A recent Facebook comment got me thinking about authors and the characters they choose for their protagonists. Although antagonists may drive the story so far as keeping the reader interested enough to turn the pages, I think it’s the protagonist that interests the author enough to want to write the story.
Sometimes we build a character which is a thinly-veiled copy of ourselves. At other times, we may craft one which represents what we wish we were but aren’t. I got to thinking about my protagonist, Fancy. Why am I so interested in her? Why would I write an entire series built around her?
From my first inkling of this story, Fancy was a strong woman. What was it that drew me to the idea of writing story about a strong woman? Why wasn’t I drawn to some super macho-type guy instead? Why not a Rambo? Or maybe a brainiac like Patrick Jane?
Interestingly, most of my favorite TV shows are built around a strong female character.
The Closer, one of my all-time favorites, featured Brenda Leigh Johnson, who always managed to stay a step ahead of all the male members of her department in solving a crime and getting the perp to confess.
- Rizzoli and Isles features two—count ’em, two—females who seem to think circles around the guys.
- Covert Affairs is built around the character of Annie Walker, a young female CIA agent who always manages to pull irons out of fires against all odds.
- In Fairly Legal—no longer in production, unfortunately—Kate Reed always managed to dominate the men around her without being domineering.
I could go on, but does anyone see a pattern here? Most of my favorite TV shows are built around a female lead. Why am I drawn to them instead of strong male characters.
Back in the 70s, when Women’s Lib came to the forefront, I was not a fan. My idea of a good woman is not someone who burns bras and trashes men. I don’t think this is a picture of a strong woman.
To me, a strong woman is one who has a realistic view of herself, her assets and liabilities. One who knows where she wants to go and is not afraid to buck odds when necessary to get there. One who is willing to do whatever it takes. But one who doesn’t have to debase the men around her in order to build herself up.
My mother was my first example of a strong woman. My dad definitely ruled the roost in our household, but Mother somehow managed to defer to him without being a doormat. She protected us without being pushy or demanding. While Dad ruled, the family definitely revolved around Mother.
When she and Dad divorced the summer I finished college, she sold the house and moved 600 miles away to a brand new city where she knew no one and went back to school at the age of 48 to pursue a masters degree. Then she supported herself and always managed to have enough money to visit her children, who were scattered from Texas to Montana to California. In all that time, I never knew her to try to put my father down.
My daughter became another example of a strong woman. In her teens, she always earned her own spending money by babysitting or doing whatever else she needed to do. She even bought a lot of her own clothes. When she moved here to live with me after ten years of separation while she lived with her mother, one of the first things she did was to get a job—with no help from me.
She juggled cheerleading and other extra-curricular activities with studying and became valedictorian of her high school class. In the process, she managed to win a scholarship that paid pretty much all her college expenses except for spending money. She managed to be number three in her class although she graduated in only three years.
As a wife, she is submitted to her husband without being any kind of doormat. He leads by position and authority, but she leads through influence. The two of them truly walk together.
Her stamina always amazes me. When we visit, she always seems to be folding laundry, cooking, or doing other things to make her household run smoothly without neglecting us. I’m not sure I had her energy when I was half her age.
My wife had a two year-old son to raise when her first husband left her. With some babysitting help from her parents, she began taking classes in Denton, Texas—some 40 miles or so away from home—to get a masters degree. This while working full-time as a high school science teacher. With her masters in hand, she continued driving to Denton to get an administrative certificate so she could become an assistant principal and make more money to support herself and her son.
At the time I met Sharon, she was putting her son through college, paying his way out of her own pocket with no help from his father and no student loans. She was also working hours that would kill a horse. It never occurred to her to whine about her long hours and hard work. This was what life placed before her, and she just picked up the ball and ran with it.
Many other females I’ve known showed me examples of the fiber of a strong woman. I won’t go into details about all of them, other than to say that many of my female writer friends fall into this category. Let me just say that I’ve developed a great appreciation—almost an awe—of strong women. I think that’s where Fancy came from. I think my next writing project will probably feature a strong woman. It seems to be where my heart is.
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Contact him at dnwalkertx (at) gmail (dot) com or tweet him at @davidnwalkertx.