Heather Massey is the guest at Dear Author today talking about the lack of extraordinary heroines in romance.
She’s absolutely right. Think about all the paranormals and urban fantasies out there. How many of them have powerful, alpha males with more interesting or unique powers than the heroine? Can you name one where the heroine truly has a unique power that makes her extraordinary compared to the uber sexy and powerful male?
Which made me think about the Bechdel Test. Many of our most popular SFF movies fail to have more than one female character. Or if there are more women, all they do is sit around and talk about the hero. It’s their only purpose.
How sad is that?
Which is totally why Lady Wyre and her universe was born. I wanted women in control. Strong, interesting, unique women who commanded not just Society but also government, sciences, you name it. Lady Wyre is a scientist, whose research forms the foundational technology of the entire galaxy. Queen Majel is the supreme ruler of Britannia, an antagonist in many ways but also sympathetic. In Lady Doctor Wyre, the president of Americus (loosely based on Andrew Jackson) is a woman, and she’s desperately trying to save her colony from Majel’s wrath. Even Jean Lafitte, the famous pirate, is a woman!
Cunning, intelligent, strong women. They do more than sit around and talk about the men, because they’re all busy trying to save themselves, the ones they love, their trade, ship, colony, world…while looking fabulous at the same time.
So what’s your favorite strong female character, whether from a movie or book? And does that story pass the Bechdel Test?
7 thoughts on “The Extraordinary Heroine”
This is something that drives me nuts, the only author that has consistently performed for me, by having several strong heroines (and side characters)is Shelly Laurenston.
Anwyl from her dragon books would have to be one of my all time favourite characters, she appears (and continues to be awesome) in all the books after her own.
But the ladies in the shifters series all rock in their own way, whether it is rescuing the hero or maiming people in derbys or even being totally evil to their heroes, they are just made of win.
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Edie, thank you so much for that rec – I haven’t read Shelly yet but I definitely will now!!
Not counting a good deal of your heroines?
Ellen Ripley circa Aliens! She had more than a few conversations with Newt that had nothing to do with a man. She also had a conversation with the Queen Alien. *snort*
Also? La Femme Nikita. Madeline and Nikita had many a conversation. And, although Michael was always described as the better operative, she did get the jump on him more than once. And then there’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and…..I’ll stop now.
It’s scary how much me and Soleil think alike. *snerk*
I also kinda liked Mama K from Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy. You all know how much I despised whatshername, but Mama K was awesome, and while she was a master courteson, she had WAY more going on than just a man (though she wanted one of those, too). She was definitely strong and cunning and had her fingers in many a different pie.
I’ll have to think about more, though, and right now, my thinker’s full of snot. Thus, it’s not operating at optimum capacity. In fact, I’m doing pretty well not to drool like an imbecile right now. Guh.
I think part of the problem is that authors have this idea that women read Romance in order to insert themselves into the story and fantasize that they’re the ones having a relationship with the hero. So better not make the heroine too kick-ass, or complex, or specific; the blander and more general you can keep her, the easier it will be for your readers to use her as an avatar.
I haven’t read the Twilight books, but I’ve been told there’s pages and pages of description of Edward, and almost no physical details at all given for Bella; that way, all the teenage girls can pretend that they’re Bella. Or something. Twilight’s sold a bazillion copies, so obviously there’s some truth to this, but I find it totally bizarre. I read Romance to watch the love story unfold, NOT to pretend that I’m the one having an affair with the hero.
Extraordinary heroines? Off the top of my head: Phedre from the Kushiel’s Legacy series, Solly and Rakam from Ursula K. LeGuin’s Four Ways To Forgiveness, Amelia from the Chronicles of Chaos trilogy, Ista from Lois McMaster Bujold’s Paladin of Souls.
And Shannari and Charlotte Wyre, of course. 🙂