Nowadays, the strong female character is something of a joke. The biggest complaint is that she’s a Mary Sue. One of the most exciting things about a character is their weaknesses and flaws. However, if the strong female character is the main character, the writers will scrub those weaknesses away.
They want to focus on her awesomeness, not her struggle and pain. I get it both as a writer and a feminist, but it makes for a very boring character. She won’t have much if any character arc or growth, or the arc will revolve around her getting more power rather than growing as a person. It is how you get characters like Rey and Captain Marvel.
Female characters tend to be patsy written to play a man’s counterpart or fill their small role in the story. Historically, if they’re not written to be the counterpart to a man, they’re written into a handful of stereotypes. If you want to write a strong female character story, follow me.
How to write a strong female character?
Strong female characters are fantastic to write about in any genre, but correctly presenting them is tough. I’m going to be showing you how to create fantastic, strong female characters for your mangas comics and light novels. Everyone tries and fails to write a strong female character. You say strong female character, and certain women come to mind.
We associate the character type with heroines, action stars, or women who kick ass. But punching baddies and firing guns do not a strong woman make sure maybe it equates to physical strength. But when we talk about strong characters, we’re talking about the strength of will, disposition, and mind. Now, I will give you 15 tips to write a strong female character perfectly. Let’s write!
1. Avoid unnecessary cliches
The strong female character has become a cliche, and it usually presents itself in the following way. One, she’s strong because she’s physically strong. You can tell because she will punch someone in the face early on in her introduction. Two, She’s still effortlessly, conventionally beautiful. Three, she’s never scared, and she never expresses any vulnerability.
This strong female character representation doesn’t work because none of this equates to strength. Physical strength and strength of character are entirely different things. Punching people doesn’t prove the strength, and having zero moments of weakness doesn’t mean you’re strong. It means you’re one-dimensional. So, follow this formula, and you’ll have readers rolling their eyes at your complete lack of creativity.
2. Know the definition of strength
The definition of strength as it pertains to a strong character is being able to withstand great pressure or force. Another similar definition is showing determination, self-control, and good judgment.
- A strong female character can go through many problems without it destroying them. She’s committed and disciplined, and she’s not a dummy.
If you want to write a specific character trait, it’s a good idea to understand what that trait means first. If you don’t understand it, the dictionary exists. Utilize it for the love of God.
3. Strength and vulnerability coexist
People often confuse strength with stoicism. If a character is strong, we should never see them in a vulnerable position. But the strength of character stems largely from vulnerability. It is because you can’t develop strength if you’ve never been in a vulnerable position. We become strong often by getting hurt.
- The ability to allow yourself to be vulnerable is in itself a strength. It’s scary to put yourself out there, and facing that fear head-on is a powerful thing to do.
This is why it’s essential to give your strong female characters moments of vulnerability. These could be heartfelt conversations, raw honesty, open communication, or moments of trust. But most importantly, we need to see her struggle with the plot’s conflict. Whatever she’s up against, it should be tough to handle. None of this paints her as weak. If anything, it drives her strength home even more.
Readers can see the adversity, yet she is still determined to push through. Remember, determination is a key to strength. So if she is struggling but persisting, that is one tough chick.
4. Show training to develop skills and abilities
Readers will be more likely to believe in your character’s abilities if they see your character in training and learning them. Your character should not be perfect from square one. Your character should go through a period where they have to learn these skills and abilities.
- If your character needs to learn how to use a sword, you can show the slow progression of her training to use it. You show her falling a few times, stumbling, but eventually perfecting her abilities.
If your character is learning magic, she might need to do a lot of research beforehand before being able to understand it. No matter your character, skills, and abilities, they need to go through a period where they learn those abilities. That learning is going to make it more realistic and understandable. It will be more natural when your audience can see your character using their abilities and skills. Also, it will also make it more exciting when they do. Because you’ve had your characters in your readers, see your character going on this.
5. Focus on giving her one main ability
Your characters should not be able to wield swords, make errors and write good stories. Doing everything at once and being amazingly skilled at everything would be pretty unrealistic. So your character shouldn’t be unrealistic in this way either.
- Focus on giving your character one main ability that they are good at, an ability that they can perfect and grow with over the story.
You can give your character other abilities, but these will be solid abilities. They’re not going to be as prominent as your character’s primary ability. So I want you to focus on your character’s prominent ability and give the other sub-skills that she can also use over the story. But the main focus will be on the central ability.
6. Give her a hobby or interest outside of her main abilities
Life shouldn’t always revolve around who she will fight next or her next target. Characters can have an interest in hobbies, too. Giving them a hobby or interest makes your character more realistic and entertaining. When your strong female character is not strong, what is she doing? Does she love baking your recipes? Does she enjoy gardening, creating things, writing stories, or talking to others?
In this way, when things are calm, and there’s no battle, you’ll female character can take a little bit of a break, enjoy the interest, and be happy for the moment.
- Give her character growth, make her different from beginning to end. It’s entertaining to see a character grow from beginning to end because the writer and the reader are on the journey with them.
