Females In Fiction

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Women. They come in all shapes and sizes. Yet the same clichés abound.

Let's start with the clumsy, shy, innocent teen girl. The Bella Swan, if you will. Or the typical nerdy chick who's unliked, bit of a loner, desperately wants to be loved... I know this appeals to young teens who can associate with such characters, rather than the popular sassy chicklit chicks or the gutsy, rebel bad girls. But the agonisingly shy, clumsy geek gal has become so cliché it grates my teeth whenever I see it.

She's often portrayed as introverted and by the end of the book has transformed into an outspoken, confident extrovert, because introversion needs to be 'overcome' for some reason. Or she finds a bad boy who falls for her and adds excitement to her life. Or falls in love with a gorgeous popular guy who sweeps her off her feet and changes her life forever. Never, in these books, does the girl learn to deal with her difficulties by herself, or learn to love herself as she is. The guys who 'love' her are never nerdy or quiet, they never encourage her to accept herself by supporting her decisions. They swoop into her dull, boring life and help her escape.

Yes, I know that teens are just exploring their own fantasies. But older authors writing YA fiction should know better, and try to set an example with their stories, with heroines who don't need to transform or have their lives radically made exciting by a boy.

That leads us on to the next cliché: the lovelorn ninny. The naive young woman pining to be rescued by a handsome prince. She's not a teen now, she's in her 20s/30s, she's stuck in a deadend job, single, and yearning for sexual adventure. When she sets eyes on her prince it's lust at first sight and after that all she can think of is him. She becomes a completely brainless ninny whenever he's around because she's so overcome with attraction towards him.

Blurrrgh, don't make me puke.

These female characters annoy me, and they usually aren't being written by male authors, oh no, it's usually female writers. After centuries of women fighting for freedom, to not be the possession of their fathers or husbands, it sickens me that in today's day and age women fantasise about being dominated by a man, possessed, saved etc etc. Maybe it's harmless and we should all be allowed our fantasies and kinks without shaming. But that doesn't stop me rolling my eyes at this particular fantasy.

Women are strong. They can save themselves, if necessary. They don't need to be owned or dominated to get their rocks off. Men can help them, support them, but they don't need to dash in and save the day because the woman is so dumb she can't figure it out herself.

In Rogue Rewritten, I purposefully made sure that Sarah is the one to reach her vital realisations herself, with the help of friends. She kisses the hero awake from his curse, and although Reed takes care of the 'enemy', he does so in an accidental kind of way rather than heroically stabbing his sword through the villain's heart to rescue the damsel.

Throughout the story, Reed encourages and supports Sarah to learn and grow, he doesn't rescue her from all danger and sweep her off into happy ever after. I wanted Sarah to be a strong female lead who had realistic flaws to overcome, who was guided and supported by her friends and by the male romantic lead, but I never wanted her to become such a useless ninny that she melts whenever Reed comes near.

The strong female can take many forms. Brave, fierce, supportive, she faces her fears and comes through. Not to be confused with the Mary-Sue, who can do absolutely everything whilst still looking beautiful throughout.

Just as common as the shy, clumsy teen, the Mary-Sue is widespread in stories written by both men and women. She can do kung-fu, is super intelligent, nurses others back to health, and is uber sexy too.

Unrealistic.

Hollywood has a problem with 'strong' women. Script writers seem to think that in order for women to be strong heroines, they need to act like the male heroes. They need to be athletic and kick-ass, without emotion holding them back.

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