by Michelle Janene
A while back, a dear friend told me how much she likes the strong female characters in my books. I was taken back. I didn’t see them as particularly strong.
All my characters have flaws. They come with baggage from their past and feelings of inadequacies in the present. How could that be strong?
But I took a closer look at my heroines. And I learned something about them and about myself.
My characters have moxie. Dictionary.com defines moxie as: “1. vigor; verve; pep. 2. courage and aggressiveness; nerve.” (March 10, 2019) My characters are not hiding in their beds, weeping under the covers. They still have a bit of vigor and some small measure of courage. The woman belittled by her father, agrees to go with the king and become his bride. The tavern owner takes in the injured man though the last man who she allowed under her roof beat her. The rescued school teacher helps keep up with a spy as they try to outrun their pursuers. None of these women are waiting at home behind locked doors, waiting for their fate to change. They are involved in actively changing their destiny.
My characters have determination. Once set on a course of their own choosing, or one thrust upon them, they don’t give up. There may be a few tears and some lingering doubt, but they forge ahead—for good or bad they don’t stop. Now the queen, the simple rancher’s daughter works diligently to see the castle runs well. The tavern owner follows the man she’s nursed back to health as he goes off to help the family he ran away from. And the school teacher on the run with the spy, found she could fight for his life as hard as he fought for hers.
My characters have perseverance. They don’t give up when the going gets rough—which it always does. As we create bad situations for our characters, and then make them worse and worse, the women I craft, never give up. There may be moments of despair, tears, and a desire to quit. But they don’t. They pull themselves up and they face whatever is coming at them next. A mystic ability is awakened in the queen. It separates her from the man who loves her and who has made her queen. She fights to get back to him, because only together can she master this gift and save their kingdom. The tavern owner, fights beside the man she rescued, only to give him up when she learns her past abuse has left unrepairable damage behind. The school teacher trains to join her spy on his next mission.
While their life experiences say that they are not enough, unworthy, and unwanted, my female leads forge forward. They steel their resolve. And they never quit.
All of our characters need flaws and obstacles to overcome. Whether they are emotionally wounded or carrying scars from the past, we don’t want to read about “happy people in happy land,” (as James Scott Bell often says). We need the imperfect to demonstrate what all of us can strive for if we just had a little moxie, a helping of determination, and steadfast perseverance.
Go forth and write strong characters.
About the Author
Michelle Janene lives and works in Northern California. Most days she blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind. She is a devoted teacher, a dysfunctional housekeeper, and a dedicated writer.
She released her first novella Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015. God’s Rebel came out in 2016, followed by Rebel’s Son and Hidden Rebel in 2017. She has been published in “Guide Post Magazine” and several anthologies. She leads two critique groups and is the founder of Strong Tower Press—Indie solutions for indie authors.
You can read Michelle’s “The Writing Life” column on the 3rd Tuesday each month here at Pandora’s Box Gazette.