Opnions and Ramblings

‘Strong’ Female Characters in YA Novels

In lots of YA novels the female character is often portrayed as a strong, independent young woman facing enormous problems with a huge amount of courage. Which is great, but that is often their only quality. It’s like being a strong woman is so monumental that they can’t be anything else. YA female heroines are portrayed as characters who are not affected at all by anything, because they fit into the now fashionable stereotype of a ‘strong female character’ But women are people, not just devices for a money scrambling author to use to prove a ridiculous point about not beingΒ  ‘damsel in distress’. Why can a male character be funny, witty, brave, strong, nervous, proud and happy, when a female character is just completely one dimensional. Women can be strong in so many ways, emotional strength doesn’t mean you’re amazing at fighting and sports, you can be strong in lots of other ways. And how about if you don’t want to be strong? The problems a YA female character faces in this specific genre of literature, normally relate to the lives of the young reader, but in order to avoid the now shameful stereotype of being a ‘damsel in distress’ the character often faces the situation with an unrealistic amount of courage, that sets ridiculous expectations for young people, regardless of their gender. Women can be just as strong or stronger than men, but what these authors are missing, is that it’s okay to be emotional, it doesn’t make you weak, it doesn’t make you a ‘bad feminist’. It makes you human.

So when writing my novel, I was keen to avoid this stereotype I quite obviously hate. But it isn’t that easy and my female character Kate, is proving very difficult to write. My mind is telling me to avoid the two extreme stereotypes of ‘damsel in distress’ and ‘fearless emotionless heroine’ in order to make Kate realistic. I want to make her emotional, but at the same time I’m trying to portray someone who is shutting down completely. I already admire Kate for her strength, but you could criticize her for being cowardly towards the end of the book. I’ve become so entangled in avoiding the ‘strong’ female stereotype that I’ve become lost in Kate’s character.

Let’s say Kate is a Victoria Sponge.

Well I wanted her to have lots of layers, but unfortunately all my layers have sort of squished together. I mean the jam and cream is EVERYWHERE so it’s sort of unclear who she actually is. Which is kind of good, but from a reader’s point of view it creates a weak character.

So I’m trying to make a new cake, but I’m unsure what layers to go for. If anyone could help me out that would be very much appreciated. It’s probably best if you have some knowledge on creative writing. Just drop your email in the comments and I’ll send you an extract from my novel, then we can work out how to define the character.

Sorry for practically begging people to help me out at the end there, but what are blogging communities for? ANYWAY what are your opinions on the way YA female characters are written, please talk to me down below.

Thank you so much for reading,



ps. I’m sorry for my absence, I’ve been feeling a little down recently.


(also view my weekly post on the collab blog This & That here thank you for the lovely comments so far)

39 thoughts on “‘Strong’ Female Characters in YA Novels

  1. I totally agree!! I feel like a lot of the female protagonists in YA nowadays are just starting to become these one dimensional characters with unattainable strength.
    Btw, I’d love to help with your character! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is entirely true. And is one of the biggest contributing factors as to why I don’t read YA fiction. It’s so depressing how one dimensional the female characters that so many people cite as inspirations or role models are. Also, I’m sorry you’ve been feeling down; I hope you feel better soon. X

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s so good you brought up this perspective. And I absolutely agree with you.
    One thing I wanna say, if you make your mind to write your novel, so that others will appreciate, don’t do that way. It will mess up things.
    Do justice to yourself, the way you had pictured your character when you had started to think about writing a novel, do it that way. In that way only it will seem real. And do what you feel like. You can portray her anyway you like, but make sure you justify her character by defining her ‘situation’ well and HER PERSPECTIVE in a way that makes us feel oh yes her behaviour is normal in such conditions.

    Overall, I wanna say, it’s your imagination that you are bringing into life. If we read what we want, the book won’t be interesting. Your pure imagination will bring uniqueness to your book. Remember that!

    Good Luck for your novel.
    And I am eagerly waiting for it! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I know pretty much nothing about writing but I will try to give you my advice anyways πŸ˜„. All the things you are trying to portray in Kate are awesome, but maybe they just need to be spread out. So earlier in the novel you could show some things, and then as it progresses you could start to show this new side to her that no one has seen before? I don’t know if this is really helpful at all but I tried my best.
    Sorry you’ve been feeling down. *hugs* I’ve missed you.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. The FIRST DRAFT for the first 11 chapters are already up on my blog under the category ‘stories’ but they’re not very good because it’s my first draft, I’ve improved since then. Although you can go ahead and read if you like! I’d love to hear your opinion πŸ˜€


      2. Oh yeah πŸ˜‚ I had actually already read them but I guess I just didn’t make the connection between Noodle Panda and Kate? (I’m not good with names.) When I first read it though I just remember thinking, “This is such an amazing idea how did she come up with this?” I think it just has so much meaning and you could go so many ways with it. Like as a metaphorical concept thingy (am I explaining this right?) that sort of mirrors or indirectly hints at the bigger idea? I love how the main character is using this one contest as a lifeline and is so determined while everything else in his life is going out of control. Ok Ember what are you even talking about anymore?! I don’t know maybe that was crazy talk. The point of this was to say that I think your idea is seriously amazing and your story is going to be great wherever you take it!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hearing people talk about my book like that makes me want to write it. Like I’ve been feeling so uninspired recently but you’ve motivated me so much! Thank you!


  5. Awww, I hope you feel better! *gives you a bone-crunching hug and sloppy-grandma kisses*

    I agree with this post! I love it when we have strong female characters but they have to be more than that – they need to think and to feel and to be a lot more human. Strength isn’t everything and when an author relises this – it can be AWESOME.

    Good luck with your writing! Fantastic post πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  6. isn’t normal for all the layers to mix. cause if you think about it, you can’t really define someone as being one thing or just define someone in general. we’re complicated creatures and it’s okay if the readers can’t tell who she really is. that just mean she’s realistic and not like a character in a book, but actually pretty real. all of us are have our layers and emotions all jumbled up together, and i’d actually love to read about a character like that.
    because as you said, most YA novels have a distinct kind of person, but no one really is all that distinct. we’re mixtures of different things

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree, I’m just hoping that comes across, because my other character Dan is such a strong, loud character and from a ‘professional’ writer’s point of view I don’t want to make Kate seem bland in comparison.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I LOVE YOU SO FUCKING MUCH RIGHT NOW. I actually made a youtube video about this..that hasn’t been posted yet but i digress… because i reread vampire academy (which i loved when i was younger as it was about a “strong” female character) and had to rant about how the terrible portrayal of women in YA. its like a woman has to be a stone cold botch to be strong, but if you read back on it with a bit more maturity you realise that theyre NOT strong they’re immature and selfish and- ugh, i just cant with YA. fuck it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to watch that youtube video! And I know right, even though I often enjoy some YA reads, this ‘strong’ female character stereotype is driving me insane!

      (also in the moment I wrote my reply, I told my dad about my blog, well done for being part of that monumental moment)


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