No one likes to read about a character who is paper-thin. Unfortunately, in literature, some authors have a bad habit of giving their male characters complete back stories and rich personalities but limiting their female characters to a list of tropes and stereotypes.
According to the Internet, there’s a list of very specific traits that a female character needs to be strong. This list includes:
If you notice, these are all character traits that are often associated with male characters. Men don’t cry, they don’t show emotions, they don’t need help. Men are associated with being big and strong and masculine, while women are associated with being small and weak and feminine (These are what the kids these days call ‘gender roles.’) Men are strong and women are weak, and the only way to make a strong female character is to make her more manly.
This is bullshit.
So here’s the thing. Your female character doesn’t have to fall into these stereotypes to be considered strong. She can wear dresses and have a boyfriend and cry and still be strong. So here’s a better list of what you need to have a strong female character:
That’s it. Nothing else matters. When reading a novel, we as readers want a character who is like a real person, and real people change over time. What we don’t want is to read about the stoic badass spy who stops the bad guys and walks away, taking nothing from her experience and the novel ends exactly the way she started.
Your female characters can be feminine, they can be masculine, or they can be anything in between—it seriously does not matter. If someone tries to tell you your character is weak because of her opinion on the color pink, go ahead and punch that person in the face.