About Marcy Kennedy

Posts by Marcy Kennedy:

Why I’m Changing Up My Blog

Marcy Kennedy's BlogI’ll be making some changes to my blogging schedule starting April 1, 2012.

As many of you already know, I think Kristen Lamb and her WANA (We Are Not Alone) methods are the smart road for writers to take when it comes to balancing the load of writing and platform building while still making time to live your life.

In her post Sacred Cow Tipping – More Common Blogging Misconceptions, Kristen points out two pitfalls we often fall into as new writer-bloggers. We feel we need to have separate blogs for separate topics and we give all our energy to a group blog at the expense of our own. I did both these things, and I was burning myself out, leaving little time for my novel or my life away from my computer.

Lisa Hall-Wilson and I have absolutely loved the year and a half we gave to Girls With Pens, and we don’t regret a moment of it. But it’s time for us to take the next step. We will no longer be blogging at Girls With Pens. (We’re also not getting rid of it entirely—read on.)

So with Girls With Pens shutting down, instead of posting here Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (which I have been), I’ll be posting Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Instead of having separate blogs for separate topics, I’ll be loosely grouping my topics into days. If you’re only interested in one of the topics, I won’t be offended if you ignore the others 🙂

Mondays will be where fantasy, science fiction, and real life collide in posts like Who’s Your Unicorn and The Lie of Helen of Troy.

Wednesdays will be devoted to posts on writing, editing, platform building, and blogging like 6 Grammar Mistakes that Will Cost You Readers and What Do We Mean By “Strong Female Characters?” If you’ve also been following Girls With Pens, you already know what to expect on these days. I’m simply moving locations.

Friday will be the new day for interviews with fantasy and science fiction authors to help you pick your next weekend read, behind the scenes looks at the worlds within the books (like my Bertie Botts posts), v-logs, and mash-ups.

I’ll still be bringing you excellent guest posters, but they won’t have a set day.

What about Girls With Pens? Even though we’re shutting down the blog, you can sign up for our monthly Girls With Pens newsletter where we’ll be bringing you interviews with industry professionals.

I hope that you’ll sign up for my blog here, and if you’d like to hangout online, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. I’m also on Pinterest, and would love to have you follow my boards and get a chance to see your boards in return.

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The Missing Hunger Games Line

The Hunger Games movie posterEven though I loved The Hunger Games movie that released Friday, I couldn’t help but notice that the screenwriters left out one of the most important lines in the book.

The night before the Games begin, Katniss finds Peeta on the roof of their hotel, watching the Capitol celebrate.

Peeta tells her, “I keep wishing I could think of a way to…to show the Capitol they don’t own me. That I’m more than just a piece in their Games.”

This makes no sense to Katniss. In the book, she replies by telling him to care about staying alive, and in the movie, she explains that she can’t afford to think that way. Although that particular line wasn’t in the book, it was a perfect addition because that’s the way things are in District 12, where Katniss lives. Thinking of what might be only leads to disappointment. You have no chance of bettering your situation, nothing you do changes anything significant, and the best you can hope for is to survive.

And that’s the best she hopes for from the Arena as well. Only one of the twenty-four who compete comes out alive. To Katniss, any expectation that something might change this year would be futile.

Yet it’s Katniss who, by the end of the book, thumbs her nose at the Capitol and forces them into allowing two winners of the Hunger Games for the first time ever. And over the next two books, it’s Katniss who, without even meaning to, ignites a revolution and changes her world.

She learns one person can make a difference.

I’m not sure whether the scriptwriters missed this theme running underneath all the books or whether they didn’t catch the line that brings out the deepest facet of it, but in Chapter 7 of The Hunger Games, Peeta and Katniss are arguing about which of them has the better chance of survival and of getting sponsors. Each believes it’s the other.

Peeta turns to Haymitch (their mentor) in exasperation and says, “She has no idea. The effect she can have.”

They left this line out of the movie, and without this line, part of the message is missing.

Not only can one person make a difference, but sometimes we make a difference in others’ lives without even knowing it.

