• Member Since 30th Jan, 2013
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Viking ZX

Author of Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels! Oh, and some fanfiction from time to time.

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Being a Better Writer: The Strong Female Protagonist · 9:05pm Apr 29th, 2019

Welcome back readers, to another Monday edition of Being a Better Writer! Today is … well, I’m sure you can see from the title that it’s going to be an auspicious post. Today’s topic is a rather popular one right now. In fact, I could easily say that it’s a current issue in a lot of story circles. For varying reasons depending on how you talk to.

But thankfully, I don’t plan on getting into any of the more social-political angles of this topic, because I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in one thing only with these posts: how to write, and write well.

Which—okay, maybe a tiny bit into social-politics—is why this post has been requested and hotly anticipated by a lot of readers. Because right now there’s a whole—well, I’d call it rediscovery, really—of the strong female protagonist. But with that rediscovery comes a whole new crowd trying to figure out what a strong female protagonist is for the first time. And with a lot of different voices out there, it can become very easy for their to come with a healthy dollop of “confusion” as people try to determine exactly what “strong,” “female,” and “protagonist” mean in the same sentence.

And, if I’m honest, some of this confusion comes from the very root of the sentence “strong female protagonist” and its particular phrasing.

I can hear some of you sparking torches from here. Relax. You’ll see what I mean in a moment. Hit the jump and let’s get started.

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Comments ( 2 )

I have made no secret my adoration of strong female characters. Curiously, I’ve had a penchant for this long before I understood the concept. They’re my favorite to watch and my favorite to write, which is likely another reason MLP:FiM drew me in so easily. Of these characters I’ve come to like Rarity the most for all the things she’s capable of doing, elements that make her strong without taking away from (and sometimes even accenting) her more feminine elements and weaknesses. As much as I love her drive, work ethic, and bounding confidence, I just as much love her penchant for jealousy, snobbish bit of ego, and occasional ice cream binges. Take a look at those traits I just named, positive and negative. I defy you to identify any one of them as inherently masculine or feminine.

In the case of MLP:FiM fanfiction, the reality is that most of the characters available to write about happen to be female. Yet when I do try to write male characters, I am pleased to note that they tend to be well-received. How have I achieved that? The answer is deceptively simple: as you’ve pointed out, a character being good is not related to their gender.

Gender is never the first consideration in who or what a character is. The instant a writer realizes this is the instant they can write strong characters regardless of gender (assuming they know what a ‘strong character’ is in the first place). When I decide that a character is going to be male or female, the only thing that really does is add some spice to the recipe in regards to their perspective, and even that isn’t black and white. The moment you stop caring about whether a character has boobs, a block-and-tackle, or even both is the moment you throw away one of the largest societal blocks on what makes a character ‘strong’.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a gunslinger girl to write about. :raritywink:

Dunno why, but this reminded me of one of my old TTRPG campaigns. Specifically it was a Fallout: Equestria mod of GURPS.
Played my titular character, Alouette as pretty close to the little miss badass trope, interspersing moments of silliness like playing in a fountain while the adults were speaking, to being able to pull off insane trick-shots to prevent her from being straight up OP damage-wise. One of my friends was playing a very angry aggressive teenage-filly-disguised-as-a-colt (Flashpoint), and often caused a lot of conflict. Eventually things headed to a point where the rest of the party confronted her and tried to talk it out. Ended up with strange dialogue (paraphrased):
Smooth Tongue (Unicorn CHA-based character): "Why the deception?"
Flashpoint: "I didn't think girls were strong enough."
*Rest of party gives blank stare*
Smooth Tongue: "In a world formerly run by two princesses, with the one of most threatening things out here a female hive-mind alicorn army, and the party member with the highest kill count being THAT FILLY OVER THERE," pointing to my character who was sorting through various shiny objects and toys she accumulated, "you're worried that being a girl means not being strong enough‽"
Things kind of started to deteriorate a few sessions afterwards. Didn't help that we, using fairly primative fallout-esque gear suddenly had to contend with bloody mechs didn't help.

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