1. maereth
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    maereth New Member

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    teenage heroine

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by maereth, Aug 25, 2014.

    Hi everyone, I have a bit of of a writer's block so I'll probably ramble a bit, but hopefully someone will be able to give me some advice.
    Basically, I am writing a YA romance and while I have my hero all figured out, I'm struggling a lot with the heroine. Well, I thought I had her all figured out as well, but I'm having second thoughts as I keep writing.
    The point is, I wanted her to be strong, confident and outgoing, since the boy is quite withdrawn, but I didn't want it to be the oh-I've-been-through-so-much-I-can-take-anything-now type of person. I just wanted her to be outgoing, period. But I'm not sure what kind of conflict, internal or external, she could have. For the sake of the story's balance (both kids are main characters) her family is loving, her brother supportive, there are some issues with friends but now that I think about it, they're kinda vague and random. It's like she's there only for the hero to admire at first. I do realize that the heroine cannot be perfect because it's boring, and that's exactly my problem, she's boring and I don't know how to fix it without making her a tormented victim or abused orphan.
    Maybe it's all because I'm introverted and often lack confidence, but I just don't know what could make people confident.
    So here it is, my question: How to make a female teenage character interesting, what could drive her, what might her goal be? Any ideas on how to find that out are appreciated. I know it sounds silly but I guess I just need a second opinion here in order to move forward with anything.
     
  2. maereth
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    maereth New Member

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    ok I think writing this helped me figure some things out, plus I didn't even give you all the info about my story, so while I'd still appreciate your comments, if nobody responds to this then, well, it's ok. ;))
     
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  3. Jacob.
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    Jacob. New Member

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    Make her passionate about something. Does she have a career or vocation she wishes to pursue? Is she active in some sport (bicycling, tennis, soccer....)? Perhaps she's a competent martial artist student? Maybe she's really passionate about protecting the environment and wants to be an environmental activist.
    Identifying your character's passions helps you identify her goals- and I think you'll find it easier to portray her as self-confident and strong once you know her personal goals and what she strives for.
    As far as not making her perfect... sometimes confidence can hide vulnerabilities. We all have our regrets, fears, and unsatisfactions, and even though someone is driven, involved, and accomplished does not mean that these heartaches and issues don't resurface when we leave behind our bright and positive veneer.

    Hope this helps,

    Jacob
     
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  4. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Writing things out helps me think things through as well.

    Read this: We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative.

    I'm serious, every person writing a female lead needs to read that piece.

    For my own protagonist she sees the bigger picture but she struggles with self esteem. Only you can pick the qualities you want your protagonist to have. You need to make her fit with the story you are telling. Definitely don't just make her there so the boy can have a love interest. That would be a disservice to women.

    And what Jacob said. :)
     
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  5. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I'd hate to say it, but I have to in order to help. If you are indeed talking about your main character, these two questions are the core of pretty much any story. If you don't know these, what story are you writing? Everything should evolve from these two elements, including characters, not the other way around. So my question to you is , what is the story you've set out to tell?
     
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  6. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Amazing, when it comes to writing characters, all of a sudden there are strict rules. Everything else related to writing around here is always "whatever works for you!"
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    My first thought here was to make her nerdy-enthusiastic, rather than confident. That is, when she's geekily explaining something that fascinates her, she's not worrying about whether people are interested. But her not-worry isn't because she's confident that she's charming and fascinating, but instead because it simply doesn't occur to her to worry about it. If someone will sit still while she tells them all about candymaking, or breeding daylilies, or playing World of Warcraft, or Congressional politics, or whatever her thing is, then she'll keep on talking.

    And that can come with its own conflict: She's outgoing, and perhaps some people find her likable and amusing, but she doesn't read social cues well and so she has trouble making deeper friends.
     
  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Which one? Geeky or Nerdy? World of Warcraft would be the former, the others, the latter.
     
  9. PensiveQuill
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    PensiveQuill Contributing Member

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    I'm highly introverted but I work in an extroverted industry, filled with young women. I'm also in a position of authority so I have plenty of time to watch them at work. Your character is a young woman so here's some observations of extroverted young women.

