Friday, June 18, 2010

Female Hero

Dude. This is a subject I love. LOVE. Because I can't stand wimpy, helpless female characters who would die if not for their love interest saving them (Bella Swan, anyone?). In fact, I so dislike Bella, I wrote my main character to be the Anit-Bella. (Okay, in all fairness, my MC is saved once by a male character.)

Here is a list of my Anti-Bella's qualities:

1. She stands up for herself.
2. She doesn't need a male character to save her every five pages because she can do it herself.
3. No whining in spite of unfavorable circumstances.
4. She's not afraid to throw a punch.
5. Accepts and faces her fate even when she doesn't want to.

Did you guys know that Ripley from Aliens was written as a male MC? They did NOTHING to change it when Sigourney Weaver played the part. Ripley is AWESOME.

Katniss anyone? She's brave, traded places with her little sister even though she'd be faced with certain death, compassionate, and knows how to use a bow. And she kicks butt, yet maintains all of her female allure.

Eowyn from LOTR. She is beautiful, elegant, and can wield a sword like a man. Not only that, she dresses up as a man and risks her life to go fight the bad guy.

Judith Mercado has some interesting things to say about the female hero. Also, Carolyn Kaufman posted this article about female protagonists, which is far and beyond anything I could write.

What makes your female hero a hero? And what female heros do you love? Hate? And why?


Steph Schmidt said...

I really dislike the trend that a gal to be a hero has to act like a guy. Fight/dress/speak/whatever like a guy and *that* makes them worthy of being a hero. Leaves an ill taste in my mouth.

Give me the intellectual hero like Lady Jessica from Dune who uses her own weaknesses and strenghts to achieve her goals.

Stina said...

LOL. I write my female protagonists to be the anti-bella, too. :D

Thanks for the links!

Jo Schaffer said...

Yay!!! My kind of post!

A good female character can have flaws as long as there are other qualities that balance her out.I love a female character who is strong.Who will not objectify herself for a man. One who has courage and resilience when trials come. Picks herself back up when she splats. A woman with a sense of self and compassion for others. And it doesn't hurt to know kick boxing. (=
I think one reason why we dislike Bella is because she has no core self. All she has is her twisted addiction to a male who is a danger to her. Unhealthy. And she has no redeemong qualities to make up for it. Meh.
Buffy.Vampire Slayer. Bam.
If you haven't seen the Youtube video of Buffy slaying Edward you gotta go look at it. HILARIOUS.

EC said...

A great post - it is so easy to get caught up in stereotypes when we are writing and I admit, my female character was saved by a man - only once - in my first book. In the sequel, she'll be saving her man.

For the record, my female hero is Sigourney Weaver in Aliens - who better to fight them than a sexy, bald woman!

Judith Mercado said...

Thanks so much for posting the link to my blog. As it happens, today was my day for an update of my regular A Hero's Journey Blog series. I discuss Literature's Forgotten Older Woman as a heroine.

Olivia Carter said...

Oh I love this. I have a HUGE issue with some of the female characters in stories that aren't acting but being acted upon.

Bugs. Me.

Favorite female characters: Katniss is HIGH on the list. Such a great character. Have you ever read the Vampire Academy series. Ignore the lame title. It's actually good and the main character is a totally kick butt but feminine character. Elizabeth Bennett. For her time she was a pretty gutsy, sassy lady.

Anonymous said...

GREAT post! My most recent WIP has an MC (a teen girl) who calls the shots. Yup.

Love it!!!

Janet Johnson said...

I do like Katniss. Awesome and still a girl.

Now that I think about it, my female character is the only one who DIDN'T have to be saved. Subconscious writing? :D Maybe.

Eli said...

Katsa and Fire from Kristin Cashore's books, Graceling and Fire. I wrote a review on Graceling on my blog, talking about how much I love Katsa's strong character. (

Riv Re said...

Katsa and Fire from Kristin cashore's books. I wrote a long review on how I loved Katsa because of her strength. (

Andrea Cremer said...

Sweet post! I love heroines who can save themselves :) and rescue the hottie while doing so!

Tere Kirkland said...

I loved Cashore's Fire character from the book of the same name. She was tough and selfless, but still very much a woman coming into her own. What I liked about her was that she knew she was different and made her own rules.

I hope my own "anti-bella" (sorry, Evie!) will find her way onto a list like this someday.

Great post!

Vicki Rocho said...

I'm an overgrown kid at heart, and have never grown out of my love of fairy tales, so I LOVED Ever After. Danielle/Cinderella was a strong, capable woman who didn't need to be rescued by a man once!

J. Nelson Leith said...

When female MCs are neither getting rescued by men nor making a comment about not needing rescued by men, that's when you get something truly cool (and genuinely liberated) like Alien's Ripley.

(Not sure if that holds up for the sequels, though.)

Awesome topic, B!

DL Hammons said...

My female MC is the manager of a private detective agency with a chip on her shoulder because she's works in a male dominated field. Always fun to write!!

Stephanie McGee said...

Tamora Pierce writes phenomenal female heroes. Love her books.

Lydia Kang said...

I totally agree! I love a strong female character. Totally.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love strong female characters. My female MC does get saved by the male MC in the middle, but she's the one who saves him in the end. :)

Little Ms J said...

I love Katniss, but if left in a room with her I may be just a little intimidated. Ok, a lot.

Angie said...

Eowyn rocks! 'Nuff said. Another favorite female character of mine is Vin from the Mistborn books. She can kick some serious butt in a ballgown. How cool is that?

