Need help submitting your writing to literary journals or book publishers/literary agents? Click here! →

Category Archives: Craft: Short Story Writing

Write Strong Female Characters Without Being Cliché | Writer’s Relief

Writers and readers talk so often about strong female characters that the phrase has become a publishing buzzword. Writers try to entice literary agents by using a strong woman character as a hook in their query letters. Readers create lists of books that feature strong women characters. Writer’s Relief knows that strong women characters are beloved and highly sought-after by book-publishing professionals—and for good reason!

From superheroes to career women to stay-at-home moms, strong women come in many forms. Here are some tips to help you create a believable, well-rounded, strong female protagonist.

How To Write A Strong Female Character For Your Story Or Novel

A worthy goal. Big, memorable characters have big, memorable goals. The bigger the goal, the stronger your strong female character will have to be to achieve it. But don’t think that her goal necessarily has to be noble and righteous! A strong woman character can be saving the world from an alien plague, strong-arming her kids into the Ivy Leagues, or robbing a bank just to thumb her nose at the cops.

A great adversary. In some storylines, you may want to give your character an archnemesis—the meaner and more powerful, the better. Your protagonist’s strengths become clearer in the face of conflict and contrast.

Some imperfections. Strong women don’t have to be paragons of virtue and beauty in order to make a meaningful impression. Your strong woman character will earn readers’ empathy when she has a full complement of human emotions, problems, and challenges. Learn more about how to write characters that people will care about.

A meaningful character growth arc. Even a strong woman character needs room to grow within a story arc. Don’t skimp on her emotional development. What does she learn? How does she change? And what does it mean when she does?

Realistic physical features. There are lots of different ways to be beautiful; let your strong female character stand out by giving her physical attributes that mirror the real world. And if she’s going to be supernaturally beautiful, be cognizant of how her freakish good looks have real-life complications so that we mortals can (sort of) relate.

And Finally, Here’s How To Avoid Clichés When Writing Strong Women Characters

Start from square one. In a culture that’s saturated with stories, a person could consider almost any defining character element as overly familiar. It’s all been done—and done again. To write a character who is more than a jumble of seen-it-before clichés, it’s important to approach your characters with deep respect and understanding. Commit to writing a complete, well-rounded character—even if some of her traits feel familiar.

Look around. Be sure you’re paying close attention to how female characters are portrayed in stories (or, how they’re NOT portrayed and are totally MIA). Too often, strong female characters are relegated to being sidekicks and afterthoughts—complements to male protagonists. Or strong female leads are portrayed as embodiments of traditional gender role fantasies. To avoid falling into clichés, you’ve got to know a female stereotype when you see it (and know how you feel about it). And that means paying attention.

Let your character surprise you. The best characters sometimes have traits that seem unlikely—but are in fact totally right. For example, your character could be a devout and upstanding mother who sneaks a smoke behind the garage, or a teacher’s-nightmare teen who spends detention doing algebra because it soothes her busy brain. Dig deep to discover your character’s darkest secrets—and you’re more likely to create a well-rounded character.


Question: What clichés of female characters do you see most often? Which ones drive you nuts?

En Plein Air: Could This Painting Technique Work For Your Writing? | Writer’s Relief

Summertime offers the best opportunities for writing en plein air— a French phrase for “the act of painting outdoors.” Just as artists lug their equipment to meadows, lakes, and parks instead of painting in a studio, Writer’s Relief recommends that you head outdoors to write! You may enjoy some serious benefits by putting this painting… Continue Reading

What You Need To Know For Writing (And Pitching) A Novel-In-Stories | Writer’s Relief

The novel-in-stories is a mysterious and little understood book genre that can be very powerful in the right hands. If you’ve written a collection of short stories and are thinking you might like to pitch it to publishers or literary agents as a “novel-in-stories,” the first thing to do is to pinpoint your book’s true… Continue Reading

Tips For Writing A Spin-Off Based On Someone Else’s Story

In the world of publishing, books that are based on other books are especially hot right now—and have been for a while! The following list of books that are based on classic fairy tales or classic literature is just the tip of the iceberg. New Books That Are Based On Classic Stories Books that present… Continue Reading

9 Tips For Writing Believable Horror And Suspense

The creaking door. The night fog rolling in. The book that jumps off the shelf all by itself. Smart writers of horror and suspense know all the tricks for preying on the fears of their readers. If the story you’re writing calls for the tingling of spines and the raising of hair, consider using these… Continue Reading

Live Chat Software