Monday, March 23, 2015

What Really Makes A Character Strong?

I’ve seen some posts recently about what it takes to craft a strong character. Specifically, strong female characters. Probably the best stated post about this subject comes from Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds. (Go ahead and read his post, then come back here).

What I love about Chuck’s strong character theory is that the key is agency. Strong characters have to have it. Don't know what agency is? Check out his post Just What The Humping Heck Is Character Agency Anyway.

I agree that agency is vitally important in the characters we build. Stories are flat without characters who can enact change in their world. We mortals can relate to characters in stories who have doubt or fear but we look up to characters who choose to act in spite of that fear and doubt. It’s the action that makes a hero.

For me, what makes a character ‘strong’ is their decision to act. It’s what the character faces and chooses to overcome that makes them strong. At least for me.

Some of my favorite ‘strong’ characters in TV:

· Mindy from The Mindy Project – Sure it’s a comedy but Mindy chooses to move forward and chase the things that are important to her (even the silly things). Her choice to follow her dreams is what makes her strong.

· Felicity from Arrow – I’m always drawn to ‘normal’ people in ‘super hero’ shows/movies because their ‘normalness’ makes their choice to act more powerful. Felicity is that powerful normalness. The quiet hero.

· Tara from Sons of Anarchy – She faces horrible circumstances and what she does with those circumstances makes her strong. She's not strong all the time, which I think makes her more interesting. Example, Season 1 Tara would never have said 'I don't need a boy to handle my shit.' She has growth throughout the story which makes her one strong cookie.

· Daryl, Maggie, Glen, and many more from the Walking Dead – I love this show (even though I haven't kept up on the last season). There are so many different strengths to see in this show it's impossible to pick just one fave (but if you made me pick I'd choose Daryl, of course).

Some of my favorite ‘strong’ characters in recent reads:

· Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – a Romance!! Yes, characters in romance novels can be strong. Lola is strong. She chooses to follow her heart – even when that choice means pain.

· Maggie from the International School series by Chanel Cleeton – Maggie travels oversees for school and chooses to have the time of her life. Her choices lead her into some challenging and steamy situations.

· Ava from the After the Rain by Renee Carlino – Ava is haunted by personal tragedies but she chooses to grow and live. It's her choice to bravely love herself again that makes her a strong character.

· Anna from the Sweet trilogy by Wendy Higgins – She faces enormous pressure (internal and external) from both sides (evil and good) and what she chooses to do in the face of that pressure is what makes her strong.

Those characters stand out as 'strong' for me. What do you think?
How would you define a ‘strong’ character? Share your favorite strong characters from books/tv/film here.

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