Wednesday 11 January 2012

My Favourite Fictional Females

ACID is the first book I’ve ever written which has a female protagonist. I was a real tomboy as a kid, and with a few exceptions, I always preferred to read stories with male MCs. So naturally, when I started writing, all my MCs were male too, and the female characters were strictly secondary.

Then I started work on an idea for a prison story (you can read more about how that happened here), and Jenna Strong walked into my head. She wasn’t like any female character I’d ever written about before. She was kick-ass, angry, even scary at times. But as I got to know her, I began to find out why. And I realised that this prison story I wanted to tell was hers.

So, this week, inspired by Jenna, I thought I’d do a post about four of my favourite fictional female characters – characters who, in turn, have provided inspiration for Jenna as ACID has grown from a collection of ideas and notes into a fully-fledged novel.

Lol – This is England
This is England, directed by Shane Meadows, has to be one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and as for its two spin-off TV miniseries, This is England ’86 and ’88, well, just… wow. All the characters are incredible, but for me, Lol, brilliantly played by Vicky McLure, stands out. She goes through things no-one should ever have to, yet she remains such a strong character throughout. Her story so far has ripped my heart out. I hope I’ll get to see more of it.

Emily Byrd Starr – the EMILY OF NEW MOON trilogy by L.M. Montgomery
I like ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, but I’ve always found Anne Shirley a little saccharine. She so good ­– too good. Emily Byrd Starr, on the other hand, is sparky and rebellious. She has violet eyes (I always wanted violet eyes). She’s a little bit psychic. And she’s a writer. Could she get any cooler?

Saba - BLOOD RED ROAD by Moira Young

I loved this book. Saba’s voice is so unique – she gets into your head immediately and stays there long after you’ve finished reading. Along with my final pick, she’s one of the toughest fictional females I’ve ever come across, and as BLOOD RED ROAD is the first in a trilogy, I can’t wait to find out how her character develops.


I have a confession to make – I’ve yet to read any of the Millennium trilogy books (although I’ll be remedying that very shortly, I promise!). But recently, on the recommendation of a work friend, I watched the original Swedish films (I haven’t seen the Hollywood remake yet), and I was blown away by Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Salander. Edgy and violent, Salander shouldn’t be a sympathetic character, and yet as I came to understand why she’s the way she is, I liked her more and more.

What about you? Who are your favourite fictional female characters, and why?


  1. Lisbeth Salander is one of the best female characters I have ever come across. I am intrigued by L.M Montgomery's Emily books now. I am still a huge fan of the Anne of Green Gables series, but I have never read any other books by her. Definitely one for me to get into.

  2. I'd never really thought about it before, but most of my favourite books have male protagonists. I also tend to write male lead characters but then, being a man myself, that's hardly surprising. As for Salander . . . hmm. I'm not a massive fan of the books, but she is an interesting character. She's dark, agressive, vengeful and, well, almost superhuman at times. She's more like a punky Lara Croft than the feminist icon they keep telling us she is.

  3. I hope you enjoy them, Viv. They are some of my favourite books ever - I re-read them at least once a year.

    Dan, she really is fascinating, isn't she? That's why I'm going to have to at least give the books a try. I'm interested to see how Rapace's character in the film compares to the original.

  4. Ooh, this is a good one, Emma... you've got me thinking and rummaging through my bookcase now! I loved Anne of Green Gables as a kid, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - so from childhood, Anne and Lucy are probably my favourites. Like Dan, I tend to be drawn more towards male protagonists. However, two of my fave females are Helen Huntingdon, the main protagonist in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte - a lady with remarkable resilience, morality and inner strength, and the second is Lucinda, from Peter Carey's, Oscar and Lucinda - a quirky, very three dimensional character whose inner fire I could totally relate to.

  5. Emma, the problem I had with the books was the dull Millennium Magazine sidestory, the endless lists of Ikea furniture and groceries, the constant coffee drinking and the fact that every woman in the book wants to shag the main character. There's a decent thriller in there but it's struggling under the other guff.

  6. Thought provoking! (Also list provoking…) A quick look along the bookshelves reminded me of three favourite fictional female characters: Catniss in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games, for being extremely hard to kill; Lauren in Robert Muchamore’s Cherub books - who started as a minor character, was promoted to sidekick, and now seems to be a main character all on her own; and one of my all time favourite books, by my all time favourite authors – Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones - has an excellent heroine Polly (who actually renames herself Hero). I’m a bit worried that with the length and height of my bookshelves, I didn’t find more decent strong female characters! I can get annoyed at the usual sidekick role for girls (clever, feisty, filling in male character’s knowledge or personality holes) which is why all my novels so far have self-sufficent female protagonists and handsome male sidekicks…

  7. Trying to think who to start with... Lara Croft, Tank Girl, Sara Lund... Growing up with 60s TV there were oddly quite a few kick-ass heroines there - Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds ( I had a pink LP locket for secret spying)or Emma Peel from the Avengers as I got older - but I don't remember many from books, though Katy, from What Katy Did, or Jo from Little Women are both tomboys.
    Finding it harder to think of grown-up fictional heroines though bizarrely I think I'd go for Miss Marple, the quiet country spinster with an adzing knack for solving crime! I've just discovered Liza Marklund's crime series featuring Annika Bengtzon, crime editor on big daily paper, wife and mother, juggling all three roles and ending up nearly killed as well! Looking forward to reading more of these.

  8. Thanks, Abi - those are some great choices! And you've reminded me that I've been wanting to re-read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall for ages. I'll have to have a hunt through my bookshelves…

    Lari - Now I've written Jenna, I feel exactly the same about female sidekicks. Oh, and I forgot about Lauren from CHERUB - I really like her, too!

    Mary - that's a great list! Katy and Jo were two of the female MCs I *did* admire when I was growing up. And the Liza Marklund books sound great.

  9. I'm with you on Emily, but I also LOVE Anne of Green Gables. She's got to by my pick.

    1. Anne is pretty cool too. I reckon they'd've got on, actually!

  10. Yep. Lisbeth kicks ass. I'll add Tolkien's Eowyn and Sara Howard from Caleb Carr's The Alienst.

  11. Oh yes, I loved Eowyn too, LOTR lacks female characters, but I much preferred Eowyn's gentle and more convincing 'love story' than Aragorn and Arwen's.
    My favourite female leads though are both Garth Nix's...Sabriel and Lirael, from the self titled books in the 'Abhorsen' series. I absolutely loved Lirael as a character!