06/10/2014

What Makes a Great Heroine? {The Birdie Musings}


I read a lot of books, obviously. Sometimes it's fantasy, thrillers, romance, mysteries, or a dystopians . . . it all depends on my mood. But there's one constant I'm always looking for: a great heroine.

I like strong leads who don't fall into clichés and are just generally bad-ass. But what makes a heroine strong? What makes them bad-ass? Do they have to physically be able to kick ass, or is it inner strength? Is there a set formula for creating an awesome leading lady?

I figured the only way to really tell was to examine heroines from five of my favourite books and see what they have in common. And I'm choosing five very different novels, so that we get some variety. Because I'm so highly-scientific like that.


Blue Sargent from The Raven Cycle series.

Blue's really independent and I love how open she is about being a feminist. She calls the boys out on sexist attitudes and holds her own against them. She refuses to be intimidated, even by the likes of Ronan (which is a hard thing to achieve).
She also makes other people stronger (or, her energy does) and there's a metaphor in there somewhere that I won't pretend to be clever enough to explain.
Really though, there's nothing special about Blue. But that's what makes her so special. She's feisty and witty and intelligent and the perfect example of how someone doesn't need to be great at everything to be awesome. She's an ordinary girl doing extraordinary things.


Cinder from The Lunar Chronicles series.

Cinder takes the traditional fairytale and turns it on its head. She's not submissive and meek and she doesn't rely on a prince to rescue her. Instead, she works at rescuing herself and staying strong in the face of adversity.
Cinder faces a lot of prejudice because, well, she's not all human. She's unique because there really is nobody else like her, but Meyer doesn't use that uniqueness to paint Cinder as a gorgeous rarity, but uses it to show how alone she is. And that just makes Cinder seem so much stronger.
She's also super smart and the best mechanic, so she's able to fix whatever she can get her hands on, making her independent and great to have in a crisis.



Celaena Sardothien from the Throne of Glass series.

Celaena is one of those heroines who's literally able to kick your ass. Or, you know, kill you because she's an assassin. It's definitely amazing to see a her able to easily take down her male counterparts. Girl power!
But Celaena's greatest quality has to be her loyalty. She loves fiercely, meaning she will do anything to protect the people she cares about. 
She's selfless in a lot of ways, and despite the horrors she's committed, her conscience always spurs her to put others before herself. Whether it's risking her lives to free slaves, or sacrificing everything to avenge her friends, Celaena, ironically, has a true moral compass.


Nastya Kashnikov from The Sea of Tranquillity.

This is a great example of how a character doesn't have to appear strong in order to be strong. Nastya doesn't speak and that might seem like she's weak and has given up, but she struggles with an event so heartbreaking that it's a wonder she's managed to stay sane.
It's wonderful to see her slowly open up and come to terms with things. This is a real, raw struggle, of someone who doesn't have magical powers to fall back on, but has to deal with things the old fashioned way: pain and grit. And that just makes her that much more inspirational.


Daisy Calloway from the Addicted series.

Daisy is a constant ray of light. She's always putting her family first and dismissing her own troubles to avoid hurting them. It's frustrating, but also kind of inspirational. Because don't we all wish we could be a little more selfless?
Daisy's snarky wit and boundless energy makes her a great character and I just love her sense of humour. It's dry and quirky and innuendo-ridden (so, basically, it's my sense of humour. Hah.).
She grows a lot throughout the series and we see her literally go from child to adult, learning to stand up for herself and take charge of her own life.



So what's the common denominator here? 
 
Girls that are independent, quirky and intrinsically kind. Women who are emotionally strong and, despite their pasts, are able to rise above adversity and grow in to characters you can't help but root for.


What do you think makes a great heroine? Who are some of your favourite leading ladies?


 



Allie is a Pimm's-obsessed reader, who dreams of road tripping over America, learning to surf & becoming fluent in all the languages of her heritage (which, sadly, does not include Elvish). If she's not reading or blogging, you can find her catching up on Teen Wolf, or reigning supreme with Scrabble/Mario Kart. Stalk her on twitter, instagram or goodreads.


38 comments:

  1. I also like it when heroins are strong in their own way. I don't always need the bad-ass types like Katniss or the ones with crazy fighting skills like Katsa. You can be great without being too special.

    I completely agree about Blue. There is something about her; she is a normal character with traits that turn her into a fantastic character. I like how feisty she is and her snarky comments are great.
    Cinder is super. I love it when characters are smart and are capable of good choices. I also like how she keeps her sweet nature, while everyone around her is bashing her.
    Celaena *sigh* I love her!

