Writing - Strong Ladies

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking ‘book’ with my super-fab ‘book-friend’, Jennifer … hmm, that makes it sound like she’s a book, not a person! But she’s real, honest *lol* She’s great, used to work as a copy editor, kindly reads over my manuscripts and isn’t shy about ‘saying it like it is’ and is very good at bringing my attention to my oft-repeated vice – Multiple Use of the Same Word – can’t see it myself, but glaringly obvious when Jennifer highlights them ;o)

Anyway, I mentioned the fact that my female protagonists don’t tend to be physically strong, ‘kick-ass’ types. They aren’t trained to be warriors and aren’t the ones who do the fighting, who go to battle … except in my very first story. Jennifer said that the female characters are actually strong in other ways – they fight to maintain their independence, stand up for what they believe in, while retaining their femininity and acting like ladies.

We then went on to discuss the notion of ‘being a lady’, and that, nowadays, it only seems to be applied to much older women, that it’s not something a young adult would consider herself to be.

In my opinion, being a lady, doesn’t mean being a simpering, damsel-in-distress, sitting around, waiting for someone else, usually a man, to help/save you, instead of attempting to help yourself.

Surely one doesn’t have to be ‘shocking’, either in attitude or appearance, just to gain attention. Surely it’s okay to want to look beautiful, to dress in pretty clothes, even in an understated way… and still enjoy attention.

By the way, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to be ‘shocking’ – if that’s the way you are, the way you dress because that’s who you are, it’s what makes you ‘you’, then by all means, do it. My point is, some people do ‘shocking’ purely to get a reaction – good or bad – not because it’s who they are … that reaction is all that matters.

There are other ways to ‘fight’ battles, not just physically, but through actions, words … having the courage to ‘do the right thing’, being mature enough to realise that your ‘heart’s desire’ isn’t always the ‘right’ choice when weighed against responsibilities. And doing it all with some semblance of dignity.

As a reader, I have always enjoyed stories where the heroine faces her fears and steps up to be counted … or, as Stephen King said, where ordinary people deal with extraordinary situations. To that end, I try to write my main characters as everyday girls. With no special abilities, she starts the story with the self-doubt that plagues so many of us, regardless of age. As the story progresses, so does she change from an anxious girl to one who conquers her fears with confidence and courage. Yet, the doubts do not all disappear; there are times she will still question herself – as do we all, at one time or another.

I hope that I do not sell my male characters short, that I do make them believable. Some may present themselves as self-assured and full of confidence, but secretly they’re also troubled by doubts, they worry about how well they’ll acquit themselves when ‘out in the world’ … will they be courageous when courage is called for, not something that should be taken for granted just because one is a man. Despite writing them as being good-looking, I hope I temper that by giving them faults – like finding other women attractive and acting on it, even though they’re supposed to be with the female protagonist… being arrogant sometimes just because they’re ‘the guy’ and have certain expectations…

Then when both characters are together, finding that it’s not all plain sailing, that they have to work at establishing and maintaining a relationship. And ain’t that the truth!