Guest Post by E Journey, author of Between the Two Worlds series.
Strong Women: Beyond Swooning
and Smelling Salts
All my female characters are strong. From protagonists to
secondary characters, including those who pass for villainesses. I can’t write
them any other way. These are women who know—or at least learn—what they want
and go after them. Women not daunted by obstacles. Women others can rely on.
Heroines, of course, can make mistakes, have
characteristics that make them vulnerable or fragile and villainesses can have
lovable attributes. They would all be boring if they’re perfect or totally evil.
may not be a story worth telling. In any case, life isn’t like that.
Why choose strong women in my stories?
Partly, it’s because of how I got into writing novels. The
first one I wrote is set in Victorian times, a sequel to a well-loved classic-cum-miniseries.
Most authors who’ve written sequels to Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South were enamored of the alpha male hero, but I was intrigued
by the female heroine.
Like most people, I didn’t have high opinions of typical
subservient, timid, inferior to men (because they couldn’t cultivate their abilities),
and in need of a man’s protection. Exceptions existed but were sadly rare in
and Victorian period fiction, however, had many exceptions among the few novels
focused on a heroine: Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, Jane Austen’s Lizzy
Bennett, Emma Woodhouse, Anne Elliott, and Gaskell’s Margaret Hale, to name a
few. Heroines with minds of their own, ready to defy society or conventions to
follow their hearts.
seems like everyone is writing sequels, so I thought I’d try my hand at it. I
had a long history of writing, not fiction, but essays and social science
reports. In my sequel, I focus on Margaret blossoming into a Victorian feminist.
continued the trajectory of strong heroines in the contemporary fiction I’ve
written. From Elise to Agnieszka, to Leilani. Despite different histories, all are
intelligent, strong-minded, and passionate about what they value. Each finds
her own way, and forges an identity (as lawyer, pianist, or psychologist)
separate from the man she loves, but within the limits of who she is and of
sociocultural practices of modern life.
characters are also strong and, I hope, not unidimensional: for example, beautiful
and vengeful Lori, loyal and irrepressible Leah, lusty and talented Aunt Jola,
single-minded and traditional Mrs. Talar, and secretive and maternal Mrs.
make them all strong? Because, in real life, we all have strengths and
weaknesses. Sometimes, our strengths are not too
obvious, but they surface when we meet adversity. Besides, weak
villainesses don’t make worthy opponents, and we relate more deeply with strong
protagonists—live their frustrations and triumphs, share their joy and sadness,
ride along with them in their adventures, and grow with them as they surmount
me as a writer, strong women characters are more fun and satisfying to write.
Otherwise, I’d probably turn off my computer and concentrate on painting. A
tragedy because I love creating with words.
women are empowering. They give us hope, make us root for something, and reinforce
our belief in humans, more so when we see them deal with issues and problems
that we, as readers, also confront.