Most writers, thankfully, are now avoiding the cliched damsel in distress character and going for the strong and capable females. I for one am pleased about that, because my female characters all possess strong character traits of some kind. Again, I am not talking about physical strength, although that could be part of it. Strength goes far beyond the muscle-bound hero or spitfire heroine spoiling for a fight. Two of my three main female characters possess the ability to take care of themselves and not depend on males for their survival. One of them does not, but she is strong in other ways, and has other skills. I will discuss her in another post.
Kex is a daring and spirited young girl in The Six and the Crystals of Ialana. She is stubborn, outspoken, and fiercely independent. She relies on her own skills to survive.
In Kex’s clan, girls get married off at an early age, and they have no say in the choice of their husband. Girls are expected to be homemakers and not hunt or develop hunter survival skills as Kex did. Kex’s father had made the unfortunate mistake (or fortunate, as it turned out) to teach his daughter these skills. He also taught her to speak her mind, and to stand up for herself. When it worked against her, and her clan insisted she marry an older man she hated, Kex had little choice but to run away. In her clan, disobedience meant death. I am not encouraging running away for anyone now living in the modern world; things have mostly changed from the days when girls were expected to marry young and their husbands were chosen for them. We have other, legal ways of dealing with adversity at our disposal. Running away in today’s world solves nothing and only makes things worse. It also sets up a mind-set where problems cannot be dealt with in an effective way.
As a writer, I drew on my own memories of running away as a child. I remembered how I packed my little suitcase with some inappropriate items, made myself a sandwich, and went to sit at the bottom of the garden for an hour or two where no one could see me. That was my idea of problem-solving and self-sufficiency. Needless to say, no one ever noticed my absence, and I’d always be home in time for dinner. I grew out of that, eventually, which is good because I would not have made it far beyond the bottom of the garden. Kex did not have the luxury to stick around. Even though she was small and fragile looking she had an inner strength that matched her rawhide bow. I saw Kex as rather Asiatic in appearance, or perhaps Native American. She was typical of the ancient tribes of the Ice Age in the northern hemisphere, but others may see her differently.
Djana, above, is another character who has tremendous fortitude. She is from the fabled city of Rhiannon, but she is not native to that city. Her parents, Holgar and Adne, were imported as slaves by the evil ruler of Rhiannon. However, they escaped the mines where they were sent to work and die, and Holgar became a successful business man in the city.
Djana was brought up in a household of privilege, yet she was not a spoiled debutante like many of her peers. Holgar and Adne had taught her many survival skills, knowing that one day their dream may end. It did, and Djana had to flee the city and make her way across mountains—to where—she did not know.
Djana’s skills were similar to those of Kex, but she also possessed some extra-sensory skills that would be essential to their survival. She does not frighten easily, and faces her fears with tremendous courage. Her strength lies in her ability to survive catastrophic upheaval in her life without falling into self-pity. She faces adversity and deals with it in the best way she knows how.
I see Djana as African in appearance, since her parents were from a part of their world that is much like Africa. I called it “Afarre”.
How do you see your female characters? How do they handle adversity? Could your female character be a role model for teens today, and why? How does their upbringing affect their decision making?