More on female characters and agency

I started off trying to fold this into my linky post, only it truly would have been overflowing then. 🙂

swan_tower posts on the importance of female characters having agency. coraa finds Kristin Cashore’s Graceling satisfying because it’s a fantasy of teenage female agency. I agree with them both. This is one of the reasons I loved Graceling, too. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy tammypierce‘s books–and the Icelandic sagas, for that matter.

I don’t require my female characters to be vampire slayers or trained killers — but I do require them to find ways, whoever they are, to act with agency and not be passive participants in their own lives, at least if I’m supposed to see their story as not-disturbing and not-a-tragedy.* There are many ways to do this, and not all of them require physical strength. marypearson‘s The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a great example of a book where a protagonist shows agency in non-physical ways — the whole book is about Jenna’s struggle for agency, in fact.

We don’t all have to be warriors. But we all ought to be something other than passive spectators in our own lives.

This is becoming increasingly non-negotiable for me in my fiction. I don’t care how the writer gets there, if it’s done well — girls and women and the lives they live are widely and wonderfully varied. But lack of agency in female characters — especially female protagonist characters — is increasingly a deal-breaker for me as a reader.

*For a powerful story that explores the tragedy of a female character’s lack of agency, I thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Swirsky’s Iphigenia story, “A Memory of Wind.”

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