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    1. It's true because, let's face it, how many of us in real life have super awesome fighting skills? not many. And yet a bunch of us are still awesome and strong :D It shows that you don't need these crazy abilities to be fantastic and kind of gives hope to people in a way. A strong character is a powerfully inspiring thing

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  2. Cinder and Celaena are definitely awesome! I love Nastya too. :D

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    1. Cinder is just amazing. I cannot wait to read about her again!

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  3. Well you just summed up what I want to read. ALL THE TIME. I'm so tired of thinly written women who hide under being "tough" by kicking-butt but still having ZERO personality. >-< I find that so frustrating. But Cinder and Celaena and Blue are like my FAVOURITE characters of all time. SO YES AND YES TO THIS POST.

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    1. Oh, gawd, don't get me started on so-called 'hard as nails' girls who have no substance. They're like cardboard cut-outs AND I DON'T UNDERSTAND. Why am I going to root for this person? Answer: I'm not.

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  4. I would have said that a heroine, or a hero, has to be able to freely feel fear in order to be a good protagonist. I mean, it's a good thing to prove your human and afraid, it's easy for the blood to rush and the adrenaline to kick in, but you're going to be afraid, of something at at least, and it's when protagonists admit that fear and use it, that's what makes them great to me, but this is a great post Allie, well done! :D

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    1. Ohhh, I like that! Someone who faces their fears instead of denying them or running away. Not being afraid to be afraid and using that fear as a strength - definitely a good quality

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  5. I love how you described Blue. She definitely seems like your regular teen girl, but one that you can really root for and believe in. I seriously have to get started with this series!

    Agreed about Cinder! She definitely uses her wits and her skills to get her through the toughest situations. I like how she uses her talents to her advantage.

    Yep to Calaena. I'll admit, I'm not the biggest fan of hers, but the qualities you listed are all true.

    I haven't read Hothouse Flower yet (don't kill me!), but so far I'm not a Daisy girl. LOVE Rose, though. But yeah, still definitely reading this beauty before Addicted After All comes out. <3 Excited to see how Daisy develops.

    I'm not sure if there's a specific type of heroine I love most. I like different sorts. Ruthless killing machines, quirky geeks, even the friendly girl-next-door type. It all depends, I guess. ^_^

    Awesome post, Allie!

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    1. Yeah, I saw on GR you're not a Daisy fan. I was tempted to through a pitchfork at you, but I'm resisting :P You should adore Raisy though, really. I thought Daisy and Ryke were effing awesome in that book and outshined Rose and Connor's novel a little (Siiri and Lily will disagree with me there!).

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  6. I LIVE FOR AN INDEPENDENT PROTAGONIST. They're my absolute favourite to read. And it's personal strength that really pulls me in. I've got admiration to give and they totally deserve it. I share the same sentiments with you about Blue. I love her. She's such an "ordinary" character but her streak of independence, the strength of her beliefs and her feisty attitude just wins me over every single time. She's hands down my favourite heroine!

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    1. INDEPENDENCE IS A MUST. I can't even with characters who can't stand on their own two feet or, worse, those who can't survive without their love interest. That doesn't fly with me!

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  7. All fabulous reads and strong female characters, I love that! A strong heroine is always important. She doesn't have to be kick butt but I do want her to have a back bone.

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    1. Exactly! I can't follow a story when I don't believe in the heroine

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  8. I basically adore all these books!!

    While I appreciate a leading lady who can hold her own in a hand to hand combat I also love heroines who have this 'quiet strength'(In Natsya's case, literally quiet!).

    So for me there is no winning formula for the perfect heroine. It all boils down to how the character reacts during hard times. Like Blue, they can be perfectly ordinary yet extraordinary in the face of trouble. :)

    Now I'm off to check out Hothouse Flower because that's only one I haven't heard of this list. Lovely discussion, Allie! :)

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    1. I agree, I guess! There's no set formula, just a few things that can tip the skills. At the end of the day, all that matters is if I have faith in that character and am invested in their journey :D

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  9. THIS LIST ALLIE
    I OFFICIALLY LOVR YOU FOR THIS LIST.
    Serouisly--dude you killed it.
    Blue. NATSYA, Daisy, Cinder and bloody Celeana! These are all characters I admore greatly and think about all the time. I'm not kidding. Sometimes i'm like "I should do this because of this character blah blah blah" Literally.
    I love all these characters so much and love that you included them in your list. Excuse me while I cry from the pure beauty.
    Lily

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    1. I OFFICIALLY LOVE YOU ANYWAY, MAN.

      Natsya was one of those characters that killed me. Seriously. EMOTIONAL WRECK. She couldn't not be on here

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  10. YES! You've chosen the most awesome heroines! I totally agree with you and your chosen points. There are so many qualities that can make up the perfect heroine, but I think a few flaws = perfection in a way. Celaena is my most favourite heroine, ever, probably. I just don't know how to describe her perfection and awesomeness in a word! Cinder's kick-ass and I really liked Blue as well.

