When it comes to movies I see the majority that come out during the year but I am a very selective television watcher. There is just way too much produced to keep up with all of it. Of course the other reason that I don't frequent the TV airwaves all that often is the amount of really bad TV (mainly the endless supply of reality shows). However there is the occasional show that catches my interest: Lost, Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, and Burn Notice are a few. Today I watched the first episode of Castle, a crime show where an author and a detective work to solve the murder. If you are already a fan of Castle you now can know for a fact about my lapses in TV viewing as the show originally aired in '09. I'm excited to watch more of this show for three basic reasons: first Nathan Fillion is an enjoyable actor (and it's nice to see he's found something that has lasted for more than a season), second the story is anchored by a murder mystery author (which is pretty obvious reason for me) and third the female lead, played by Stana Katic, has these great strengths which I find irresistible.
I'm not sure when the exact moment that I decided I was uninterested in the damsel in distress, in both the fictional world and my own life, but it was early on. Take the fictional character Sarah Connor from the original Terminator movies. If you recall in the first Terminator Sarah spends the majority of the time running around scarred for her life and screaming a lot, if you don't recall the first Terminator it's probably because you were too young to see it or maybe you weren't even born yet (either of which is regrettable because you're really missing out on a lot; maybe you can work on that). This first version of Sarah Connor holds none of my interest. Now in the second Terminator Sarah is bold, strong, capable, and, to me, infinitely more attractive because of it. Physically she is the same, she was attractive to begin with, but just like thousands of women like her there was nothing that made her uniquely stand out until she allowed her strengths to manifest.
So I don't know how it is for anyone else but for me when I was watching this first episode of Castle and Stana is throwing on her bulletproof vest and running, gun drawn, after the bad guy, I went proverbially weak in the knees. For me there is nothing more attractive than a woman with the confidence of her own strength. I'm drawn to these types of characters so they often find their way into my writing. So what are some of the characteristics to creating the strong heroine?
- Personal Values
- High Intelligence
- Keeps Commitments
Let's take a closer look at each of the points:
Personal Values. A strong heroine is committed to herself. She has values that she will not compromise for anyone. Her values are not secrets hidden from all but her close friends; on the contrary she is proud of who she is and what she believes in. These values may or may not be in line with what is popular in society, but they are hers and she will never be afraid to stand up for what she believes to be right.
High Intelligence. A strong heroine has to be highly intelligent and not just book smart but street smart with a lot of that uncommon element in society: common sense. Does she have all the answers to life? No, but her wits allow her to navigate any situation with the confidence that she will be able to find the answer. Although she can navigate any situation her high intelligence really shines in her chosen field of expertise. Whether she is a detective, freedom fighter, social worker, doctor, lawyer, human rights advocate, scientist or stay at home mom she is the beginning and end on the subject, and it shows.
Keeps Commitments. If a strong heroine has made a choice to begin a task she will stay with it until it is completed, even under the most stressful conditions. This is where the strong heroine will walk the razors edge between keeping her personal values and staying till the end of her commitments. If a commitment might compromise her values she will not abandon them but will find the best way to keep the commitment and stay true to herself.
Courage. It's not that she doesn't feel fear, she does, but she presses through the fear and the hopelessness. Even under the worst circumstances she will be standing tall, confident in whom she is. Some may consider her a loner because of her courage, but it is not a deliberate intention to keep people at a distance; the strong heroine wants to have close friendships and love; it is simple a balancing act.
This should give you a really good starting point for incorporating a strong heroine into your own stories, or work to develop your established heroine a little more.