What makes a strong female character strong?

Whenever I’m focusing on trying to portray that my strong female character is ‘strong’, I probably spend more time avoiding cliches than anything. I’m not particularly interested in the ‘man in woman’s clothing’ kind of character (if we’re talking a cis-gender female, that is) - I think the extremes of this kind of character comes off really inauthentic. So, I think it’s really important to try to balance masculine and feminine strength qualities. For instance, at the same time that maybe they can fight through a broken nose, maybe later when they are alone trying to break it back in place - they cry. Whether it’s warranted or not, the act of crying is often seen as a feminine quality and I feel not losing that can be a tool to keep the character a strong female and not an overly stoic Mary Sue - but that’s not necessarily a hard and fast rule.

Overall, my advice is that you always remember to keep your character a woman even while you make her powerful and strong. How you do that and for what reason, that’s up to you.

  • Just because your strong woman is a dominant, fearsome martial artist doesn’t mean she has to be the more dominant or aggressive one in a romance. She could be shy and submissive.

  • Just because she shrugs off a cut across her back doesn’t mean she needs to just as easily shrug off the death of a friend, and vice versa.

  • Just because she is strong, mentally and physically, doesn’t mean she can’t also be soft mentally and physically.

All these rules basically apply to men too, but people tend to falter when it comes to rendering genuine strong women rather than genuine strong men.


I don’t go around crying like a banshee because i broken a nail nor i Thing to balance womanhoood you have to cry or be pretty and I found

the concept quite offensive . Same concept man dressed as woman or anything because have feelings.
That is like say like I am bold and assertive I am not a credible woman.

Concepts of ASSERTIVE AND SUBMISSIVE aren’t and never were dependent of gender


In my opinion; what makes a strong character (or person) strong is a certain level of independence, humility, and a sense of responsibility.

A strong character is someone who is perfectly capable of taking matters into their own hands, but who is humble and smart enough to ask for or accept help when they need it. A strong character also owns up to their actions, whether they had good or bad consequences.

But for your specific character; I am a woman myself who has seen and heard a lot of horrible things happening to my other female friends. I myself was a victim of a sexual crime and for a while I struggled with the feelings related to that incident.

But what I’ve learned is; a strong female character who has been a victim is strong because even though “stuff” happened to her in the past, she understands that not everyone is like that. She understands that she needs to have faith in others and give each and every individual an opportunity to show that they are a good person. But she is also strong enough to politely decline toxic relationships, and strong enough to boldly reject anybody who pushes boundaries too far.

The easiest way to have a character’s attractiveness not overshadow her other qualities is too not dwell on it in your writing. It is as easy as describing her and her attractiveness ONCE and then for the rest of the experience you rely on her other qualities to show who she is. Once you’ve established she’s attractive, without pushing into creepy description territory, don’t go back to it. If you continuously push the fact that she’s attractive, that will be the only thing people focus on.


As a victim myself You have said a real deal truth. After this years I still struggling a male I don’t trust touch me Is a psychological reaction now is almost gone but still there and there is a incredible strength on learning trust again and not let a bad experience destroying you.


My advice? Forget about writing “strong” female characters. Write female characters who feel like real people.


Mythcreants - which is a blog for spec fic storytellers in writing and roleplaying - has several articles on the subject that might be helpful, too. Here’s one of their blog posts on writing female chars; it specifically touches on attractiveness and how to write about it and covers some other points that might be useful.


i don’t think there is anything wrong in feeling appreciated by someone in some way. That is the human nature. We all feel like we want someone’s approval. And feeling wanted to be liked or loved by someone doesn’t make you weak. that is actually an indication that you know what you want. Feeling bad about it is just you being too hard on yourself. To some people it hurts to get emotional at a certain thing;they might even think of themselves as pathetic but, that is not the case. This just reflects more of what their environment and the people around them have done to them that these people start to think that their own feeling are toxic, they start to feel ashamed of it. Pondering about shit that isn’t true. Feeling scared of what the voice inside them has got to say. These emotions are then channeled into frustration which further evolves into depression. This thing started from one person feeling ashamed of their own emotions which leads to the collapse of one’s own personality.


