I spent some time trawling Google this week looking at what agents and publishers are looking for in romance, and came across the phrase ‘strong women’ a lot.
To me (and to a lot of the posts I found on Google) the words strong women bring to mind images of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lara Croft, and while I think both of these characters are strong based on ass-kicking performance I want to look past the violence and physical strength to see what truly makes them strong characters.
When I look at the real world I see strong women everywhere, and they are unique. There’s the army wife who single handed, raises a family of boys and keeps a long distance relationship alive. There’s the single women whose friends are all in committed relationships while she takes life by the horns on her own. There’s the woman who despite mental illness manages a large family and all that entails and never drops the ball. These are only a couple of examples of strong real women, but if you asked any of them to kick ass it better be to protect their kids, or their family, or friends. They aren’t going to fight crime, and they are not a one woman army and each of them has many flaws.
Their flaws and the fact they overcome them each and every day is what makes them strong, and I for one want to see these types of strong characters. Their strength isn’t normally based on what external issues they overcome, but by what internal flaws they overcome for a minute, a week or for years on end.
Of course, I’m not opposed to strong ass-kicking heroines either. Buffy is one of my all time favorite Heroines, so is River (Serenity) and I have a soft spot for Rose from Vampire Academy. If you know these characters you’ll know too, that they have weak moments where their worlds implode, and they have obstacles within themselves they must overcome in order to get to the ass-kicking. They also have family and friends to push them through those periods where they can’t do it all on their own.
So when you think of strong women I want you to think past the ass-kicking awesomeness of a girl with a weapon and see what makes characters and real women strong. It’s their imperfections, and determination to overcome them. It’s dogged determination to never give up. It’s surrounding themselves with the right support network, and sometimes it’s kicking a little ass, while wearing heels and quietly exuding confidence that says ‘this is who I am. Just try to break me.’
Maybe this post isn’t so much about writing, as it is about the real world. Then again, shouldn’t authors look to the real world to make our characters believable? Aren’t the characters we love the most the ones we connect with, identify with, and aspire to be like? What’s your take on strong women in fiction?