1. Lollypop0189
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    Lollypop0189 New Member

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    strong women

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lollypop0189, Jun 29, 2009.

    Good evening all,

    I am currently working on developing my main character of my first work of fiction. She is a no nonsense cynical jersey girl who is sent to Ireland for a semster abroad. She is suddenly thrusted into a position of extreme power and handles it with grace and authority. She is fiery. Always does the right thing, doesn't care what people think and stands up for what she believes in-- regardless of who she is going up against. Basically, she doesn't screw around. She is warm, compassionate, kindhearted and endlessly selfless with a passion to help the less fortunate.

    I have taught myself all I know through reading and observing other characters. Here is my question:
    Does anyone know of any books with lead females, real or historical, who are strong/independent/badass women? I would really love to find some females who can teach me about how to portray my own character?

    all suggestions are appreciated!
     
  2. cybrxkhan
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    cybrxkhan Contributing Member

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    I can't exactly name a specific book, but I'm sure you know there's many examples of strong, independent women in history and mythology - and that's not only just the Amazons. They may not be from books, but you could still learn quite a thing about characterization from these women (and many of them have been put in fiction before, undoubtedly). Examples:

    - Artemis and Athena - Greek goddesses, as you know, and also fiercely independent
    - Ishtar - arguably the original independent girl; she's somewhat of a slut, but she's very strong and ruthless
    - Boadicea - celtic queen who led a rebellion against the ROmans; wasn't successful, but, still
    - Joan of Arc - a more virtuous and gentler woman warrior than some of the other examples
    - Cleopatra - no need to explain
    - Catherine the Great of Russia - there's a reason why she's considered a great Russian ruler, even though she's German by blood; she was intelligent, capable, and hot (at least when she was young)
    - Queen Elizabeth I - also a very strong minded ruler
    - Empress Theodora - her life story is a perfect idea for a novel, actually - she was originally the most notorious whore in all of the Byzantine Empire, but somehow she was smart, independent, and badass enough to become Empress - and a very capable one at that, perhaps even more than her husband, the Emperor Justinian
    - Trung sisters - Vietnam has a history of strong minded, independent women (a lot of them still are, in my opinion), and the Trung sisters are arguably the greatest out of all of them - they basically led the first Vietnamese rebellion against China, and they did it with an army of women while riding atop gigantic ELEPHANTS - badass, in my opinion.


    Anyhow, there's certainly more historical and mythological examples out there. I'm a believer in the fact that history can be an extremely useful tool for writers, so it won't hurt to do a little research to figure out how women with a huge amount of power deal with it.
     
  3. lovely
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    lovely Member

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    Gemma Doyle in Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty and sequels is a strong female lead in the Victorian Era.

    Anything about Mary Wollstonecraft or Abigail Adams says a lot about strong women during the time of the French and American revolutions. If you look into them, I would also recommend just researching women during the American Revolution anyway. Some of them dressed as men to fight, took care of the homes or wounded soldiers. Sybil Ludington (I think that's how you spell it) actually rode longer than anyone else to inform the American troops when the British arrived. Any suffragettes would be a good start. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is one name in particular that stands out.
     
  4. Cheeno
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    Cheeno Contributing Member

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    P.J. Tracy's 'Dead Run', has three strong female protagonists fighting to overcome extraordinary circumstances (All P.J's books follow a similar character thread). All her books feature women who's journies see them discovering strengths about themselves which assist them in overcoming adversity and their personal demons. This, I feel, is the kernal to portraying a woman of strength and determination; having her work to overcome her inner conflict and vulnerabilities.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    The important thing is to treat her like an individual. Yeah, you've got all these examples, but in the end, your character isn't those people. She is who she is. She is a strong, fiery, whatever you want her to be.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Three (okay, four) come immediately to mind from the mystery genre:

    Dr. Kaye Scarpetta, Chief Medical Examiner for the Commonwealth of Virginia in Patricia Cornwell's novels. Scarpetta's niece, Lucy Farelli, is pretty badass too - self-made millionaire, former FBI agent before she formed her own anti-crime consultancy firm.

    Carlotta Carlisle, a Boston licensed private investigator, formerly an officer in the Boston Police Department. She also drives a cab part time to make ends meet. She's a six foot tall redhead who takes no crap, and is the creation of Bostoin author Linda Barnes.

    Kinsey Millhone, the creation of Sue Grafton, is a California private investigator with a cynical sense of humor. She's not particularly large, but she's also a former police officer who didn't work and play well with others.
     
  7. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    Scarlett O'Hara - Gone With the Wind

    Mary Russell - The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you can take ideas from film, rather than just written word, there is always Ellen Ripley of the Alien series.
     
  9. Gallowglass
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    Macha...she may not count as a woman, since she is actually a goddess in Gaelic mythology. But Gaelic goddesses usually are the definition of strong, and most of them are women - Morrigan, Danu, Dagda.
     
