What Makes For A Strong Female Character?


I am all for the empowered woman.

One who is not afraid to choose for herself. She does not have to hate the world to prove that she is strong, nor does she need to belittle the opposite sex to be seen as strong.

I am all for leading female characters.

Even before I started writing Maia’s story, I knew my heroine would have to be someone thoroughly and utterly in control of and at peace with herself and her choices. Wait, let me correct that statement only slightly-I knew my heroine needed to make a hero’s journey that would help her reach that point.

But, it was not just about Maia the protagonist. I also wanted to have a solid female supporting cast. Not wanting to draw up a slew of flimsy characters with a facade of strength, I decided to spend some time understanding my wants.

The first question was simple: what is strength?

Is it the physical ability to vanquish all foes, is it supernatural strength, is it invincibility? Maybe it is the courage to choose the right over the wrong and the indomitable will to fight all odds? Maybe it is a mix of both and more?

I figured it is less of a physical strength and more of the mental resiliency that I wanted.

Next came a checklist that had to work for Maia of course but also hold good for at least half of the other girls in the story.

  • They have to add/change the course of the story significantly by their choices, actions and motivations.
  • What I said above without being a constant nag, or being only a romantic inspiration to spur someone else into action.
  • They cannot simply be tools to help the male characters around them shine brighter in comparison.
  • They need to be comfortable with their identities, proud of themselves and their imperfections.
  • They should be able to enjoy doing whatever they want to. If they want to fight a few wars, good for them. And if they want to swoon over the newest boy band, I won’t be stopping them then either.
  • When it comes to taking the final steps at the end of the saga, I do not want Maia to sacrifice herself to make the world a better place.

I have barely only started my journey with this series, having just completed the second book of five. So far I have tried to adhere to these rules while keeping the characters real and believable. My Maia is not infallible but she is a respected flying ace and while not the strongest swords-person in her world, she is striving to get there. More importantly, she is where she is for her own sake, she does what she does so she can get somewhere she wants to, and not because she needs to help someone else achieve a goal. She is her own person.

While I am nowhere near the culmination of The Lightbound Saga, I want the girls in my books to be as free expressing themselves as I want to be myself. I know I can be as happy wearing the most dazzling pink dress and going on a shopping spree, as I am when I calculating the optimum down-tilt for a cellular antenna, or when I am tinkering with the spark plugs on my car. A girl, a woman can be anything she wants to be, not just an embodiment of the attributes that the world picks for them.

S.G. Basu is an aspiring potentate of a galaxy or two. She plots and plans with wondrous machines, cybernetic robots, time travelers and telekinetic adventurers, some of whom escape into the pages of her books. Once upon a previous life on planet Earth, S.G. Basu trained to be an engineer, and her interest in science and her love of engineering shows up time and again in her books.

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Posted in on my books, on writing

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