June 17th, 2014

Macbeth the Usurper

On Strong Women

I happen to dislike the phrase "strong women characters" even while supporting the concept's aim. What one tends to get is lead female characters that are just as shallow as most male leads, which is pretty shallow.

I am proud that my first three books contained a small legion of strong female characters. Maran, Altyn, Strikke, The Missus, Bertra, and even Annalise each had their own story, ambitions, and strengths. Even the ostiary for the nunnery had a personality. She saved me from a conundrum where I couldn't figure out how to get Maran in the door, but she just bucked authority and said, "I think you're a good cookie. Come in."

That much said, I'm struggling with equally strong characters in Double Jack. The 20's had very strong cultural narratives, and freeing myself from them has been brutally difficult. Even on of the greatest novels of the early century, All The King's Men, has a flat ingenue.

Here are some truly strong female characters that work wonderful as characters (in my humble opinion):

  • Lucy Ricardo (from I Love Lucy)

  • Auntie Mame

  • Miss Brooks (from Our Miss Brooks)

  • Holly (Land of the Lost)

  • Birdie Lee Coggins (The Great Gildersleeve)

  • Adele (Guys and Dolls)

  • Mrs. Kotter (Welcome Back Kotter)

You will notice that I totally skip most female F&SF characters. When looking to develop characters, looking back to the same small pool of female characters is kinda dumb. There's a bigger pool out there to steal from.

You will also notice that all these character are very imperfect. These were also character not written to be "strong women," they were written as effective characters.