Creating a Damsel in Distress that’s still a strong female character.
The Strong Female Character is here to stay. Audiences out there are, for the most part, no longer satisfied with merely getting a single token female character within a cast. She now needs to be a Strong Female Character.
She needs to kick butt all the time. She needs to take no prisoners. She needs to be a bit scary. But she also needs to fall in love with the hero. (Or that’s what movie execs seem to think. I’m looking at you, people behind Avengers: Age of Ultron.)
Don’t get me wrong. I adore the fact that the token female in a story’s cast is no longer necessarily the weakest link. But the thing is that people now seem to only equate a female character’s strength with how she can handle herself in a fight.
So, me putting a female character in a situation that she has very little defense against was a huge challenge. I don’t like writing Damsels-in-Distress, but Aleria has amnesia and she ends up being protected by two guys. Can’t get more Damsel-in-Distress than that.
I needed to take some serious actions to show readers that she’s a bit more than a girl that can’t help herself. And how I did this was to make sure she has agency. In other words, Aleria, even in her weakened, vulnerable state, makes choices that affect the story. Okay, I also help things by showing her in her pre-amnesia state to help things along. But the point remains that the choices she makes and those she made before the plane crash help to move the story forward. Sometimes, they even make the story.
Yes, she might be incapacitated, but she still has a say, and a huge influence over both her male counter-parts. And that say is what makes her strong.
Have you ever written a story where the female character has to depend on a male character? How did you prevent her from becoming a Damsel-in-Distress? Or am I the only one who doesn’t like writing those much?
About the Book
“First, do no harm.” Blake Ryan swore that oath to become a doctor. Ironic, given that he spent most of his thousand year life sucking souls out of other immortals. Things are different now. Using regular shots of morphine to keep his inner monster at bay, Ryan has led a quiet life since the Second World War. His thrills now come from saving lives, not taking them. Until a plane crash brings Aleria into his hospital. Her life is vibrant. Crack to predators like him. She’s the exact sort of person they would hunt, and thanks to a severe case of amnesia, she’s all but defenseless. Leaving Aleria vulnerable isn’t an option, but protecting her means unleashing his own inner monster. Which is a problem, because his inner monster wants her dead most of all.
About the Author
Misha Gerrick lives near Cape Town, South Africa, and can usually be found staring at her surroundings while figuring out her next book.
If you’d like to see what Misha’s up to at the moment, you can find her on these social networks:
This had to be what dying felt like. Floating outside my body, waiting for that final link to my life to be severed, only vaguely aware of indescribable pain. More screams than I could count rose up around me. Hundreds of footsteps beat against tiles. I couldn’t open my eyes if I wanted to. Not when it was easier to listen and wait. People shouted for a doctor or an IV, or a thousand other things that made no sense. I listened to all the chaos, trying to untangle it in my thoughts.
Soon, I could go. The peace around me was so relaxing, completely out of place in the clamor I heard. I wanted it. To rest forever in that peace. Why not? There was a very good reason, but I couldn’t call it to mind.
A numb buzz shot through my body and shattered my serenity.
It happened again. Only this time was more of a sharp pulse. The third time jolted like lightning. The fourth…Hell. Suddenly, the screams were coming from me. My heart’s relentless thundering added to my torment.
My chest burned like fire. It hurt to breathe. Cold air drove down my throat and into my lungs, amplifying the inferno in my chest. My skin felt scorched. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t right.
I had to see. I had to understand why pain dominated my existence like this. My eyes were fused shut. My breaths grew shallow, trying to draw air when there was none. I tried to clench my teeth. I bit hard plastic. A pipe. Cold air suddenly forced back into my lungs, out of time with my own breathing. This was wrong. It wasn’t safe. I had to see. The best I got was a little fluttering of my lashes.
A high-pitched beep shot through my head. It repeated again and again. I wanted to reach over and slam my fist into its source. My arm wouldn’t lift. Something kept it trapped. A scream rose up from the depths of my soul, but the pipe jammed inside my throat stifled the sound. I only managed a whimper, trying my best not to gag. More air blasted into my lungs against my will. What was going on? I was trapped in my own body, but why?
I needed to move. I had to move. Now. Before… Even… Even though… Panic gripped me. The beeps increased at a frenetic pace. I needed to move. To be gone. Didn’t matter where. Just not here. Not defenseless. Not trapped.
The air sucked out of my lungs. I gasped, choking on nothing, strangled by invisible fingers. I tried to convulse my body. To twist myself free of what’s holding me.
The air rushed back in a cold flood. Seconds later it left, only to return in the same amount of time.
There was a rhythm to the air. In… out… in… out… The breaths were slow—sleep-like. I concentrated on this rhythm, striving to clear my head. If I wanted out, I needed to think. Calmly. Clearly. Eventually, those irritating beeps slowed. I tried to focus past the sound.
Voices buzzed about me, adding to my need to see, to do something to protect myself. No one seemed to pay attention to me. Good. I could use that to my advantage.
I centered my every thought on moving my little finger. It finally jerked, but collided against something solid. So the thing trapping my arm was physical and too heavy for me to lift. It was better to be trapped than paralyzed. With luck I could escape my restraints. I tried my other hand, but it was cemented stuck as well. Right leg. Left leg. Damn it! Both trapped. I had to move!
No, I needed to stay calm. I tried to make larger movements, biting the pipe in my mouth against the urge to scream in pain. There was no wiggle room.
Fearing that I might be blindfolded, I focused on blinking. It worked. My eyes opened and the blur faded, revealing ceiling tiles. Why would there be tiles? Where was the canvas of
hospital tents? The distant sounds of bombs dropping? The power of their explosions rushing through my blood?
No. That wasn’t right. I wasn’t there.
Where was I, then?