The allure of the strong female protagonist

I’ll let you into a secret. 

The protagonist of the Borderliners Trilogy, Dr Elena Lewis, is not a strong woman. At least, she doesn’t start out that way. She has her moments, but she is challenged, over-faced by the extent to which life pushes back at her, insecure, torn apart by the burden of knowing too much, seeing more than she needs to in the souls of others.

And here’s another one.

It’s been no easy ride writing a character like this. I’m writing another character now, one who is lined up to take the baton from Elena when she is ready to retire from centre stage.  This character is stronger, sassier, has less time for men and idiots than her more sensitive predecessor. This is a woman I like. The woman I would have liked to have been.

But it’s far too easy. I know that writing this kind of woman will resonate with readers. They will want to sit back and enjoy the ride, watching what this woman gets up to, peeking from between finger tips as she strides about, riding roughshod over fools.

Back to Elena. Why has she been so problematic for me? Because she represents challenges and insecurities, she shows me how it feels to try and fail, to opt for a quiet life and instead, to be found by trouble. This is the woman I don’t want to be, but fear I could become. Her character arc is important because it serves as a warning, a reminder of choices made and paths trodden which could have been otherwise, which could have been worse, a reminder of what can happen when the going gets tough.

So is it the responsible thing? To create a character people will more easily warm to, whom people will allow themselves to be entertained by. To pander to the need of people to be pulled along in their reading experience, by characters they can aspire to, rather than those they have to suffer alongside?

Time will tell.

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