Enjoy Devon Ellington’s post on writing kick ass heroines.
“Kicking ass” goes beyond physical combat. “Kicking ass” means standing up for what you believe in, stepping in when you see or hear someone deliberately causing harm. You don’t back down. You don’t look away, do nothing, or hide behind “company policy”.
Jain Lazarus, the heroine of my Jain Lazarus Adventures, is a flawed, impatient, smart, talented woman who is incapable of doing nothing when something “wrong” happens — be it in the physical or metaphysical plane. That leads her into a career of righting wrongs, even though there are missteps on the way. Not every choice she makes is correct. Not every solution gets the result she wants and needs. But she doesn’t simply let things happen; she makes things happen.
To me, someone who stands by and does nothing when a crime is committed as dangerous as the person committing the crime. The criminal takes action; the by-stander encourages the crime via a lack of action. The Kitty Genovese Case is an example. In 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York. Fourteen people overheard the murder and not one of them so much as called the police. Each of those fourteen people should have been prosecuted as an accomplice to murder. They are as much to blame as the person who repeatedly stabbed her.
Jain would have gone after them.
In a more recent case, banks hired individuals at $10 an hour to forge thousands of signatures so those banks could illegally foreclose on property. Take away people’s homes, throw them into the streets. Yet, the banks are allowed to settle, instead of facing the consequences. The individuals and bank executives who performed the forgeries should be prosecuted, if not worse.
Jain would go after them.
A kick-ass heroine doesn’t just go after legal justice, but also karmic justice. We can try to comfort ourselves that each of these individuals who cause harm will have to pay a karmic price at some point in their lives, and none of us will know what that is. But in our books, our kick-ass heroines can bring those types of criminals to justice, along with the ones who pull the trigger or throw the punch. It happens while we are with the characters on the page, giving us catharsis, not in some distant future we can’t predict and won’t find out about.
That is deeply satisfying, especially in these days where special interests buy themselves legislation crafted to keep said special interests in huge profits while everyone else struggles.
Kick-ass heroines evolved from a need for women to have female characters to identify with who took action against those causing harm, and taking an action that has genuine, long-term consequences. Kick-ass heroines take action in spite of their own hurts (physical and emotional), and, most importantly, they get results. They get justice.
Jain Lazarus is a kindred spirit to a character in an upcoming trilogy, Valerie Jones. Valerie is not human; she is a preternatural creature who was created to dole out justice according to the Justice of Ancient Greece. Valerie makes a lot of people uncomfortable — many think she goes too far, and her decisions are too black-and-white.
That’s the point.
With Jain, I’m writing from a point of view of a human woman who sees the variations on morality, understands them, and makes the best choices she can in the moment. Jain is both active and re-active. She does not enjoy violence, but when she is pushed into a situation where there isn’t another choice, she will use it. In fact, there’s a running joke in the series about her different weapons and carry permits. She prefers knives to guns (guns being too impersonal and the easy choice), other than one she modified to take down rampaging paranormal creatures or blast them into other dimensions. Valerie was created to be the effect of a criminal cause. She is much more ruthless and much more intentionally violent.
Living inside these women’s skins changes me for the better. I question the choices more closely, and it makes me take stronger actions in my own life, albeit without the violence. Jain is more than I am, which is why she makes a good protagonist. She also makes me realize where I can be more than I am and strive for it.
Devon Ellington publishes under multiple names in fiction and non-fiction. Her work appears in anthologies, and her plays are produced around the world. Blog: Ink in My Coffee (http://www.devonellington.wordpress.com); Website: www.devonellingtonwork.com.
Found out more about Devon Ellington here:
Hex Breaker, The First Jain Lazarus Adventure
OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK, The Second Jain Lazarus Adventure