Katniss didn’t set out to change the world. She just did what was right and change followed. She had no idea of the chain of events her seemingly small actions would cause.

It works the same way in real life.

When I was twelve, the boy who sat behind me in class would ask me to explain all our school work to him. I dreaded feeling that pesky tap-tap on my shoulder. When I finally lost my temper, he confessed—he couldn’t read. Somehow he’d slipped through the cracks, dismissed as either stupid or lazy, when he wasn’t either.

So I taught him (and felt guilty about snapping at him). At the time, I didn’t think it was anything important, but a couple years later, I overheard him telling a teacher how much I’d helped him and how much it meant to him.

I treasure that memory. So often I struggle with feeling insignificant and like nothing I do really matters, and that memory helps remind me that I won’t always know how something small I did positively affected someone else. If I hadn’t overheard, I would never have known I made a difference.

We’re not all destined to be famous leaders or world-changers, but that doesn’t mean we’re not making a difference in the individual lives we touch, sometimes when we least realize it, often just by doing the right thing. And that too is important.

Do you ever struggle with feeling like what you do doesn’t matter? Has someone made a difference in your life, probably without realizing it?

(If you’re looking for a movie review of The Hunger Games, Karen Rought at The Midnight Novelist has a mostly spoiler-free version, and Jessica O’Neal–the sexy little nerd–does a great job of analyzing the actors and the flow of the movie.)

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Top 10 Science Fiction and Fantasy My Little Ponies

Rebecca Enzor fantasy authorI’m excited to bring special guest poster Rebecca Enzor to you today. She’s a nuclear chemist who writes young adult and new adult fantasy and magical realism, and each Sunday has a Custom Pony of the Week feature on her blog where she highlights customized My Little Ponies based on books, TV shows, movies, or comics. Because of how much I love these customs, I asked her if she’d put together a Top 10 list of her favorite science fiction and fantasy My Little Ponies. We’re getting an extra treat because some of these ponies haven’t even been featured on her blog yet!

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First, I’d like to thank Marcy for asking me to guest post! It’s always nice to know someone loves the Custom of the Week feature on the blog 🙂

To give you a little bit of background information, My Little Pony is what originally got me into writing. When I was in fourth grade we had a city-wide competition in which everyone wrote and illustrated a book (my spelling and grammar might have been worse than my artistic ability at that point!). The book I wrote was called “My Life with Pone” and was all about a My Little Pony who was my invisible friend. Years later, in college, I started collecting ponies again and found a nifty little RPing community that allowed you to play as a pony in Dream Valley. I was hooked. I haven’t stopped writing since (I have sold my pony collection though – I had to pay for my wedding somehow!).

So now, my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy inspired My Little Pony customs:

#10: Harley

Harley Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m cheating just a bit with Harley, because I’m the one who customized him, and as you can see, my artistic talent has not evolved much since fourth grade (those yellow dots are stars, by the way). I added him to the list because Across the Universe is one of my favorite books ever. It’s definitely the best book I read last year. And the author, Beth Revis, is a huge My Little Pony fan! When I found out she would be coming to town in November, I had to make a pony for her, and Harley was born. I can’t think of a character that deserved to be immortalized in pony form more than Harley.

#9: Doctor Whooves (by Jill Baguchinsky)

Doctor Hooves Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bit of a cheat again, because Doctor Whooves is actually a character in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic television series. But that doesn’t make him any less of a custom pony – he’s just customized by Hasbro! And who could resist snuggling up to the Doctor in plush form? Not me. Plus the customizer won last year’s ABNA in the YA category and her novel, Spookygirl, will be hitting shelves soon!

#8: Madam Em

Madam Em Medusa Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you can’t guess who this pony is based on then you don’t know your mythology very well. With her mane full of snakes, Madam Em is Medusa-inspired. The detail that went into this pony is amazing, and if you visit the customizer’s DeviantArt page, you’ll see that she puts just as much detail into all of her beautiful customs.

