Hello, my name is Sam. I am currently writing a novel with a female lead. My general question is this: what's the proper balance, sort of the golden ratio, on how hard you beat your characters to how "awesome" they're allowed to be? Maybe that sounds like gobbledy gook, so I'll explain. Let's call her Bella (not her real name). Bella reads. Bella reads ALL THE TIME. She reads while they walk, while they talk, while they eat. She reads while cooking, fishing, and basically when she can balance a book and whatever else. So I felt fine about her knowing a lot of things. But, she felt . . . too smart. So I made her slow. Her partner is rather quick, he's sharp as a tack, but has sort of a limited education. So, the regular stuff, he basically has to guide Bella through, like a parent with a slow child. She's not stupid. Just slow. Given enough time, she solves the BIG problems. Still felt to "Bella" if you know what I mean. So, I also made her anti-social. She hates people (except her partners of course). Her male partner does all the buying, the haggling, the job hunting. She reads and waits to get back on the road. But, Bella, despite her revulsion for crowds, manages to amass a lover, a mentor, two Kings, and a hateful ship captain to not only trust her, but call her a friend. Crap, I thought, the world just comes on a silver platter to this girl. So I made her ugly. Not, butt ugly, just very plain faced. Short. Fuzzy hair. A demon fell in love with her. Shit. So I made her a horrible fighter (in a place where they still carry swords and shields). In little less than seven years, you could make a Picasso out of the scars on her body. She even manages to get her eye ripped out by a troll. In the process, she manages to no only mantain the lover, but save a city from a troll horde and save a group of kids, thus thrusting her into the annuls of legend. At this point, I was starting to get annoyed. It's not that I was just handing her these things, either. Through writing her hundreds upon hundreds of torments and punishments, she has not only managed to hang on, but thrive. So, I decided to do something drastic. Bella manages to not only get herself killed, but her lover AND her mentor. Three problems in one stroke. Genius! Then, a friend of the lover brings them all back by selling the souls of three strangers and suddenly that was the crux and climax of the whole damn story. How far do I have to go before I should say, "No, no, this is the essence of a Mary Jane character, a real Bella." When should I stop tormenting her and just let the story die? Or should it die?