Monday 1 January 2018

Heroine Overdose: The 2017 Heroine Fixes

To start off 2018 right, here's a reminder of the the amazing, strong, and wonderful women who were featured in 2017's Heroine Fixes.  They can be an inspiration for us all and a reminder that strong female role models come in all kinds of shapes and sizes:

(Warning, the linked posts contain spoilers for the series in question.)

1. Kaylee Frye - Girl Genius

Kaylee is smart, sensual, and a mechanical genius.  She is relentlessly cheerful and optimistic, which is a nice change from the brooding, damaged heroines (that I also love).

Writing positive characters can be a real challenge for an author.  Inner damage makes for great internal conflict and character arcs, it can be more of challenge to create the kind of subtle arc that a cheerful character needs (and it can't always be that they lose their optimism).

Kaylee is a great example of making the light side fascinating and endearing.

2) Penelope Garcia - Oracle of Quantico

Penelope is another positive genius done right.  I love the fact that she's a plus size heroine whose weight has never been the focus of her character or the punch line of a joke.

The lesson we can learn from Garcia is how to balance opposites to create a three dimensional character.  Too much on one side or another can topple into farce.

Her confidence and wit are what make her such a powerful character and inspiration.

3) Melinda May - Woman of Action

Agent Melinda May is not a woman of words.  She is a woman of action.  And those actions mostly involve kicking ass.  She is intimidating, competent, and self-sufficient.  Personally, I think she could take on any male action hero and walk away the victor.  Preferably in some sort of cool slo-mo walk.

While May is impressively professional in almost all of her dealings, her writers also manage to show touches of vulnerability that keep her character from feeling flat.

She is an excellent example of how the "less is more" approach can draw audiences in.  Also of how to kick two bad guys at once on opposite sides.

4) CC Bloom - Friends Forever

CC crackles with passion and loyalty.  She never pauses in achieving what she wants, doesn't take crap from anyone, and is fiercely devoted to those she loves.  

She is still the only strong, defiant female character I can think of who has a non-action hero career.  It's a reminder that strength can be shown in many different ways.

And in the end, nothing can be more poignant or enduring than those five simple words: "Sure, we're friends, aren't we?"

5) Lisbeth Salander - Uncompromising and Defiant

Lisbeth is surly, anti-social, and violent and yet she has readers across the world rooting for her (including me).  She is proof that not every character has to be nice in order to be sympathetic.

There are ways to make even the most unpleasant characters into ones the reader will root for.  Vivid description, almost wizard-like skills, and a David vs Goliath plot are just some of the tools that an author can use.

Lisbeth is a reminder that aggression and violence are not exclusively the hallmark of male heroes.

6) Stahma Tarr - Mistress of Manipulation

If you didn't catch the short-lived series Defiance, then you missed a masterful performance.  Stahma is demure, soft-spoken, and always seems to be in the background rather than the spotlight.  But she is also scary-smart and able to run complex manipulations with seemingly inconsequential whispers into a variety of ears.

She may not be on the side of the angels, but Stahma is an impressive character nonetheless.  She is an example of how strength can be found even in the most exaggerated of feminine restrictions.

Lady MacBeth might have brought down a king, but Stahma Tarr could take down entire empires.

7) Alice Quinn - Brilliant Bookworm

At first, Alice might look like just another Hermione Granger rip-off.  She's smart, far more advanced at magic than her other school companions, and initially portrayed as shy and withdrawn.  But she is far from simple.  Unlike most research characters, Alice is on the front lines and her skills are recognized by the putative hero, Quentin, when he allows her to take his place.

It's a flip of a stereotype that we all take for granted.  The exposition device character who has all this knowledge and skills but doesn't use them for some reason.  Why shouldn't that character be taking on whatever Big Bad threatens the hero?

Alice is powerful, smart and knowledgeable.  And rather than being forced into a secondary role, her talents are showcased.

