Can we talk about something?
Damsels. Those often-in-distress fair maidens. Not just Damsels, but their opposites, the ANTI-Damsels, too.
There’s this thing. A gap, if you will. A gap where there should be a spectrum. At one end, we have the
Damsel-in-distress. At the other, the Anti-Damsel.
One end – helpless/dependent/clumsy.
Other end – total BAMF/cut-you-with-the-knife-hidden-in-that-fashionable-boot.
One end – broken.
Other end – will break you.
Now, lately — and perhaps in response to earlier damsels — there have been MANY an Anti-Damsel. I automatically think of Cashore’s female leads, Katsa and Fire, as anti-damsels (I almost put Katniss Everdeen here, but I actually wouldn’t put her at the extreme end of the spectrum due to the way she changes over the course of the series).
But what about the gap? That space between for a more HUMAN breed?
My main character in THE NEAR WITCH is not a full-blown BAMF Anti-Damsel. She is maybe a 7.5 on the Damsel Anti-Damsel spectrum.
I think of the lead in Lauren Oliver’s latest novel, DELIRIUM, as a really wonderful 5 on that same spectrum. Right in the middle. She definitely has Damsel-like qualities, and yet she EVOLVES.
And I love it.
That’s something I want to see more in books, or maybe I’m just not reading the right books (I’m trying, to be fair, I’m VERY behind on my TBR pile). Because I think that Anti-Damsels are much more uncommon than Damsels in life.
Some people (and we’d like characters to resemble, at least mildly, people, yes?) start out sheltered, or lost, or weak (in one way or another) and BECOME stronger through experiences. I think it’s far more interesting when a Damsel evolves beyond those weaknesses and dependencies. Instead of just growing toward a LOVE INTEREST, I like to see Damsels growing out of their shell, growing toward a healthier, stronger version of themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the BAMFs. Readers want to be them, to disappear into them.
But to me, they are like superheros.
People love a superhero, and end up playing with action figures of them, or wearing their outfits as Halloween costumes. They don’t aspire to actually BE them. Probably because superheros, like BAMF Anti-Damsels, are too far removed (yes, it’s escapism). But when we as readers find a main character who LEARNS — and not only how to defeat the bad guy and save the day, not only how much they care about their love interest — but learns more about THEMSELVES and their world, and adapts, becomes stronger because of it…those are the characters I read about and want to be.
To me, they are even more compelling.
Anyway, just my thoughts…It’s Friday, so who knows how coherent they are.
Do you have any leading ladies you love? Where do they fall on the spectrum?