#7: Deadpool

Deadpool X-Men Custom My Little Pony

 

Oh Deadpool, you have my silly little X-men loving heart. There was a time, in fact, that I played *coughownedcough* an X-men/MLP crossover RP. And one of my very best RP buddies played Deadpool. So to find a Deadpool pony custom was a real treat. And one that I think Deadpool himself would appreciate.

#6: Neytiri

Neytiri Avatar Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a biologist, I thought the Avatar films were really interesting. As a writer, the storyline was decent. And as a person who loves colorful, pretty things? I thought the film in IMAX 3D was amazing! So when I found this Neytiri pony, it immediately became a favorite of mine. And guess what? The customizer has published a novel too! You had no idea there were so many authors who loved MLPs did you?

#5: Mad Hatter

Mad Hatter Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I admit it. It’s the colors that really do it for me in this custom. There are at least a dozen other Mad Hatter customs that I’ve seen on Deviant Art, but the color scheme on this one sets it apart. And all those curls! And the tiny Doormouse! I am in so much love with this pony I can’t even explain it.

#4: Red Riding Hood

Red Riding Hood Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pony is absolutely amazing. From her sculpted clothing, to her fur coat, to her wolf mask and other little accessories, this twisted version of the Red Riding Hood fairytale has all the details just right for the wolf-as-the-victim twist. Since I first saw her, she’s been a favorite of mine.

#3: Howl

Howl's Moving Castle Custom My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, it could be the fact that Christian Bale voiced the role of Howl in the film adaptation that makes me love this character so much, but I think it’s actually the beautiful story arc that really does it. And this gorgeous half-pony/half-bird Howl does him so much justice. The detailing on the feathers is amazing, and the little Calcifer so adorable!

#2: Aragorn

Aragorn Lord of the Rings My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You didn’t really expect me to make a list of my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy customs without a Lord of the Rings pony, did you? Plus, have you ever seen a pony with a beard? The customizer even went so far as to put a magnetic wire in the sword so that Aragorn could “hold” it with the magnet in his foot! Now that’s dedication to your craft. (This customizer has also made a Legolas pony, and has plans to continue with the other characters as well.)

#1: Starbuck

Starbuck (Kara Thrace) Battlestar Galactica My Little Pony

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You would think with all the stunning custom ponies out there it would be hard to choose a favorite, but ever since I saw Starbuck, I knew she was my all-time favorite custom pony ever. This pony is the reason I started the Custom of the Week feature on my blog. The character is one of my all-time favorite characters ever, with one of the strangest character arcs I’ve ever come across, and I think this custom captures her perfectly – right down to the thick eyebrows that give her the perfect Starbuck expression.

I hope you enjoyed my Top Ten Sci-Fi/Fantasy custom ponies. You can find all of the story-based custom ponies that I’ve featured on my blog by clicking on the Custom Pony link in the sidebar.

Did I miss one that was your favorite? Which ponies make your Top Ten list?

Wrath of the Titans

Set to release next Friday, March 30, Wrath of the Titans is the sequel to Clash of the Titans (2010) starring Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson.

Ten years after he defeated the Kraken, Perseus is trying to live in peace with his young son. Unfortunately, the gods have been so weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion that they’ve lost control of the imprisoned Titans. Perseus’ grandfather, Kronos, one of the Titans, plots to capture Zeus (Perseus’ father). Perseus must go on a quest to rescue Zeus, defeat the Titans, and save the world.

Does anyone plan to see Wrath of the Titans when it comes out next weekend? Do you think it will live up to Clash of the Titans?

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Does Thank You Mean We Forget? – Dealings with Fairies

“When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they all went skipping about. That was the beginning of fairies.”The Little White Bird (1902) by J. M. Barrie (creator of Peter Pan)

Disney has fairies all wrong.

Disney and other modern renderings make fairies young, tiny, beautiful, winged. They’re playful and sweet. In the game my best friend’s daughter plays, they care for plants and animals. Every little girl wants to meet a fairy.

