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USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author S.M. Schmitz

Sci-fi Romances and Mythic Fantasies with a little bit of heart and a whole lot of snark

On Writing Strong Female Characters

January 13, 2016

Each of my novels - even those narrated by men - features at least one strong, capable female character. I don't write books with damsels in distress. I write love stories, and while the male protagonists in my books often play a decisive role in resolving the danger the protagonists face, it's almost always the female protagonist who saves them all.

But each of my female protagonists share another characteristic: they are compassionate toward other people. I've always believed it's a mistake to view compassion as a weakness, and I think my female leads demonstrate that.

Another common feature is that my male and female protagonists work together to achieve whatever resolution they are seeking. It isn't a competition, and I think it's far too easy to lose sight of that in literature (and fiction, in general) sometimes. 

So why is it so important to me to demonstrate that both sexes are equally capable - in their own unique ways - of saving themselves and the people they love?

Although I spent most of my teaching career in post-secondary education, I was blessed to have the opportunity to teach junior high and high school for a while. And I absolutely loved it and I loved those kids. But I also had the chance to see what popular culture is teaching our girls, and I desperately wanted to be able to sit down with each of them and tell them they are perfect, just the way they are; that they are enough, just the way they are; that they are loved, just the way they are.

Sometimes, my female protagonists have to learn this message, too. Lydia in the Resurrected series is unrecognizable from book one to book three. If the message her character sent bothered you in book one, just stick with me!

Lottie (also from the Resurrected series) refuses to allow her hatred and anger to transform her into someone she is not, and that, to me, is a far more admirable quality than an ability to hurt someone. She knows who she is and she won't compromise her values, regardless of the circumstances. I love her for that.

Anna from The Immortals series is just as good a hunter as Colin. Stick with the series and you'll see her rescue him, too. But Anna's capacity for love and compassion exceeds that of most people's, and this is one of her greatest strengths.

Finally, Ava from my novel, The Golden Eagle, which will release next week, is probably my favorite female protagonist that I've written. And I think it's because she's the most relatable. While I don't want to give away any spoilers on a book that hasn't even released, I hope that between The Golden Eagle and its sequel, you will love her as much as I do. She has certainly earned it. :)

I'm only a fiction writer now, but I also hope that in some small way, my female protagonists are able to demonstrate that it's perfectly fine to be brave and courageous and tough and smart; and it's perfectly fine to have our weaknesses and flaws and they don't make us less than anyone else. I want them to send the most important message I ever tried to convey to each of those students I taught and loved so much: be who you are, as your own person, not who you think you're supposed to be, because you will always be remarkable, just as you are.

 

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