Gentle, Loving, Feisty, Powerful

A deceptively pat, over-simplified aphorism? It makes me blue to pass one up.

"Do what scares you" say the posters and the t-shirts and the greeting cards (they never seem to have a follow-up plan for that, but whatever). So I took that to heart with the Wilfair world.

I wanted to write about a late-bloomer who had power but wasn't truly powerful. That's sort of a tall order, and I knew I was stacking my sandwich a bit high, but that was the main character I had in mind. I wanted her to be gentle of heart and full of love and brimming with hope as well as a few unrealistic desires. Everyone winning and no one being sad in a situation that's clearly unwinnable for all parties comes to mind when I think of Fair's main unrealistic desire.

But the idea of writing a somewhat passive young woman worried me. I knew the books would be about her learning to own her power, but even starting out from that spot was a difficult one for me. I believe in girls embracing their fire and smashing their personal mint dishes (or whatever object represents something superficial and not important in their own lives) as soon as they can. I knew Fair could get to that powerful place, but even starting her in a more passive spot where that wasn't happening yet was something I had to get over and get on with. So I did, but not without a few worried months.

She has flashes of feisty, of course. I like to think she's testing the powerful place she's growing into, a place where she'll make bigger, harder decisions, beyond what flowers go in The Wilfair's flower spray. When she's backtalky she's testing things in the way that young women often test things around 19 or 20. That moment we choose to embrace adulthood fully or not.

(I like backtalky Fair, like, A LOT. Hope she does it more.)

In the end, I'm happy with this path, but it wasn't and isn't a cinch. I'm wild about strong heroines, but I wanted to start mine a bit earlier in her life story, before she finds the duffel bag full of items that will give her superpowers.

Oh, wait, darn it. Was that a spoiler, the duffel bag with the magical cape that will give Fair superpowers? Whoops. (It's probably under Monty's bed, if it exists.)

Thanks for your patience with our passive-but-getting-less-so heroine. Who is your favorite strong lady in books or films, and did she start the story that way? Or did she get to a better, more bad-ass place before your eyes?

11 comments:

Amanda W said...

You know, these thoughts on Fair just gave me a lightbulb moment for one of the many reasons I love these books -- I really identify with Fair. I was a late bloomer -- not in the same way, as I had no power to un-weild -- but I had little life experience when I headed out into "the world", and as a chronic confrontation-avoider, I was pretty timid. I'd like to think I'm well on my way to being like one of those bad-ass heroines that I admire.

Kelly said...

I'm a big fan of tough heroines, especially those where you get to see them struggle a little to find their strength and use it effectively, since that makes it so much easier to identify with them.

Matilda was one of my favourite books growing up. I recently read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, and I wish I'd read it when I was a teenager, because I could definitely have learned a few lessons from Frankie.

Buffy and Veronica Mars are probably my favourite strong ladies from TV.

Caitlin said...

I'm also a fan of the heroines who have to learn over the course of the story to own their awesomeness, because then that moment when they do is full of fist-pumping satisfaction. Matilda is a great example. Also Valancy, the protagonist in LM Montgomery's The Blue Castle.

My current favorite bad-ass lady is Lix Storm, from "The Hour". (This will come as no surprise to Alysia.) Veronica Mars merits a place on the list, too.

Wilfair Book said...

"Matilda" -- yes! Perfect example.

Valancy! Yes. LMM x 1000 forever.

I always believe we're well on our way to being bad-ass heroines, regardless of where we start. I like to think late bloomers have the time and room to become keen observers, so perhaps they're just picking up pointers for their bad-ass lifestyles later in life.

Lix Storm! <3<3<3 She's just so *easy* with life. Nothing gets her overly worked up. She rolls well.

That's probably an unsung trait of the bad-ass heroine. They get commended for taking charge and being strong, but letting little losses drop off their backs is such a huge deal.

bess said...

Matilda! I loved it and was convinced for about a week that I could move things with my mind if I concentrated hard enough. And Valancy, I love love The Blue Castle. It's one of my favorite books.

Kelly- Veronica Mars is my spirit animal.

Kelly said...

I saw Matilda the musical last week, and it's brilliant. I don't know if it's showing anywhere other than London right now, but if you get the chance to see it, GO!

Bess - Me too! Veronica Mars is always my go-to source of inspiration in situations where inner toughness and general badassery is required

Erika said...

I completely agree with the Matilda and Veronica Mars nominations and I would like to add Betty Suarez and a few others. Betty is the only one from T.V. that I can think of on the fly.

Ella – Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine – She starts off with a curse that makes her submissive and ends being amazing. She also manages to be my favorite Cinderella yet because she is AWESOME! The movie never happened btw, because if it did my soul would cry.

Mia Thermopolis – Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot – (The Anne Hathaway thing is actually coincidence) I love pretty much everything Meg Cabot does but Mia I think does the most growing. Perhaps because she has like ten books but… not the point. 

Anna Cornick – Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs – Each book Anna surprises me more and more by being incredibly B.A.

Lizzy Bennet – How can I not?

Jane Eyre – and again, how can I not?

Wilfair Book said...

Ohhh, I like the Ella and Mia choices, Erika. Characters growing and getting strong in a princess-y or fairy tale setting are kind of their own thing. And interesting for me to ponder.

And of course LB and JE. I haven't read "Alpha and Omega" but I will make a note!

Chiara said...

For me the ultimate bad-ass heroine is Buffy. I mean besides the physical strength, there's just so much more going on that she needs to go through. Veronica Mars is a good one as well. Also, Juliet from Lost! But also Kate.

Thinking of TV, Merida from Brave comes to mind. Or Clarice from The Silence of the Lambs. The Black Widow!

Wilfair Book said...

Ohhhh, Clarice from SotL. Nice choice.

I'm a Merida fan, too. She's getting to be a very popular costume choice for little girls visiting Disneyland, which is fantastic.

"Lost"! Yes. I liked Sun a lot, too.

Chiara said...

Oh that's cool! I'm glad little girls like her, she's the best Disney role model they can have.

Lost was awesome! And Sun! I always tend to forget about her but yes, I love how she turned out to so much stronger and different than one expected in the beginning.

 
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