Myrna Foster said...

I love Eowyn. Reading the part where she confronts the Lord of the Nazgul always gives me chills.

I also love Shannon Hale's heroines. They may not have swords to swing, but they solve their own problems.

Angela said...

Love the picture! I'm a Lord of the Rings geek. So yes, Eowin is my favorite!

Jade @ Chasing Empty Pavements said...

Yes! I love your jabs at Bella Swan because I utterly DETEST her. I love strong, fierce women. Thanks for sticking by your guns!

Elizabeth Mueller said...

For me, a good strong female hero is some one who over comes heir weakness and can fight for what she believes in--just like everyday women in our lives. Those are my ideal heroes. Thank you for this post, Bethany! ;)

JoLynne Lyon said...

Bella bothers me, too,not just because she needs saving but because love is her only motivation. My favorite heroines have more going on in their lives, and they'll sacrifice for better reasons than keeping a boyfriend to themselves.

Krispy said...

Yay strong female characters!

Someone phrased what bugs me about Bella perfectly - she's completely defined by her relationships to men. Take either of her love interests away, and she doesn't really have any character of her own. XP

Nichole Giles said...

I love Katniss too, for those very reasons. She's strong, flawed, and has depth.

Any female protagonists who are proactive, who are willing to jump in and do what needs to be done, even at risk to personal self or injury, are da bomb IMO. Great post.

Sandy Wills said...

lol The day after I read Twilight, I started writing my YA book with a character who was an anti-Bella. Eleven days later (I kid you not), I had a first draft. Pretty decent first draft, too. My MC saves herself most of the time, and when the hero does show up to save her toward the end, she says "I don't want to be saved by you." (This sounds much better in context. Plus, she's really pissed at him.)

I wonder how many other authors wrote anti-Bellas after reading Twilight.

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Bethany--I'm soo sad that you dislike Bella so much. :( Don't you remember (and you are younger than I) that overwhelming need to please your parents, your friends, your true love when you were a teen? Did you ever loves someone who wasn't good for you? Did you ever sneak out to be with him? Was there one guy you would have done anything to be with? (not in a naughty was) I saw Twilight as a lot of teen truths with a fantasy twist; vampires and wolves...I don't know how many copies of the Twilight Saga have been sold, but I'm thinking if I can get 1/100th of their sales I'll be feeling successful...

T. M. Hunter said...

Heh...the female lead from my first book ends up getting saved by the hero in the first scene...and then ends up repaying the favor later in the book.

cleemckenzie said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your anti-Bella gal. I thought I was the only one on planet earth that got tired of reading about how HE save little her.

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Proof that books are subjective: I see Bella this way.

1. She stands up for herself.
2. She doesn't need a male character to save her every five pages because she can do it herself.
3. No whining in spite of unfavorable circumstances.
4. She's not afraid to throw a punch.
5. Accepts and faces her fate even when she doesn't want to.

I wouldn't have related to her otherwise.

Being a girl--even being an insecure girl--doesn't preclude you from being the hero in your own story. That's where character growth comes in. Lots of us start out like Bella. The point is to let your character become strong by the end of her journey.

I also like Aravis Tarkheena from CS Lewis' THE HORSE AND HIS BOY. She was the dress-like-a-man sort, but had a very female problem: arranged marriage.

Natalie said...

I'm so with you on this one. I hate weak female heroines. My ideal female heroine doesn't NEED a man. The man might add a nice little love story, but she is capable of doing things on her own. I hate stories where the girl is so emotionally needy that she feels she will die without her man--so not healthy.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm a bookish sort of girl who could never relate to the uber-tough chicks that seem to dominate modern literature (like Katniss or Katsa). I was shy, sat in a corner with a book in hand at all times, and was relentlessly teased by the assertive, gorgeous, and socially butt-kicking heroine types that the modern publishing world so glorifies.

So yeah, I'll admit that I was THRILLED with Stephenie Meyer's Bella! Finally, a girl who was into books, couldn't play sports, and didn't kick the crap out of her beau before hooking up with him. What a rare gem she is! I can totally relate to Bella (except for the hot boyfriend bit, lol!), and wish there were more literary heroines like her out there! :)

Bethany Wiggins said...

Your comments are so amazing, guys. I LOVE all the varied opinions. (LOL, Katrina! Thanks for stating what makes Bella great so eloquently ;-D).

As for anonymous, Thank you for such a touching comment. It is amazing how every person is different, how different things speak individually to different people.

Bethany Wiggins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katrina L. Lantz said...

Bethany, I very much enjoy your blog posts! They certainly spark thought and conversation. Keep them coming. :-)

My wordver for this reply is glombuli. Somebody has got to write a story about them. I'm thinking sci-fi or fantasy.

Nishant said...

I'm so with you on this one
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Theresa Milstein said...

Ripley and Katniss are awesome. I also love the chick from Terminator and Xena: Warrior Princess.

Don't get me started on Bella, who may be the WORST protagonist in the last twenty-years. Her goal in life? "I wanna be a vampire." I won't go on a rant, so I'll just say I agree with the rest of your list.

Good for you for writing the anti-Bella.

I like writing stronger protagonists too. Sometimes they have to grow into it, but they get there.

Anonymous said...

I love female heroes. I hate it when female characters depend on a guy for everything. I didn't know that fact about Alien and Sigourney Weaver. Her character seemed both feminine and strong.

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