Monday, March 24, 2014

Strength in numbers

Saw this list in Writer's Write this morning, so thought I would share. Now, the distinction between female and male protagonists could be argued - these are defining traits for any strong protagonist. But if female leads are 10-11% but represent 50% of the population, we writers have some work to do. (And stop calling Jaina a bitch: but Blizz writers - give her some more of these please):

  1. She has a story goal that defines the narrative arc. She has to get possession of something, or relief from something. There have to be important consequences if she does not achieve her story goal. 
  1. She is flawed. She is not perfect, and her flaws could change the course of the story. She has to make choices, and she has to deal with the consequences of her choices. There is nothing more frustrating than reading a story where the protagonist fails to make choices. Even if this is how we behave in real life, we want our fictional heroes to be a better version of ourselves. We want them to take action. We want to them to go after what they want. Reactive characters are annoying and we perceive them as weak.
  1. She captures our attention. She has that special ‘something’ that captivates us as readers. A strong character has a personality trait that mesmerises readers. Readers want to believe they could be that character if they were put in that situation. They may even want to be that character. She could be brave, loyal, self-confident, intelligent, focused, charming, or compassionate. She should be able to engage our minds, win our hearts and get us to root for her until the end.
  1. She changes over the course of the story. She discovers her strengths and weaknesses. She surprises herself and she surprises us as she grows and learns. There should not be a sudden epiphany at the end of the story. We are not watching a Disney movie. Her change should be gradual and believable.
  1. She does not exist as a support for another character. Other characters exist to support her. Her supporting cast are there to help her achieve her story goal and complete the narrative arc of her story. The antagonist is there to thwart her, and to show her how strong or weak she is. Her love interest is there to distract her from her story goal, and to show us her insecurities and vulnerabilities. (Remember that a love interest is not necessarily a romantic interest.) Her friends are there to support her, and to show us who she really is, how strong she can be – even if she can’t see it.
  1. She has the ability to stand up to the antagonist. She is a strong character who is made stronger by her interaction with the antagonist. She has to have the intelligence, bravery, charisma, and will-power to make the story her own and come out on top at the end of the book.
CD Rogue spent his evening watching the Weeds series. I couldn't stand watching the main character, Nancy, played by Mary-Louise Parker. First of all Mary-Louise is a shitty actress, but the Nancy character -- in the words of CD Rogue - never changes. She is, in literary terms, a static character. When one watches a show like that back-to-back, you realize even if a female is in the lead, the world circles around her. She mostly just looks befuddled and confused all the time, a "Why is this happening to little ol' me?" victim look. Yuck. How much different and far more interesting would that series have been with someone funny and smart. And she's a really bad mom. (So says Judgy McJudgy Pants over here.)

My Azerothian characters - sheesh do they have their work cut out for them when Warlords comes out. So much testosterone! So much things-go-boom! So many big messes left for others to clean up! Booo! Oh well. Have more to say, but now I'm off to be the hero of my own story today…see you soon!


  1. Ellen Ripley the badass alien fighter has always been my strong woman role model. Okay, I had to go to Azeroth to find comparable monsters, but yeah, same thing, lol.

    1. She is awesome, and even more so because it never occurred to me that she was a "female" lead. A great story and character stands on its own. Wish we had more!


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