The one question I get asked consistently that still baffles me when I get asked it is “Why do you write strong female characters?”
*blinks* I don’t.
I write human characters. I write women and men (equally) who have faced or are facing their most difficult battles. Men and women with scars that run deep enough to make them wary of life, and people. Men and women who have made mistakes they would give anything to undo, been the victims (and then survivors) of horrors and crimes that test the human spirit and one’s ability to survive.
I don’t see the distinction between a “male” and “female” role – human beings, as a species, can be heroic, courageous, strong, and compassionate in equal measure. They can also be petty, vengeful, self-absorbed, and all things villains are made of.
I write heroes and heroines that aren’t just cardboard tropes, because “perfect” people don’t exist, and they’re impossible to live up to. The hero who always does the right thing isn’t just boring, he’s impossibly difficult to aspire to be. As humans, we all stumble, we all fail, at some point. Sometimes it’s the little things, and sometimes it’s big ones. It’s not about the stumble, or the fall. It’s about how we pick ourselves back up afterward, how we set about making things right, and how we learn from our experience. My heroes quite often face monumental mistakes or self-created demons — they suffer regrets, and they have very real fears. They understand human nature, and they’re neither afraid of, nor threatened by, the strength of their female counterparts. While they often have strong protective instincts, they’re also highly aware of their female counterpart’s ability to take care of herself – sometimes, they’re even awed by it. 🙂
Likewise, my heroines aren’t all pristine little virgins who are all sweetness and light. Many of them have equally dark (and sometimes darker) pasts as their counterpart heroes. They come from histories of abuse (either externally- or self-inflicted or, in some cases, both), they’ve made mistakes, and they’ve struggled for everything they get in life. These heroines are kick-ass not because they’re inexplicably tough, but because they’ve had to become tough. Their struggles have taught them what to hang on to, and what to let go of. Who to trust, and when to pull the trigger. They don’t quake in the face of demons, because they’ve already looked into their own darkness, and come out the other side, stronger. They use their own demons to fight the world’s demons, and they’re not afraid to stand side-by-side, or toe-to-toe, with their male counterparts.
I write these kinds of characters because they give each and every one of us hope. They let us see that there’s no pit too deep to crawl out of, no issue too insurmountable to claw our way out of. I write these kinds of characters to remind myself and my readers that the human spirit is indomitable, that we can survive anything. I write these kinds of characters to show people it’s okay to be strong, that there’s no reason to be afraid of strength, in either ourselves or in others, as long as we remember that strength is not about power. My characters are there to remind us of the difference – that strength is about abandoning the quest for power, about making ourselves vulnerable. Vulnerable to each other, and vulnerable to our own demons, our own past, our own selves. My characters teach people to strip away the outer shell of “everything’s just fine” lies we show the world at large, and take a deep, long look into our insecurities, pains, and personal failures.
And that, dear readers, is why I don’t write just strong female characters. I write strong human characters.