, is motivated by money to accept a job from a group she wants nothing to do with. But she really wants to escape the impoverished circumstances in which she grew up. She also has a strong drive to rescue those in need, which can be as much of a flaw as it is a strength in her character. While she wants to impress the hot guy, it’s because her professional reputation is at stake. By the way, there’s nothing wrong with wanting the hot guy, as long as there are other things the character is after for herself.
Agency
In the context of story, agency means that the character has the ability to make consequential choices that drive the story forward as opposed to the plot’s events driving the character’s choices. A perfect example of a female character with agency is Disney’s Mulan. To save her father (motivation), she takes it upon herself to act as his son and take his place, she gets the soldiers to work together as a unit, and she ultimately concocts the plan to save China.
These are only a few of the elements that go into writing a strong, well-developed female character. I try to incorporate them when I write my own female protagonists. Perhaps one day my daughter will be in a production based on one of my stories, or at least she may be inspired to be her strongest self by reading about one of my heroines. 

~Andrea

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A dream stalker, shadow man, vengeful steampunk siren, ghost, and now fey court intrigue—while Andrea Stanet doesn’t shy away from any genre, her passion is writing fantasy and horror fiction for various age groups. Her short stories have appeared in several anthologies and an online literary magazine. Her most recent releases are “The Tradition,” a middle grade horror about were-crows, and “Song of Vengeance,” about a young performer whose father traps her dying spirit in a mechanical bird.

When not fixating on dragons and zombies, Andrea’s hobbies include running (clearly displaying masochistic tendencies), cycling (hills are only fun when going down), reading (anything and everything), and gaming (Cthulhu themed board games are favorites). Andrea lives in New York with her husband, two kids, a cat that thinks she’s a dog, and another cat that thinks he’s a mountain lion.