The Strong Female Character

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Hmmm. Let’s examine that title.

I prefer Strong Character. Period. Gender be damned.

Except, you are looking for a blog about Strong Female Characters. My abbreviation: SCWJHTBF (Strong Characters Who Just Happen To Be Female). So, what is the difference (besides the obvious ones) between a strong male character and a strong female character.

Notice the blank space ….

That is because characters—male or female—who are under-developed and one dimensional are never interesting. No character is flawless, morally perfect, able toleap tall buildings at a single bound, always funnier than their counterparts, always the lead, always succeed without sacrifice, etc. Like the antagonist in a book who has no redeeming qualities (i.e. one dimensional) are unbelievable, the same is true for the protagonist in a novel who is pure and unblemished. Oh, and immediately proficient at everything without making some mistakes along the way.

However, overlooking gender in stating the obvious about character development leads me to my next point.

SCWJHTBF do require (imho) the following:

  1. They do not need to be rescued by anyone. They are capable of getting in and out of trouble by themselves.
  2. From a 1929 essay A Room of One’s OwnVirginia Woolf observed about the literature of her time what the Bechdel test would later highlight in fiction: 

All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. … And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. … They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen‘s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that …

What’s the Bechdel test, also known as the Bechdel–Wallace test?It is a measure of the representation of women in fiction. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added (Source: Wikipedia).

So, which authors do it right?

“Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” ―Nora Ephron

You can Google “Strong Female Characters In Fiction” for lists. Three HTP authors have books withSCWJHTBF:

Ann Eichenmuller – Sandi Beck is a liveaboard sailor and amateur sleuth (The Lies Series).

H. Scott Butler – Cynthia Westbrook is a savvy detective and a well-respected member of the sheriff’s department in Virginia (Cynthia Westbrook Mystery series)

Cindy L. Freeman – I Want to Go Homeand The Dark Room cover tough subjects with flawed, heroic women

You can Google them also. 

Until next time,


Good Thoughts , Good Words, Good Deeds