Let’s Talk Bookish: How Do You Feel About ‘Strong Female Characters’?

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. Today’s topic is ‘How do you feel about strong female characters?’ and I think there’s a lot to say about this subject! But what do we mean when we say ‘strong female characters’? The phrase has come to mean female characters who are basically badass at fighting, smart etc. These characters are great, but that’s not what the phrase ‘strong female characters’ should be about. The ‘strong female character’ has become as much as a cliché as the damsel in distress.    

To have a strong character, you don’t have to have female characters who are epic at fighting or who are tough. They don’t have to be physically strong to be a well-developed character. A strong woman doesn’t have to be a woman with all the attributes typically given to male characters. What we actually want when we talk about strong female characters is female characters who are developed as much as male characters. We want complex heroines as much as we want complex heroes.

So I’m not keen on the phrase ‘strong female character’ because it doesn’t really convey what I actually want from my characters as the word ‘strong’ is so loaded and misleading. I want to see realistic, well developed characters. I don’t want to see female characters who are ‘strong’ but lack depth. I want to see a variety of personalities in the female characters I read in books and see in TV/film.

A strong female character should have depth and development, strengths and flaws, and have a role in the story which is important for the plot.

One measure for the portrayal of female characters is the ‘Bechdel test’ which is not a perfect measure but I will mention it for the purposes of this discussion. In order for a book or film to pass the Bechdel test there have to be at least two female characters, who talk to each other, and who talk about something other than a man. When you look at books and films it’s shocking how many fail on something so simple.

I want all characters to have depth and development. Unfortunately, in books and film it’s most often male characters who have depth and development and female characters are just two-dimensional. This has been changing in the book world. I’m reading so many great books with good female characters, particularly in YA. But there is still a way to go with how female characters are represented in books. Then there is the problem with films. Why are there so few female-led films? We need more movies with developed female characters!

Do you have any thoughts on strong female characters? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Top 10 Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Fantasy

Today’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is ‘Reason Why I Love…’. Fantasy has been my favourite genre for so long. I think it’s what really got me into reading. So I decided to write about 10 reasons why I love fantasy!

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

Escape – Fantasy provides an escape from the real world. When I’m reading fantasy, I can really envelope myself in this other place, this other world, and forget about everything going on in my life.

New worlds – One of my favourite things about fantasy is the world building. I love discovering a new world in each book I read and immersing myself in that place.

Magic – Of course, magic is a big part of the fantasy genre. There’s something about magic that just sparks my imagination. I also love seeing all the different magic systems that authors come up with!

Magical creatures – As someone who loves animals, I love it when fantasy worlds are populated by magical creatures as well as people.  

Dragons – Yes you could count dragons as magical creatures but I felt they deserved their own point on this list. They are my favourite magical creature! I have a collection of dragons and always enjoy seeing my favourite creatures in books.

Imagination – There are so many possibilities with fantasy! Endless things authors can do with worlds and magic and everything else that comes with a fantasy story.

Adventures/quests – What drew me to fantasy as a child was the idea of going on an adventure! Setting off on a quest and overcoming obstacles to reach the goal!

Characters – I love the mix of heroes and villains in fantasy and seeing characters grow over the course of a book and a series!

Political intrigue/court intrigue – I do really like when there is a good dose of political intrigue in fantasy. Seeing how different kingdoms and peoples interact with each other, political rivalries, alliances, characters out for their own gain or with their own agendas, all makes for such suspense!

Reflecting on the real world – Fantasy (and science fiction) can be used as a lens through which to explore issues from our own world. I like it when fantasy is used as a way to highlight things that are important in our own societies.

What do you love about fantasy? Or your favourite genre? Chat with me in the comments!

Let’s Talk Bookish: What Makes A Good Villain

Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme hosted by Rukky @ Eternity Books and Dani @ Literary Lion. This week’s topic is ‘What Makes A Good Villain’!

Villains are an important part of any story. Our heroes have to face obstacles to achieving their goal and there is almost always a villain standing in their way. But what makes a good villain? I like to see villains that are just as fleshed out and developed as our protagonists. Cardboard cut-out villains just fall flat. I want an antagonist who has motivations, wants, desires, a back story (be it tragic or not so tragic).

Good villains can fall into different categories. There are the evil for the sake of evil villains, who I find very rarely work effectively. A baddie with an evil cackle is just cliché and boring. I like to see complexity in villains. Yes they might well be evil, but why? Is there something in their history that made them that way? Even the pure evil kind of villains can have layers and complexity to them. For evil villains, I want them to genuinely scare me. I want to be scared for my favourite characters. An example that springs to mind is Amarantha from A Court of Thorns and Roses. She’s evil, twisted and sinister and I found Maas’s depiction of her character utterly chilling.

Alternatively, the villain could believe their actions are justified, genuinely believe that what they’re doing is right or for the greater good in some way, but their choices to achieve their goal are morally wrong or result in the deaths of innocents for example. Or the antagonist could be conflicted, fighting between the dark and the light inside them, and maybe they have a redemption arc. Maybe the antagonist isn’t evil at all, they’ve just fallen in with the wrong crowd in an attempt to fit in or have been blackmailed. Can they be redeemed? Or do they succumb to the darkness growing inside them? An interesting angle is having morally grey antagonists (and even grey protagonists too). When the lines between good and evil are more blurred, that can make for a really captivating story.   

I also enjoy books where we have more than one antagonist. There might be a main villain, the evil person who the hero has to defeat at the end of the book/series, and then other antagonists whom the protagonist comes into contact with more frequently and provides a more direct and personal conflict. For an easy example, I’d categorise Voldemort as the main villain in Harry Potter, but Draco is an antagonist who Harry comes into direct conflict with more often as they have an ongoing rivalry.

But how does the story end for the villain? Many books end with the downfall or death of the villain. In order for the heroes to succeed, they have to vanquish the antagonist. However, sometimes an antagonist gets a redemption arc. I do like a good redemption arc but it has to be done well in order to be a satisfying conclusion to that character’s story.

What do you think about villains? Who are your favourite villains from book or screen? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!

Writing Corner: Your Cast of Characters

It’s been a long time since I’ve blogged about writing, so I’ve decided it’s time to get back into the swing of sharing my thoughts. I’ve been writing for around 13 years now, and have completed four novels and one novella. I’ve learnt a lot over the years, and hope someone will find these posts useful. It is always important to remember though, that writing is a constant learning process! No matter how long you have been writing for, there is always more to learn and discover about the craft, and your own processes.

The cast of characters in your books includes all of the named characters. The protagonist is the focus of your story, but the other characters, and the overall cast, are also really important.

Read More »