Before I get into the subject of today’s post, first, a little housekeeping. The winner of the $15 Amazon gift card to purchase Mary Quattlebaum’s newest book, Jo MacDonald Hiked in the Woods, is
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Congratulations, Akoss!!!! Please send your email address to lmarie7b(at)gmail(dot)com or comment below with it so that I can get that ecard to you!
Once again, thank you to all who commented. Now, on with the show. . . .
Don’t get me wrong! I greatly appreciate a heroine who can kick butt. I wept tears of joy watching Sigourney Weaver (above) as Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies. I championed Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins’s young adult dystopian (and series) The Hunger Games (played by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie, below). I loved Katara and Toph in the Avatar series. I even said, “Woo hoo,” at Lara Croft’s antics in the first Tomb Raider movie. And I wanted to be Buffy, Storm, and the Black Widow.
There are many, many YA heroines besides Katniss who are battle ready (like Katsa in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling) or, in many paranormal romance books, trained by hot instructors to battle the enemy with an arsenal of weapons. And then they later get to date the hot instructors. Good times.
Awhile ago, I wrote a guest post for Hardcovers and Heroines where I whined about an old Lois Lane comic book, because my niece questioned the fact that Lois, the star of her own series, had to be rescued. That was back in “the day.” We’re in a new era of empowered female heroes with agency galore. Like Helen Parr in The Incredibles, we can have it all!
Yet when I sat down to write the novel I recently completed, I evaluated what I wanted from my heroine. Having earlier begun a novel with a magic-wielding heroine (one to which I’ve since returned), I didn’t want to go the same route. So, I asked myself, and now I’m asking you, does every heroine have to have an edge—that sense of knowing that she’s armed and deadly? Granted, the idea has merit. I’ve mentioned in other posts that I grew up in a rough neighborhood. Even someone nerdy like me needed to look fierce, even if I wasn’t exactly Ripley. But most days, I looked about as fierce as a poodle.
But I didn’t want my heroine to have the veneer of power. I didn’t want her to be a pushover, you understand. But combat trained? Nope. I wanted her to get by on her ingenuity, her MacGyver-like sense of scraping herself out of danger with whatever she can quickly grab (a rock for example). (Wondering who MacGyver is? Look here.) I also wanted her to fail most of the time, but still try.
Charles Yallowitz has a great post on female characters. In his Legends of Windemere series, his heroines are tough and plucky. But Charles is well versed in weaponry. Me? I wouldn’t know how to swing a sword properly if someone held a . . . well . . . a sword to my head. Yes, I know there’s a thing called research. Trust me. You don’t want me researching a sword thrust. I’ve cut my fingers on my own steak knives. Anyway, sword wielding didn’t seem right for my character. Making hard choices is her strength.
So, once again, I pose the question: Must a heroine kick butt to be viewed as a strong heroine? Please tell me what you think. Inquiring minds wanna know. . . .
Poodle image from scenicreflections.com. Sigourney Weaver as Ripley from alienfilmspedia.wikia.com. Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss from rhsapinoso.wordpress.com. Graceling cover from Goodreads. Helen Parr from disneywikia.