Take a Stand: Give Your Female Character Something to Believe In

December 1, 2009 at 4:58 pm | Posted in Writing Craft | Leave a comment
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Don’t let your female characters be defined by weakness. Strong characters make history and enduring stories. Fifty-four years ago today, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus for a white man. (You go, girl! Sit down for what you believe in!) Her action set in motion the Montgomery Bus Boycott, making Rosa an icon of resistance, and catapulting the Civil Rights Movement into the national spotlight. How’s that for driving the plot with deliberate character actions?

Sometimes it’s too easy let a character get whisked away by her circumstances. But, by letting her become a passive victim, follower, pawn, or the dreaded token arm-candy, you lose the opportunity to drive the story proactively from a uniquely feminine perspective and you risk creating a character that is unlikeable to readers because of her weakness.

Do you want your female protagonist wielding a machete against Jason Voorhees (scary Friday the 13th hockey-mask guy) or do you want her running and tripping through the woods drenched in her own fear and snot? Think strong. Write strong.

So, maybe your story doesn’t require your female character to go Rambette on Black Friday wearing a tubetop of AK bullets; you can still create a character who is smart and capable as well as flawed. Think multi-dimensional. No paper dolls allowed. You must give her something to believe in. Something to stand for. Something that comes from the core of her being. Something that will resonate with readers.

Character-Driven Plot 101:

  • Give your protagonist a goal.
  • Present her with obstacles to overcome.
  • Make her take deliberate actions to reach her goal.
  • Show the consequences of her actions.
  • Allow her to grow (arc) from her experiences.
  • Bring closure to her story by revealing the outcome (good or bad).

BTW, you get bonus points for making her a real superhero like Rosa Parks.

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Dear Readers: What challenges do you have when creating your female characters?

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