This week we have YA fantasy author, Amy Sumida, share about the delicate balance of a lovable kick-ass heroine.
Oh how we love her, the kick-ass heroine. She doesn’t back down, she mouths off to villains, and she faces danger with a lifted chin.
She makes us feel stronger just by reading her words. She inspires us to do better, to live better, and to refuse to take crap from anyone.
The difficulty as a writer portraying a tough female character is in keeping her soft enough for us less kick-ass women to relate to. I believe there needs to be a balance of strength and weakness.
In my Godhunter Series, my main character is a witch named Vervain (it’s an herb). She’s sassy, fierce, and always has a come-back but you can also feel her vulnerability.
Her bravery in going up against gods with phenomenal amounts of power is tempered by the fear she hides behind a mask of snarky comments.
She has insecurities and issues that interfere with her love life and no matter how powerful she gets, she never loses those human traits.
I think Laurell K. Hamilton does this very well in the early books of her Anita Blake series. Anita experiences trauma that allows us to relate to her but when Anita starts gaining power in the later books, Ms. Hamilton loses me. Anita fails to hold onto the issues I loved her for, she loses the human frailties that made her strength seem all the more impressive.
So the balance, the delicacy, lies in finding a combination of traits that are both inspiring and vulnerable.
We need to not only be able to cheer when this character kicks ass but cry when she fails.
It’s the journey I love, the growth of the character through the trials she experiences and the strength she shows in how she deals with them.
Personally, I enjoy a character who stands up for herself, who can fight her own battles and yet doesn’t feel the need to emasculate men. She shouldn’t have to, she’s kick-ass, right?
That’s another point where Ms. Hamilton lost me with Anita Blake — her men start becoming subservient.
I can’t see how that would be attractive to a kick-ass woman. Wouldn’t she find that annoying? It’s like a man who loves cats, he’s secure enough in his manhood to acknowledge the beauty of felines. The kick-ass woman should be similar, secure enough in her strength to not need to make others feel weak. She should be able to fight her demons (literal and figurative), then come home and snuggle in the arms of her lover.
Of course, I feel that issues with allowing men to fight her battles or perhaps comfort her, are appropriate and can be used effectively to show a character’s growth. This could be something she needs to work through but eventually she shouldn’t feel threatened by a strong man.
Also important to a great kick-ass heroine (in my opinion) is a sense of humor. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself getting annoyed with a heroine because she just won’t lighten up. You can only be sad for so long, right?
Well you can only be morose for so long, too. After awhile that strong and stoic attitude starts to bug me. She doesn’t have to be a comedian, but I have no desire to see a female kick-ass version of Eyore either. Every book needs some comic relief and I think the cool kick-ass heroine should be able to appreciate that.
So there you go, she needs to be strong yet vulnerable. Respectful of herself without belittling others, and have a sense of humor.
That’s my ideal kick-ass heroine but she may not be yours, and I’m okay with that because I’ve learned enough from the great kick-ass heroines I’ve read about to know how to respect the opinions of others.
Amy Sumida lives on a little island in the middle of the Pacific ocean with her two gravity-defying felines. She sleeps in a fairy bed, lifted high in the air, and upon waking, she enjoys stabbing people with tiny needles, over and over, under the guise of making pretty pictures on their skin. She paints dark images on canvases in a cave-like studio carved out of the side of a cliff, and beautiful murals on the walls of her home directly above. She’s happiest with her nose buried in a book or in her laptop as she writes her novels.
You can follow both her and her main character, Vervain, on their twitter accounts and blogs.
Amy’s Twitter handle is: @Ashstarte
Vervain’s handle is: @VervainLavine
Amy’s blog can be found on Goodreads:
Vervain’s is on Tumblr: http://vervainlavine.tumblr.com/