    I guess a great heroine is going to need to be smart, and capable of knowing what's part of their surroundings and have common sense and logic in them. I can't even count how many heroines were stupid and made dumb decisions. Inner strength is ALWAYS a must!

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    1. A few flaws definitely are necessary. I don't need Mary Sues rocking about in my books! That makes an instant DNF.

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  11. I like the bad ass ones too, maybe because I am in no way BA

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  12. Agreed - strong female characters who are independent, quirky, relatable, and someone we would look up to in some way, make great characters.

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    1. Definitely need to be relatable, in some way. Even someone as far-stretched from me as Celaena's relatable because I relate to her struggle to find herself etc. It's such a key aspect

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  13. I can't agree with you more! I love heroines who are strong, but well-rounded (i.e. kicking ass optional, personality required.) Blue and Cinder are both some of my favorite characters. I still (STILL) have yet to read Throne of Glass, but I'm excited to eventually meet Celaena.

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    1. You MUST read ToG when you get the chance. I didn't think the first book was sensational, but the following two BLEW ME AWAY. It was insane.

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  14. I DNFed Raven Boys and everyone doesn't seem to stop raving on about it so now I want to try it again. Especially now because I love it how Blue doesn't let the boys intimidate her and how she calls out on their sexism.

    Great post, Allie! <33

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    1. Ohhh, I hate to hear that! Raven Boys was my favourite book until I read the next one, Dream Thieves, which then took the title because it was too awesome not to.

      I hope you do give it another go, because I honestly think it's one of the best series out there today.

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  15. I haven't read the first three books but they are on my tbr. I'm really glad to hear that they have great heroines though! LOVE NASTYA AND DAISY!!! I so agree. I found that Nastya's reaction to meeting "him" at the art show really highlighted her strength too. Seeing her open up was so heart-warming. Ahhh Josh <3 I didn't realize how strong Daisy actually was until Hothouse Flower when you see everything form her pov. Though you do get bits here and there based on how she suppresses her own feelings to make others happy. The scene with the mirror made me cry. You know what I'm talking about! To me a strong heroine means having inner strength to not take bs from others, those that don't let their past define them, those that stand behind their decisions, knowing what they want and going for it. If they can literally kick-ass too that would be off the charts perfect haha.Great topic, Allie :D

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    1. Jennifer, the first three are the best three! FOR SHAME!!! (hehe).

      Nastya's reaction was unreal. I would've completely shattered, but she held it together and I couldn't even believe it. She's stronger than me, because I honestly don't know what I would've done . . . but it wouldn't of been anything pretty.

      THE MIRROR SCENE YES. And I loved how blasé she was. Like, yeah, it's a shame, but her looks don't define her any more and that's good. I just love her optimism!

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  16. You're absolutely right Allie! :D I also love kind, quirky and strong protagonists in YA; because there's just something about girls with that type of personality and outlook that makes you just want to root for them and that makes them easily relatable. Thanks for putting this together and, as always, FABULOUS post! <3

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    1. Yeeeep! I don't want cardboard cut-outs, I want quirkiness and inner strength. I can't root for Mary Sue's but I can root for girls that are independent and kind and rise above their flaws :D

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  17. Brilliant post, a girl after my own heart <3
    I love strong, independent and kick ass book chicks. Whether they're starting a revolution, or as simple as standing on their own two feet, I need them in my YA. Ahh, The Raven Boys. I feel as though I've had that on my Kindle forever! I really need to push it up my to read list. Another one I absolutely adore is Saba from Moira Young's Dustland series. If you haven't read it, definitely give it a go. She's one you can't help but root for. Brilliant post Allie <3

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    1. Ohh you've not read it? Rectify this!!! It's my favourite series EVER EVER EVER. Of all time in all the universe. *Cough* Can you tell I like it?

      I've never read Dustland before! I'll GR it now :)

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  18. YAY for Blue sounding awesome and being a feminist and standing up for what she believes in! I like how she's not a special snowflake too. Cinder is a really fantastic strong and leader character and that's what I love about her. Daisy is a really hilarious character too and I love her wit and her strength!

    I love how you've highlighted different ways people can be strong here. Lovely post Allie!

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    1. I keep forgetting you haven't read the Raven Cycle books yet. JEANN! Would you just listen to me and do it already? COME ON, GIRL!!

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  19. I like my heroines strong, but I also like them to have their vulnerable moments. Putting themselves out there for friends and family and sticking up for what they believe in, are also important. And, as with any character - they have to act consistent with their beliefs and grow :)

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    1. Character growth is key! I don't want to follow a character who doesn't develop or learn, as that's just dull. Another reason why I hate Mary Sues, because they're already 'perfect' and so their character never changes or grows.

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