8) Kitty Katt - Wolverine with Boobs

As a geek kind of gal, I can definitely appreciate Kitty's comic pop-culture references, and as a sci-fi fan and romance writer, I can most definitely appreciate her super-hot alien mate and wild adventures.  She avoids the common stereotypes of both suave action hero and the hide and shriek character-in-distress.  She's not afraid of failure or looking stupid and thus manages to accomplish more than most people would dream.

She is a wonderful example of a strong heroine who leads her own series, with most of the male characters fading into afterthoughts.  She doesn't compromise on her values or dreams, but is still devoted to her friends and family.

Kitty is enthusiastic instead of cynical, irreverent instead of overwhelmed, and angry instead of understanding.  She's a multi-dimensional character who feels as real as any non-fictional person.

9) Offred - Trapped in a Nightmare

Not every person who gets involved in extraordinary circumstances will rise effortlessly to the occasion.  Offred is trapped inside a world that is determined to strip away her power and render her utterly helpless, which is one of the most terrifying situations I can think of.  She might not single-handedly overthrow the system, but she survives, reminding us of the tremendous strength it takes sometimes to just keep breathing.

She is an example of the strength that we sometimes don't know that we have.  Of the difference between saying "I'm going to live" and "I'm not going to die."  By showing us her pre-society-collapse life in careful flashbacks, the audience is drawn deep into her world and the injustice is made to feel personal.

Her refusal to let the bastards grind her down is just as powerful as any flurry of ass-kicking.

10) Wonder Woman - The Original Grrl Power

Wonder Woman was the first female superhero to break past the sidekick and damsel roles.  She was created as a deliberate foil to the "punch your way to a solution" heroes that graced comic pages.  She is super-strong but also compassionate.  She's a "wonder" in both senses, in that she is amazing and that she still has a sense of wonder about the world.  She brings out the best in those around her.

It would be easy to turn Wonder Woman into a passive character, and unfortunately, it has happened over the decades.  But when she is written respectfully, she is a dynamic character who demands more of her fellow caped crusaders and the world, never accepting bad circumstances just because "that's how it is."  But I think her most inspiring facet is that she is what women could be if they were raised without confidence-stunting restrictions.

Wise as Athena, as strong as Hercules, and a goddess of the hunt in her own right.  That's a character worth remembering.

11) Willow Rosenberg - Witch, Redhead, and Genius

Willow began as an intriguing combination of teenage awkwardness and unfiltered genuineness.  As Buffy The Vampire Slayer progressed, she transformed into the most powerful character on the show but never picked up the flaw of hiding who she was.

Although she was picked on by the popular girls, Willow was surprisingly impervious to their social stings.  She was doing important work that she cared about and the opinions of others weren't going to stop her.  That strength allowed her to be a wonderfully quirky character and endeared her to plenty of geeks who weren't so thick-skinned.

But even though she could dismiss the darkness, she didn't fall into cynicism or become jaded.  In being herself, she saved the world.  A lot.

12) Sally and Gilly Owens - The Circle of Sisters

There are too few stories that focus on the powerful relationships between women.  Ostracized for their powers, the Owens sisters go in opposite directions.  Sally tries to blend in while Gilly defiantly stands out.  But its by working together and recognizing each other's strengths that they can overcome the curse that has plagued their families. 

By focusing on the sisters and their relationship rather than solely on Sally's romantic interest, her story becomes more poignant.  It's a reminder that the power of love really can accomplish miracles, but it doesn't always have to be romantic love (though I do still enjoy a happily ever after).

Most of all, it's a reminder not to set our amazing heroines in a male-dominated world.  One strong heroine is powerful, but several, working together, can change the entire story.

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I hope you've enjoyed this look back at these lovely ladies who we can admire and who inspire us.  Your next Heroine Fix will be here on January 11th and then the second Tuesday of every month.  Or you can sign up for my Heroine Fix newsletter, and never miss your next fix.

Previous Post: 2017 Ink Tips, my monthly advice posts on writing and publishing

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