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Why I Try To Write About Strong Girls

Let me just say first that I love books. I love character development, and I love watching characters grow over the course of a story into something they didn’t know they could be. It’s exciting, entertaining, and pretty much the only reason I read a story.

I want the girls in my stories to be strong, tough women that can take care of themselves. I am not saying they have to start out that way–heck that would be kind of boring, and I’m not really sure where the plot would go after that. But, I am saying that I want to see them learn to be a kickass version of themselves.

YA has taken a lot of flack lately for talking down to girls and teaching them to devalue themselves based on a boy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this, because those are two books I really like, and when I read through them, I just didn’t see it. But, as I read what people have to say and start to really examine the stories, I can see why people think that. It’s definitely a matter of opinion, though, because you could also look at Hush, Hush or Twilight and see girls fighting for love against ALL odds. That’s pretty cool if you ask me, and it makes me happy to think in this time where more than half of marriages still end in divorce, the teenage audience wants to believe in unfaltering love.

That kinda rocks.

The thing is this… we can’t tell kids what to read, and we can’t tell them what to be into. The reason they love these girls is because they see them as versions of themselves. The meek girl sitting quietly in the back of the classroom finally gets her day to shine, and what is a reader if not the girl with her nose in a book?

So, I feel like when I tell a story I want to combine those things, I want the reader to identify with my characters so–you know she doesn’t feel like she’s reading about some hottie cheerleader that she already hates, but in the end I want to see my main character take charge of the situation and save her friends, her true love, her dog–whatever. I just want to see her be a badass, because it gives me hope.

And hope is what reading is all about.

Ricki Schultz

Monday 15th of March 2010


I love this - and I wholeheartedly agree.

I tried to make my MC strong (not Power Puff Girls strong - hee!) but strong enough to realize her worth independent of how the boys in her life view her.

Thanks for a great post!



Wednesday 10th of March 2010

You give *me* hope, Jamie Harrington.

Tiffany Neal

Tuesday 9th of March 2010

Wow! Hot topic tonight!

I loved both of those books.

The funny thing is that the more adults gripe about the type of books that teens shouldn't read, the more they are going to pick them up in spite.

I've got 4th graders reading BOOKS this year just by handing over the Twilight book to them.

If it means they are reading and they are enjoying it, why does it matter so much. It's not like they aren't getting this stuff from other sources of less desirable media: tv, movies, music... .-= Tiffany Neal´s last blog ..Muse is MIA - If Found, Please Return =-.


Tuesday 9th of March 2010

@Tiffany Neal, ahhh the teacher opinion... it's the EXACT same as mine.

Who cares... I just want the kids to READ!


Tuesday 9th of March 2010

Having read HUSH HUSH, I have to say that the Goodreads review seems to me to be the result of poor reading comprehension. (I won't go point by point, but I could.)

What I LIKED about that book is that Patch is the quintessential bad boy, and that Nora's proximity to him comes with real consequences. I loved that he wasn't fully redeemed in the book... that she likes him even knowing that she shouldn't--knowing this makes her an idiot.

I liked that because it's true to life. There's something about a moronic, dangerous jerk that attracts us at one point in our lives. But it isn't rainbows and glitter just because he likes us back. In fact, it's creepy and scary and dangerous, rips us out of our comfort zones and makes us face things we aren't ready for, and usually means that we get hurt in bad, un-take-back-able ways.

But then, I don't think writing YA is about writing role models. Some people do, and awesome for them. But the main character of a book shouldn't HAVE to be someone that the reader wants to emulate for it to be a good book.

The MC doesn't have to be a super strong woman of power who knows herself and makes decisions that teach good gender lessons.

She doesn't have to be kick-ass or brilliant or deep.

She definitely doesn't have to choose the right guy for the right reasons in the end, zealously guarding her chastity as they embark on the journey of love as equals.

I only ask that the female leads of books be real, deal with real issues and feelings, and face the real consequences of their actions, whether that's physical or emotional.

(Here's where I would talk about my issues with the Twilight series, if I had the time or inclination to join the bash party that is the INTERNETZ AGAINST ALL WHO SUCCEED movement.)

And if, in the end, our beloved main character decides to do something that we all know is stupid, so be it. Because I don't know about you, but I was an IDIOT as a kid. I didn't pick the right guy until I was 28 (and picked plenty of wrong ones leading up to that moment). And in some very real ways, there are decisions I made way back in high school that I still feel the consequences of today.

I would never want someone to emulate me. And I'm not writing books to teach girls how to live. I'm telling stories that hopefully make them think about life issues so that they can draw their own conclusions.


Tuesday 9th of March 2010

@Claena, I'm with you. I don't think that goodreads review really portrays the story in a fair way, but I think everyone has the right to review whatever they want however they want. (Watch me eat those words some day...)

I love the idea you have here of talking about real life issues in our stories and hoping that teenagers draw their own conclusions. Isn't that all we can do as writers? And, hey if our stories do that--then I think we've accomplished something.


Tuesday 9th of March 2010


Well said :-)


Tuesday 9th of March 2010

I'm right with you on the strong girl thing, Jamie! And you definitely write a strong girl but one that has her moments of weakness that we all experience. You rock!

I'm not afraid to say that I LOVED both Hush, Hush and Twilight, and while I can see where some people find fault (a few I might even partially agree with) I think the whole this-is-teaching-teen-girls-a-bad-lesson thing is ridiculous. Give teens some credit!

I'm very disturbed that a fellow author would attack a book in such a way as that review of HH did. Wow. Anyone who writes knows how much of ourselves we pour into our work, how hard the people along the way work (readers, agents, editors etc.) and we don't all have to like the same stories, but you will NEVER find me ripping someone's work apart like that. It's wrong. There's a respectful way to approach things, that's not even close...


Tuesday 9th of March 2010

@Rebecca, What I want to see is a balance... show me characters girls reading them WANT to be, and I will be a happy camper :)


Tuesday 9th of March 2010

@Rebecca, The reviewer crihicized the work, not the person, and if the author cannot separate the difference, no matter how much of ourselves we put into our work, then she has no business being published. That review did an excellent job of laying out arguments with the book and giving supporting evidence why she concluded what she did. It was hardly an attack, just a well-written negative opinion to which she is entitled. I fail to see how that was disrespectful. .-= Jess´s last blog ..Reading/Want to Read =-.