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Actually strong female character.


toujours gai, archie
>o be fair, the 'strong women' hating dresses are usually because dresses are not made for active activities such as fighting/horseriding

I think this comes close to what matters to us as story tellers. A character who must wear a dress while riding a horse, because that is what society demands, is very likely going to hate dresses, or at least hate riding while wearing a dress. The character could as readily decide she hates riding, because she likes dresses. Or hates dresses because she likes riding.

But if the story presents her hating dresses without some sort of cultural context, expecting we will all be instantly sympathetic, then the story lets us down. In fantasy, we get to rewrite cultural rules. The point, imo, is not what are the stereotypes, the point is what are the stereotypes for this story's culture, and how does that further my story.

I'm aware some writers like to put "non-traditional" characters into their stories as a statement of some kind, and that's fine. I don't think that needs any sort of justification at all. If the OP wants a strong female lead, then let that phrase mean whatever the author wants it to mean, and good on ya.
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Troglodytic Trouvère
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I just want to state that I used "Actually Strong Female Character" as a title because "strong female character" is a fairly oftenly used set of words when writing fiction and it's a nice title. I do not believe women are inherently weaker than men, nor do I believe a strong woman is an anomaly in real life. We are solely talking about the portrayal of women in fiction. There seems to have been some minor confusion over this.

Otherwise, carry on. The discussion has become very interesting.


What is strength to me, in particular what is strength in a woman.... I guess indeed some of these thoughts may be controversial and actually support our day's culture's gender norm. A norm in any culture tells you for example what is accepted behavior and considered normal within that culture. Obviously stepping outside of the norm has consequenses.

Her physique is how she was born, the most beautiful baby girl her parents had ever seen; and then what she grew into. She learns to use her body to her advantage: be it in fights, socially; with enemies, friends and loved ones; or in subterfuge. There are so many combat techiques who rely on using your opponent's movements against her/him for example and a lot of creative, deadly weapons out there. But, if a smile and a bat of the eyelashes will do it, why not use that; if your character is a spy and a bit of cleavage will get her into a party to assasinate her target, wouldn't she be willing to do that for the greater good? If you have got it, flaunt it, many say. Feminism is also about the right to show a bit of boob/show off your toned upper body muscles if you are so inclined. (To coin down that word: Feminism is about equal rights and opportunities for everyone regardless of gender, age, religion or ethnicity).

A quick search on Google came up with many interesting things. A page claims you can divide personality traits into three categories;
Behaviors you possess
This page then lists a whole lot of these traits, so I am giving you this link and will just type down which ones I think a strong female should have. Here it is, there are also negative personality traits down the list. Now I just ask myself how many traits I can pull off giving to a character! Examples of Personality Traits

Adaptability; and being able to think fast and make sound, quick decisions.
Courage to rely on her decisions, her opinions and thoughts and her beliefs and the courage to act.
(My favorite): Having the drive to always keep going. To do that I think you need a bit of optimism, motivation, strong will...

[Look, I have one thought that I think is important for any writer. It's a little off topic. Think of how often you're describing a character. "Anna was a kind and considerate sister." But can you describe her kindness without using the word kind? Can you decribe these people without using personality adjectives? I will give it a shot... "My sister Anna was older than me, but she used to sit next to my bed, mend my stockings by candlelight and sing to me before I went to sleep. We didn't have a lot of money for candles, and I was scared of the dark, but my sister never blew out our nightstand candle before I was alseep. When I got older and the terror of darkness wasn't so great anymore, likely because Anna made me feel safe and cared for, she told me her secret. So that mom wouldn't know, if she finished mending stockings, she would tie the knot and just pull the remaining thread through. Just going through the motions, singing softly. Even today I like sewing, especially embroidery. It makes me feel at peace, like my mind slows down and there is this comforting silence that only has room for an occational thought. I hope that was what my sister felt way back then too."
Okay, so that was just to try to convey what a kind and considerate sister might do (positive traits). Describing isn't the same as giving it a name. If you dont' have room for this maybe at least come up with a couple of kind actions of Anna the sister might have done as part of her history. Sorry for the going off the rails of this thread.]


I love that this topic comes up from time to time. It's not something that I really think about as I write. But maybe it should be.


I think about it in my world creating and character making. I try to make conscious decicions about the culture, the norms in it and how I write about my female and male characters. I've written a few projects with different races, and I try to make them have a plausible history, culture and way of life that differs from eachother, including anything to do with gender and gender roles.

If one writes for childen, teens, young adults I guess another thing to consider about female leads is that they may become a role model and that some young person out there will want to be just like her when they grow up. It's about what we want to pass down to future generations, what we value in a actually strong woman.

After all this debate, maybe in order to create that character, all you have to do is create a person, a human being, a member of the human race, who is believably strong, and just so happens to be a girl.


