Strong Female Character Traits

Aug 9, 2014 | Blaugust, books, writing | 2 comments

Is it just me, or do strong female characters often come across as being portrayed overly prickly and confrontational? I’ve been reading a series of books recently, written by a husband and wife team under the name Ilona Andrews, the Kate Daniels books. I have been enjoying  them quite a bit, but I find the main character’s rough edges to be slightly overplayed.

Don’t get me wrong, I love characters who pull off quips, humor, snark and sarcasm with style. I far prefer non-passive types who know their own worth and aren’t easily cowed into submission. I don’t enjoy those types as much when they are so prickly that they take being mouthy or hard-ass to extremes. Maybe this is just the reality with women who succeed in rough and tumble jobs or situations, but after a while I start to wish these strong characters weren’t so prickly and didn’t have to try so hard to shove, “I am a bad-ass, take me seriously” into people’s faces.

I know the authors are building up tension between the main character and a love interest to be. They want her to be able to stand her ground against an extremely strong personality, but this type of confrontational relationship (you get it in the Mercy Thompson books too) begins to fatigue me after a while. Maybe I just don’t believe that good relationships can be built on a foundation of stress, anger and arguments.

Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series has a female druid character that I like quite a bit. She is competent, fierce, brave, accomplished but comes across as much more balanced and approachable than many of the strong female characters you find in other books. I know it can be done, making a competent and kick-ass character who doesn’t prick you with her thorns all the time. It is a good thing for Hearne that she is along for the ride now, since his main POV character keeps making stupid choices that make me want to walk away from the books at times.

I suppose I just prefer the “think first, use diplomacy, don’t get prodded into stupid choices and don’t let your emotions rule you” types of characters the most.

Blaugust 2023 Wrap Up

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    1. C. T. Murphy

      Agreed. It’s difficult to find female protagonists that stand on their own, yet aren’t also just brooding, smartass, anti-hero sorts.

      I’d also really like to see more protagonists that manage to be heroic but still feel paternal/maternal as well. I think that’s a very hard combination to capture.

      • gamerladyp

        Yeah. I’m not sure I could pull that one off and have it feel realistic, but it must be possible.


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