Wounded Heroines as Strong Female Characters

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I’ve heard readers dislike weak female characters. Recently, I published, “Show Your Character’s Wounds?” Together, these ideas may confuse writers. They may ask: Can wounded heroines be strong female characters?

Strong Female Character

First, I’ve compiled a list of traits I believe belong to a strong female character.

image by johnhain

♥ is multidimensional

♥ perseveres and endures; progresses forward in hope

♥ is independent but knows when to seek advice or help

♥ rises to challenges, whatever her environment is

♥ is intuitive, book smart, common-sense smart, or all three

♥ has at least one competency

♥ empathizes; helps others or contributes to society

♥ makes choices

♥ stands up for what she believes in

♥ is flawed but grows

♥ has inner strength to face trials and survive

♥ is essential to the story through her strengths and weaknesses

♥ is the lead; other characters support her

A Heroine With Wounds

A wounded heroine can meet the above criteria, but her wound has caused a flaw. It’s key she outgrows that flaw or doesn’t allow it to paralyze her.

image by Counselling

For many wounds, The Emotional Wound Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi gives “OPPORTUNITIES TO FACE OR OVERCOME THIS WOUND.” I list three wounds and give examples of what a strong female character does to show she’s overcome her past wound.

 

HOME INVASION. When Ann was a child, a thief entered and stole precious items from her house. Early in the story, Ann obsesses over recovering a family heirloom after learning the sale was shady. Now, a fire demolishes Ann’s possessions, including the heirloom. But saving things never enters Ann’s mind while she rescues her daughter. As she hugs her daughter, she sees the heirloom as insignificant. Ann’s wound becomes a scar.

PHYSICAL ASSAULT. When Ella was a teen, a man attacked her. Leery of men’s intentions, Ella doesn’t go out with men alone. Then, she double-dates and enjoys Eric’s company. After dating Eric several times alone, her trust develops. She accepts a client’s dinner invitation to discuss business. He becomes drunk. At her car, he makes advances. She tells him to leave. He persists. She grabs his arm and warns him she’s learned how to defend herself. She asks if he wants to suffer the pain she’s ready to inflict. He staggers away. Ella learns there are safe men, and she can stand up to others who aren’t. Her wound shrinks to a scar.

A PHYSICAL DISFIGUREMENT. Kate has eye pupils shaped like keyholes (coloboma). She doesn’t mind people asking about her condition and is glad to explain that from birth a tissue piece is missing from each eye. What bothers her is when people won’t make eye contact or fail to listen to her because they’re focused on her pupils. Now, she teases her new boyfriend about his noticeable cowlick. He sighs and says, “I was waiting for you to go after my cowlick.” Kate realizes she’s no better than the people who frustrate her. Kate’s wound fades into a scar.

Wounded heroines can be strong female characters. Click to tweet.

How might a strong female character overcome being bullied in her past?

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THE INVISIBLE WOMAN IN A RED DRESS BY ZOE M. McCARTHY

Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
Donovan O’Reilly has loved Alana Mulvaney since he moved in next door to her at the age of five. But he broke her heart when he was forced to leave town, and now that he’s returned home to Winding Ridge he has a second chance to prove himself. But is it too late to earn her trust…and her love…again?

HUMMINGBIRD KISSES BY DELIA LATHAM

Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
But then Dax Hendrick roars into Hummingbird Hollow on a noisy, crippled Harley, stinking up the air and chasing away her beloved hummingbirds. One look into the intruder’s eyes and her heart sinks. He’s “The One.” She’d been right about knowing, but wrong about something far more important: She will never love this man!

HEARTS ON THE HARBOR BY ROBIN BAYNE

Cara Peyton is content with her life, her trendy Baltimore bookshop is perfect for her. But when her ex turns up to remodel the store, asking for a second chance, she’s torn and unsure about risking her heart again. Can he convince her to trust him, and God, before the job is finished?

 

 

HIS VALENTINE PROMISE BY DORA HIERS

Another Valentine’s Day and Quinn Randolph prefers to spend it with her sweet rescue lab. Who needs men and their broken promises? Especially Pierce Karson’s! Years ago, his desertion shattered her. Now he’s trying to steal the property she targeted to expand her florist shop! Pierce only wants to belong…and for Quinn to choose him. His Valentine Promise…

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11 thoughts on “Wounded Heroines as Strong Female Characters

  1. Love your posts, Zoe! So informative and helpful!

     
     
    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Sally.

       
       
    2. Thanks, Sally. I’m pleased you find them helpful.

       
       
  2. H L Wegley

    Thanks for this reminder, Zoe! Several months ago, I worried that I had built wounds in my heroine that would make her seem too weak. Even she believed she was a weak person. But she had inner strengths, persistence, and she rose to any challenge, even those that preyed on her weaknesses — just what you advised. So far, that book has received almost all 5-star reviews.

     
     
    1. Wow, Harry, so good to hear of a wounded heroine in action and working out so well in her strengths. Thanks for sharing your example with us.

       
       
  3. Wounded heroines enrich our writing! Thanks again for another great post.

     
     
    1. Thanks, Erin. I guess, most of us are wounded in some way sometime. So, a wound will hopefully make a character believable.

       
       
  4. Kathy Bailey

    Zoe, this is great. And deep. Just about all my heroines are wounded in some way, but to different degrees. Some because a person in their past (usually a parent, or both parents) made them feel inadequate, some because of serious physical or emotional abuse or even abandonment. Recently signed with PBG for my first book, an Oregon Trail romance, and the heroine Caroline was wounded seriously by boyfriend Michael when he left Ohio before she could tell him she was pregnant. She comes to know the Lord, but loses her husband Daniel and ends up cooking on a wagon train. Guess who turns up as the scout? Caroline must overcome her resentment of him in order to help the group reach the West, and her (ultimately) sweet example wins Michael to the Lord.
    This is a good post, I think I can use it to deepen my female leads. Thanks Zoe.

     
     
    1. Kathy, thanks for sharing an example of a wounded heroine. She sounds like she is a strong female character in that you said she’s needed to help the group reach the West. I imagine most women on a wagon train were strong women.

       
       
  5. Excellent post, Zoe! The “Thesaurus” books are outstanding. Blessings to you!

     
     
    1. MaryAnn, I wish I’d done more with the “Thesaurus” books earlier. Thanks for your kind words.

       
       

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