Wednesday, May 30, 2012

What Makes a Good Female Lead?

Last week I talked about what makes a good male lead, so it's only fair that I talk about what makes a good female lead this week. Now, there are a ton of strong female leads out there, and while I love a girl who can handle herself, I don't like a girl who doesn't show a softer side.


If you've read THE IMMORTAL RULES, you know Allison becomes a vampire, but not a monster. She retains her humanity. She's strong, yet caring. To me, that's a great combination. I like my female leads to show strength as well as compassion, and Allison does this well.


I also liked Sophie in HEX HALL. She struggled with her abilities, but she didn't let her struggles get her down. She pushed through them. I like that because it adds a realistic kind of conflict to a paranormal story. Having to struggle to come to terms with who you are is something just about everyone experiences and can relate to.


So, I guess, male or female, I like my lead characters to show different sides to their personalities. That makes them real and likable. 


Who are your favorite female leads and why?

63 comments:

  1. Gosh, I feel like a broken record, but I love Tamora Pierce and if you want a tough female lead it's Alanna of Pierce's Lioness Quartet. She disguises herself as a boy for about 7 years in order to become a knight. So she's struggling with not only becoming a woman (boobs and a period) but trying to be like the boys when she's not. And the great thing about her is there was no easy way out for this character to make it. She had to practice twice as hard as the others to become good, then three times as hard to become better than them. Yet, we also have her discovering herself as more than just a girl disguised as a boy, but a girl who's curious to figure out who this softer side of hers is.

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  2. I like a female character who catches on quick! I like her to see the conflict, and quickly determine that she needs to do something about it. Does that make any sense? LOL

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  3. I like the female lead to be strong and human/care for sure. Its also interestig if she has a certain thing that's troubling her-a secret, a past guilt, you get the picture.

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    1. Yes, I like that, too. We all have secrets. ;)

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  4. I really enjoyed Lisbeth Salander from the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. She was obvioulsy broken with serious flaws, but I found myself rooting for her and admired her stubbornness and creative thinking! :)

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  5. I'm with DL about Lisbeth Salander. So many facets to her personality and with all her flaws, I cared about her.

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    1. Okay, now I have to read these books.

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  6. I like female leads that are strong, quick to figure things out, and have a good sense of humor. I thik it is important that the lead has some flaws. I really like the leads in Judy Blume books and Hermione Granger from HP is a favorite.

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    1. Oh, I love humor. Every character should have some humor--in my opinion. :)

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  7. For me it always comes down to *inner* strength. When I think of kid-lit and adult books, this is what i find a good F lead has.

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  8. My absolute favorite is Martha MacNamara from Tea with the Black Dragon. She's a musician in search for her adult daughter who called for her help and then disappeared. Martha doesn't have any superpowers (although there is an Asian gentleman helping her, and he happens to be a dragon trapped in a human body), her greatest gift is the ability to accept people exactly the way they are, with no judging whatsoever.

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    1. That may be a superpower! It's not easy to accept people exactly as they are and not judge them. ;)

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  9. Great advice for any character. Dimension is what makes them interesting.

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  10. I like women who are strong and determined but I still want them to have an element of femininity. I don't like women who are trying to be men or have become completely emotionless.

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  11. Oh, I enjoyed last week's post. and todays as well. :)

    To me the leading lady that comes to mind is from Maria V Snyder Touch Of Power: Avry. She is a healer, the only one of her kind and has been on the run for three years. Despite knowing there is a price for her head, she is compassionate enough to take chance and heal a dying child. But then she is caught. Her on the run made her good at hiding, but not stand and watch other people die. Loved this book. :)

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    1. This sounds like an awesome book. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

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  12. I love strong, smart women, who don't just wait as the damsel in distress. But maintaining compassion is key! I agree!

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    1. Yes. It's a balance between strength and compassion in my mind.

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  13. I like a female character who questions things always. I like her to be skeptical of everything around her and I don't want her to ever let her guard down, not until the right person comes along. :D Then I like her to be 100% trusting.

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    1. 100% trusting, that's tough, but I see what you're saying. :)

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  14. a strong person is the one who can be kind and firm at the same time, the one who can love to the maximum without letting others take advantage of them.

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  15. I enjoy strong, determined female leads who get through the worst situations with their heads held high after going through their lows.

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    1. That's such a great way to describe it, Medeia! I love it. :)

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  16. I think most of my favourite female leads are characters I love and hate at the same time.
    Xx

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    1. The old "love to hate them". I know what you mean. :)

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  17. An emotional in depth character seems like a real flesh and blood person. We can relate better to them.

