Author Diana Wallace Peach shares some posts from her archives on Myths of the Mirror. This week a post about what defines the characters that we write about, and the stereotyping that is applied to emotional character, according to the gender of your protagonist.
Strength of Character by D. Wallace Peach
image from Flickr.com Bread and Roses
I spent a recent evening chatting with a group of writers about the public’s desire for strong female characters. The simpering, helpless, man-dependent archetype of the past is no longer the paragon it used to be. If any of our female protagonists swoon into the arms of their brawny rescuers, they better be seriously ill or recently wounded in battle. Encountering a spider no longer qualifies as trauma.
Then our conversation took an interesting turn. Someone shared an opinion that the presence of kindness and compassion in a female protagonist might make her appear “weak.” The unspoken implication was that a female character is “strong” when she is more like the stereotypical caricature of a man – as emotionally sensitive as a block of wood.
Yes, I’m talking stereotypes here and the wind blows both ways. Some believe that gentleness “weakens” a man as much as the lack of it “strengthens” a woman. It’s an antiquated mindset that persists on many levels and is slow to evolve.
Of course, the souls who populate our books must be true to their natures. Both male and female characters (like the rest of humanity) fit into a broad spectrum when it comes to emotional intelligence. Expression can be passionate, volatile, ambivalent, or completely shut down. On top of that, consider that feelings are fluid and slide all over the place along the love-fear continuum.
Emotional texture is one element that puzzles together a character, no different than physical appearance, skills, aptitudes, and social competencies. An emotional undercurrent is one way to enhance complexity, but it’s not necessarily indicative of a character’s strength.
Mother Theresa, Time.com
I’d argue that what makes characters “strong,” regardless of gender, is their determination to act upon the world rather than react to it. Kind and compassionate people fall as easily into this definition as ruthless overlords and heroic champions. Strength is demonstrated by conviction, how actively they pursue their goals, overcome their flaws, and engage both the internal and external obstacles that block their paths.
©D.Wallace Peach 2015
About D. Wallace Peach
I didn’t care for reading as a child – I preferred Bonanza and Beverly Hillbillies reruns, Saturday morning cartoons and the Ed Sullivan show. Then one day, I opened a book titled The Hobbit. Tolkien … literally changed my life.
I love writing, and have the privilege to pursue my passion full time. I’m still exploring the fantasy genre, trying out new points of view, creating optimistic works with light-hearted endings, and delving into the grim and gritty what-ifs of a post-apocalyptic world. Forgive me if I seem untethered in my offering of reads. Perhaps one day, I’ll settle into something more reliable. For now, it’s simply an uncharted journey, and I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I.
D.Wallace Peach has just released her first children’s book, Grumpy Ana and the Grouchy Monsters. Not only written by Diana but illustrated by her too. An amazing amount of work but as you will see from the cover it is fantastic. Available in print only in US, UK and Canada.
Grumpy Ana Goblyn is sour, dour, and cranky. Her lips droop in a frown. She’s bored with every place and person in her friendly town. With the help of her father, she builds a spaceship and travels to a soggy planet where she meets her perfect monster playmates. But there’s a problem! The monsters see her grouchy frown and think she’s a monster. In this children’s space adventure, Ana discovers that her attitude affects her happiness, and she can change it if she chooses.
An early review for the book
Lovely, colorful illustrations accompany this book of a spoiled girl with a frown. She’s bored, so bored with the friendly people of her town that she builds a space ship and travels. But her plans turn out different from what she expected. Ana discovers that attitude is everything. Sour will beget sour, a smile will beget smiles. The story is written in four line verses. The viewpoint that the monsters have of the dreaded, spoiled human girl made me laugh.
A selection of other books by D. Wallace Peach
To discover all the books and read the reviews and buy: https://www.amazon.com/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8
And Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/D.-Wallace-Peach/e/B00CLKLXP8
Read more reviews and follow Diana on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7068749.D_Wallace_Peach
Connect to D. Wallace Peach
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