That is one thing another is when your bf starting to psychological manipulation or toxic abuse you to becoming his fantasy of what a woman has to be.

I had those is not you by persobal initiative put a bra or dress he likes that is cool. …
But another is

"Why do you dress that pyjamas you look like a fat cow. Where is that lingerie i bought for you put that because you are now awful "

That is toxic and is a psychological mistreatment and no women queer or male should to accept it. If you are with a person you are with that person because how that person is not because is a a sexual toy. That’s objectivation a person.


its a case of a total doucebag that youre talking about. this thing about guys–them trying to manipulate their partners irrespective of gender–it gives a bad name to others too making people believe that doucebag is a synonym for “man”. that toxic masculinty thing makes everyone wary of other men. being a guy I know what it feels like to be judged on the actions of some asshole somewhere half way around the world.

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I have a list of strong female characters. I list Melinda Stryker, Katniss Everdeen, and Tris Pior as SFs.
And it has nothing to do with the actresses who portrayed them in the movies.


A woman who is written like a person who doesn’t fall into common tropes and is interesting.


One video you might want to watch is the one Lindsay Ellis did on Transformers and Megan Fox (Mikaela). She talks about how Mikaela was a strong character in script, but because the camera only focused on her looks and objectified her even when dealing with the rest of her personality the only thing the audience remembers is her appearance. And although film and text are two different things, I think if you switch “camera” for “narration” you get the same idea – if you focus mainly on attractiveness (or any single trait of a character) during the narration then the rest of the character may be lost in the process, especially if the dialogue and story focuses on that, too.

Another good example would be Galadriel – her beauty is important to the story, and while she doesn’t directly address it, by giving her strands of hair as a gift it’s she who has control over that beauty. And her temptation of the ring, which is connected to the main plot, shows her great strengths and her great weaknesses, while her interaction with Gimli gives her more depth separate from the main story and the main character of Frodo entirely.


“How do you write strong female characters?”

“The same way I write all my characters.”

“Which is?”

“Well-rounded and complex.”


Exactly. It’s easily to overthink this. Just make a well rounded character, one of whose traits happens to be that she is pretty; rather than a pretty character who has “strong” traits. The first will give you a better chance at a relatable and realistic female character, the latter will be what happens in a lot of movies where a character has been put there mostly there as eye candy (and then had extras added to make them seem “strong”.)


Some people confusing „character“ and „actual person” in here. OP asked what makes a character strong not a real person. Real living people can go through very long difficult and dark phases that overwhelm them and make them feel helpless and passive, but that doesn’t necessarily make them “weak”.
But it’s different in narration. In a novel or movie we don’t get to accompany a certain character through all phases – strong or weak – of their life, even more so when we’re talking about non-protagonist-characters, we mostly only see a certain section of their life framed by a narrative arc. That’s why in my opinion a strong character, male or female, needs to have an agenda of their own, a reason why he or she is in your story and a goal – a reason why she is doing what she’s doing. She can be a cold-hearted bitch, she can be a caring sister or a courageous adventurer, she can be snarky, calm, beautiful or ugly, as long as she does have an actual self-involved goal other than being a decorative love-interest. That does not mean that she has to have this clarity and determination from the beginning of the story. Character development – evolving from undecided, self-hating, helpless, oppressed and directionless to decisive, protective, in control and self-accepting is what makes a strong and interesting character. And in a perfect world she’d contribute to the plot in some way or else readers will ask “Why should I care about her?”


Well rounded characters is a complete lie. Most characters PEOPLE remembers aren’t not well rounded at all. Hell well rounded normally means plain goodie two shoes put there to give roam to protagonist.

Lady Macbeth. Ulises Iago, Hamlet, Quixote, Puck, Chandler… Sherlock None of them were well rounded they were people with clear weaknesses. With representation of a ideal. Lust for power. Revenge Intelligence etc etc Literature is not real life. What makes a person cool in novels Could make it terrible in real life. Like Sherlock

So make a character Well rounded because well is realistic. Same for me that validates the thoughts many people have that strong woman aren’t REALISTIC enough . I have heard that a lot nobody will believe a woman Rambo is not realistic. A woman can’t be Bourne except is sexual toy half nude. A women ha cry because if not is not womanly Enough. Guess who in my family girls dont cry and that normally we were tough as nails.