Therefore, they need to change when you create a strong female character. From beginning to end, they should be someone different. So first of all, decide who they are. In the beginning, they might be more shy or friendly or quiet, whatever personality you would like. Then throughout the story, things need to change. Maybe she learns to be more confident in herself, believes in her abilities, and stands her ground when it matters the most.
7. Make her stronger
In the current moments of the story you’re telling, a narrative gives her a difficult antagonist that she must face. The antagonists are equally important. You want to ensure that you give her a difficult opponent. However, the key here is that she must eventually defeat this opponent alone without someone helping her.
The problem with many strong female characters is that your strong female character runs into a problem when things get difficult.
- If you want to create a truly strong female character, she needs to be able to solve problems herself and defeat the antagonist with her abilities.
Instead, your female protagonist needs to be able to protect themselves. They need to be able to defeat this problematic antagonist, mainly through something only they can do. They can receive help, but the main goal of beating the antagonist should be achieved mainly through her skills and abilities.
Another good way to create strong female characters is to let her fight for herself and give her various problems out of the story that can be solved through her means. These moments will help her stand out as a strong female character.
8. Focus more on internal strength over external
It’s essential to focus more on internal strength over external humor. Characters may not always have the bulk and muscle that a strong male character might have. However, strong female characters can have a lot more mental strength and willpower, and that mental strength can be more powerful than anything else. They can have strength, shown in their abilities and skills. But at the end of the day, a lot of what makes a female character strong is what comes from within.
They will determine to fulfill their goals, their willpower to stand up when they fail, and their strength when it comes to being there for themselves.
- Focus on giving your female characters internal strength and external strength and what your female characters develop into someone amazing, entertaining, and inspiring.
9. It’s normal to be girly
Strength and femininity also coexist, provided you’re avoiding the strong female character cliche. It’s perfectly fine if you want to make your female character somehow a tomboy or a masculine present. But it’s not perfectly fine if you’re doing it because you think masculinity is a requirement for strength. To associate femininity with weakness is incorrect.
It’s acceptable and believable to write a strong female character who likes the color pink or paints her nails or wears dresses. Many women push watermelon-sized babies out of their Pikachu or bleed at a crime scene once a month. Lots of inherently feminine things require a significant amount of grit. So if you’re trying to butch this character up to make her strong, you’re wrong!
10. Don’t force the character to change hardly
One piece of advice floating around about how to write strong women is to write them the same as you write men. The sentiment is well-intentioned. It’s supposed to be about equality, but it misses the mark most tragically.
- The key to writing strong women is not to write them exactly like men. This implies that strength is inherently masculine, which again is sexist. It also eliminates the female experience.
Women and men are often treated differently in many societies, meaning they experience different struggles, pressures, and expectations. It is not to say that men and women are wildly different, but people as a whole come in a colorful variety. Writing her like a man doesn’t mean you’ve given her agency or toughened her up. It means you lack a basic understanding of psychology and sociology, and you shouldn’t be writing women at all.
11. Give her a friend that is a girl
You would be surprised about how many young adult novels add strong female characters, but they don’t give her any friends that are girls. I’ve often seen it where the main female protagonist is super cool, and all the girls seem to prefer it for no reason. When you create a strong female character, I also want you to ensure that not all the girls hate this character. It makes more sense that your female character would have other friends supporting her in her journey. Avoid this and show that you give them at least one girlfriend.
- Let them have a conversation not about boys or romance, which is another cliche.
- Your strong female character does not need to be hated by all the other girls in your story to be a powerful character.
Avoiding these cliches, see your character away from potentially becoming a Mary Sue. Focus more on creating a powerful and unique female character instead.
12. Give reality and evidence
One of the biggest mistakes writers make when writing a strong female character is that they will state she is strong without providing evidence to support this claim. We are told she’s strong because she is an assassin, a mercenary, or a warrior princess. But the minute something goes wrong, she needs to save. Can you write a strong female character who needs saving now and then? No one is infallible.
But you need to show a whole lot more than you tell. In this case, you need to show her strength. More often than not, that means that she’s a warrior princess. We need to see her push through and weather the storm if she can withstand hardship. Unfortunately, this is a very common mistake when writing female characters.
13. Keep it real
Perfection and strength are not synonymous. A strong female character should be able to withstand hardship. But you can withstand hardship and make a few mistakes along the way. Mistakes are vital to a strong female character because they’re realistic. No one will believe that she has all the answers all the time. They’re relatable because real people mess up a lot.
- When creating your strong female protagonist, you have to keep in mind that she doesn’t have to be super curvy or wear revealing armor.
- A strong female character can have any body type, face shape, hairstyle, and appearance.
A strong character can stand up after failing too many times. They are a character who can keep moving forward, even when everything seems impossible. Therefore, it would be realistic for them to have a flaw or weakness because your character isn’t perfect, and by giving them a weakness. It gives them something that they can improve on throughout the story.
It’s not entertaining to read about a heroine who never struggles. We need to see her take two steps forward and one step back. Also, it contributes to her strength and character. A strong person will move forward anyway, and that’s what you want for this character.