But it wasn’t always that way. In ancient Ireland and Scotland, fairies were feared. They stole babies, misled travelers, and kidnapped people, only to return them years later, after all their loved ones were dead. Fairies belonging to the Unseelie Court enjoyed causing misfortune to humans, including paralysis and mysterious illness, simply for the fun of it. Even the more-benevolent fairies of the Seelie Court were still dangerous if angered or offended.

Folklore focuses more on protection from fairies than it does their appearance. The most common means of warding off their malice were decorating with cold iron like a horseshoe, planting rowan bushes (small mountain ash trees) by your doorway, and keeping charms made of gorse, rosemary, dill, and St. John’s Wort under your pillow or around your neck. You didn’t seek fairies out. Instead, you avoided places where they might congregate and all chances of giving offense.

And if a fairy did you a good turn, you were never, ever, under any circumstances, to thank them. Fairies believed that, if you thanked them, it meant you’d forget the good deed they’d done for you.

I wonder if they weren’t at least partly right.

I’ve done it—said thank you, moved on, and never thought about the help I received again. But if I so easily forget, I have to wonder if I was ever truly grateful at all. So even though I think thanking people is still important and polite, I’ve been trying to come up with ways to put the meaning back into it.

Revive the Art of Thank-You Notes

I’ve heard this advice over and over again, but I’ve often dismissed it as old-fashioned—until I thought about why thank-you notes are perfect…and why they’ve largely fallen by the wayside.

Writing a thank-you note costs you time, money, and effort. It takes longer to select a card, write out a message by hand, address the envelope, and take it to the post office than it does to send off an email, Facebook message, or tweet. True gratitude should cost us something.

Writing thank-you notes properly is also an art form unto itself. My mom was mortified when I hadn’t sent out all the thank-you notes for my wedding gifts within the month after my wedding, but I wanted to take the time to do them right. For each gift, I wanted to choose a specific reason I appreciated the gift and what I liked about it rather than sending out a generic “Thanks for the glasses. I’m sure we’ll use them.” In writing a good thank-you note, we’re forced to think deeply about what the other person has done for us.

Praise Publicly

Public praise gives something back. I don’t believe in doing favors just so someone will do a favor for me in return (that’s selfish). I do believe that, if someone has done something lovely for me, I should try to help them out as well, even if it’s just through putting a smile on their face by letting others know what a great person they are.

Pay It Forward by Doing a Favor for Someone Else

Hold open a door. Bring your co-worker a coffee. Call up a friend and offer to run an errand for them. Each time we do something for a new person, it reminds us of the times others have done something nice for us too. In a way, it makes their good deed immortal.

Do you think we sometimes say thank you by rote and too easily forget what’s been done for us? What other creative ways can you think of to express true gratitude?

One Thing Magneto Got Right

I’m very excited to have Jessica O’Neal visiting today. Jess’ blog, The Sexy Little Nerd, is one of my absolute favorites. From her Harry Potter series, to her more recent posts on Robin Hood, fantasy book reviews, and vlogs on everything from The Hunger Games to Game of Thrones, visiting her site is like going to a friend’s house. Please help me welcome Jess…..

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I want to give a huge thank you to Marcy for having me over today. As a sister nerd, her blog has always been one of my favorites to visit. She leaves some pretty big shoes to fill and I hope that I am able to do them justice.

One Thing Magneto Got Right

Mystique X-Men First ClassWhen most people first meet me, they’re surprised to learn what a gargantuan nerd I am. Whether it is my obsession with Harry Potter, my affinity for all things fantasy, or my new found obsession with archery (which started from a desire to live out some of my favorite stories), people are always left gaping. For whatever reason, I am an unexpected nerd. Recently, attention has been called to another one of my nerd proclivities: comic book movies.

I’m a HUGE comic book movie fan. I am convinced that if I had been born a boy rather than a girl someone would have introduced me earlier to the wonder that is comic books, but alas that never happened. Instead, I was left ignorant of these fabulous stories until they started to take over the cinema. One of these movie franchises that I have particularly enjoyed is Marvel’s X-Men.

