@erynne – I’m gonna pop in for a quick bit – I skimmed the previous comments and just let me say, stick with Jo March and see her to the end… in the original novel, I agree with @rose-colored-fancy completely. Jo doesn’t hate marriage because she believes her sister shouldn’t be under the authority of a man or that marriage is bad. She’s afraid of losing her sister. She has difficulty understanding sometimes that people can have dreams that are different than hers, but ultimately she is basically afraid of marriage and a relationship. Then she meets a man who shows her the right way that relationships can be and in the end she settles down as a wife and mother and still has her dreams of being independent and a successful author fulfilled. If you read the next books, Little Men and Jo’s Boys, never once does Jo regret her decision to marry and start a family. She’s a loving mother and wife, and at the same time a great authoress.
My words of advice on strong kick-butt female characters is focus on the ‘character’. I know it’s appealing to have women who can hold their own and win battles and kick-butt, but in the end what I think truly draws women and girls to strong female characters is their character. The kick-butt-ing is basically superficial. It may show physical strength, but where your female can truly shine is character strength. Most of your readers cannot kick-butt like a WWE champion or archeress-warrior, so while it can be exciting to see females destroying their enemies, it’s harder to connect. If you give your female strong character instead of just strong muscles, and focus on that, I’ll bet you everyone will end up loving her better.
Strong character can be shown in so many different ways, and I could never, nor am I smart enough to, give lectures on all the points. But some of the things you can do to show strong character is the way she handles situations, the way she handles relationships with other people, the way she deals with difficulties, and the way she deals with herself. She shouldn’t be perfect, like a moral compass that never goes off course… we’re all human. But if she has a strong moral rock to stand on, and even when she falls and fails and plunges into the depths of the despair, if she gets back up and goes on, that’s what pulls readers in. We’re not all going to go to battle against a dark lord, but we are all going to battle against everything in life that tries to keep us down. Our moral struggles are how we relate to characters on the deepest level.
Katniss Everdeen for example… I think she’s an AMAZING strong female lead without having too much emphasis on her kicking butt. (NOTE – I have only read the books, not seen the movies. My mom has done both and believes the books to be superior) In the beginning she is a skilled archer, and they highlight this. However, she herself recognizes in the arena her physical inferiority to almost all the boys and acknowledges that if she were in hand to hand with them, she doesn’t have the talent to win. She scores most of her victories by outsmarting and outthinking her opponents.
In the second book she improves her fighting skills and yet still acknowledges that she wouldn’t make it through without the individual talents and strengths of everyone else in her group. (One of the most annoying strong females is the one who cannot admit that she can’t do everything herself.) She calls on the strengths of her friends to help her and I think that’s an amazing show of character – recognizing that you need other people to succeed.
Originally Katniss is averse to the idea of marriage either to Peeta or Gale, but I don’t blame her one bit for her reasons… she isn’t adverse because she doesn’t want to be under a man’s authority or thinks that marriage is a shackle. She’s afraid of admitting to loving someone else and afraid to bring children into the twisted world she lives in. In the end she marries and is happy as a wife and mother. She recognizes that Peeta completes her in a way Gale couldn’t. He is the contrast and completion she needs. She doesn’t view him as a master or someone who now has her chained for the rest of her life, but someone who loves her, supports her, completes her, and helps her be her best.
In the third book it really is emphasized how little Katniss has control over the situation. Her own treatment and training, the attacks, what role she plays in the rebellion, even what she’s supposed to say and not say are all being controlled by other people. She’s spiraling into mental illness and depression, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks, weeks where she wishes she was dead, weeks where she gives up. But she pulls through. This is her strong female character. She sees her friends and what they’ve lost, she sees what they’re fighting for, she sees what everyone else believes they can accomplish, and she fights for it with everything she has. Rather than believe that she is kick-butt awesome and can do everything, she is afraid and doubting at every step, yet she draws on the strength and belief of her friends and her own desire to bring about change and keeps fighting for what is right. In short, Katniss may be awesome with a bow and arrow, but what really drew me to her is the way she faces her struggles, almost drowns in the difficulties like we all do sometimes, but pushes through and comes out on top, still fighting. So much of the books actually highlight her weaknesses and inferior skills in the arena, but what makes her amazing is her character and the journey she goes through. That’s what makes a strong female a strong female. Her morals, her character, and the way she walks through this world.
And… wow. Oh my gosh I am so sorry that was so long. If you can’t tell, The Hunger Games is one of my favorite book series and I will defend it until the day I die. XD I hope you found a bit of my ramblings helpful. 🙂
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