This Chicks Sunday Commentary: My Pet Peeves with Female Fictional Character Traits

I tend to gravitate towards female authors because they predominantly write from a woman’s perspective which I enjoy being a woman myself, but after finishing another novel where I was disappointed in the female lead I wondered what was the point to this character? Why even write about her? I started to doubt myself. Is it just the way I’m reading this book? My mood? Admittedly, being a strong willed woman myself I have little patience for reading  from a weak heroines perspective and I definitely have my favorite female personalities. I have also noticed that if I’ve had a rough day at work I have little patience, and I do keep that in mind.

Why is it that romance novels show so many female main characters as being weak and submissive to a man? I’ll admit, I like to read romances where the man is take charge. However, if the woman is in jeopardy too much or is too submissive it takes my head out of the story. I get a little offended for womankind that this is supposed to be a fantasy or role model for women who read these novels. Am I supposed to like this?

YA novels actually do a great job of giving their readers strong female role models. Authors like Sarah J. Mass and Victoria Aveyard wouldn’t be caught dead with a weak female heroine. Worlds would collapse and Kingdoms lost! Their heroines aren’t perfect by any means, but they always learn a lesson and grow as characters. (Although I have my doubts about Mare). I am ecstatic that YA authors seem to take their roles seriously? Why give younger women weak role models to emulate when we can teach them to lead countries and conquer worlds?

Some romance authors make a living by writing novels that let men control their woman. Alexa Reilly comes immediately to mind. They write really well, but their formula is a weak brainless woman who is seduced by the man’s money and will. I’m sure you’ve guessed this isn’t my thing. But why is it anyone’s? People rave about Jamie McGuire’s aptly titled Beautiful Disaster. That female lead was a hot mess! People give 5 star reviews to that book. It amazes me. I know, I know, reading, like admiring art, is in the eye of the beholder. It’s totally subjective. I love that! I do really get fired up about having bad role models for women though, even if it’s just fiction.

My favorite female to read is the warrior. Even if a woman is just a lawyer fighting for a cause I get a charge out of it. If she’s in a fantasy world wielding a sword even better! in romance that sword could be words and clever dialog with her man. I do see a place for learning what NOT to do from reading about weak willed characters. Or those women who start off weak and learn a great lesson and use that knowledge to change their life. Those women are redeemed!

OK, I’m sure you’ve heard me rant enough. I want to ask you, what kind of women do you like to read about?

If you are a writer and have a perspective or thought on why some female authors write about women in the victim role I’d love to hear it!

What books have you read where you’ve LOVED the female lead character? I’m always looking for a new book to read and if the female lead is awesome I definitely want it on my radar!

Until next Sunday,


15 thoughts on “This Chicks Sunday Commentary: My Pet Peeves with Female Fictional Character Traits

  1. Great post! I don’t mind it if a female character likes to lean on the support of her male partner, but I agree, it’s annoying if she is too submissive. One of my favorite YA heroines is Celaena from the Throne of Glass books. I feel like she is an excellent example of what a female protagonist should be like. She’s strong and can handle herself, but there are many times throughout he series when she is vulnerable and needs help from her male love interests. Another Book with a great female lead, would be the Wrath and the Dawn duology. She is strong not necessarily by physical means, but by her intelligence and wit. 🙂

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    1. I am so glad you used her character (Celaena) as an example. Yes! A well balanced relationship shows both strength and weakness. We are not always strong and do need a partner to lean on, to be strong when we are weak. That is a great example for a healthy relationship. I don’t think I portrayed what I was trying to say very well, but that is where this post stemmed from. I fear that some of these popular writers are giving women bad examples to emulate. Leaning on others for support is healthy and normal. Some of the novels I’ve read lately seem to perpetuate the female as being weak and needing someone else to help them rise up. I’m going all women’s lib now and that isn’t my intent. Lol. I just wish for healthier examples for my sisters out there! YA authors do a much better job at this than romance authors, thank god, as they are speaking to our youth. Thanks so much for commenting!

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  2. susankietzman

    Hi Deborah,

    I agree with you.
    A weak female lead holds very little interest for me. I keep wanting to say, “Come on, woman! Deal with it!”
    All the female leads in my books are strong (with the exception of one, who appears to be getting her act together at the end of novel…) because I think woman are – to generalize – smart, capable, willing, independent, and motivated. And sure, we need to lean on someone every now and again. But sometimes we choose to lean our our women friends as often (or more so) than the men in our lives. The “weak” women in the world may have good reason to be. They may be oppressed, abused, forgotten, depressed, or damaged, all of which affects their self-esteem, their safety, their ability to change their situation. Even so, there is an inner spark to women that in all but the most dire circumstances in invincible.

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    1. I love a novel with a good group of female friends. I don’t mind a weaker female lead if the character learns and grows within the story. Even a small amount of growth is a win! If I don’t see that attitude changing by 2/3 through I start to get worried and then frustrated. Romance novels more than any other genre perpetuate the woman needs a good man storyline. I love my husband and he definitely brings out qualities in me that are not my norm, however I know that I can be independent, successful and happy alone as well. I do not have any abuse or insecurities in my own life, so its easier to complain when I don’t know the reality of picking yourself back up after being beaten down. However, I fear that our younger readers may look at some of these books where that lesson isn’t learned and think that’s what they need in life. So my preference is to read books where women may make mistakes but they learn from them and get stronger. Not totally independent because of their relationships and needing to lean occasionally, of course! I did rant a bit, so forgive me! Thanks for joining the discussion!

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  3. susankietzman

    Hi Deborah,

    No need to apologize – at least not to me. When I get talking about the empowerment of women, it’s easy to keep talking!
    Thanks for your post…

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  4. I think it’s really fair to want to read more powerful women- I think everyone has different tastes and I do agree with you that I personally don’t like reading about weak-willed women, because I can’t relate. That said, I’m really not very into (and am getting increasingly tired of the more it gets played out) the unstoppable, super strong (physically) female character who I can’t relate to at all. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun when Katniss (and also old Tamora Pierce books) played with this idea, but I personally prefer characters who are strong willed/minded. And I also agree with Kelly- I like characters that are able to lean on others in general, but not too submissive. Great post!

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    1. I agree with everything you just said. I don’t read all books with only strong women that would be boring. I have read a lot lately (romance novels) where the woman seems to let the man make all the decisions and be happy about that. I guess I just hit the wall. Fiction does seem to go through the popular phases, like Katniss and the warrior woman in YA fiction. I was worried about the thought that these subjugated women was the next popular character. Of so, I may have to start reading westerns or something! Lol. Thanks for joining in the discussion!

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  5. Great post! I agree with pretty much everything; I do enjoy a vulnerable heroine but I don’t want her weak and some authors have a hard time with that line. A woman can be vulnerable and still strong or she can grow from a vulnerable woman to a more empowered woman. A fine balance for the writer.

    My go-to for strong, kick ass female leads is Anna Hackett who writes a lot of action and sci-fi romance. Her heroines are tough, strong willed, and outspoken.

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