Writing a Heroine

One of the main complaints about literature, especially fantasy, is that the hero is generally always a male. If I look back at some of the books I read, especially as a child, this complaint holds up. Percy Jackson. Harry Potter. Eragon. Frodo Baggins. Kvothe. Okay, so there was Katniss Everdeen, but otherwise…not many girls.

I have no doubt that this is because most fantasy writers are male. And obviously, if you’re male, it’s easier to write male characters. You understand them better. You feel like you have a right to write about male characters because you yourself are male. Pretty simple. Even so, girls need strong heroines to look up to (which is why my next novel features a heroine).

So how do you write a heroine? It can be such a daunting task for male writers. You think, “Do I know what a girl would be thinking at such a time? Is this sexist? I don’t want anyone to think I’m sexist.” And you know what? The only real response to such thoughts is “Who the fuck cares?” A girl is a person. You are a person. Don’t let your worries dictate what sort of character you create.

With that said, please don’t write a whiny, love-obsessed girl for a heroine. People hate those characters. Also, it’s pretty stereotypical and there will be backlash. That’s not to say that such characters can’t exist. Sansa Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire was whiny and love-obsessed, but that was just setup for when Joffrey tortured her (much to our amusement), and for when she grew a backbone in the Eyrie.

Backbone. It’s all about backbone. Think of the very symbol of heroism: Link. Sure, he’s a speechless video game character, but he is the hero of time, the hero of winds, the hero of twilight, and so on. Physically, he starts out weak and grows stronger and stronger as time goes on. Mentally, though, this guy is the buffest person there is. Link represents the Triforce of Courage, the Triforce of Backbone if you will. Regardless of how big and scary the villain may be – I mean look at Demise’s pecs! – Link gives it a go.

Okay, so that’s the ideal hero. But no person is ideal. I expect your character to stumble and fall and cower in fear on occasion. Don’t make your heroine totally courageous, totally righteous, or totally unbeatable. Totally is boring and unrealistic. Work on blending feats and flaws. Don’t make a whiny, little girl and don’t make a courageous and speechless hero. Make something in the middle.

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