…are our characters. That’s what the whole story is about right? The characters and their prospective lives. Will they be likable? Believable? Who knows.
Suzanne and I love our characters, we like to think that they are realistic, flawed, and distinctive–not simply cookie-cutter characters that are soulless and heartless. That being said, I’m still sort of scared. Characters are under a lot of scrutiny, most especially the female characters, which I find equally interesting and frustrating.
I know that there are a lot of good fictional female role models out there, for example: Eowyn (Lord of the Rings), Hermione, (Harry Potter series), Katniss (The Hunger Games), Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), to name a few. These fictional women are exalted, and for good reason. They are interesting, smart, lively, witty, sarcastic, stubborn, and above all else, flawed. I love a good flawed character, don’t you? I love to read about people who make the wrong decisions and have to suffer the consequences.
This leads me to my point. There are two types of female characters that have no flaws, the “perfect” characters. On one end of the spectrum, you have what is called the “Mary Sue,” and on the other is the “Strong Female Character” (SFC).
Mary Sue is infuriatingly perfect. Ugh. She is unbelievably and irritatingly beautiful, though most of the time she is unaware of this. She is innocent, charming, and loved by all that come in contact with her (probably including the villain). She is either very good at everything imaginable or extremely helpless. I probably don’t have to continue describing why she is a lame character. I’m sure you can all think of examples.
And then there is the SFC…sigh.
The SFC is essentially a guy in a girl’s body. They can do everything a man does, only most likely they can do it better! It’s frustrating to me. Before the SFC came along, there were more Mary Sues, so women pushed for STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS, and I don’t blame them (Mary Sues are dull)! Women who are not afraid to wield a sword, battle dragons, shoot people, whatever the story calls for.
My problem with the SFC is that she generally tends to not have a weakness. She tends to be written without emotions, and that is one of the reasons why she is so frustrating. Another reason that I hate the character is for her unexplainable skill with weapons. If she can wield a sword, great. But why can she? Is it because she just saw one and picked it up and now she’s the next Joan of Arc? There needs to be a point to her being able to use them so well. They can’t be strong for the sake of being strong, there needs to be more than that. Characters need to be diverse.
As I said before, I love flawed characters. Weak characters. Characters that have made mistakes, and those mistakes molded them into the “person” they are today. So, yes, not all of our women are going to sword wielders or archers or whatever, but that doesn’t mean they are weak. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, and we want to apply that to all of our characters, not just our women.