Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Give Me a Heroine

I'm a sucker for strong female protagonists. Characters like Katniss, Tris, and Elizabeth Bennet. They are girls who stand up for what they believe and create a difference in the people's lives around them. Sure, they are fictional, but it's girls like these that inspire readers to face obstacles they deal in their everyday lives.

The question is, how do we create heroines that break through the boundary of being more than just words in a book? What defines a heroine who is strong and inspirational?

My random thoughts:

1. Show Me- One of my all time favorite books is DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth. First of all, if you haven't read the book, GO OUT AND BUY IT! (I'm so subtle. Smile.)

Tris, the main character, is faced with adversity and the odds of her success are practically impossible. But it's through her sheer determination to stand up for what she wants, despite the consequences that makes her dauntless. She is a strong character. The book doesn't need to tell this to the reader. Tris' actions are sufficient.

2. The Heroine Must Save the Day- Cindy Pon reveals a stunning ending as Ai Ling in SILVER PHOENIX banishes a horrifying force. Sure there is a hot guy, but the hot guy doesn't save the day. It's Ai Ling (yay!).

Side note: I've always thought TWILIGHT would be so much better if it had been Bella who kicked James' butt instead of Edward.

3. Motivations- The heroine must have internal and external motivations that push the boundaries and up the stakes. In FIRELIGHT, Sophie Jordan puts a fiery character on the page-- Jacinda, a draki. I love how Jacinda longs for freedom and yet is desperate to cling onto her true self despite the opposition around her. She is a fighter for what she believes in.

4. Sacrifice- Characters willing to fight for those they love take a story to a new level. I think that's why I love Elizabeth Bennet in Jane Austen's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE so much. Elizabeth is willing to sacrifice her love for Mr. Darcy (swoon!!) for the safety and keeping the good name of her sisters.

What about you? What do you think makes a great heroine? Who are some of your favorite heroines?


Stina said...

Yes, the heroine who stands up for what she believes in, and doesn't wait for a guy to rescue her is always the best.

And I totally agree with you about Bella. :D

Kate Fall said...

I expect my female main characters to solve their own problems. Nothing gets to be solved by anyone else or by coincidence. Elizabeth Bennett is a great example because her family is so unhelpful. I loved Nancy Werlin's IMPOSSIBLE, though, for an example with a mostly supportive family who help when they can.

Christina Farley said...

These are great points. So true Kate about the characters solving their own problems.

Meredith said...

Love your examples! Tris is such an awesome strong girl protagonist, and so is Elizabeth Bennett--just two different kinds of strong. :)

Mirka Breen said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I still have a weakness for red-haired MC. Something of Anne Shirley and Pippi Longstocking just left potent residue behind.
Sometimes I wonder where the quiet heroines are. We know the male 'strong and silent' type. Can't think of any strong and silent female MCs. (Especially not with red hair.) So I wrote one. My upcoming MG has a quiet redhead.

Bonnee Crawford said...

"I've always thought TWILIGHT would be so much better if it had been Bella who kicked James' butt instead of Edward."

Haha I've always thought it would just be better if it didn't ruin the concept of vampires. Why couldn't they have just been demonic fairies? But Bella could totally kick Edward's butt.

I think a girl who isn't afraid to be 'one of the boy' so to speak makes a good heroin; a girl who isn't submissive and knows how to be herself without caring what others think of her.And definitely a girl who isn't afraid to get dirty. Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender for example. Pretty much, the girl who is NOT the damsel in distress.

Christina Farley said...

Meredith- yes that is exactly it. There are different types of 'strength' and they are revealed in different ways.

Mirka- that's great!

Bonnee- I know, I couldn't resist.

PJ Hoover said...

DIVERGENT was fantastic for so many different reasons. The heroine, like you mentioned. Also the romance plot line of this one. One of the best examples I've seen in YA today!

Lydia Kang said...

Yep, I totally love reading about strong heroines!

Golden Eagle said...

I love strong female protagonists. Ai Ling is one of my favorites--Katsa and Fire from Graceling and Fire, respectively (both by Kristin Cashore) are a couple others high on my list.

Great post!

Victoria Dixon said...

I love heroines who are torn. I've said (many times) how much I love Tigana. One of the female characters in it prostitutes herself just to get close enough to kill the man who destroyed her country and her family - only to find herself falling passionately in love with him. Heroines who are torn and yet still able to make and act upon decisions are amazing.

Kelly Hashway said...

I like strong female characters too. I have Divergent sitting on my shelf. I just won it through a giveaway. You're making me want to dive right in!

Anonymous said...

I read 1 and 2--I loved the heroines in those two. I've read Austen, but my memory of her characters is a bit rusty, though.

Christina Farley said...

Golden Eagle- yes, Katsa and Fire are both excellent strong heroines

Kelly- You should! You will like it.

Medeia- I'm glad you like them too! I'm a sucker for Austen's books. I have a tradition to read one a year (so I don't get sick of them) and then watch the movie.

Delian said...

I think a huge component needed for inspirational characters is their flaws. They are exactly who they are, the good, and the bad. That's what makes them heroines, because despite having flaws they still rise above.
I liked this post immensely.
~Delian Jayce