Write Strong Women. It’s shouted from the rafters and pushed as an agenda for and by so many writers. What does that even mean? Women who can bend steel bars with their eyelashes? Women who can lift cars with one hand?
The phrase ‘strong women’ means something different to everyone. To some, it might mean a woman who ‘does what men do’, who hides her emotions and uses tough language. Maybe it brings to mind women who could take down the average Joe in a fistfight, or beat the bad guy one handed.
I think ‘strong’ can be used where ‘real’ might work better. Do we want women without flaws? Who don’t have a feminine side? Who don’t cry, aren’t romantic, don’t think about having kids? Sure, sometimes. Some women are like that. That shouldn’t be the only definition, though.
Rather than set out to write strong women, I like to write women who are real. Not just Emma, my main character. It’s easy to flesh out a main, make her deep and complex, give her reasons and motivations that seem genuine. Often, female side characters are a little… less so. You know the ones who drop in for a scene or two? They might be recurring, but they’re only there to serve a function: deliver the evidence, report a crime, lead the mercenaries, cook for the prisoners. They don’t have a story. Often, the women are more likely to be missing their story than the men.
Other than Emma, my main characters are mostly men. Harrod, the rich, privileged Talent Lord; Martin, his Talentless brother; Greyson, the charming-but-overworked O.C.U. detective; Gibble, the boggart shop assistant.
If you look closely, however, you’ll see an array of women who all serve their purpose, but do so much more. They’re real, so real I feel like I know them.
Meet the Girls
There is, first of all, Melanie. Mel isn’t a half-blood like Emma, but life in a wheelchair has shown her what it’s like to be looked down on. She’s a beautiful person, bright and bubbly and generous. She loses her heart easily and is a true and loyal friend. She’s brave and confident but sometimes tries to shoulder too much responsibility for the things going on around her.
Trainor is Greyson’s 2IC. She’s smart and in control, the perfect person to back him up in the busy department. In fact, he’s grooming her to be his replacement and has absolute confidence that if the politics of his position see him fall, the O.C.U. will be left in very competent hands. She struggles with allowing herself to show her real personality, having clawed her way through a very male-dominated job.
Sallaway only pops up for short scenes but she’s one of my favourite humans in the books. Making her debut in book 2 as a rough, coarsely spoken police officer, she has a surprising penchant for high fashion and loves her three kids to death. She’s not afraid to say what’s on her mind because she knows her line of work is dangerous and if she doesn’t speak now, she may never get the opportunity.
I can’t wait to get further into the books and explore these characters more. There’s already so much I can say about the three of them (spoilers!) but like any real person, they each have a whole life story behind the scenes. I haven’t set out to write strong women but I think I did it anyway. They’re characters that I feel like I could bump into on the street, they forge their own paths through my stories and they’re so much more that just a function. Of course, I can’t wait for you to meet them too.
(If you haven't read my books, start with Dream Stalker. It's free on most platforms!)