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  18. Hi, I just found your blog from BB. I love it. I love reading YA novels and am now following. My favorite female lead is a draw between Orissa in Emily Goodwin's Contagious and Clara in Tamara Rose Blodgett's Pearl Savage.Both are strong kick butt ladies! I would love it if you came and checked out my blog at http://lorimariaparker.blogspot.com
    we are a new blog andreview all types of books including tons of YA books.

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    1. Thanks for following, LoriP. I'm heading over to your blog now. :)

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  19. I like characters (male or female) who are strong and determined, but principled and "classy" at the same time.
    Great post - thanks!

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    1. You're welcome. And thanks for sharing your favorite female lead. :)

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  20. My female mc are prickly and very flawed. A few CPs didn't like my female mc at times during the book, but they all loved her by the end, so that's good! :-)

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    1. I've had manuscripts like that too, where the MC grows throughout the story and becomes more likable. It's good to show growth.

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  21. I like female leads who aren't too outspoken about their hurts. I like how they hold things in sometimes only to explode or do something extraordinary later on. (Part of their learning of who they are/what they are made of ...)

    I like heroines who defy the authorities in their own cool, quiet ways.

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    1. Ooh, the one who is quiet and you don't expect them to explode. :)

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  22. This is always a good subject for me, as a male with a published romance novel! But as I've said before, my favorite female lead isn't a woman at all, but a girl: Dorothy Gale, late of Kansas, now a resident of the Emerald City and going on 120 years old.

    I fell madly in love with her as a kid (the book Dorothy -- who's blonde, dammit! -- not the older and weaker 1939 movie version). Looking back now, I see what made her such a strong character: Despite all the odd things that keep going on around her she remains firmly down to earth, headstrong but compassionate, curious and imaginative. When her best friend Ozma brings her to a palace to live and makes her a princess of Oz, Dorothy changes not one bit. She's always up for adventuring and helping others, and although she's generally described as "sweet", when facing bad guys she's brave and stubborn. I could go on and on about her, to this day.

    Oh, wait -- I just did.

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    1. Ooh, another one for stubborn. ;)

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    2. Well, there's stubborn good, and stubborn bad!

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  23. I like the ever-evolving female. This is a bit old school, but we travel with Jane Eyre from girlhood to womanhood as we watch her learn. She struggles, but perseveres.

    Also, Dolores Price from Wally Lamb's "She's Come Undone." She goes through painstaking trauma, but keeps moving upwards. I love notion that she completely unravels (hence, she's "come undone,") but then re-ravels and becomes whole once again.

    As human beings we are always regenerating. This is true of both genders, but sometimes with the particular prejudices women face, it's all the more powerful when a female lead breaks the boundaries of her own suffering.

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    1. I agree, Katie. And I loved Jane Eyre. Being about to persevere and break boundaries is so great to see in fiction in real life.

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  24. I like a female lead to be smart, strong, decisive, to have a sense of humor about what she does, to show compassion. I write mine that way. She's not perfect... but she's a challenge to write, and I've come to really like her.

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    1. I love a sense of humor. I think every MC should have one. But that's just me. :)

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  25. I love this. I agree that it's the humanity of the character that draws me in. The ability to show vulnerability matched with confidence. Oh, and sense of humor! Someone who can laugh at herself, but can also pick up a sword and fight for herself or others when necessary. :0)

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    1. "Someone who can laugh at herself, but can also pick up a sword and fight for herself or others when necessary."--I couldn't have said it better. :)

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  26. I'm racking my brain, but I don't seem to have a favorite female lead.

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  27. Passion, honesty, strength, compassion, brains, with, humor, a bit of sexy, vulnerability, and the ability to find her own path..

    Dagny Taggart - I want to be here at least once a week.

    Scarlet - she gets to kiss Rhett

    Jane Eyre - she has all those attributes I admire, and she's flawed and loves who she loves

    Wi Warshawski - great female detective, rememberabe (to create a character that lingers is every writer's dream)

    I know, I know.. not under 21's, but I like stories about women with history, moxie, and a story to write .

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    1. If we are going over 21, then I'm adding Stella to my list. :)

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  28. I like female characters who basically don't fall in any category. They're confusing and unpredictable, and that's what makes them relatable because we all get confused sometimes and do things we wouldn't normally do.

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  29. I'm not looking for any characteristics in particular. I don't even care if a female MC is likable (think Olive Kitteridge). What I do like is that the character feels fully fleshed out. That they feel real- their motivations, character traits, etc. are comprehensible to me as the reader. I like a character that feels like it was thoughtfully created and not an extension/alter ego of the author.

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    1. I agree. I don't have to like a character. In fact, some of my favorite characters are the ones I don't like. Any strong emotion works for me. ;) And, yes, they must be real. That's mandatory.

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  30. I think my model female lead is Hermione Granger - she's intelligent, resourceful, organized, intuitive, and loyal.

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