It’s Monday morning again, and it’s time for some food for thought:
What’s a strong character? Very often the phrase comes with the word female inserted in the middle, and we get the phrase strong female character.
A lot of the time it seems that those who talk about strong female characters refer to characters who are strong in a worldly sense – strong within the world of the story. They may be rich and powerful, or they may be athletic and beautiful, or perhaps they’re extremely intelligent or have magical powers. Stuff like that.
There’s nothing wrong with having characters that are powerful.
However, I think that from a storytelling perspective there’s more to the phrase strong character than just worldly power. A strong character is someone who moves the story forward on their own rather than someone who has the story happen to them.
This doesn’t require the character to be physically or mentally strong, and it doesn’t mean they need magical superpowers. What it does mean is they act and make decisions, and that these acts and decisions have an impact on the story. The character doesn’t just react to things that happen to them.
In a story I’m working on, the character Roy ends up an unwilling guest (prisoner in all but word) at a mansion up in the mountains. Naturally he wants to escape from there.
In the first draft of the story, the mansion’s cheeky old caretaker suggests that Roy could go down to the lake to fish in order to relax for a bit. That would be a great opportunity for Roy to escape, but it’s also an opportunity that gets handed to him by someone else. He doesn’t have anything to do with it at all.
In the second draft of the story, Roy asks the caretaker if there’s a fishing rod available.
The flow of the story is essentially the same in the two different versions: Roy escapes from the mansion by pretending to go fishing. The difference is that in the second draft, Roy comes up with the idea and sets it into motion himself.
I hope this all makes some kind of sense to you, but if it doesn’t, feel free to leave a comment and ask. I’ll try my best to answer as soon as I can.