Why every female protagonist doesn’t have to be a kick-ass heroine

Photo Credit: Flickr by Chris

Photo Credit: Flickr by Chris


Kick-ass female protagonists are tough girls who don’t take crap off anyone, don’t bat an eye at the first sign of trouble, and sail through difficult times with barely a flesh wound. (And if it’s more than a flesh wound, they slap on a tourniquet and press on.) You know the ones I’m talking about… the Katniss Everdeens and the Beatrice Priors. Main characters too busy fighting for survival to worry what’s being said about them in the hall. They’re powerful, they’re confident, and they’re not in my story.

Lyla Grimm, the female protagonist in The Undead, would be the last person you’d ever call a kick-ass heroine. No, I take that back. You just would never call her a kick-ass protag. She’s a tad on the meek side, suffers from lack of self-confidence, and is too concerned with what others think of her. Her character type is not that uncommon; there are lots of Lyla’s out there. And that’s my point.

My goal was to write the story that was crawling around in my head. And not everyone will be a Katniss Everdeen or Beatrice Prior in their lives. Fights for survival may never present themselves; instead, only struggles for sanity, social acceptance, or balance. Those fights don’t seem as glamorous or worthy, but they are the type of fights we deal with on a daily basis. And they can be just as hard.

Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. I like tough girls and I like cheering for them. But if every main female character were from that mold, reading would be like having only one type of pizza to choose, ever.

When writing The Undead, I didn’t change the characters as I got to know them. I let them define themselves and it turned out that Lyla was a push over and Eric was pissed. But funny thing was, on the way to the end, they changed a little. Lyla grew a bit of a spine and Eric got over himself and found his own redemption. She was clumsy; he was cool. But at no point did she ever cross into kick ass territory.

And even as she grew, she remained true to herself.

Reading about a variety of characters helps you appreciate the similarities and differences. So cheers to the strong, the silent, the weak, and the misunderstood. We really need them all.

Do you have a favorite personality trait you like to see the main characters possess?

3 thoughts on “Why every female protagonist doesn’t have to be a kick-ass heroine

  1. Great post, Elsie.

    I think the kick-ass protagonists began as a much-needed contrast to the damsal in distress. Now that literary works and movies have established the kick ass heroine, i agree with you. There are far more Lyla’s in our world who, for whatever reason, take awhile to find their inner strengths and self confidence. (aka me!)

    Stories about that very personal journey are more interesting to me than the battles among conquering heroes. (although I wish we had a hero or heroine who could fling that be-heading terrorist clan back to Kingdom come).


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