14. Avoid abusive elements
Another common strong female character cliche is that females became strong due to sexual assault. This is problematic for a million reasons, namely because sexual trauma is treated as the reason behind a positive character trait. Quite often, the character herself will say, What happened to me made me stronger.
Sexual assault is a terrible thing that no one should have to deal with, and it shouldn’t be glorified as some necessary step to strengthening a woman. Also, It paints a truly horrible experience as having a silver lining.
That’s not to say you can’t write a female character who’s also a victim of sexual assault. But let me remind you that this has been overdone and grossly misrepresented in fiction, and it’s super uncomfortable to read. So proceed with caution.
15. Write more of them
There should be several strong female characters in your book, and at least a few should be allies. Otherwise, it’s not very realistic because strong women tend to congregate with other strong women in many fictions written by men. They put so much effort into writing a single, strong woman that they forget that she’s the only woman in the book.
It’s not like women make up over half of the world’s population. I’m not asking you to create an army of strong female characters. There are plenty of us out there, and we usually like one another. So if you only got one in your book, it’s not realistic. You’re smarter than that.
Strong female character traits
We’ve always had token warrior women throughout stories and mythology, but for the most part, women-only existed in stories to be rescued and married. That is, until the 20th century. Moviemakers noticed audiences getting tired of the damsel in distress trope. So they created the polar opposite, a strong female character who could defend herself and did not need rescuing. As the years and decades passed, several subtypes were created.
- For one, we got the femme fatale, the original strong female character who uses sexiness and seduction as her main weapons.
- Then we have the hot heroine, our standard, strong female character. She’s the femme fatale who also knows martial arts.
- There’s the brainiac, and she’s usually not good physically. Her powers are her brain, and she’s usually very career-oriented.
With the hero, we have the token girl that is the only woman on a team full of men. So writers can point to the movie poster or the book cover and say, Look, we wrote a whole woman. We’re not sexist. Then we have the queen bee. The ruthless leader usually doubles as the token girl because all her underlings are men. This is very common in historical fiction because it’s historically accurate. But you see it a bunch in science fiction and fantasy too.
There are several more subtypes of the strong female character, but those are the major ones. The strong female character was created from a good place, and it went pretty well at first. It’s how we got characters like Ellen Ripley, Princess Leia, Hermione Granger, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These are full, well-rounded characters with flaws, weaknesses, and struggles, so they are iconic. We see them struggle and then triumph.
3 Mistakes When Writing a Strong Female Protagonist
Are you writing a strong female protagonist? Then making sure she is real and empowering is a must. This way, we can all write better female protagonists that readers can look up to. But to do that, you must avoid the top three mistakes writers make when writing a strong female protagonist. So be sure to stick around to learn more. Let’s get started.
The first mistake is physically making strong female protagonists because you’re interpreting the words strongly. If you’re writing about a girl who trains a lot, goes to the gym, and possibly those martial arts. It makes sense for someone who trains or has a supernatural ability to be physically strong. But those are the exception, not the rule. Besides, when referring to a female protagonist as strong, we’re not referring to her physical strength. She can be physically strong but still be a weak female protagonist because of how poorly written she is.
For example, I’m not physically strong, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not strong in other ways. If we only label a female protagonist as strong because of her physical strength, then we’re saying that she’s not capable of achieving much if it’s not for her physical strength. You’re telling women that they can’t accomplish anything unless they get tough.
The second mistake is giving female protagonists supernatural power and nothing else and calling them strong. It is awful to make them physically strong, give them power, and call them strong. Again, you’re saying they’re not capable of much unless they have supernatural abilities. But look around. None of us have any supernatural abilities, at least none that are made public.
Yet look how often women have paved the way in history, and they did it all using their minds, creativity, and determination. They didn’t need any supernatural abilities. I love characters with supernatural powers, but don’t give them an ability and assume they’re strong now.
The third mistake is saying that they’re not like other girls. We’ve read at least one book where a character referred to the main female protagonist as not like other girls. But how is that a good thing? If the strong female protagonist is strong because she’s not like other girls, then we’re outright saying that other girls are not strong. We’re saying that the strong female protagonist is the exception, which is as offensive to women as anything else.
Besides, what makes her different from other girls? Is that how intellectual she is? Is it that she reads? Is it that she doesn’t talk to a lot of boys? The list of questions goes on and on. But at the end of the day, why are we shaming women who talk to many boys or maybe are picky eaters? Or why are we calling some women stupid? Because they don’t enjoy learning science but are highly creative. That’s not the message you want to put out there. So try to avoid doing this. Don’t make your female protagonist strong at the expense of calling other women weak.
So those are the top three mistakes to avoid. But now, what makes a strong female protagonist strong? Above anything else, their will and determination to go on making them strong. You want her to make a move. Despite being afraid, you also want her to stand against corruption when she witnesses it. You want her to be a loyal friend and family member. That’s not to say that a strong female protagonist is without flaws.
She could have many flaws, make mistakes, and even hurt the people she loves. But what makes her strong is that she learns from her mistakes and tries to fix her flaws throughout the book. That makes a strong female protagonist feel real and inspires other women to be strong.
Get more ideas from these books: 10 Romance Books With Strong Female Lead
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