When these movies started to come out, I knew very little about the X-Men. I had, of course, heard of some of them before, such as Wolverine, but I didn’t really know much about the story. After the first movie, I was in love. As movie after movie began to come out, that love did nothing but grow. I was enraptured by these characters and the relationships they had with one another as they struggled to come to terms with who they were, what they could do, and what they should do. There were so many lessons that could be taken out of the lives of these mutants.

My favorite of the series is, without a doubt, X-Men: First Class. The history between Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto had always fascinated me, so getting to see that history unfold with the brilliant acting of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender was very nearly a cathartic experience. I am not ashamed to admit that the break between them brought me to tears. And not just a few tears. When I tell people that one of the most heartbreaking movies I have ever seen is a comic book movie, they look at me like I’m crazy. That’s okay. The understanding of others is not a necessary component to my enjoyment.

But there was the development of another relationship in X-Men: First Class that really struck a chord within me. I am referring to Magneto and Mystique.

Mystique (played by Jennifer Lawrence who is also starring in the upcoming The Hunger Games movie) is different than a lot of the other mutants in that the evidence of her mutation, her true self, does not allow her to blend in with *normal* society. Mystique has the ability to change her appearance at will to look like any other human, but when she is in her natural form, she has blue skin and yellow eyes. In order to feel accepted she, therefore, chooses to spend the majority of her time in a different skin.

This is something that I think a lot of us do – I know I do. We are afraid to show our true selves to others for fear that they won’t like who we are, so we morph into the person we think they want us to be, the person we think they will accept. This is an exhausting task that will gradually wear us down.

There is a scene in the movie when Mystique, in her more *normal* human form, is lifting weights. Magneto startles her by manipulating the weights to float in the air above her. He says to her, “If you are using half of your concentration to look normal, then you’re only half paying attention to whatever else you are doing. Just pointing out something that could save your life.” He then releases the weights and, in order to catch them before they fall on her, Mystique has to release her shifted form. Magneto then says, “You want society to accept you, but you can’t even accept yourself.”

This brief scene really resonated with me. When we figuratively put on whatever skin we think certain people want to see in order to accept us, we are actually achieving the opposite. We can not be truly accepted by someone when we prevent them from seeing who we really are. Yes, when we do reveal the real us, flaws and all, there will be some people who judge us, but are those really the people we want to be close to anyway? Wouldn’t we rather be surrounded by people who know and accept the real us?

The really amazing thing is, when we learn to love ourselves for who we actually are, people can sense that and are drawn to it. People can sense when they’re being shown a false or incomplete version of someone and are turned off by it, whether they consciously realize it or not. So by accepting ourselves, we make it easier for others to accept us as well.

In spite of the path that Magneto and Mystique eventually choose, I believe in this moment Magneto has the right idea. Self-acceptance may not be easy, but the best things never are.

Do you agree with the lesson Magneto gives Mystique? Does one need to first accept herself before she can expect others to?

Jessica O'Neal fantasy authorJessica O’Neal is a fantasy writer with a BA in Psychology with a minor in English. Alongside her writing, she co-hosts Glee Chat and Smash Chat. She currently lives in Florida with her husband and crazy Jack Russell named Moses. Check out her blog The Sexy Little Nerd, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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Snow White Reboots

Two reboots of the Snow White fairytale are set to release this year. And if the trailers are any indication, they couldn’t be more different.

Mirror Mirror (starring Julia Roberts) released yesterday, and while it’s a light-hearted comedic romp, Snow White and the Huntsman (starring Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart) has a darker, more epic feel to it. 

Check out both trailers below. Which one would you rather see? Although Mirror Mirror looks fun, Snow White and the Huntsman is more my taste when it comes to bringing a fairytale to life. I like to see it as it might have been if the fairytale truly could play out in our world.

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Yoda Was Wrong

I’m risking nerd exile by even suggesting this but…I think Yoda was wrong.

