What makes a strong female character strong?

‘Well-rounded’ and ‘dimensional’ are terms I wish would die. They are not helpful terms. All they do is confuse the hell out of writers. ‘Fleshed out’ is probably a better approximation of what people actually mean but it still doesn’t really nail it.

IMO there is only one thing a character needs in order to function: understandable, believable motivation. Everything else flows from that. We have to believe - or at least to know and care - why they do things.

Take Hannibal Lecter on the TV show HANNIBAL. On the face of it, nothing he does makes sense. e.g. He’s kind one moment, vicious the next. Calm then violent. Charming then steely cold. A passionate lover and a cold-blooded killer. He is ‘multi-dimensional’ almost to the point of nonsense. But it works because we know his motivation. The writers actually have him say it aloud a number of times, so it’s beyond doubt: “I wanted to see what would happen.” Hannibal does Hannibal because he believes he’s like God. Once we understand that, everything he does makes sense.

Sarah Connor in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is a great heroine not just because she kicks butt, but because she believes that, given her circumstances, this is the only Sarah Connor it is possible for her to be. She is not kicking butt because it’s cool or to make her feel good about herself. Sarah doing Sarah is a matter of human survival.

So Sarah Connor in T2 isn’t actually all that ‘dimensional’. She has one dimension: get in my way and I will end you. But I imagine most would agree she’s a wonderful character and a ‘strong woman’. In fact, it’s her initial single-mindedness that enables her to have such a great character arc.

So yeah, I think motivation is more crucial than how many ‘dimensions’ a character has.


Plus 9,001 kudos for referencing LIS :slight_smile: . That series does characters perfectly, including female ones, the series is a great place to look for inspiration, though Max is the strongest character overall in my opinion (taking everything into account, overcoming obstacles, handling fears and weaknesses, achievments etc etc) . I could give my opinion on what I believe makes a strong female character, did start to before deleting my post-lots has already been listed, plus there’s so many qualities it’s just easier to give examples me thinks. Reading the coffin dancer atm, the sequel to the bone collector, and I’d say Amelia Sax is what you’d call a strong female protag for sure.

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This may be a little on the nose and i’m sure some people would disagree, but when I was racking my brains for well known “strong” female characters, or for me just female characters that I thought were well done/potrayed, Margery Tyrell from GoT stood out. Personally i got kinda sick of a lot of the rest of the female cast in the show, but I was always pleasantly surprised by Margery.

She had a goal, she had wits, humour, good looks and cunning, she was manipulative, but not cruel. A perfect person? Not a chance, but she WAS a believable woman.

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I think Rachel Amber is an interesting take on female characters in general. She is in essence a perfect citizen more or less in the eyes of society. She is smart kind contributes alot to her community, does well in school and is well lived my teachers and peers alike. She parties hard and defies the system but still calms down and returns to society as a fully functional member of society afterwards if not more.

( Spoilers caution )

But then after she discovers everything is a like she becomes commited to burning it all down the facade of her perfect self and the system and even her family down to expose the truth. I really like that arc and it seems so compelling to me. but TBH I love max and Chloe infinitely more than her, Chloe the rebel the antiestablishment having to decide which is best for her lover/bff the establishment and a warm hopeful lie or the hard painful truth. oh so good.
btw which 1 did you choose in the end?

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I don’t understand what people saw in that videogame I wasn’t even invest enough to end first chapter. Characters are goody two shoes planes and one dimensional with a protagonist that is Mary sue reincarnated.

Probably I am too old and too grumpy to enjoy those games.

doubt age has anything to do with it lol . It’s different I guess , I enjoyed it . It had feeling , emotions…traumas . Though I never finished the last episode…it was still a Good game .

And what’s wrong with Mary Sue ? Poor thing always get the hate…never the one who made her .

It’s a matter of taste I guess , you can enjoy stuff . As long said stuff don’t hurt , put down , or insult…anyone else . It’s fine , isn’t it ?



Of course it is. My best friend Diego loved it and love the second too.

I just can’t relate with those characters problems because I am not like them and never was. So i was meh… This storyline has zero sense go to police stop chasing butterflies. And the drugs girl is most insufferable edgy angst teen ever. Like my vote is left her die. 100%

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There was no choice, these games are emotion packed, really relatable and are very personal to me, I lied to Rachel. And yeah, these games are so emotional and personal to me I will genuinely never tell the truth during a playthrough.

Edit: @poison_mara OMG you hate Emma, you hate zombie high and now you hate LIS!!? :open_mouth: :’( . Next you’ll be telling me you hate the novel am I normal yet (it’s my favourite book, so you most definitely would xd ) .

Edit2: :’( :’( :open_mouth: :open_mouth: replying as I read, just saw what you wrote about Chloe!!! :’( I have so much in common with her and can relate to her so much it’s unreal. (oh and for an example of a weak female, look to her…though yeah I do relate to her…a lot, so my opinion literally couldn’t be any more biased xd ) .

Doesn’t “strong” just mean “complex/authentic/well-written?”

I mean, I don’t think anyone ever argued it meant “Rahhh!! I am all-powerful!” or anything.


Probably XD I have never read it. :hugs: My problem is I can’t relate with anything written by perspective of a shy calm submissive person. As I don’t get that. I don’t understand that feelings as I am all contrary so i get mad at them and call them cowards and wtf are they doing shut up in a corner instead of calling out the liars and pretenders and bullies.

So anything with a shy angst teen is like instant hate for me

In Spanish we called that Mujeres Guerreras Warrior women. It is woman proud of themselves that call out injustices and kick ass. But well they don’t have to be literally warriors. Just being bold and direct and has nothing to do with be well written or not.

