In a time where so many women are finding their voices – speaking up for themselves and those around them – it’s more important than ever to have strong, badass women in fiction. Girls who can save the day and stand up for what’s right. But what makes a great heroine? Is there a set formula for girl-power? Well, here’s a start . . .
A great heroine should have her own goals, desires and ambitions that drive her to take action, rather than being an extension of someone else’s story. She should be able to have a conversation that’s not just about a man (The Bechdel Test is super handy here!!) and contribute something other than romantic tension.
Women don’t need to be perfect
A female character doesn’t need to be the smartest or most beautiful person on the planet, incapable of messing up or being selfish. Women are people too: we make mistakes and we have flaws. The important thing is that female characters grow and adapt and learn from those mistakes.
They don’t need to have a super cool ability to be super cool
A great fictional heroine isn’t just physically strong. She doesn’t need to know martial arts and magic, or be able to wrestle a tiger. Sometimes, what makes a character special are the parts of them that aren’t special at all; the parts that are just like us. After all, ordinary people can still do extraordinary things!
Whether it’s fantasy, romance or thrillers, it’s about making sure women in fiction are fleshed-out, three-dimensional people. Sometimes, that might mean they can take down an entire army with their pinkie, but other times it can be something far more nuanced.
Have a clear purpose
It’s important to give heroines a purpose and make sure they’re contributing to the story. Is your heroine a great markswoman who can keep cool in a crisis? What does she bring to the table to help the plot move and the characters achieve their goals? A lot of times in fiction, women are victims of plot instead of participants in it, so a great heroine must play an active role in her own story, rather than letting other characters’ actions dictate her own.
A great heroine goes through things the hard way, with determination and good-old fashioned grit. A lot of the time this can mean villains redeeming into heroes, or struggling through complex emotions that don’t have a magical cure. My favourite female characters have the ability to rise above adversity and grow into fierce women I can’t help but root for. And by the end of the book, they always know who they are and exactly what they want!
So, what makes a great heroine? All sorts of things but, most importantly, making them relatable. Even if they’re a killer siren intent on destroying kingdoms, they should have room to grow and make mistakes. After all, being a great heroine is different from being a perfect heroine (and what is perfection anyway?).
To Kill A Kingdom, Alexandra Christo, Hot Key Books – 6th March