The Strong Female Character

I think you would be amazed at the notion that if you create a character, in some capacity, you might begin to feel for that character.  The whole concept of character development is initially intended to make the reader want to root for them in one way or another.  But what if you had read 300 pages of a novel and all of a sudden you begin to feel for the character? It’s typical for a writer to become vested in said character, but to a reader it’s somewhat different.

If you can pull off good character development, then getting the reader to buy in might be easy, but it can be difficult.  Use of emotions and dialogue can press the issue when creating a character’s persona. You want your character to have layers. You want them to care about others and be cared for in the same notion.  Without these, it can be quite difficult to root for that particular character.  Build their persona with experiences in the novel. You can even do it with flashbacks. 

Laura Linney’s character on Netflix’s Ozark
is a great example of a strong female character.

Most importantly, you want the reader to care about what’s happening to all of your main characters. Without that care, they might as well not even read the book.  What’s the purpose? If we don’t care about the character, what is our purpose of reading it? That is the most important aspect of the book.  Any author can conjure up a good setting, action sequence, or tangible description of a character’s being.  Here are some pointers as far as what to look for in developing a character we want to root for.

First, build a foundation with a detailed description of not just what they look like physically, but also their personality specifically. For example, in a novel I’m working on now, we are introduced to Amanda Smith,one of the main protagonists, but the character development doesn’t focus on her. It focuses on her mother. We know Smith can be tough as nails and not take any flack from any opposition. Where does she get it? You guessed it. From her mother. Forming a relationship indirectly in that fashion gives us an idea of the family dynamic.

Next, we use dialogue to really get in the head of her mother.  She’s a cool customer when she needs to be. Her dialogue shows it. An excerpt from the novel shows us that she knows when to do what she has to do. “Get your ass in here now, Amanda Smith. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do!” or “Denise Smith slowly sipped her golden, brown tea.” This builds consistency throughout the novel.  It’s actually an inconsistent consistency, but it works. She can be a hard ass in one scene but, low key in the next. It’s all part of character. The behavior becomes a “consistent thing” as you go deeper into the novel.

Lastly, I want to share that I’m guilty as charged. I feel for her character and haven’t even finished the novel yet!  I want to know what she eats for breakfast and what she’s going to do when she finds out that Amanda has yet again skipped detention to go to the mall with her friends. I give a crap about what she wears around the house and what her favorite TV show is, whether it’s The Wire or Ozark.

Point made. This is what happens when the author grips you with good character development. I sure hope a good future awaits Denise Smith!

3 thoughts on “The Strong Female Character

  1. Describing characters both directly and indirectly creates layers, I think, which deepen the readers connection to the person and to the vision that you're relaying.

  2. Good stuff. Taking a different POV from several characters can give a reader a good perspective on a Main Character. How a stranger reacts to your Hero in a desperate situation can be more revealing than telling us what the Hero did in that same situation.

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