Saturday, April 20, 2013

Blog Tour: Guest Post: The Necessity of Strong Female Leads in Fiction by Author Heather James (Elements of Power Series)

The Necessity of Strong Female Leads in Fiction

Author Heather James discusses why it's important for female characters in every type of fiction to be portrayed as strong and smart in today's literary world.

I have a tendency to go off on tangents, and I have a lot of ideas about this topic, but few of them seem to link, so I’m going to write this under a series of headings in the hope that it makes more sense…


Hands up if you’re reading this and you’re a girl? Ok, so I know that doesn’t quite work – hands up poles are never going to be the most successful over the internet, but I bet a lot of you are putting your hands up. Probably most of you, if those ‘boys don’t read anymore’ news stories that keep cropping up are anything to go by. The YA genre in particular seems saturated by a female readership and I’ve really struggled to find any male YA bloggers to review Fire (although my male friends who have read it have all loved it). If you’re writing for a mostly female audience, you need to create characters that they are going to like – not weak, mopey ones that are going to frustrate them. Also – if you’re a female author and your primary audience is yourself – you’re not going to want to read/write about mopey, frustrating protagonists.

Haven’t they always been strong and smart?

Elizabeth Bennet is a great example; no one could accuse her of being weak or needy when she turns down Mr Collins’ proposal, or goes against Lady Catherine.  Many of Shakespeare’s female leads are also really intelligent and witty, and they outsmart the men they are matched against. I love Beatrice from ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ and Viola in ‘Twelfth Night’ for these reasons.


The recent shift in Disney towards strong female leads is really interesting. Disney Princesses are no longer damsels in distress in need of magic kisses and mostly-silent Princes. Instead, they’re often the ones saving their husbands-to-be. Rapunzel and Tiana are good examples of this. Although I suppose classics like Belle and Pocahontas also fall into the ‘strong and smart’ category; it’s Cinderella and Snow White giving them a bad name.


She is smart, loyal and fearless – I don’t think there’s a better role model for young girls to read about. She shows that it’s OK to be clever and to want to work hard. She also has a strong social conscious, shown through her work with S.P.E.W.

Is it necessary?

I always loved Mia in the Princess Diaries, but she’s not really strong or smart – she’s very normal and fallible, and I think that has its own positive message too. You don’t have to be perfect, like Hermione. It’s OK to be a little bit ditzy and to make mistakes, so long as you grow from them. Sometimes, it’s also kind of nice to read about a character and think ‘I would never make those mistakes’…


I would like to think that both Jasmine and Roxy are strong, intelligent characters, but in very different ways. Roxy is full of confidence and would never let anyone tell her what to do, but over the course of Fire she realizes that she isn’t always right, and that sometimes she needs to think about others before herself. Jasmine isn’t the brightest character in the world, but she is loyal and loving; she will do anything for her friends. To begin with, she may come across as being selfless, although later in the book you realize that she does have some selfish tendencies too and definitely isn’t afraid to put her own desires first. Both characters are quite complex and I think that this is one of the things that a modern reader is looking for in a protagonist. This leads me on t0 . . .


One of the biggest strengths of the Hunger Games is that Katniss isn’t perfect – she’s grey; she makes some good decisions and some bad ones, despite being both strong and smart. Katniss doesn’t always know what she wants and hurts those around her because of it. She is realistic. In the same way that a strong, smart, female character is more realistic than a damsel in distress. Modern readers want characters that they can relate to and, since most modern women would probably like to think of themselves as strong and smart, that’s what they will demand of the characters they read about.

Look at that, I managed to start and end with readership – maybe that post wasn’t too random after all! 

About the Author: Heather James is a young-adult author who writes about heroines with amazing powers, heroes who will break your heart and fantasy realms that you will want to move to. She works in the attendance office of a South-East London secondary school and spends her school holidays writing, reading, playing flag-American football and wasting time marketing on Pinterest.

Where to Find the Author

Synopsis: Is control over the elements a gift, or a curse?

Roxy thinks that she is in control of everything: with flames flaring at her fingertips and an equally fiery attitude, what more could she need? But then she meets Brae, a prince from a rival Realm, who turns her assumptions of superiority upside down.

Jasmine has none of Roxy’s confidence or intensity. But she does have a secret - and Brae - and she’s not going to give either up willingly.

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