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker travels to the swampy planet of Dagobah to find Jedi Master Yoda. Luke’s X-Wing ends up sunk in a bog, and Luke doesn’t think he can get it out.

Yoda tells him the only difference between moving the ship and moving stones is the one in his mind. With a shrug, Luke turns back and says, “Alright, I’ll give it a try.”

Yoda replies, “Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”

In his post “The Difference between Trying and Doing,” Michael Hyatt, Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers, talks about how he watched self-help author Tony Robbins use a chair to explain this concept. Robbins asked a woman to try to pick up the chair. When she picked it up, he told her she’d done it wrong. He asked her to try to pick it up, not to actually pick it up. When she left the chair in place, he told her that she wasn’t trying—she was simply not picking it up.

Hyatt goes on to explain, “The point is that when we say we are trying we don’t really have to do anything. It also provides us with an excuse for why we didn’t accomplish the outcome we say we want. Do you understand the difference? You either do something or you don’t do it. Trying is really the same as not doing it. It just makes it easier for us to let ourselves off the hook when we fail.”

Sometimes we do use I’ll try as an excuse. In some situations, there really is only a “do or do not.” You either exercise three times a week or you don’t. You either cheat on your spouse or you don’t. You either write or you don’t. Simple. You can’t try any more than the woman could try to pick up the chair.

But sometimes you can try. Sometimes trying is the best you can do.

(I know. I’m taking on Yoda and Michael Hyatt. I must be crazy.)

When Another Person Is Involved

Say someone was sitting on the chair in question. You might strain and plead, but the chair won’t move. Isn’t there a legitimate try in that case? You gave your all, but someone prevented you from accomplishing what you set out to do.

What about the spouse who goes to counseling, puts in to practice techniques to improve communication, and finds ways to truly show love to their husband or wife to save a troubled marriage, but their husband or wife walks away anyway?

They did everything they could to save their marriage, but someone else’s decision prevented them doing it.

When An Innate Ability Or Talent Is Involved

I’m 5-foot-2, and I’m strong for my size. But if you placed a 1,000-pound chair in front of me and told me to lift it, I couldn’t do it. I am physically incapable of lifting something that size alone.

As a child, I loved to sing. I sang every day. I still do. But it wouldn’t matter how many hours I practiced or how many lessons I took or how determined I was to become a professional singer, I don’t have the voice for it. I wasn’t born with it. No amount of determination can change that. (Want more proof? Look at some of the people who try out for American Idol.)

A neurosurgeon needs steady hands. What if you have a condition that causes yours to shake, and that no amount of physical therapy can rectify? Did you fail because your mindset was wrong? Or should you be applauded for trying to reach your dream even though you failed?

When It Just Isn’t Meant to Be

Occasionally the chair is just built into the floor.

As my husband was nearing the end of his five-year commitment to the Marine Corps, he submitted paperwork to go to the Navy, with the goal of eventually becoming a chaplain. He did everything right and believed he was working toward his goal. Three days after he submitted his paperwork, he had a stroke, resulting in his eventual discharge from the military and a medical ban on rejoining.

Some things just aren’t meant to be. Should a person be told to keep driving toward a dream that clearly isn’t going to happen? I think a time comes when we have to admit failure, grieve, and move on. To me, that’s a sign of true courage.

Saying “there is no try” implies we’re able to do anything if we set our minds to it. And that’s a lie. Sometimes we fail, and the value is in the trying rather than in the success.

We learn through trying and failing. We learn patience, persistence. We learn how to graciously accept defeat. We learn we had skills and strengths we didn’t dream of before. We also learn what isn’t right for us.

People who try, really try, give it their all, and fail, should be applauded. Their mindset was right. They fought hard. “Do or do not” just wasn’t an option.

Do you agree with me that Yoda was wrong (in this case at least)? Or do you still think Yoda was right?

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What Do We Mean By “Strong Female Characters?”

