Monday, May 21, 2012

Behind The Female Protagonist: Guest Post by Melissa Foster

Today I'm hosting Melissa Foster, bestselling author of Megan's Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me, as part of her blog tour.  About all Melissa's books and mine have in common is featuring a female lead character, so that's what she's going to talk about today.

Behind The Female Protagonist, by Melissa Foster

Everyone loves a strong heroine. A woman who can take down the bad guy and look sexy while she’s doing it is even better. Add a sprinkle of vulnerability and a few layers of complexity, and there you have the perfect female protagonist.  As writers, we have the privilege of making our characters anything we want them to be. This is exciting, but also a big responsibility. Below are a few ideas for creating strong female protagonists.

All characters need to evolve as the story progresses. Allow your readers to bond with the softer side of your heroine, let them see her vulnerabilities, let them buy into her weaknesses so they can root for her strength later in the story.

Give your heroine plenty of stumbling blocks. Something as challenging as a specific weakness that she needs to overcome in order to build her strength enough to conquer the enemy is a powerful writer’s tool.  Build slowly, finish hard.

Some worry that a woman shouldn’t be stronger than a male would be in the same role. While I don’t buy into that, I do believe that even while your heroine is beating the heck out of the bad guy, she needs to still be feminine. Be careful not to make her so strong that she becomes male in the reader’s eye. She needs to remain female in the descriptions of fights, chases, or emotionally draining experiences. Women have different body shapes and types then men, they get injured in ways men do not. Keep that in mind so your heroine remains female in the reader’s mind.

Female heroines are all the rave—we women want to live in a fantasy world when we read. We experience real life, we live with fear of rapists and getting into circumstances that challenge our safety. Let us live through your powerful yet sexy heroine. We can bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, we can see a bad guy and kick them in their can!

What do you find is the most critical issue when developing a strong female protagonist? As a reader, what is most compelling about female protagonists?

Melissa Foster is the award-winning author of three International bestselling novels, Megan's Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me. She has also been published in Indie Chicks, an anthology. Melissa is on the advisory board for the Alliance of Independent Authors and is a touchstone in the indie publishing arena. When she’s not writing, Melissa teaches authors how to navigate the book marketing world, build their platforms, and leverage the power of social media, through her author-training programs on Fostering Success. Melissa is the founder of the World Literary Café, Fostering Success, and the Women’s Nest. She has been published in Calgary’s Child Magazine, the Huffington Post, and Women Business Owners magazine. Melissa is currently collaborating on the film adaption of Megan’s Way.

Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she's written for Calgary's Child Magazine and Women Business Owners Magazine, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family. Melissa's interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.

Twitter: @Melissa_Foster
The Women’s Nest, women’s social network:
World Literary Café:
Facebook Melissa Foster: (Fanpage)

Find her books on Amazon:

Thanks to Melissa for including me on her blog tour!  Don't forget tomorrow is another exciting Two-Fer Tuesday!


  1. Sweet guest post P.T.
    @Melissa Female protagonists are tricky, but I find them easier to root for then men.

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Maurice. I find them easier to root for, too. Maybe because men are by (generalized) nature supposed to be big and strong. Alpha male and all that:-) There's definitely a fine line, though, between making a woman strong enough to hold her own, and likable, not too cold.

    PT, thank you for hosting me today! xox

  3. Good advice for PT, whose female heroine would likely embody too many of the manly qualities we've come to associate with the Grumpy But Now Affable Bulldog if he isn't careful.

    But I'm curious as to the distinction between female and male protagonists on that basis alone. Isn't it more important to keep the character in mind? Some feminine characters might react in a stereotypically 'male' sense while other male characters might seem kind of feminine in their reactions -- again, stereotypically-speaking.

    Wonder Woman, for example, wouldn't seem to me to be too subject to being emotionally-drained in the same way that Bella from Twilight might at the end of some kind of harrowing fight. She (WW) is an Amazon, after all, while Bella is just an emotionally-stunted high schooler.

    1. Hi Briane,
      I don't think you can determine a heroine on that basis alone, it's just one of the many things to keep in mind when developing female protags.


  4. That is great advice. I'm impressed that you know this author too. I don't know anyone that has writing chops like she does.

    I see that your hero is spot on with this advice too (which I like) but didn't know that this was a formula before I read these words. Your character has huge feet (a thing to get over) and is very soft at the beginning, though she stands her ground against that professor guy that's the drunk.

    1. I think she has a lot more to get over than her big feet.

    2. Hi Michael, thanks for the kudos! It's nice to meet you. I don't know Patrick's character with the big feet (really?! lol), and I'm not sure my ideas are a true formula, but rather concepts to think about when creating female characters. It's very easy to make characters difficult to relate to, or too male or too female, and there's definitely a finesse to making them remain in the middle.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  5. Great post! Thanks for the tips.

    1. Thank you, LB, I'm glad you enjoyed the post.



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