  10. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Some of the characteristics you described strike me as antagonistic - "warm compassionate and kindhearted" are usually reserved for nurturing women/people - not the strong leaders who "doesn't care what people think and stands up for what she believes in"

    Unless you are trying to illustrate a dichotomy.

    It just strikes me that someone who is "no-nonsense, badass" would expect people to get a straw and suck it up - rather than lend a helping hand.

    Seems like you're trying to make a perfect character - but perfect characters are boring. They need flaws. Perhaps you could use the hardline mentality as a weakness/advantage. She is respected and trusted for her strength, but also resented by some for not "helping the little people" directly.

    Boudica was a warrior and a leader. While I'm sure that she carried about the people she was leading - and demonstrated by fighting for them and with them - but that doesn't mean she was a warm and kindhearted person. In all likelihood, she had a hard heart, if not cold heart.

    Just my twopence.
     
  11. bluebell80
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    The Mists of Avalon. Morgaine Le Fay is one of the strongest female characters I have ever seen. While she is generally rather good, she also has times of failure, in which, you can see how strong she really is.

    I also don't like good hero type people as characters, because no one is every that good. Making a character have flaws, or some faults can show how they overcome them or get through tough situations, which can be more telling than just straight forward goodness.
     
  12. BrokenWing
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    There are many examples of the strong woman in literature as mentioned above. Personally, I like lead characters that aren't as perfect as the one you describe. Give her some human frailties as well as the strong characteristics and your readers will be able to relate to her more.
     
  13. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's good advice for ANY character.
     
  14. ManhattanMss
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    My mom gave me AHAB'S WIFE, by Sena Jeter Naslund, claiming that it reminded her of me. (NOTE: I'm sure that's because of the MC's independent and truly unusual life experiences, and not necessarily because of her "strength.") Anyway, I read it, not so much because I didn't have other books I wanted to read more, but because I was curious about my mother's comment that she thought of me while she read it. My mom & I have had a long history of differences of opinion about things (that could be an understatement). But I have to admit that in our "senior age" relationship, we have become closer as the result of sharing various books we enjoy.

    Anyway, it is a perfectly fabulous work, well written and compelling. It's a take-off from Melville's MOBY DICK, and about Ahab's wife, of course--who she was or might've been, how she came to marry him and what went before and came after. Just fascinating reading. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in strong (and flawed) women in fiction.
     
  15. Gallowglass
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    Ah, of course, Morgan le Fay. Apparently she is based on the Morrigan, though (and the Morrigan herself is three different goddesses). So yep, that's a good few examples in two posts there ;)
     
  16. sweetchaos
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    Tremaine Valiarde from the Fall of Ile Rien Trilogy.
     
  17. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Who says a person can't be both? Take Margaret Houlihan. She is very kind and compassionate, but also a strong leader for her nurses, who doesn't take any nonsense from them or the doctors.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Exactly. Being compassionate doesn't equate to rolling one's self out on the doorstep for people to wipe their shoes on.

    Another strong woman, from TV, would be Doctor Michaela Quinn (Medicine Woman).
     
  19. seta
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    I'm just saying that you have to be reasonable with positive qualities. The character should have some equally pronounced weaknesses and/or failures.
     
  20. Fabulosa
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    Martina Cole writes best seller stuff thats populated by hard women in a macho crime world.
     
  21. Kirvee
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    Technically this is not a book reference, as I don't remember any to recommend, but here are some works I know of that have strong females in (mostly) lead roles:

    - Balsa in the anime Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. Not only is she the lead character, but she wields a spear, has mad fighting skills and is not afraid to die. She's around 28 or 29 years old, though.

    - Claire, Deneve and Miria from the manga Claymore. All three are created half-demon females who wield huge swords and cut off monster limbs and lots of other stuff. Claire is the lead character in the manga, though. No clue what any of their ages are, though. Around 20+, I'd say.

    - Winry Rockbell and Izumi Curtis from the manga Fullmetal Alchemist. Winry is a strong-willed girl and tries to prove her independence while faithfully helping her childhood friends along the way in whatever way she can. Izumi is a well-trained alchemist and martial arts master and takes no crap. She's so BA that she can do martial arts moves while reading a book and never taking her eyes off of it. Neither of those two are main characters, though. Although Winry is an important person to the main character(s). Winry is 16 while Izumi is somewhere in her 30's.

    - Maka Albarn in the manga Soul Eater. She's a main character, is very powerful in her own right, and she wields a scythe as if it was so easy a caveman could do it. She is roughly around 13, possibly 14 (I think...it's a debated subject in the fandom).

    That's all I can think to offer as far as strong women go. I'm sorry I don't have any books I can recommend from memory :-(.
     

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