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I planned to post today on “Creating Strong Yet Likeable Female Characters.” As I was researching helpful links to include, I came across a post from the New York Times called “A Plague of Strong Female Characters.” And I realized that, before we can talk about how to make sure strong female characters are also likeable, I first need to cover the inevitable debate over what we mean by strong female character.

In the NYT article, Carina Chocano writes, “I get the feeling that what most people mean or hear when they say or hear strong female character is female characters who are tough, cold, terse, taciturn and prone to scowling. . . in order for a female character to be worth identifying with, she should really try to rein in the gross girly stuff.”

She goes on to conclude that “Strength, in the parlance, is the 21st-century equivalent of virtue. And what we think of as virtuous, or culturally sanctioned, socially acceptable behavior now, in women as in men, is the ability to play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine. Strong female characters, in other words, are often just female characters with the gendered behavior taken out.”

And yes, those stereotypes float around in books and movies—the character that could go from being a woman to a man with a simple name change and a haircut.

But when you think about strong women in real life, is that the image that comes to mind? Because, you see, what makes for a strong female character is exactly what makes for a strong woman.

Strong female characters, like strong women, can enjoy painting their nails, wearing makeup, and putting on a beautiful dress. They can wear stilettos, or ballet flats, or hiking boots. They can be moms, even stay-at-home moms. They can be musicians or cooks or doctors. They can cry. They can comfort a friend. They can listen. And yes, they can even be afraid of bugs.

None of those things define a strong woman or a strong female character.

So what does it mean when we talk about a strong female character?

Strong Female Characters Are Smart

Smart can mean book smart the way a quantum physicist is, but it can also mean a woman with common sense that lets her find creative solutions to everyday problems. Or it can mean a woman who’s talented with using her hands and can paint a picture or fix a car.

She has a skill that earns respect and contributes to society. Her intelligence makes her competent, able to help others, and not totally dependent on another person for her entire existence. (Some dependence is okay—none of us are entirely self-sufficient.)

Hermione Granger’s character in Harry Potter didn’t “play down qualities that have been traditionally considered feminine and play up the qualities that have traditionally been considered masculine,” yet she was a strong female character largely because of her intelligence and magical talent. She contributed to the search for Horcruxes in a meaningful way, so much so that Ron (in the movie version) admitted, “We wouldn’t last two days without her.”

Strong Female Characters Act

We’ve all seen the female character who stands by when she clearly should have acted. As much as I love the classic The Princess Bride, would it have killed Buttercup to whack the ROUS with a stick while it was gnawing on Wesley? A strong woman would have defended her beloved.

When she can, a strong female character escapes on her own rather than waiting for someone else to rescue her. Tameri Etherton wrote an excellent post on Danielle from Ever After, a strong female character who worked to change her bad situation.

A strong female character also makes decisions, rather than always waiting on someone else to call the shots. Captain Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager listens to advice from Chakotay (her male first officer) and Tuvok (her male chief of security), but she doesn’t always take it, and if they’re not there to advise her, she’s strong enough to act on her own.

The difference between a strong female character who acts and a weak one who simply reacts is the difference between Buffy and Bella.

Strong Female Characters Stand Up for What They Believe In

Whether or not you agree with all the decisions made by President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica, she stood up for what she thought was right. From sending Starbuck back to Caprica to retrieve the Arrow of Apollo (that’s supposed to help lead them to Earth) to fixing the election to prevent sniveling Dr. Gaius Baltar from being elected, she didn’t sit by if what was happening violated her beliefs of right and wrong.

She might be frightened and injured, and risking great loss, but as her hands shake and tears well up in her eyes, a strong woman stands up for what she believes in.

A strong female character, like a strong woman, can stand side-by-side with a man, confident in the knowledge that they are different but nevertheless equal.

How do you define strength in a woman? What do you think goes into a strong female character?

Interested in more ways to improve your writing? Deep Point of View is now available! (You might also want to check out Internal Dialogue or Showing and Telling in Fiction.)

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Alright, ladies, what nerdy, geeky costume would you choose? Men, what costume would you chose for the woman in your life?