How to Craft Strong Female Characters

Time for another Writing Tips post!

This post was requested by Katherine, so thank you! I really appreciate all requests, so if there’s ever a post you want me to do, just go ahead and tell me. I’m happy to post what would be most helpful for you.

Today we’ll be discussing how to craft strong female characters.

At times, it can be tough to know how to write good, capable female characters who move readers’ hearts. That can be tough because the world’s idea of a strong woman is so different from God’s true strong woman.

And because we want to honor God in our writing, we want our female characters to honor him, too! What makes a strong female character? In five simple steps, we’ll learn how to craft a compelling one.

1. Show her internal struggle.

Image Credit – Desiring God

Your strong character (I will abbreviate her SC for the remainder of the post) will not be strong if she doesn’t have internal conflict. Strength doesn’t mean we don’t fight within ourselves. In fact, I’m convinced that strength is not lack of weakness, it is dependence on God through weakness.

Strength is not lack of weakness, it is dependence on God through weakness.

In my novel, The Apostle’s Sister, my main character (MC) Temira is undoubtedly a strong woman. But her insides aren’t made of steel. Throughout the novel, I show her various internal struggles: reconciling with Paul’s gritty past; overcoming her fear of allowing people into her heart; and ridding herself of her desire for vengeance, to name a few.

Your SC should not be perfect. Don’t give readers the impression that the definition of strength is perfection. Instead, show these internal struggles, and show your SC learning to depend on God to bring her through them instead of doing it on her own.

2. Show her interaction with those who depend upon her care.

Image Credit – Desiring God

Your SC will undoubtedly have at least one person in her life who depends upon her care.

In The Apostle’s Sister, I show several tender interactions between Temira and people who depend upon her:

The strongest women are nurturing.

  • Her ill husband Naboth, whom she cared for before he died and left her widowed
  • Her first son, Reuben
  • Her adopted son, Seth (this relationship is unusually special because of Temira’s conscious decision to choose this son, and because she is again given the blessing of being a mother after Reuben is grown and married)
  • Her older brother, Paul (of course, the novel is focused on this relationship; Temira is Paul’s faithful sister and supporter)
  • Her good friends (ex: Timothy’s mother Eunice, who also has a hard past with her own husband, as well as a loved one in the fearful ministry).

Take time to develop these kinds of relationships between the SC and other characters. These other characters could be anyone, really. A student, a teacher, a parent, a younger woman, etc. The strongest women are nurturing, and they are blessings to those around them.

3. When faced with the very worst of obstacles, she will think of others first.

Image Credit – Desiring God

One of the qualities I love most about my SC Temira is how she immediately focuses her attention on others. For example, following Paul’s violent Jerusalem arrest, she does not fall apart and succumb to her own pain. Instead, she keeps herself together, comforts Seth, and stands firm for her son.

Can you imagine how hard this is? It’s hard, all right. Imagine being strong for someone else and thinking of them when you’re facing the tragedy of your brother probably being dead. But that’s what you do when you truly care for others instead of yourself. When faced with the very worst of obstacles, a brave woman will think of others first.

4. She will make amends as soon as she realizes she has done wrong.

Image Credit – Desiring God

Who among us does not make mistakes, right? Even after we’ve given our lives to Christ, we will still make mistakes. Of course, the important thing is to learn from them, not let them destroy us.

After Paul’s aforementioned arrest, Temira feels intense guilt over her treatment of him in the days before. She was angry that he persisted in traveling to Jerusalem despite the abundant dangers and warning prophecies, and she was harsh about it. After the arrest, she is hit by the terrible reality that Paul went away thinking she did not care, and he might have died before she had the chance to apologize.

Although she doesn’t know whether he is alive or dead, she immediately makes amends for the great mistake she made. She prays in repentance. Then she lovingly guides Seth through that time, knowing that in this way she is serving Paul by serving their God. Thankfully she is able to make amends to Paul in prison, but the point is that she didn’t wait until then, or even wait until she knew he was living. She made amends the second she realized she had done wrong, regardless of whether or not she would get the chance to say it to her brother in this life.

This is one of the most powerful traits of an SC.

5. Finally, she will not be virtuous right away.

Image Credit – Desiring God

The SC will not immediately have the traits I named. She will not immediately:

  • #2: Care tenderly for those dependent upon her.
  • #3: Think of others first when facing the very worst of obstacles.
  • #4: Make amends as soon as she realizes she has done wrong.

These should not happen right away. Take your SC on a journey, and take us with her. Let us see her fight and fall in becoming this kind of woman. It all comes back to #1: Show her internal struggle.

And continue doing this after she becomes that virtuous woman. This will make your novel, and the SC herself, so much more compelling.

I hope you all enjoyed this post!

I hope the tips were helpful for you! Feel free to share your own thoughts and tips in the comments below.

