I want to piggyback off Kate Lattey's post earlier this week, "Writing Strong Female Characters." If you haven't read this post, and you're interested in the technical side of writing, definitely check it out. Go ahead. I'll wait.
You're back? Great. So, here's the thing: I have a history of writing particularly difficult female characters. Not really on purpose... they just are that way.
|Alex takes a lot of flack for not being strong enough|
in The Head and Not The Heart.
But give her time. It's a series.
Or look at the character Kris in Lattey's blog's post: "Kris is a pillar of strength, although she never sees herself that way, and (for me at least), is one of the most inspiring characters I've ever written."
Two young women who stood up and did what they had to do with a minimum of complaint. Admirable. I wish I was that sort of person, but I complain when I have to wash the dishes.
I have two main female characters in my two equestrian series: Alex, and Jules. Alex is trying to define herself in a world that does not respect her, which would be fine, if only she respected herself a little more. Jules is trying to show the world that she's the best rider in the world, which would be fine, if only she realized that she wasn't, not yet, anyway.
These flawed personalities manifest themselves in all sorts of moments that don't fit into the traditional Strong Female Character mold. It makes some people crazy, and I really don't blame them. But for others, it makes Alex and Jules incredibly realistic... sometimes maddeningly so.
As a writer, I really just set out to create characters and situations that I find realistic. Things that could happen to any of us as equestrians -- that's my number one inspiration. I never sat down and said to myself, "Alex is this sort of character and has these sorts of flaws and these sorts of attributes." It's just what happened. And so I've learned from reader reviews what sort of characters I have created.
|Jules' focus on her career and distrust of|
others really rubs some people the wrong way.
I look at her as a challenge. Jules, how are we
going to fix you? I'm working on that
problem now, as I write her next book.
"It is beautifully written with strong and flawed characters... I also love how complicated Alex is. You just want to shake her half the time and admire her orneriness the other times." - Amazon review, Turning For Home.
"I became so engrossed in the characters, both human and equine, that they felt very real to me, and I cared about them. Even Jules, the main character, whose behavior at the beginning of the story is less-than-stellar (and who we occasionally want to strangle) is a compelling character, because we want to see her grow, change, and learn to accept advice, criticism, love, and friendship." - Linda Benson on Ambition.
"Our main character Jules plants the seeds of her own destruction, as do so many." - Karen McGoldrick on Ambition.
"I found the main character very unlikable, selfish and irritating." - Amazon review, Ambition.
Well, to be fair, nobody likes everybody.
Are Jules and Alex still Strong Female Characters, despite their all-too-average-human tendencies to make bad choices and completely fail at interpersonal relationships? I think so. They still have to overcome monumental challenges in their lives. They still have to step up and take control when there's no one else to do the job. I suppose they're still Reluctant Heroines… just more reluctant than most. They're growing into their roles -- and that's what the books are all about.