Song of the Day: "Quiet Little Voices" ~We Were Promised Jet Packs
Deren Hansen posted on Utah Children's Writers regarding what it means to have a strong female main character in YA novels. This is something I've thought a lot about, so I decided to add my own opinion on my blog.
Here are the two quotes Deren used that were meaningful to me:
"There are more kinds of strength than the 'kick butt' kind. The women who had the greatest influence on me all had a quiet, daily kind of strength."
"In the best stories, the strongest characters are those that act with the greatest strength in spite of their weaknesses."
When I read agent blogs, I frequently find that agents are looking for stories with "a strong female lead."
I think writers tend to interpret that as kick butt heroines, like Angelina Jolie in Salt. Girls that can go in with guns blazing. And sure, they have a softer side, a weak spot, but it's buried so deep, very few get to see it.
Unfortunately, while that makes a great action movie, I don't think it's the best for YA. Most teenage girls don't relate to characters like that. YA girls are vulnerable, conflicted--they want to fit in, but they also want to stand out, they want to find their place in life. Like Anne of Green Gables.
I believe teen girls today relate to the kinds of characters mentioned by Sheila and Clint. Regular girls just trying to figure out life, but when faced with difficult circumstances, they put their weaknesses aside and step up to the plate.
As Exhibit A, I submit Twilight. Why is that book so darn popular? I think teens relate to Bella. An average girl, average intelligence, living an average life--just trying to fit in while still maintaining her identity.
Then of course, when the handsome, immortal hottie shows interest in her, it's every teenage girl's dream come true. If it could happen to regular old Bella, it could happen to them.
But is Bella a "strong female lead"? Good question. She seems a little bland, vulnerable. For an answer I submit Exhibit B, Twilight. In the end *spoiler alert* Bella is faced with an option to sacrifice herself to save her mother. This is a choice that almost all teens can relate to. It's personal, not save the world or the random hostage, it's save someone you know and love and who loves you. Teens, as we all know, are very "me" centered.
But the real heart of the matter is that Bella chooses to live life on her own terms. And that is something all YA girls want. And that is why Twilight has sold over a million copies. Bella may not be the strongest of female lead characters in terms of fight, but she is the kind teen girls totally relate to, and that's what teen girls want.
*Please note that I refer only to Twilight, and none of the other books in the saga. They are a completely different story!