I overheard a conversation in a bookstore about how someone was “so sick of those stories about girls who are just waiting to be rescued.” (Side Note: Seriously, when was the last time you read one of those stories? I’m pretty sure they’ve died out over the last thirty years or so. But I digress…) So, the woman at the desk recommended a book with a strong, female character who is a real inspiration. And when she announced the title, I nearly gagged.
Why? Because I read the book, and the only thing the main character inspired in me was a few negative feelings. So why did I bother finishing the book? Now, that’s a fair question I’ve even asked myself a few times. I guess I was hoping this bitter, sadistic character would transform into the heroine the reviews promised me.
There was enough back story for me to understand her lone ranger mentality, so I was waiting for her to overcome it. And I waited and waited and waited for nearly 500 pages. What a letdown. It reminded me of the humorous quote from the movie Picture Perfect: “Her character never grows, Alan. I need growth!”
I have a hard time understanding why anyone would sing the praises of a character who is broken and bitter and trusts no one but herself. That’s not strength; that’s arrogance.
Want to meet a strong character? Watch a wallflower become a queen in Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns. Follow her through The Crown of Embers where our once-timid, uncertain heroine makes the strongest declaration of all. There comes a scene when she looks into the eyes of the man who has been her strength while she has yet to find her own and says, “What I did was weak. Cowardly. Unqueenly… and you were right. About everything. I do have power. Enough that I don’t need you. But I will miss you awfully.”
And. My. Heart. Melts.
Because strength is not believing you can take on the world by yourself; strength is realizing you are capable, but admitting your dependence on someone else.
I believe there’s a lot to be learned in the crafting of novels (because if I didn’t, the last year of my life would be a total waste). As I read and research and discover what creates a strong, female character—as I mold my Genevieve into someone whom I hope is both believable and inspiring—I’m learning to become that kind of character myself. I’m learning to say, “Hey, you know, I was wrong and, um, I need you.”
Yeah, I’m still working on the delivery. Because it’s amazing how such simple words can be your undoing.
But I want to be strong enough to say that I need you. Strong enough to admit that I was wrong. Strong enough to know what I am capable of on my own… and choose not to do it on my own after all.
I want to be strong enough to depend on someone other than myself. Strong enough to trust another human being with the fragile pieces of my heart.
I want to be strong enough to grow—because we all need growth—no matter how painful and difficult and terrifying that growth may be.
I want to be strong enough. Just strong enough…
And so I set out on this journey of becoming.