I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of Mary Lindsey’s Shattered Souls (publication date December 8th but available for pre-order right now.) On her blog tour, she answered one interviewer’s question about what it means to write a strong female character.
Then there’s the issue of love. In my opinion, loving someone enough to make a sacrifice does not make a character weak. Love empowers as long as it doesn’t deny the heroine the ability to make her own choices or rob her of the power to act on her own.
Come to find out, there’s a segment of YA/UF readers who believe strong female characters should go out at night, kick butt, and never yield an inch. That sacrifice is weak.
In order to make a sacrifice, a person cannot be weak. A weak person wouldn’t make the sacrifice in the first place, no matter what the person loved or how much he loved it.
It’s quite possible that a weak person simply can’t love as intensely as a strong person because the weak person isn’t loving from a sense of self. Loving from a sense of your own identity as a complete person means you don’t need the other person. Want the other person — sure. Feel you’re a better person when you’re with him or her? Sure. Feel as if this person complements you or gives you a different perspective? Absolutely.
But necessary to your emotional survival? No.
A weak person attaches to someone else because he or she senses his own incompletion and becomes needy. And that’s why there isn’t sacrifice capable with a weak character: because when the beloved is in jeopardy, the weak person might view the beloved as replaceable. In other words, “I need you because you’re strong,” leads to “Now you need me” which leads to “Now you are not strong” which leads to “I don’t need you anymore and will find someone else to fill that role.”
I have met people like this: they do not lightly set aside their own desires even when your own life gets turned inside-out. Their self-centeredness is consumed with keeping themselves afloat, and when you no longer provide that thing they crave (and it’s usually attention, although it may be affirmation or advice) they seek it elsewhere.
A strong person loves you. A weak person loves what you do for him or her.
Because a strong person would love the beloved for the sake of the beloved, he or she would be more willing to sacrifice for them. The strong person would hold onto an ideal beyond him- or herself and see the value in the action.
A stronger person may choose to make a sacrifice because of love. A weaker person couldn’t.