Serene Slumber Party 1: Strong Characters, by Jessica Meats

Jessica Meats

Jessica Meats

A black kitten sleepingMy first Slumber Party guest is Jessica Meats. Jess is an author and computer scientist. I met her through the University of York Creative Writing Society many, many moons ago, where she reads us chapters from early drafts of her first novel Child of the Hive, which she has since published through Book Guild Publishing. She has also written a very successful technical book on electronic forms, Designing Electronic Forms for SharePoint and InfoPath. You can read her writing and review blog at Plot Twister.

Strong Characters

I enjoy books with strong characters (male and female), but there are many types of strength. While it’s great to read about Katniss fighting for survival or Paksenarrion battling armies of orcs, I’d like to highlight a few characters who show different kinds of strength.

~ Akira ~

For my first example, I’d like to look at Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott. It’s not the central character I’ll discuss, but Akira, the beautiful young woman who takes the main character under her wing. Akira was trained as a geisha and makes her way in a world that’s very male-dominated. She uses her skills, her mind and her beauty to navigate the dangerous politics and to help the main
character, Suzume, achieve her goals.

In a society where women have little power, Akira is able to use what she has to her advantage, and to the protection of the women she cares for. Her strength has nothing to do with physical prowess, but is all about how she knows the people and knows how to play them to her advantage. She skilfully manipulates people’s expectations and desires, subtly bending them to her will, but she does so while retaining a sense of kindness.

~ Kami ~

Next, I’ll look at Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and the central character of Kami. Kami’s strength is two-fold. It comes from her inquisitive mind and her ability to get her friends’ enthusiasm. She wants to be a journalist and starts up a school newspaper, seeking out mysteries to unravel, carefully thinking about the things she sees around her. Then, when adventure starts, she persuades her friends to help out.

Kami ends up being the leader of a little team, working to uncover the strange things happening in their quiet town. Although she is resourceful on her own, she knows she can rely on her friends when she has to. I think this is a really important aspect to her characters and one that deserves highlighting, as a lot of focus tends to be put on the characters who are strong standing alone. Let’s give a little credit to the character whose strength of personality means she doesn’t need to stand alone.

~ Lucy ~

My third example is one of my own, from my upcoming novella Omega Rising (check out the kickstarter project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/166261591/codename-omega-omega-rising [/shamelessplug]). Lucy isn’t the main character of the story. She’s the personal assistant of Mrs Grey, who runs the company that the main character goes to work for. Jenny starts off inclined to dismiss Lucy as “just a secretary” but it quickly becomes apparent how important Lucy is to the business. Mrs Grey may give the orders, but it’s Lucy who sees that they’re carried out.

Lucy is the one who knows who everyone in the company is and what they’re working on. She’s the one who can talk to people, play the sympathetic ear, act like the approachable friend and find out what people are really thinking, while reporting straight to the top. She’s a woman who doesn’t hold any official power, but who knows where all the puppet strings lie and exactly how to tweak them.

That’s just a quick look at a few examples of characters who show different kinds of strength. A strong character doesn’t always need a weapon in her hand.

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