This is an interesting thought experiment. I think you may have inadvertently helped me with a mythological question in my sci-fi in progress.

Imagine say a world where everyone believed in a Goddess and her Son for 2000 years. How would things have been different? Then women would be created in the image of the Goddess, and so forth with all the implications of this other religion.
One problem I see, at least in movies and TV, is that we have these male action hero archetypes that they are just trying to put women into as if that's the answer to giving equal representation in a "strong" role. I guess if Arnold or Stallone can mow down countless bad guys with a machine gun or best them in hand to hand combat like the alpha males they are supposed to portray, we can just have a woman do the same, despite how awkward it appears when a barely over 5' tall woman that might weigh 110-115lbs is manhandling men that are 6'+, 200lbs+ as if they were children. In super hero movies this makes more sense because the characters usually have their physical abilities augmented via some power, but outside of that realm not so much. Maybe every once and awhile it works, but when it becomes this "anything you can do I can do better" type of childish mentality about trying to prove something it just does a disservice.

One thing I remember about Sherlock Holmes is that despise him having a low opinion overall of women as far as intellectual beings go, the one woman that he did end up having an affinity for was the one who bested him at his own game and got away. It was the ultimate testament of his admiration for her that the only thing he kept as a reward after the case was solved was her portrait. In his awkward way he would only refer to her as "the woman", but deep down you knew that she was the only woman in the world he ever came closed to being in love with. She outwitted the master sleuth and did it with grace, that's all the story needed.


My question is, is she a woman boxing other women or is she boxing men?

I ask because, if she is boxing other women, then clearly a female boxer is not an unheard of thing and, though your fictional society may seem to have negative views on women boxing, it clearly happens and there are fans or there would be no money for it to continue. This may be easier to write, though perhaps with the risk of being less interesting.

If she is boxing men, then you have a very different world than our own, which is totally fine and could be amazing to read, but it would create many more questions; or as I like to call them, opportunities to be awesome.
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One problem I see, at least in movies and TV, is that we have these male action hero archetypes that they are just trying to put women into as if that's the answer to giving equal representation in a "strong" role.

What can make this even worse is when, after creating such a character, she'll be paired up with a female opponent while her male counterpart gets to fight the male bad guy. I hate this.


While echoing the whole "Just make her a human, fam" advice, I can see why the OP wants to avoid any echo of the stereotype of the "Strong Female Lead" and do not believe these two goals are mutually incompatible.

... Huh, the site that must not be named doesn't actually have a page on this. Inconceivable!

For me, the big tropes of this sort of thing are

- Mostly hates feminine stuff but has one token feminine interest
- Is secretly insecure about how "unfeminine" she is
- As a result of said insecurity, is tough and hard as any man
- Everything is made right through the love of one good man
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What can make this even worse is when, after creating such a character, she'll be paired up with a female opponent while her male counterpart gets to fight the male bad guy. I hate this.

Or when the 'strong' female is presented as an equal or better to the male MC at first, but then turns out to be completely useless against a credible threat.


Hello everyone!
This should be a more straightforward question then my previous one on the use of violence (great answers btw).

I have decided that I want a female boxer as a main character in a futuristic american fifties world. She should be a strong lead. However I abhor the stereotypical "strong" female character. Often these characters seem to not be strong at all and I can't figure out exactly why I feel that way.

I have already decided that she will not be an emotional wreck. She has a functioning family and loves her career. What are some other clichés I should pay attention to?

If she has a functioning family life and so on, the risk is that she may be less interesting. But I understand you want to avoid the standard plug-in sympathy boxes while still giving her some spice. I think it might be a matter of just not giving her the normal set of human foibles but perhaps thinking of some different ones. In my WIPs I have a female character - she's not the lead but supporting, appearing in about the last third of story one and playing a larger role in story two. What's her jam? She is described as "little more than a vicious street thug" and she kills with impunity, largely because she finds it fun. I suppose you could say she has a personality disorder, and when she's not living out her assassin fantasies she becomes an unwed mother which she doesn't take to. The light sort of goes out in her eyes. The only time it comes back is when she's on the warpath again.

She's one of the good guys, incidentally ;) Hope this helps
I agree with the whole stereotype thing and it's a difficult balance to make. You want to make them emotionally strong but no so strong that they that have no empathy. They need to feel and sometimes there is this idea that feelings and showing equal weakness. I think it's good for a character to get knocked down. To feel the punch of something and have a little wallow (without whining) then get up, shake themselves off and go back to work. It's a good idea to study the types of characters you don't like, write down what you don't like about them and why. Collect data from other people. Then avoid giving your character those traits.

I like characters who care about others/even just one person
Who are competent and use their skills to adapt to their surroundings and challenge. Every character should be an expert at something. Even if it's just being a really good loyal friend.
Characters who make intelligent and logical moves
Characters who are active instead of reactive.
Clear goals and motivation that make sense. The character should always want something