What it means to be strong
Is it the courage to charge headlong into danger, the knowledge of how to maim and kill, or the blind dedication to the cause that makes someone strong? Could all of that be a shield to hide past failures or the inability to refuse any request?
In other words, what makes someone strong? What traits do readers find and think, “this character has a strength like none other?” You see, I can’t really write weak characters. I’m just not very good at it because I think that strength lies in all of us – in some way. Using brains instead of brawn doesn’t make someone weak, it makes them aware of their own strengths… ah, and there’s that word again. Strength.
But, for the first time, I’m writing a character so broken, she’s become a fragile, delicate thing. Oh, she can cuss, hide her misery with drugs, and isolate herself for years. She’s really good at putting on a brave face and pushing everyone else away. Her problem is that she can’t remember how to trust. She doesn’t know how to fight back. Instead, this shattered little girl does nothing but pray they never find her again. On the outside, she comes across as a person in control of her own destiny who’s made some very hard choice (and not all good ones). On the inside? She’s a wreck.
Mackenzie didn’t wait for someone to save her, but she accepted help when it was offered. Leyli knew she’d have to do it herself and took charge of her situation. She used her weaknesses to give her an advantage and put aside her pride to get what she wanted. Then there’s Riley. For those who haven’t read Challenge Accepted yet, well… let’s just say that Riley proves that strength isn’t enough. Sometimes control has to go with it or there’s nothing left but destruction in her wake. And now I have Sal, a coldly calculating predator who can’t help but take charge.
But here’s the question that lingers in my mind. Is it truly strength if the character doesn’t find it him/herself? If they are led to it by another, does that make it less valuable to a reader? I honestly don’t know, but it will be interesting to see how things turn out… even for me! Most days these characters just have me along for the ride.