What comes to mind when you think of a Strong Female Character? Probably a female superhero or warrior—someone who is physically strong, kicks major butt, and has a dominating presence. But despite popular belief, a Strong Female Character does not need to be physically strong. Sure, characters like Katniss Everdeen and Wonder Woman are Strong Female Characters, but they aren’t the only ones.
Writing a Strong Female Character is about writing the woman complexly. She is not simply there to support a man’s story, nor could she be replaced by a sexy lamp with a post-it note on it. A woman can be strong by virtue of being well-written. Thus, here are our top 6 ways you can turn a two-dimensional character into a Strong Female Character.
1. Give her flaws
No one is perfect, and even if they were, perfect is boring. Flesh her out. She needs obstacles to overcome, internal or external. Writer’s Digest suggests giving her a fear. In addition to being relatable, facing fears shows inner strength.
2. Give her (internal) strength
There are many types of strength. Physical, yes, but also strength of mind and strength of character. Give her great intelligence, or a sharp tongue, or immense talent, or strong sense of friendship or loyalty, or great empathy. These are all ways in which one can be strong.
3. Give her a backstory
Who is she? Why is she here? Why is she the way she is? Screencraft additionally suggests asking where she gets her power and how she defines herself.
4. Give her goals
If she has goals that do not revolve around a man, and works towards those goals, she has a life outside of a man.
Give her a personal story arc
One of the biggest traps female characters fall into is simply existing to support a man’s arc. If your Strong Female Character is not the protagonist of your story, make sure she has her own life. She should play an active role in the plot or a subplot, and not just in a romantic or sexual way. A good rule of thumb is the Mako Mori Test.
Write her like she’s human
It was George R. R. Martin who once said that he “always considered women to be people.” Naturally, the women he writes are strong and complex. Writing a woman is like writing any other character. Develop her as such. If all else fails, write her as a man and change the pronouns later. You’d be surprised how well this works.