Well, okay … That's two questions. But still …
I think – I hope – I've created a strong female character in Kat Morales, the human protagonist in my Portals series. She's a cop, equally capable of facing down gun-wielding human criminals and magic-wielding wizards.
But in my mind, that isn't the core of what makes her strong. True strength, to me, comes not from what you do but who you are – whether as a character in a book or a living, breathing human being.
Strong characters, like strong people in the real world, possess an inner sense of right and wrong, an awareness of themselves. Strong characters are capable of being weak; that's part of being human. They just don't let weakness get in the way of what they perceive as “doing the right thing.”
For me, not only as a writer but an observer of human nature, “strong” doesn't equate with fearlessness. If you don't know fear, if your stomach doesn't churn at the thought of, say, facing down a fire-breathing dragon, then charging into a cave to kill the beast isn't an act of strength or courage.
It may well be the most stupid idea you've ever come up with …
Strength, and courage, is being scared all the way down to your toenails – where your stomach has crawled into hiding – and still seeking a way to slay the beast because … well … somebody has to, and the responsibility has fallen onto your shoulders.
Strength isn't always about saving the day with a gun or sword, either. Strength is the single mom on a limited income, working to support her children while helping them grow into responsible – and, yes, strong – adults themselves.
Strength is the ordinary person we see on TV after he (or she) has rushed in to pull someone away from a fiery car crash – not because he's fearless, but because someone needed help and he (or she) was there.
All of which is to say that strength in a character, male or female, is more than physical. Sure, you can create a kick-ass female protagonist who can chew nails, and fears nothing. But without weaknesses to play her strength against, without that touch of what makes us all human, she's a cardboard cutout – and she probably won't engage your readers.
Okay, that's my opinion. What about yours? What kind of protagonist – male or female – do you write? Or enjoy reading about? I'd love for you to share your thoughts.