We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome / The Dissolve

A favorite author of mine shared this on facebook a few days ago, and I thought I’d pass it on. WARNING: How to Train your Dragon sequel spoilers.

We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome / The Dissolve.

This is going to sound completely silly, but for a long time, I didn’t really understand what “strong female character” meant. It was a meaningless buzz phrase, like “show don’t tell”. I knew there was a great writing gem in there, if I could just figure it out. The problem, for me at least, was that I was misinterpretating what “strength” was referring.

Before, I had always thought “strong women”, like women who are strong in literal ways. It didn’t have to be physical strength, I got that emotional or mental strength counted too, but I was still missing the point. I couldn’t understand why we needed a written world populated with only one kind of woman – wasn’t it just as bad to have only strong women as only weak women? It’s still one dimensional.

Somewhere along the way, and this article reminded me of it, I discovered that “strong female character” means “strong character”. As in, a character that is strongly written, independent of whatever traits they possess. Real characters. I had always gotten confused by the female part, and cutting it away I think is the actual purpose of the phrase. We need strong characters. We also a realistic proportion of female characters, just like we need the same for other races, ethnicities, and orientations. It’s two ideas that come together to be a little confusing, if you don’t break it down.

Step 1- we need more female characters. Or any other character type that falls under the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign.

Step 2- we need those characters not to suck. If they suck, you’re not done. Make them real.

Step 3- touched on in the article I linked to, we need them to DO SOMETHING. They’re not actually strong characters if they don’t get meaningful parts in the story.

Male, Female or Unicorn, cut those parts away and analyze your characters as just people, and you’ll do just fine.


4 thoughts on “We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome / The Dissolve

  1. I loved this article! I’m so glad that you linked it here because I feel that a really good discussion can be had from it and women all around the world need strong female characters to look up to.

    I especially like that you mention that the female characters need to not suck because I’ve read SO MANY female characters that are just awful. Or they are really strong, but then they let the main male character do all the work at the end and just hang back. I understand that it is a ‘done thing’ in literature to have the man save the woman but I would love to read it the other way around for once. ( Lisbeth Salander saves Mikael Blomkovist in the end of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but that is the only book in recent memory that comes to mind. I LOVE her.)

    Thanks for this great post!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is interesting because I am trying to write several stories with “Strong” female characters and have to admit that I fall back into men doing most of the work. Because I was raised the old fashioned way. Lol…I am working on breaking that stereotype though.


  3. I thought it was a great article, and found myself reflecting a bit on my own characters. I mostly write female characters to start with, but am finding myself paying more attention to how I write them as well….
    I’m also being reminded to pay attention to the various meaning of a word, like “strong.” Dig deep, find more ways to improve. 🙂


  4. I’m glad this is provoking so much thought – it is a very important topic!
    I think part of the problem might stem, for us as women authors, from how we were raised, like pavenneh said. Our daily life reinforces that we’re not worth as much, should be paid less for the same work, having to work twice as hard to prove we can do something – in literature, it bleeds over. Our female characters either are so kick ass as to be unbelievable, or aren’t mentioned at all.

    But the worst part is: once we have them, what do we do with them? No one knows what to do with women, in the real world or in the written one. I think, as we break away from that as a society, the writing will come to reflect that. And good writing will help society adjust. Yay, mutualism.


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