I suppose you all remember the post about your characters being too perfect. Well, that also plays into this discussion. Since all characters are on a journey from page one to page five hundred, we'll assume you're starting out with a flawed female who thinks she needs one thing, but will find out that what she's looking for isn't what she needs.
Being flawed is what makes us human. Remember: To err is human, to forgive is divine.
So, why do women love female protagonists?
It's not just any old protagonist with a vagina we ladies love to read about. It's the ones we want to be more like that move us emotionally (and women are driven by emotions). We have to connect with them on a deeper level. Here's a quick list of things that make a strong female lead (and some of the females that rock):
- She doesn't know she's awesome and doesn't preen like a peacock (Jane Bennet-P&P).
- In a fight, she'll always come out on top. Maybe not because of her brute strength, but because of her brains (Hermione - Harry Potter).
- There should always be self-doubt as to whether she can do what she's about to attempt (Katniss - The Hunger Games).
- These ladies don't need a man, and they don't whimper in a corner when things get hard (Millie - The Help).
- Hard times or abuse have fallen on them in the past, and they grew from the experience (Kate - First Visions).
- Many of these women are completely selfless and put others first (every lady listed above).
Now, that's not everything that makes a great female protagonist; but it's a good list to start with. Add to that some skill with a sword or bow, a successful line of self-employment (all of Fern Michaels's leading ladies), some serious self-doubt that's overcome, or a hidden power, and you have a winner.
But she must also be the underdog. We must have some reason to root for her to succeed and the fear that she won't. A girl whose never seen the other side of the tracks is difficult to get behind. Let's face it, life isn't easy or fair for 99% of the population. If you make it fair, 99% of the population won't connect with your character.
If you do these things well, your readers will fall in love with your characters, identify with them, and want to be more like them. That's the key.
I bet you've heard of most of those women. Guess why? Yup, they were strong. If you haven't read Kate's story in First Visions, you should. It's free. Forever. On Amazon.
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: If your female lead is weak, annoying, leans on a man all the time, or acts childish, female reviewers will ding you for it. Give us someone we can really root for.
Who's your favorite leading lady?
Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!