    - Some people just love riling others up. They do it for fun. They get their kicks out of finding out how to push a button and then pushing away. They don't necessarily have malicious intent when they do this. They just have a natural curiosity about people and interpersonal interactions. Although often their intent is perceived as malicious rather than playful.
    - Insecurity can make someone appear very confident, even arrogant. It's the magic of overcompensation. Insecurity happens even with very physically attractive people, in fact, especially physically attractive people. There is this strange mix of over-confidence due to the attention they receive with an underlying belief that this is all they've got in life. They envy the interesting people just as much as ugly people envy them.
    - The younger a woman is the more she tries to assert her authority. She often challenges others when it would be smarter to listen. This kind of brashness is created because actually she lacks a sense of self. A complete knowing of who she really is. When someone is in this state of development they feel threatened by little things and feel that if they don't assert themselves they might become insignificant.
    - The ones with true confidence are rarely the most vocal or even the centre of attention. They are the ones able to stand in a room full of people and let someone else take the floor for a while. They are not threatened when attention shifts away from them and can easily show a lot of emotional restraint even in trying situations. They are often the quiet achievers, although not always introverts. They will be the ones who move about a group and ensure everyone is included, they will offer suggestions but also support the suggestions of others if they think it's a better idea.

    I hope this helps.
     
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  10. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    What "rules" are you talking about here?
     
  11. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    Maybe the rule that women need to read it? I don't think @123456789 clicked on the link.
     
  12. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Maybe he meant the conscious or subconscious message some may see between the lines that you have dos and don'ts when writing female characters, e.g. that you shouldn't write a female character who is e.g. a soldier, gets captured by the enemy, and is then gang raped by her captors because sexual violence or its threat is such a common trope in stories that have female warriors? I'm just guessing, but sometimes it's not perfectly clear what the author is saying.

    If I give Hurley the benefit of the doubt, I'd interpret that as saying that even though sexually assaulting (or threatening to do so) female enemy combatants when they're captured is quite common, it shouldn't be seen as the only option when your bold heroine is captured by the bad guys.
    Now, I can relate to a knee-jerk reaction at that: why shouldn't we be allowed to show the horror what all too many women experience in war zones? Why should we send a message to the real rape victims, esp.those who were raped while (and because they were) serving their country, that their experience is a taboo, that it shouldn't be discussed, that their stories shouldn't be told, that what happened to them is no more than a cheap cop-out for unimaginative writers?

    However, I didn't read the article like that. I actually agreed with pretty much all of it, and even found two incidents in @KaTrian's and my WIP where we did what Hurley was suggesting (if I understood her correctly):
    1. In one scene, a girl is grabbed by four men from a rival gang who beat her up to send a message and to retaliate (her people had wronged the other gang before that, surprise, surprise), but because she has ties to powerful gang members, they don't dare rape her because they know it would start a full-fledged war between the two gangs, and they don't want that.
    2. In another scene, a soldier is captured by enemy combatants and though she fights back, her captors overpower her. They would have raped her if their leader hadn't specifically told them to capture her and bring the soldier to her as unharmed as possible.
    Meaning, by a stroke of luck, we had two scenes where it just made sense NOT to subject the characters to rape even though normally (if the gang member hadn't had ties to important people and if the gang leader hadn't thought the soldier a suitable test subject for an illegal medical project) that would've been their fate.

    I pretty much saw the article as a suggestion: "you don't always have to choose the most beaten path," but with no express judgment on those whose stories don't facilitate scenarios like Kat's and mine because it's just a sad fact that war and sexual violence often do go hand-in-hand, and it would take some pretty fancy literary maneuvering or luck (like in our case, unskilled as we are) to write a realistic story about war with female and male combatants, and female POWs without any sexual violence aimed towards them.

    Anyway, while the article's contents were old hat to me at this point, I wish I would've read it ten years ago. It offered some good insights and showed common pitfalls I too have fallen into back when I was an even greener beginner. So, to the OP, I'd say it's a good idea to try to see the female MC as a real, multidimensional person who has worth and merits of her own instead of reducing her to a generic tool to be used in the portrayal of the male MC, his life, his deeds.

    I think I'll check out what kind of books Hurley has written (thanks for the heads-up, @GingerCoffee).
    A quick sidenote: it's funny that in Hurley's example of her own writing, she spoke about writing a woman general helping a man gain the throne, much like in Elizabeth Moon's "The Deed of Paksenarrion" which, in turn, could just as well have been inspired by Jeanne d'Arc's story, how she lead troops to enthrone the dauphin. That's kinda ironic in the context of "equalist" (I hesitate to say "feminist") fiction because while a female military leader has power, those stories (albeit a true story in Jeanne's case) revolve around a woman risking her life, fighting, and suffering to elevate a man above herself so she can be subservient to him.
     

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