And let me know some of your favorite strong female characters in fiction. Here’s a quick list of some of mine:

You know the drill – eat, pray, write, repeat!

JC

21 thoughts on “How to Craft Strong Female Characters

Add yours

  1. Great tips, Joy! I think these can be applied to male characters, too! The best way to write a “strong female character” is just to write (internally) strong characters in general. And you’re so right, she can’t be virtuous right away, there’s got to be room for character growth!

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    1. Thank you! I agree – the tips could apply to a male MC as well, although I would stress protection for a man more than nurturing. (Not that men can’t be nurturing, but they’re more protective.)
      Indeed! Character growth is the most important part of any character arc!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You come out with another post just in time! Serious though, are you a mind reader??? This was just what I needed! And I agree with you, Cal from TKAM is a strong character!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, all of these tips are SO true and important in creating strong female characters!!!!!! Temira is definitely a strong character too! THANK YOU for sharing girl!!! <333 I think Audra from Words on Fire by Jennifer A. Nielsen is a strong female character. I especially loved her character arc throughout the story, it was both inspiring and encouraging! <33

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Issa! I’m glad you liked the tips!
      It’s always great when a character has a remarkable arc. I feel that the more characters experience arcs, the more impactful the story will be. Thank you for your comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Joy, this is wonderful! Just what I need to read as I struggle with writing a female character with anxiety. I don’t want her to be a constant mess of nerves, but it heavily affects her job as a nurse. This really helps. Thank you!

    A tip I would add (ironic since this is what I’m currently struggling with for writing) is let your SC struggle. Put her through tough stuff. Life is kind to no one, and as she slowly refines and relies on God, she will emerge stronger and brighter than before. There is no shame in struggle, no embarrassment in not being perfect.

    Ohh, yes! Caroline Ingalls! She was a classic Proverbs 31 woman. Some SCs I’ve found in fantasy are Lucy (Chronicles of Narnia), Eowyn (LOTR), Kyrin (Ilyon Chronicles), Selene (The Ravenwood Saga), and I’d like to think Therese from one of my own stories, but that remains to be seen – and written.

    Not to detract from such a wonderful post and my response to it, but I might have nominated you for something. Your blog is so helpful, and it’s given me much guidance and inspiration. You immediately came to mind.

    Like

    1. Aw, that’s great you’re writing an SC with anxiety! I really wish there were more characters with mental challenges in fiction, because there’s a lot of people who struggle with that in real life. (Including myself at one point, and I still have to work through it at times.)

      I heartily agree. It’s true that life is kind to no one. I struggle to show Temira’s fight sometimes, ’cause obviously she goes through some very tough stuff but I tend to make the mistake of bringing her out of it too quickly.

      Agree again! Caroline is definitely a Proverbs 31 woman. And I love Lucy from Chronicles of Narnia. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read any of the other books you mention. I REALLY need to read Lord of The Rings sometime soon since it’s such a classic. Ooh, I can’t wait to hear about Therese!

      Aww, of course that doesn’t detract. I am honored you thought of me. You’ve been a huge blessing ever since we first met on this little blog!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yay!!!!! I have been so excited for this post!!!!!!!😀 THANK YOU SO MUCH, JC, for doing this post!!!!!!!!!! It was truly so helpful for me!!!!!!!💗 I knew I wanted to make Rosalie a strong character, but I wasn’t sure the best way to do that. So, I am so THANKFUL that you did this post!!!!!!! All the tips were GREAT!!!!!!!!!😀 Also, I LOVE how you said that strength is depending on God!!! I will definitely come back here as I am writing Rosalie’s character!

    For the strong females in fiction, I will definitely say Ann Fay from Blue by Joyce Moyer Hostetter (amazing book btw – I totally recommend it😀) and maybe Alyssa from The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad! No problem!
      Yay, I’m honored that I could have a small part in your story! Rosalie sounds like she will be amazing.
      I have not read either of those books, but they sound great. I will have to read them sometime!

      Like

  6. Awesome tips! Crafting strong female characters is definitely a challenge worth fighting for. I really try to make my MC Brianna strong in ways like you mentioned: Putting others first, having great relationships, and trying to do the right thing no matter what. And I love what your doing with Temira and how strong your making her!
    So how’s writing and life going for you? Life has been chaotic, but that’s how I like it 😉 Writing has been kinda slow, but getting there. And I finished my goal of creating in depth plot work so that’s good 🙂

    Like

    1. Thanks, Trixie! Brianna sounds awesome. It’s fun to have a female lead. I’m glad you enjoy hearing about Temira!
      Life has been pretty chaotic for me too, honestly. So much to keep up with, but it’s all worth it! Aw, congrats on reaching your goal. I’m interviewing my characters this week and I got about 2,800 words written in Seth’s interview yesterday!

      Liked by 1 person

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