My Problem With the Strong Lead

HI book lovers and writers everywhere!

Something happened a few weeks ago that I’ve just been DYING to write about. I received some feedback on my book about how my character needed to be more willing to save the world. More… heroic. And my initial response was, yes. Of course. The popular female leads in books are strong and valiant and fighters, so mine should be, too. But the more I thought about it, the more the idea seemed… unappealing. It was unrealistic to me, and uncharacteristic to my character.

Which leads me to my secret confession. I’m not a big fan of the strong lead.

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I mean, don’t get me wrong. I do like the lead to be strong. I just don’t like when she’s all macho, save-the-world-with-my-awesome-unique-talent-that-only-I-have strong… in EVERY BOOK I READ. It’s okay occasionally. I didn’t mind it in Divergent because Tris started out a little weaker than everyone else and HAD to work THAT much harder to be strong. It was a part of her character arc.

I heard in an interview with Stephenie Meyer once that when the producers of Twilight made the movie, they wanted to give Bella a gun and have her shooting vampires. They wanted it to be an action packed movie. They wanted this, because strong leads are hot in the market right now. Everyone loves the invincible girl.

Well, not everyone. I don’t. And Meyer apparently said no to the producers.

Don’t think I’m completely anti-strong female lead. I feel like if being strong and a fighter is in their character, fine. I mean, Katniss was a hunter before the Hunger Games, so she had to be strong and quick. She had to be a fighter to keep her family alive, and then to keep herself alive. There is a place for the physically strong lead. But there’s also a place for those characters who… aren’t invincible. It’s okay to be little weak, to be a little reluctant to be the hero.

Because when I dig deep, when I dig REALLY deep into the core of who I am, I’m not sure I would be the hero, either. In a corrupt government, I would probably rather run away and hide than become a targetable leader. Is that wrong? Maybe. Is it admirable? No. Is it realistic? I think so. And I’m not saying the strong lead is unrealistic. It is realistic—for some people.

But not all people.

So when I read a book about a character who’s a straight shooter, and, hey, she’s also the most beautiful girl in District 12, I can’t help but cringe a little. Give me someone with average looks. Give me someone who’s less than spectacular. Give me someone ordinary, and then make her story extraordinary.

THAT’S the book I want to read.

14 thoughts on “My Problem With the Strong Lead

  1. Yes, yes yes!! To all of this! I have also been told that because I write Dystopian, my MC should (And dont get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of Divergent and HG as they come) kickbutt and save the world. Um… no. She’s a normal girl who lives in a messed up world. In a realistic book I highly doubt one scrawny teenage girl could singlehandedly save the whole world from a corrupt government. But could she save one person? Could she possibly even save an entire group? Yeah sure. But I wanted my characters to be realistic and I’m not going to throw them in a story where there’s no hope. I totally agree with you Sara. Not all female leads need to kick butt and be unrealistically strong and perfect.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Isn’t that funny how “Dystopian” automatically means your female lead should be tough as nails? I write dystopian too, but my lead is so not Katniss Everdeen. And I’m with you– I love those books that do have strong female leads, but sometimes I want someone more like… me. So glad you can relate! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am with you 100%! My characters always start out as strong female leads . . . and then I just start stripping away their amazing qualities until you’re left with the “her” behind the hero, raw and naked. Then I can start building again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I love that! I feel like we’re all obligated to make our character’s strong in the beginning, but then realize that might not be who the character is. Good for you for recognizing your character’s true form. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you, when the character is smarter, stronger, always on top or right, those are not exactly realistic to me. Even strong positive heroes have doubts, everybody does who have half a brain.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you! I’ve thought about this as well. The more relatable the character, the better the wiring in my opinion. Male and female alike. It’s more interesting to read about a character who is simultaneously flawed and badass. Keeps it real!

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  5. Thank you! I’ve thought about this as well. The more relatable the character, the better the wiring in my opinion. Male and female alike. It’s more interesting to read about a character who is simultaneously flawed and badass. Keeps it real.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I agree! And yes, male and female alike. (I tried to take the “female” out of the title cuz it goes for both, but couldn’t get it out of the link. I guess I just put it there b/c all the books I read have female leads…;) ) Anyway. Yes. Badassery is a must. Thanks of reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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