There is not womanly there is not manly not in the way culture wants to sell that and try to prison us on it. No one should be selling that a girl doing that is not credible…

Cog are a key proof of that. A queer or a girl could be same heroe that a straight male . Because people are people and normally we want similar stuff.


I would think well rounded character seems unreal and too subjective …
Eventually i might stop caring for such character since it appears that the author or director is pushing me towards a flawless person…
For the strong female character , i would believe she must have a sense of purpose and determination to achieve a goal … she needs not to be perfect or invincible , but a strong will that overcome her weaknesses… she may be failing at some point, but her sheer determination makes viewers or readers rooting for her…

My example is Rita Vrataski from Edge of Tomorrow , she is considered beautiful as she is the poster girl for the Earth Alliance Force , she possess great fighting ability but she is not invincible, especially after she lost her Time Rewinding power , however she display a calm determination in fighting the alien even though she unferstand she is fighting a losing war …
Viewers had to witness her demise over and over again , due to the time rewinding power of the Bill Cage … with every Rebooting of an event , Rita will be displaying the same stern determination of Training Cage and ask him to focus on the detail so that they would succeed in their current rewind …
Rita also display a strong character with her pragmatic approach when she remind Cage that she would not have the same memory of their feeling together because her memory will be lost every time she die… hence Cage will only hurt more if he invest too much feeling on her …

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How do you write women well? Think of a man, then take away all reason and accountability!

Actually, don’t do that. You’ll end up with a psychopath. What you need to give her more than anything is the one strong thing all the female characters I admire have in common- confidence. They know they can succeed at whatever it is they need to do and then they boldly do it. They whine about something- their bodies, their love life or lack thereof, their inability to succeed as they want to, whatever- they are wasting the reader’s time. I do not want to watch Lina Inverse moaning about her cup size, I want to be reminded why dragons step carefully around her.

You can show a heroine developing confidence, that’s fine. Buffy Summers has to learn to believe in vampires and that she was strong enough to kill them. But once she got that down, she didn’t waste time whining and went to town. Sarah Connor started out as a scared waitress in a situation she couldn’t believe, but do we remember her that way? No, because she didn’t stay that way. Give your female characters confidence and then let them retain it.

It’s also okay to show them as not having it all the time. As long as they have it enough to be memorable. Fluttershy is socially awkward but no one questions her as a strong woman once they see her caring for animals, supporting her friends, and using her Stare.

Confidence can allow a woman to do a lot of things. I’ll list a few I support and give examples. She can live her own life free of men, be happy doing so, and if a good man happens to end up loving her, she can accept that too (Elizabeth Bennett). She can be a badass secret agent with complex friend and parent relations she can still deal with (Sydney Bristow). She can solve mysteries (Nancy Drew). She can face down life or death situations and evil super villains (lots of characters). She can be a smart girl in a dumb world and be comfortable about it (Lisa Simpson). Add your own.

In closing, once you give the character what defines her, don’t take it away. In the fifth season of Chuck, they apparently got bored with Sarah Walker and gave her a gadget she never needed before. Soon after that she lost her memory, her friendships, everything that made her character great. No wonder that was the final season of the show. It ruined her. Don’t ruin your characters with similar writing mistakes. Good luck.

All those characters are well-rounded because they have weaknesses. A character that isn’t well-rounded and complex either doesn’t have weaknesses or overcomes them too easily. A character being weak and having faults doesn’t make them a one-dimensional character unless they’re just poorly written.

In fact, Lady Mac is probably one of my favorite characters because her fault - devotion to her husband and their family - is so strong she literally casts off her identity as a woman to kill the King for him. She shows an active passion to her husband and stops at nothing to help him achieve his goals. That’s what a complex character is.


and becareful about the trap of ‘Dumbing down Numb , so stacy can shine under the Moonlight!’’ . Meaning , turning everyone around your character into an idiot…so your female character can stand out more . Like a sore thumb ? sure…she will .

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