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UUUHHGGGGGG I just spent 20 minutes looking for this video so I could be helpffuuullllllllll

Curse you and your cultured mind! I shall not forget this day Szaal!

Everyone good luck with the discussion!

One thing that has often irritated me is an entirely passive heroine in a modern context who is touted as strong. A strong female character doesn’t avoid takeing the initiative. The world doesn’t just happen to her, she happens to the world. She doesn’t mind breaking a few eggs to get things done. Her actions sometimes have negative consequences that boomerang back at her, but she learns from them and strives to do better. She doesn’t collapse under guilt nor does she pretend that she is perfect.

Just my own thoughts but…a strong female character is independent. They don’t spend half of their dialogue arguing with people about their crush on the male character that they definitely do not have, because i-it’s not like they like him or anything. Baka!

A strong female character has characterization other than “Has a crush” Having a crush is not a personality. This doesn’t equate to them being abrasive, but they are out doing things for themselves too. They have other wants and needs than just whatever the rest of the cast wants and possess no goals themselves.

All my thoughts are really, it’s not about their actual combat strength and there’s many different kinds of strength than purely ass kicking ability(Though it helps). At the same time, it’s just as bad to see a character upstage the rest so sorely that there is just no point to the rest of the cast.

Audiences are generally tough on both, characters who are useless and characters who are too perfect. The line between that is pretty vast. They don’t need to be a war god, but they can’t really be the load either whose only reason to be around is because “They have a crush on one of the characters.”

Basically, I’d say that independence is probably the biggest thing. They don’t exist solely for a relationship arc or to be kidnapped by the villain week after week. They serve a purpose to the story and they have the ability to act on their own.


I’ve found that what people mean by “strong” typically translates to “being capable of overcoming obstacles” while ideally also being interesting and fleshed out. In other words, a well written protagonist type character. A character is strong when they can confront and overcome their weaknesses, whether removing them completely, accepting that they’re part of them, or some other method.

Basically, if you want to write a “strong female character” just write a strong character. There’s not any difference between the two.


I think a common problem with some people who try to write strong female characters is they try to make them all from the same cloth - usually emotionless and not threatened by anything - which is definitely not the way to go. Jessica Jones and Jennifer Walters’ She Hulk are both gifted with super strength and endurance and have an investigation background (one as a PD and the other as a lawyer) but are definitely not the same.

My philosophy with any character is… are they distinctive? Are they a character in their own right, or are they solely or wholly defined by their gender or sexuality or race? Are they not anything outside the character(s) connected to them or are they their own person but complimented with others? Do they evolve or grow as characters, or are they basically perfect from day one? Can you see things from their perspective, even if you cannot agree with them?

Stuff like that is why we Marvel Comics fans know and love Kamala Kahn or Miles Morales but instantly forget about Gay Mexican Giant Man… because that’s the only thing we remember about him.


If you want a strong female character, look at Daenerys.
I mean yeah, let’s forget the insane part, that’s quite unnecessary, but Daenerys is beautiful and strong.
She is confident, determined and has a strong will. She leads her people with kindness and protects them from bad people with everything she has.

Now, this is my personal opinion, but the way you worded it “attractive female without objectifying her attractiveness” sounds just weird.
I know you’re trying not to trigger anyone, but making attractive females isn’t objectifying.
You don’t have to make her insecure about her beauty for whatever reason to “not objectify” her.

It depends on how you describe her in the book.
There’s a difference between describing her beautiful hair, freckled face, lips and eyes and describing her body type, boobs, butt and so on.
There’s nothing wrong with describing her body, nor there’s nothing wrong with making sexy characters. You just need to know there’s a difference between sexy and overly sexual.

Ironic, considering your previous language objectified and dehumanised women, by calling women/female characters “a female” instead of a woman, as if they were animals. We should be avoiding language like this.

(Also as someone with PTSD, I hate how “trigger” has been scalped to mean “mildly offended over the internet”).


99% makes attractive girls are in fact SEXUAL OBJECTIFICATION if the writer is cis male first phrase will go directly to the boobs. and will be five hours in a description based on sex purely.

You don’t see anyone starting describing a cis male saying OH HOW PRETTY PERKY TESTICLES HE HAS… No … males are described as PEOPLE WITH PERSONALITIES.

Woman, we are described exactly as cows in breeding age. In a farm exhibit of cows here I found a description of a cow that it was exactly how most hentai objectify women because we are Boobs bags with orifices


The problem with saying “don’t be afraid to make an unattractive woman” is that there are no unattractive women in media. Everything has to be sexually consumable.

When was the last time you saw a woman in a film or prime TV without makeup on? Superheroes like Black Widow and Wonder Woman fight in sexualised clothing, high heels and makeup, regardless of how useless they’d be for actual combat.

When women cry it must be beautiful, when women suffer it must be beautiful, when women die to fuel a man’s story they must be beautiful in death: they are always filmed through a lens of what is consumable to the male audience.

They aren’t allowed to be fat or ugly or have warts or have a square jaw or a hook nose unless they are evil. Scars must be in attractive places - over the eyebrow, or nose or side of the lip - lest you make the woman unattractive. Women aren’t allowed to ugly-cry with snot out of their noses, or scream and kick and bite and roar or have chest hair or leg hair or upper lip hair or anything lest they be seen as unattractive.

Women aren’t allowed to be unattractive in media unless that unattractive woman is a) evil b) cured of her ugliness through the power of love or some other spell.

Women aren’t allowed to be news presenters if they’re over an age where they can’t be seen as attractive. Women over the age of forty simply do not turn up as anything more than mothers, matrons, or evil businesswomen, in media. Ugly women are simply not allowed to exist, because men do not want to see them.

Make ugly female characters! Make conventionally unattractive female characters! Make female characters well-fitted to their role over their personal appearance.